Review: Gotham – “Pilot” by Jerry Whitworth
In the new series Gotham, Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is tasked with solving the murder of wealthy socialites Thomas and Martha Wayne against the backdrop of perhaps the most corrupt city in modern history. Of course, the series also provides a new version of the backstory of Batman (young Bruce Wayne portrayed by David Mazouz) introducing the evolution of the character’s creation while outlining the origins of his supporting cast. In the premier titled simply “Pilot,” the Waynes are killed and Gordon with corrupt partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) are given the call to investigate. While a suspect is identified and killed by Bullock, it’s revealed to be a set-up and the real murderer remains at large and unknown amidst a mysterious conspiracy. It falls upon Gordon to continue to search in secret as he realizes he can’t trust any of his colleagues.
The premier is a bit of a glut trying to introduce as many Batman characters as possible without sidelining the main plot too heavily. A young Catwoman (Camren Bicondova) is a pickpocket and acrobat who witnessed the Waynes’ murder, Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) is the Wayne’s butler who becomes Bruce’s caretaker, Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) and Crispus Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) are cops within the Major Crimes Unit who believe Gordon is dirty and framed the murdered suspect, Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevara) is the captain of the GCPD, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) is Gordon’s fiance who may have a romantic past with Montoya, a young Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) is a technician from the CSI, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) was a stooge for Carmine Falcone’s (John Doman) lieutenant Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), a young Poison Ivy (Clare Foley) re-imagined as instead Ivy Pepper is the daughter of the framed man murdered by Bullock, and a stand-up comedian was established as a likely misdirect for the Joker. As you can see, the episode established over a dozen regular or re-occurring characters which likely made up about half of its content. As for the story itself, it’s fairly simply and straight forward that an unknown entity had the Waynes killed, organized crime with corrupt police covered it up, and Gordon is a man adrift in rough waters without any real protection (or leads to go on at this point). In essence, it’s a starting point that established a lot of moving parts with the hint there’s more to come.
As a pilot, I’m conflicted about my thoughts on this introduction. Right now, it lacks substance and keeps repeating there’s more to come without giving you anything one way or the other about where it’s going. Obviously, the ongoing story is Gordon’s search for answers as he investigates a force that controls the mob (and by extension the police and politicians). But I would’ve liked something at least a little bit more than that where I have to wonder if it was pushed aside in favor of the multitude of Easter eggs for people wanting Batman mythos in the episode. It’s reminiscent of Birds of Prey in that it wanted to be its own work but seemingly Batman mythos was shoehorned in at the detriment of the narrative. A sense of this was felt when the series was originally announced that it was a mystery featuring Gordon set in Gotham that later was amended by an executive that announced it would feature Bruce Wayne’s ascension to the cowl. When the first trailer hit, many fans were left with something of a sense of dread to see that so many Batman characters were already set to appear (a sense perhaps realized in that those announced emerged in just the pilot alone). At this point, the series hasn’t hooked me yet and I hope we get more into the Wayne mystery and less into trying to get so many Batman characters on the screen as humanly possible (though, as it seems Scarecrow, Hugo Strange, Harvey Dent, and Mr. Freeze have been announced yet to come this season, it appears to be more of the latter).