Sunday, October 05, 2014

Gotham - Episode 1 - Pilot - "And the first domino falls."

Gotham has finally started. And the reactions have been about as I expected. Some people already not happy with the idea of the show are still not happy. Others that are interested continue to be so.

So let's look at what we've got.

But to do that we do have to discuss one thing. Batman.

No. I am not interested in rehashing his history and how he is pivotal to any story you tell about Gotham City. (See the All Star Western run with Jonah Hex in 19th century Gotham City for a counter example.) Because I disagree with such a notion. Over the past 75 years both Batman and Gotham City have been enrichened with stories and backstory to add wonderful dimensions to them and their histories.

So dismiss the story of a city because we want to focus on a single legend? No. That is silly. There is history to tell. From the city's founding to it's burgeoning crime crisis.

I am actually interested in this stuff. This is the era we never get to learn much about. What is this city really made of?

Let's move even further. Some people have groused about the age of various characters who will someday be "supervillains". It seems they are all too old. It has been fun to watch. People are declaring the proper ages for various figures. Apparently, Catwoman is only in her 20's when Batman is in his prime (mid-30's). (It's fun because they are trying to pair Batman with a younger woman. Ah, Hollywood. You've done your damage well.)

So let me say the horrible thing. I. Don't. Care.

Is Riddler 40 when he first faces Batman? I don't care. Should any of the villains be that age? I don't care. (Also it's freaking ageist.)

(Please bare in mind, I am not against the debate. Nerd fights over every aspect of Batman have gone on for 3/4's of a century now. They can be fun.)

As far as I have heard, we will never see Batman on this show. So they won't have to be aged up to fight him. And this is one TV show. Another show will no doubt go another way.

It doesn't rewrite their comic book personas. No, people like Dan Dido and Geoff Johns and Frank Miller do that fine on their own.

For this show they all seem to, so far, fit fine. Obsessing on how they would fit in another show, or the comics seems like wasted effort. Whenever a show is made, the characters get some modifying. (Some cartoon series seem to do it far less, but in live action...)

I have read so many takes on Batman and his origins over the years. Different authors. Alternate realities. I've seen Victorian Batman, Religious Tyranny Batman, Adam West Batman, and Frank Miller Batman. They are each fine in their own place.

There is a lesson I have had to relearn a number of times (and I will probably have to relearn it again soon enough). "It is never like the comic book (i.e. the version of the comic book that you hold as the definitive version)."

I sat down in 1989 to watch Batman in the theater. It wasn't long before I was noting all the ways it broke from the comics. The bat machine gun. The killing. The altered murder of the Waynes by the Joker. And more!

It bugged me. BUT, I liked the movie. It worked in it's own movie world.

When I first watched Batman Begins (I'll just stick with the Batman retinue, and avoid other franchises) I saw the ways they deviated. The Wayne murderer was caught. Bruce didn't seem to prep much to be Batman until he was 20. He didn't do a lot of detecting. Bruce almost joins the League of Shadows. Gordon is at the Wayne Murders.

It bugged me again. BUT, I liked the movie. I again saw passed the differences, and asked, "Does it all work as it's own contained story and world?"

When I watched Burton and Nolan I saw that the world of those movies made sense. (And when I got to Schumaker I had trouble saying, "Yes," in any way.)

So when Selina Kyle sees the Wayne murder I ask myself, "Does it work in it's own contained story and world?" And I don't see the problem.

The age of some characters? How does it create a problem in this show? That's what would bother me.

Lastly, some of the quibbles make no sense. Weird criminals before Batman? Vigilantes? On some comic book Earth's a Green Lantern lived in Gotham before Batman, and the Justice Society of America were headquartered in the city. Beyond that, is it so odd that someone before Batman might be driven to attempt to act above the law?

And weird criminals? They only exist because of Batman then? I know that interpretation of the mythos. But it isn't the only one. Granted if someone is riding a rocket through Gotham next week I will have to reevaluate. Or if someone hooks a nuclear bomb to the mayor.

The show seems to look at what a city, a police force, and the mob do when a city's status quo is shaken up with a shocking murder. They want to look at how the deaths of Martha and Thomas Wayne hit the city, as well as hits their son.

And I am open to see where that goes.

As I touched on in another post, I did enjoy the look of the show. The shots of the city are great. Plus I get a new past time of scanning through to hope for some Easter Eggs.

The show quickly introduces us to Selina Kyle, a little kid who is fast, confident, and self reliant. But perhaps she's a little too confident since her pickpocket skills are a bit sloppy and get her spotted. Her natural agility makes up for that and she gets away.

"I'm such a hand full. It's like herding cats. Huh?!"

The show wanted to establish Selina quickly. She's young, tough, but not perfect. Still, she's a growing girl.

Actually another thing the show wanted to do was place Selina in a spot to witness the episodes main event. The Murder of the Waynes.

If in the hagiography of Batman there is a The Moment, this is it. Everyone is obsessed with this, and how it should happen. (But people obsess over the right and wrong way to do most things around Batman, right?)

So The Moment comes. (Play the appropriate Ominous Classic Music in your head.)

The Waynes enter Crime Alley. Martha Wayne. Bruce Wayne. Thomas Wayne.

The happy family, in their final moment.

Then we have the robbery. A masked man with a gun.

Then we get the broken pearl string.

Martha and Thomas Wayne are then gunned down. Bruce Wayne sits stunned, surrounded by his now dead family.

It's like the Stations of the Cross.

One complaint here that I can agree with in part is that maybe this comes too soon. It's been pointed out we never get to know the Waynes. Of course Thomas Wayne gets a bit of speaking in various media. Not a lot, but a phrases or two here and there. But Martha Wayne. It's an odd occasion when she even gets to speak a single word. (I'd have to check but this show may have the record for the most words Martha is allowed to say on film.) But, yeah, it might have been interesting if the audience had a chance to know the Waynes, and then get hit by their murder.

That would be an interesting show. Perhaps they convinced Gordon to return to Gotham to help clean up the police. Maybe Martha introduces Gordon to Barbara. It could have been interesting to see how they affected the city before they are gone.

On the other hand we could approach their characters in the way Gordon gets to. He doesn't know them, but he knows they are important, and their son deserves justice for his loss. It's more the crime procedural approach to a show. We don't know if the Waynes have crossed anyone (at the Wayne Foundation, in high society, in the mob, etc.), so it will be all revelations for us. Likely Gordon will be learning things about them as the season progresses and he gets deeper and deeper into their case, and the people who might have been out for them.

"I bet you don't like guns now, kid. Huh?!"

As we saw, the shooter hesitated about shooting Bruce, and then fled. Was he told to, or not to, kill Bruce? Does someone inside Wayne (the company) need to remove them? Was someone planning to use their death as a first step in a criminal takeover? Was it just a robber who got lucky?

We will see, hopefully.

This episode also shows up the Gotham police force in all it's ugly splendor



The mob controls the city, and the police stays out of the way. Beats the alternative.

So Gordon is stuck trying to walk a line that keeps himself and those he loves alive, while also not being lost to the mire.

"...I'm my own reference. Huh?!"

Harvey Bullock is an interesting character. He is as corrupt as anyone else on the force. He doesn't see a good way to be otherwise. Life is easier and safer, and you get the occasional perks. But there seems like there is a good cop under there, somewhere.

Some questions hang around us like a specter. Huh?!"

Then we have Major Crimes. Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen. They like to see themselves as white knights in the city. They seem to look down on the rest of the police force. Of course it is pretty corrupt.

Also, I am sure Montoya's personal issue with James Gordon doesn't help. Being a fan of her character for years now, I can't help but hope she and Gordon work through their issues and work together.

"You might saw I'm all question marks. Huh?!"

I probably shouldn't forget to note Edward Nygma's presence on the police force. He's working in forensics. (Some seem to say he was in the coroner's office, but that doesn't sound right.) He's showing his trademark tick of trying to stump people, or at least get them to acknowledge his intelligence.

He's very needy. He seems to eager to be center stage among the detectives. And, he doesn't like it when someone cracks his riddles.

Bullock is right, he needs to see someone about his quirks.

Now for crime in the city. Beyond petty crime, we get to see the Falcone Crime Family operating. By the end of the episode we see Carmine Falcone in action, taking out a threat quickly and brutally. But when it's over he's a calm figure. Still menacing.

"I'm not a reference to Batman! ...Yet. Huh?!"

Then there's his underling, or lieutenant. Fish Mooney. Sweet sounding at times, she will tear a pound of flesh out of you without a bated breath. She seems to know how to use her femininity to play mother and daughter in certain scenarios. It's a useful way to lower other people's defenses. But the entire time she is calculating. She has clearly risen in the mob because she has the brains and ambition to be worried about.

I do hope that she sticks in people's psyches. Then maybe she will end up appearing in the comics. The Falcone, Maroni, Penguin, Black Mask, etc could use some new competition.

Don't mess with Mooney.

(I also noticed that she and Bullock seem to have a history. It looks like it may be, or once was romantic. It would be an interesting piece of history. Because then I have to wonder how long they've known each other. Do they go back to childhood? ...Am I shipping Mooney and Bullock?)

But Oswald Cobblepot is someone that most people aren't worried about messing with. He's a lackey for Mooney. As we are introduced to him he's holding Mooney's umbrella, to keep her dry and let her have her arms free. He spends the episode following her around, praising her and literally rubbing her feet.

Has anyone told Oswald that he snitches like a penguin?

They seem to have a weird parental relationship. She talks to him motherly at times, and viciously at others. How much she really cares about him isn't clear.

Cobblepot himself isn't all quiet polite professionalism. He does dress like what some might call a "goodie goodie". His clothes look like those of someone who's mom dresses them. And that mom lives in the 1950's. Oswald is all very whispers and thoughtful well-picked words. But that isn't the real man, that seems to ache for a chance to mete out his rage. And when you pick his raw emotional nerves he is happy to just kill you. Savagery wrapped up in civility.

And by the end of the episode he seems to be all raw nerve.

"By this time next year we'll be millionaires."

Cobblepot isn't even that loyal, as seen. He seems eager to try and make a play to knock down some of his superiors, like Mooney. So he leaks info about her out to Montoya and Allen. (He implicates Gordon in the process.)

"...Also Mooney's hair isn't even real..."

What he leaks is the effort by law and crime to end the talk about the Wayne Murders.

You might say this family is poison. Huh?!

This collusion by the police and mob in this episode creates an awkward situation. The mob plants pearls that look like Martha Wayne's stolen necklace in the home of a rather nasty criminal. Mario Pepper. (And that means we get to see "Poison Ivy" Pepper.) (Also, as a sight Easter Egg we lean that he lives on Grundy "Avenue". Which is the name of a legend turned monster in DC Comics and Gotham. Solomon Grundy. But I seriously doubt he'll appear. Maybe his original form will. Cyrus Gold.) He ends up a patsy, to serve as a satisfying answer to the lingering questions haunting the city about the Wayne Murders.

Being the shady criminal he is, when Gordon and Bullock stop by, he runs. After a chase and a fight he ends up dead at the hands of Bullock. And you have to wonder, was that Bullock's plan the entire time? Was he going to accuse him, then kill him so he can never offer proof of his innocence?

Let's get into another character the show introduces. Barbara Kean. She's the daughter of a wealthy family who's engaged to James Gordon. They reside in a pretty spiffy apartment with a clockface visible out one window (an homage to their future daughter's home).

"I couldn't tell you, Jim. I'm no oracle.Huh?!"

She seems to share Gordon's ideals about the city and how it should work. So far she's serving as a support system for Gordon, bolstering him and reminding him what is right. I hope we see her given more range in later episodes.

Another aspect of Kean is that she knows Montoya. It seems to be implied that these two had a relationship once. It's not clear what happened yet. But Montoya seems to still be carrying a torch. Kean seems to want to move on.

(And like with Mooney and Bullock above, I have to wonder how far back their relationship went.)

Montoya has been established as being gay since Gotham Central. There it's reveal caused her trouble inside the GCPD. So this isn't new, and compared to some other comic book shows it's nice to see something other than heteronormal being acknowledged. Just wish it wasn't just about a past relationship. Maybe as the show goes on, Montoya will be able to move on and start anew.

This reveal sets up some of Montoya's hostility towards Gordon, not liking the idea of someone who could be corrupt in Kean's life. So she's reading the worst into anything Gordon is doing. The conflict can work, but I am hoping it's an arc, where Montoya learns to trust Gordon by the end (...Hey can't help wanting to see this group of cop characters to unite.)

And speaking of relationships, we needed to talk about Bruce...and Alfred.

With the deaths of Martha and Thomas Wayne it seems Bruce is left with just Alfred Pennyworth as a guardian. Alfred's slightly stiff at present, as he deals with the deaths and a grieving child and the new levels of responsibilities that have dropped onto his shoulders. (It's not clear how long he's known the Waynes, but I imagine he's been around since at least Bruce's birth.)

The two seem to be trying to find their way out of the pain they're feeling.

Some have complained about Alfred being grumpy and off. I disagree. I think in the pilot they wanted to give a sense of the fact Alfred is former military. Also, he's new to this and finding his feet. (As people who suddenly gain custody of a child have to do.)

"...Bruce. This morning your father said I could have a raise...We can talk
about it later."

It just looks like it won't be easy.

And dealing with a kid like Bruce is going to guarantee they won't be going down the easy path.

"I believe I can fly, if I had a cool cape. Huh?!"

Now, they aren't all alone. Gordon made a promise to them the night of the murders, that he'd find the murderers. When he thought he'd caught the killer he assumed he'd given them some peace.

But after he learns the truth about Mario Pepper, he decides to be honest with them. So he talks to them.

"You might say that my home is stately. Huh?!"
Gordon puts his future in Bruce's hands, and they agree he should continue in the police to find the murderers and clean up the department. Gordon is trying to find some forgiveness for his failure. Bruce gets to have some agency in a time he's probably felt little.

"No. You have to be the cop...I'll be something else. Huh?!"

Also Selina Kyle has been following them around.

"You might say I'm curious. Huh?!"

Since the murders it seems that Selina has been getting around and keeping tabs. (And nice job getting way out to the quiet wooded edge of town where Wayne Manor is.) She seems very curious about Bruce Wayne, and James Gordon.

You wonder what went through her mind watching the killing. First she was just watching a normal well off family walking and sharing a moment. It's something that must be rather alien to Selina at this point. She might have been slightly envious of what Bruce had. And then she sees it all ripped away from him. He's another lost child. Sitting in the dark.

The pain and injustice may have gotten to her a little.

So what is she thinking now?

But we should talk about how this ends.

How the episode wraps up helps set up a lot of what is coming this season.

Gordon can't stomach that an "innocent" man died. And the city is happy to put the Wayne Murders in the past. So he goes to challenge Fish Mooney. Alone.

And that all goes as well as you'd expect.

Bullock then gets a visit from Kean, who is worried that something happened to Gordon. The remnants of his decency get him to track down Gordon and try helping him. So he asks Mooney for some consideration.

That goes as well as expected/

And then the creepy huge guy with the knives comes out. Crap.

Then Carmine Falcone decides to show everyone what he thinks of his people running rogue hits.

He has most everyone gunned down.

Then he has the last one, Butch (Mooney's top lieutenant), tell Mooney that he is not a happy man.

Then he takes Gordon aside.

Falcone makes it clear he doesn't know who killed the Waynes, but the city needs closure. So Gordon should keep his mouth shut. Or else.

Speaking of "or else"'s. Oswald Cobblepot. Falcone wants him gone. He went stool pideon on the Falcone Family. That can't stand.

"Anyone ever tell you that you cry in a trunk like...Never mind."

And Falcone wants Gordon to kill him. If not, people he actually cares about will be dying.

So Gordon makes his choice. He tells Cobblepot to leave town and never return, and he misses.

Great. Now he's deaf, like a penguin.

Cobblepot falls into the water, and floats away.

He ends up out on the other side of the river, near the city limits. Oswald comes out cold, hungry, scared, and enraged. He quickly kills a nearby fisherman for a sandwich, and then eyes Gotham City.

"Now where do I buy a monocle at? Huh?!"

He has to see the idea that everyone thinks he's dead is a potential advantage, in the future. He know have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

In the end, what have James Gordon done?

NEXT TIME! Child trafficking! And more Selina Kyle!

As I trust I've made clear...I like this show. So far it's walking an interesting line. It is dipping into the police drama,crime drama, and comic book drama. This is a good start.

I hope quality goes in a upward trajectory.

In the captions for a number of the pictures I joked about the idea of the show making homages to the comic and the world of the show. The show does seem to be doing this, and I know some people have complained about it. To me it's a silly complaint about a pilot.

Things like Gordon being concerned about vigilantes popping us, due to the level of crime in the city aren't that crazy. It is a problem that can arise. But being Gordon it ends up having added meaning. Subtext. I am fine with it. But it could get to be a bit much, I hope it will be limited.

This is the pilot, sometimes extra emphasis gets crammed in to get across themes. Let's see how the next episode goes.

They've also been making use of their online accounts.

I like that. Hope we see more for future episodes. Sometimes the production team gets bored with these extras.

The show has a good cast. The writing isn't boring. And it all looks and sounds great.

I look forward to more.

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