Quarterly Review: Gotham Season 1, Pt. 1

Posted November 4, 2014 by Henry Varona in Nerdy Bits

Hello, and welcome to Quarterly Review! In this feature, We the Nerdy Assistant Editor Henry reflects on various TV shows, reviewing them quarterly, based on their season lengths. This will involve lots of SPOILERS, so be warned. It’ll also serve as a way to touch base on projects you may have missed out on, and to see how they evolve over the course of the year. I hope you all enjoy it and check out the great shows that television has to offer! First up is the hotly anticipation Fox Drama, Gotham, based on the characters of DC Comics.

*Note: This article was written before Episode 7: Penguin’s Umbrella*

We the Nerdy Quarterly Review Gotham Bruce Wayne screamsPlot Progression:

Gotham began with a very simple premise: To tell the story of what Gotham City was like before Batman arrived. In the first episode, the status quo was immediately established, as Thomas and Martha Wayne, parents to young Bruce Wayne, were gunned down in the street by a random thug. The series then follows young Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), an honest cop in a dirty city. Paired with Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), the two fight crime, while nefarious forces work to take the city down. In six episodes, nothing has really changed from this initial premise. Gordon and Bullock spend every episode dwelling on some freak of the week criminal, while in secret, Gordon spends his spare time losing sleep over the murder of the Waynes. That’s perfectly fine though, because it has allowed the series to find it’s footing and establish itself. Even if much of it’s format is similar to a procedural, it allows for us to focus on the world of the story instead of being distracted by spectacle. Unfortunately though, if the series doesn’t break up this routine a bit, it will become stale. They are cops, so there should always be an element of the procedural drama, but there need to be more direct threats that last multiple episodes, other than the mystery of the Wayne’s murder.

The main subplot of the series sure isn’t doing this show any favors either. While we have seen glimpses of Gordon searching for the Wayne killer, we have seen a lot of attention towards the internal investigation of Gordon. After “murdering” Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) in the pilot, detectives Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen (Victoria Cartagena and Andrew Stewart-Jones) have been trying to follow the trail of clues that incriminate Gordon. Unfortunately, this plot is obnoxious. It demeans the characters of Montoya and Allen, who end up looking like villains despite trying to find a murderer. Since we know that Gordon is a good man and didn’t murder Cobblepot, it just makes it inevitable that this plot will amount to nothing more than a headache. Beyond that, it is poor treatment for Montoya, who used to have a relationship with Gordon’s current girlfriend, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards), who she has admitted to still have feelings for. This makes Montoya look petty, and it just makes what could be a very interesting love triangle into a very frustrating part of the show.


We the Nerdy Quarterly Review Gotham Gordon and BullockCharacter Development:

Gotham is ultimately a series about two men; Detectives Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock. The two men are the anchors of the series and there is a great dynamic between them, even if it’s very straightforward. Jim Gordon is the good cop, Bullock is the bad cop. The nuances to their performances really sell their roles, as we see the constant struggle that Gordon faces every day. Gotham allows us to really dwell on the emotions of characters, which is great for making them distinct (When done properly). However, Gordon hasn’t really grown up much yet. Bullock shows more signs of depth, as we saw in “The Spirit of the Goat”. This episode showed us that Bullock was once a young buck not unlike Gordon, and that at his core he is a very injured man who has had to make tough choices to survive. I’ve always enjoyed Bullock in past media and comics, and I am glad that he’s being treated with respect here.

In a recurring subplot, we have also been watching Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) recover from the death of his parents and become the man we all know he will one day be. These segments have been a lot more entertaining than I expected they would be, and they already show all of the obsessive traits we know will form as Bruce transitions into Batman. Watching Bruce grow from being stuck with grief to his more mature and proactive self is pretty cool stuff. Granted, the character only has one thing going for him, and that’s his intensity. But in time, I hope that the series knows well enough to develop this further.

We the Nerdy Quarterly Review Gotham Fish MooneyComic Accuracy:

What separates Gotham from many other comic series on the air right now is that it is in previously untested water. While we have seen many explorations of the early years of Batman and Bruce Wayne, to my knowledge we have never had an extended look at Gotham City in the wake of his parents deaths. This gives Gotham a lot of freedom with their storytelling, but can also limit them. Wisely, they have stayed pretty close to the spirit of the source material, keeping the characters true to themselves for the most part. There are of course a few changes, such as the handling of Sarah Essen (Zabryna Guevvara), who is now the captain of the GCPD. Most of these are minor though and do little to change the series.

Where the show makes it’s biggest departure from the comics is in the cast of villains. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a character created exclusively for the series, and her development could go in any direction as a result. Ruthless and unforgiving, she is the biggest question mark in the room. On a related note, the presence of Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) as a GCPD scientist is new ground, as he is more commonly known to cause crimes as the Riddler. Despite his different position, his youth and mannerisms show that he could have an inevitable downfall at some point that would transition him to one of Gotham‘s greatest villains.

We the Nerdy Quarterly Review Gotham Spirit of the GoatBest Episode:

 I must say, I greatly enjoyed the latest episode, “Spirit of the Goat”. It brought a lot of things to the light that previously hadn’t been touched, such as what Bullock was like before we met him in the first episode. His early enthusiasm and gung-ho nature remind me of Batman: Earth One, which had a very unique portrayal of Bullock. While obviously this episode was a far cry from that novel, the enthusiasm remains. I also think it was nice to see him get a bit of development, since he had played second banana to Gordon in all the episodes prior. In order for their dynamic to stay even and for us to care about Bullock, we need these moments where we can connect with the character. Watching him decipher the clues to find out the ultimate villain was satisfying, since we had seen him flounder in pretty much every other instance. He is a detective, and here he proved it.

Additionally, Edward Nygma was given just a little more time in this episode, which helped to flesh out the Gotham City Police Department. While we understand that they have this grand operation (They are the police after all), we haven’t gotten to see how everything works as a fluid system. Seeing Nygma act considerably creepy towards a co-worker helped to expand him from just being the awkward guy in the corner. Nygma is being used very little, which is wise, but by teasing us with more screen-time for one of Gotham City’s most wicked villains, the series has put us on notice.

Bonus points for this episode bringing the development of the murder investigation to the forefront of the story, effectively ending it and moving onward as The Penguin arrives at episode’s end.

We the Nerdy Quarterly Review Gotham ViperWorst Episode:

If I had to pick a worst episode so far, it’d probably be “Viper”. “Viper” isn’t an awful episode, but it definitely stands out for being very bizarre. The series had already established a weird type of vigilantism in “The Balloonman”, but Viper upped this while tying into the established continuity of Batman lore. Venom is historically the drug that gives Bane, fabled Batman villain, his powers. Viper is a predecessor to that, which seems to be very good at killing people horribly. There is a lot to like in this episode, such as a young Bruce trying to talk to the Wayne Enterprises Board of Directors about the Arkham project, but there is just too much that doesn’t make sense here. Most of it ties back to the villains, a duo of dorky scientists who fail to make an impact on Gotham City beyond causing the deaths of some local druggies. Their vision is clouded and their plan suffers as a direct result.

Worse though is that this episode makes the city look oddly incompetent. While it’s great seeing Oswald begin to rise to power, the way it just happens is too fast for my taste. Part of what made the first few episodes so much fun was watching things go wrong for the Penguin and seeing him respond. Here he is emasculated by Maroni, but immediately earns his good graces and becomes a close ally. I love seeing him succeed, but I think that it was all fairly convenient. The use of Gordon was also bizarre, because it had almost nothing to do with his regular duties. I understand that this was to keep the two worlds of the cops and the mob connected, but it felt too convenient for my taste.

We the Nerdy Quarterly Review Gotham PenguinDistinguishing Feature:

The best part of this series has been the evolution of Oswald Cobblepot. Every week, he brings a special magic to the series that I struggle to find elsewhere. Robin Lord Taylor has found a very unique approach to playing the Penguin. While Danny Devito’s past portrayal of the character focused on what made him grotesque, Taylor instead focuses on the elements we can relate to and identify in ourselves. His thirst for power is unquenchable, as he has thus far constantly maneuvered himself into new positions of power. While he may seem like the weakest character in the room because of his posture or physical form, he directs the scenes and works towards his goals above all else. That is why the scene in which Maroni beats him stands out so much to me. It is the first time you see him truly fail since the first episode.

My favorite moment for Cobblepot was his response to the mob violence in “Arkham”. Here, he manages to secure some of Sal Maroni’s money while also saving his own skin. It’s a simple act of greed and cowardice that is rewarded by the mob boss. It marks a turning point in Penguin’s life, where he obtains some form of true power once more. Watching him scheme his way up the ladder has been fascinating so far, and I have no doubt in me that it will continue to be so.

What Does the Future Hold:

We the Nerdy Quarterly Review Gotham Montoya and AllenIn the future we seem to have a lot of great things coming. Most importantly, Montoya and Allen’s investigation of Jim Gordon seems to be coming to be an end, given that Oswald announced to the entire GCPD that he is alive. Ending this plot will get rid of easily the worst part of the series. I cannot stress enough how excited I am to see that plot point dropped. Montoya and Allen are incredible characters (See Gotham Central), who have been given very little to work with. Montoya has been nothing but a negative portrayal of Hispanic women and lesbians, and Allen hasn’t done anything other than smile every week. I can see a bright horizon for them though, as Gotham further explores the relationship between Gordon, Montoya, and Barbara Kean. Ultimately, knowing the history that Gordon has with his superior Sarah Essen, I can only imagine that things will get more complicated from here. Hopefully that will allow Allen to get his own subplots that explore his honor code and why there are so few honest cops in Gotham City.

I also am very excited for the introduction of Mr. Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan). He is going to be in multiple episodes, so I hope that he can become a step up from the villains we have had so far. While I understand that Gotham is hesitant to use many villains from the established mythos, certain characters can exist beforehand. With the forthcoming appearances of Harvey Dent and Scarecrow looming too, it seems that things are about to become a lot more interesting.

Thank you for checking us out here on We the Nerdy! Be sure to check out other Quarterly Reviews as they are released, and tune into new episodes of Gotham on Fox!

About the Author

Henry Varona

Lover of comics, Legos, and movies, Henry Varona is supremely awesome in every way. He spends his days designing his own comics, and his nights dreaming about Chris Hemsworth and Captain Cold.