Oct 262015
 
Title: Gotham: Season 1
Genre: Drama
Starring: Ben McKenzie,
Donal Logue,
Sean Pertwee,
Robin Lord Taylor,
Erin Richards,
Certificate: US: Not Rated
UK: 15
Picture: 1080p
16:9
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English,
Portuguesa,
Spanish,
Danish,
Dutch,
Finnish,
French,
etc.
Runtime: 22 Episodes,
16 Hours 07 mins
Extras: Deleted Scenes,
Featurettes,
Previews,
Gag Reel.
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: USA: Sep 08 2015
UK: Oct 05 2015
See If You Like: Smallville,
Arrow
This isn’t your daddy’s Batman. In fact, this isn’t anyone’s Batman…

With the relative success of a Superman-before-Superman take on Big Blue in Smallville and the growing number of thriving comic book TV shows, it was all but inevitable that there would a new small screen take of Batman. Whilst the caped crusader has been done to death in a traditional adaptation, the idea of a pre-Batman TV show focusing on the rise of Jim Gordon from detective to commissioner of Gotham City’s Police department holds a great deal of potential and intrigue; as we follow a man trying to hold back a city going to hell through the high levels of crime and corruption. Sadly, whilst Fox has given it socks, the release of Gotham Season 1 on Blu-ray suffers from a bloated & lacklustre cast with unoriginal writing that only serves to wind up the comic book faithful audience it craves attention from.

Former army soldier James Gordon (Ben McKenzie, The O.C.) arrives at the GCPD as a new recruit detective and is paired day one with bent cop Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue,Vikings) to solve the murder of Thomas & Martha Wayne. During his investigation, Gordon meets their surviving son Bruce (David Mazouz, Touch) and his new guardian & butler Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee, Elementary) which raises his endeavour to catch the killer. Meanwhile, Gordon has to be aware of the numerous crime families of Gotham, as well as the low rung but intelligent thug Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor, The Walking Dead), as the city regularly threatens to descend into chaos as crime and corruption rules. With a white knight needed to restore balance, Gotham manages to encourage the scum and mentally unstable of the city to take the next step as the criminals become more costumed and unorthodox.

 

Now, I get that the whole idea of Gotham is Batman before Batman but good lord they don’t do a great deal to disguise the idea of the Dark Knight at all. Of course the character himself is not around but we see Bruce Wayne learning skills he will use to great effect like balancing on beams and fist fighting. Oh and we get his sense of moral justice and the start of his detective skills come into play. That’s all very well and good but it distracts from the core of the show about Gotham’s police. Quite early on, the writers clearly decide that doing a straight cop show in Gotham is not enough and decide to shovel every Bat villain – no matter what importance they are – and mention they can in to see what sticks. They’re not casual references either – “Hey look it’s the Scarecrow’s dad making fear toxin. Wonder where this leads?!” – and renaming traditional characters (Poison Ivy’s real name is now Ivy Pepper apparently) smacks of dumbing down for audiences. Apart from one highly noticeable exception, the traditional Bat Rogue’s Gallery is all but used up already in this opening season.

Whilst some steps away from the Bat formula to some uncharted territory in the form of the police procedural is expected, the noticeable running back smacks of desperation to whit I can’t really understand why; unless the writers didn’t have any faith away from an origins of Batman theme. Shame because the early one-off crazies like a vigilante who despatches of bent politicians via Weather Balloons into the sky and the happy go luck homeless kidnappers are probably the best concepts Gotham brings to the comic TV table.

As a whole, the collective cast is pretty substandard. I don’t expect an Emmy-winning class when it comes to a show based on comics but good lord the vast majority of this bunch would be well off being re-cast. Actors and actresses come off as stoic and ignorant of the situation and mood they’re meant to convey constantly. Okay, so the writing & direction can be all over the shop, but the worst offenders repeat. Take Erin Richards (The Quiet Ones) who plays Gordon’s other half at the start of the show Barbara. She never emotes to a good standard and when she gets a great opportunity to prove me wrong after being mentally broken towards the end of the series she still puts in a pathetic effort. McKenzie never seems to shake that teen icon vibe, although he does have his strong moments when he stands up to the bent rank & file and higher ups of the GCPD. Pertwee refuses to drop that ‘ALRIGHT GUVNA?!’ English accent that should be tossed into the fire as it does not reflect the class that a Wayne family butler should bring to the table. John Doman (Person Of Interest) as Carmine Falcone comes off as a confused Grandpa and the usually entertaining David Zayas (Dexter) has his hands tied.

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Searching for some positives though, the cast of Gotham do cough up a few; Lord Taylor is exceptional as Cobblepot, with a constant slimey undertone to his performance as he continues to think up new ways to save his scrawny backside and puts the numerous mob bosses against one another in his rise to power. Whilst it takes a good while for his subplot to get going and thus his performances to really kick in, I ended up digging Cory Michael Smith’s (Olive Kitteridge) take on Edward Nygma (seen in the exclusive clip above). He took awhile to get over the weird creep phase but by the end there is an imbalance that you’re drawn to which can only excel further in the Second Season. Perhaps damning with faint praise, I don’t think crime boss Fish Mooney being brought to life by Jada Pinkett Smith (Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted) is as terrible as other reviews and critics make out to be.

Going back to the writing for a moment, it takes something exceptional to baffle me on this level with the continuous head turns of characters and storylines being dropped we get here. Logue’s acceptable portrayal of Harvey Bullock has an impressive on-off relationship with Gordon due to his bent cop ways at the beginning, but oh look he looks after his old, mentally frail old partner so he’s a nice guy, but he still keeps in contact with Mooney and the other members which Gordon doesn’t like either… Maddening. There is alot there but it’s hardly interesting. It’s like seeing an old couple argue in a shop over something frivolous. There are a couple of other detectives from the GCPD who are set up pretty early as being important to the show as they’re investigating Gordon and Bullock and the female one of course has had a lesbian relationship with Barbara before. They get quietly dropped off never to be seen again by the mid-season break. Gotham’s Selina Kyle, nicknamed Cat (played by a vanilla dance group member Camren Bicondova), has a to-ing and fro-ing relationship with the Police and Bruce throughout Season One but by the end she goes off a cliff in the final episode as a gun toting member of Fish’s gang for no reason at all. I understand a 20+ episode series has to have some swerves to freshen itself up but it comes off as scattergun with the importance of building to these twists and turns being a lost art.

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Not only that but there’s tonnes of recycled procedural and cop show plots and crimms. The final crazy the GCPD take down is one akin to a reoccurring villain in an early season of Dexter whose MO you can see coming a mile off. Despite being a spin on the traditional Batman mythos, the writers on Gotham really don’t have anything interesting to add from what you see from Season One to the police procedural genre. The tone can be wildly all over the place too. In the same episode, you see Mooney committing GBH on herself to get out of a scrape (in a truly horrific scene that I do not have a clue how it made itself to TV) and later have a light-hearted moment with Gordon. The time period is even more insane. There’s definitely mobile phones, clothing doesn’t seem that old and Bruce listens to current emo music to get over his parent’s death, yet everything else in the show tries and emotes a pulp-y vibe that does not take place within the last 20 odd years.

What’s almost infuriating is that Gotham gets a very important aspect to the whole concept of a Batman TV show right – Gotham City itself. The city is a den to ridiculous levels of street crime, which also rises up to the crooked corporate high society hierarchy that governs the Police and Gotham itself. The two feed one another with Gotham not being a pleasant place to live and work. If your watch isn’t pickpocketed unexpectedly, you’re probably going to walk into the middle of a gang shootout. It’s a nice balance between the Tim Burton Batman film series’ gothic nature and the grounded Christopher Nolan approach that makes the city a ruthless entity in her own right. Jim Gordon tries to go above her shady undercurrent and succeeds at some level by playing dirty too with those responsible but not to the level that the corrupted scum will go to as he is seen as the white knight in the dark. The crime evolves with him as the scale of the craziness rises with numerous masked and imbalanced personalities joining the fray. With quite a high level of production values also, Gotham City is treated with a great respect that given it’s violent and criminal undertones it should not be receiving. Terrific.

As a show in itself, Gotham simply does not cut the mustard in this good period for comic book television. Although I can see the appeal of a police procedural with a similar A-list superhero concept attached to it, the end product is simply uninteresting and a real slog to get through. Whilst it doesn’t quite seem right to label it a bad show as there is some legitmately great parts with the rise of Cobblepot and what the city herself spawns, the collective acting and writing is definitely below par with so many strange, out of place aspects left unaddressed. I do feel that there is an intriguing slice of comic book small screen action here that is far and away from the usual Batman mythos but it will sadly won’t be realised under this guise.

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Picture:

On home media Blu-ray, an already slick production is enhanced with the 1080p AVC digital transfer which does not let up. It’s impressive when you consider how many episodes are on each disc at this high level of quality along with pretty long extras. With no letdown in quality, the range of details such as the big practical effects and CG images down to the noticeable individual strands of cast members’ hair and the precision of set design pieces all shine through. There is a radiance thanks to the subtle lighting presence no matter the situation. A faultless production which balances the dark and grim of Gotham’s less attractive locales with the bright and eye-capturing colours of Mooney’s bar. Stellar.

Audio:

With the use of 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Warner Brothers have added a more natural presence that was not noticeable in their other home media releases. The meat and bones of the audio aesthetics of both a cop and hero show are handled lovingly with plenty of nice, accurate gun shots, punches, explosions and the like supporting the on-screen action. Background and surround activity such as trains overhead and the bustle of the GCPD enhance the intended mood. The dialogue is handled very well no matter the intended volume as loud fiery exchanges are on par with the hushed rambling of mad men. With no unsatisfactory aspects, this is a top drawer audio presence that helps add to Gotham the show.

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Extras:

Pretty stacked. Warner Bros have included a lovely and surprisingly intriguing selection of featurettes and documentaries that dwarves the stablemate releases of Flash & Arrow. A selection of cast and crew talking heads guide you through the reasoning of getting the why behind the recognisable names of the Batman universe, as opposed to the how, as well as the journey from page to screen for characters, the set up and tone. There’s also a look at the production design of the show and Cobblepot’s journey, not to mention deleted scenes, a gag reel, a San Diego Comic-Con panel event screening and other bits. A really good selection to chew on.

The Bottom Line:

A really weird one as the packaging surrounding this slightly inept first season of Gotham is rather nice. It undoubtedly looks great on Blu-ray and is a pleasant high-definition experience but golly the show itself is not deserving of the spit and polish. I guess, there is still some sort of unique element of the origins of Batman without actually seeing the Caped Crusader himself that will appeal to some more casual viewers but it doesn’t half alienate the hardcore comics crowd. Whilst there is some merit to picking up Gotham on home media, it’s not enough when you can watch a more worthwhile show like The Flash or Arrow. Not bad or awful, just not good enough.

Terry Lewis@lewisonlife.

Film:
Ratings 04 Buy from Amazon.co.uk Buy from Amazon.com
Video:
Ratings 09
Audio:
Ratings 09
Extras:
Ratings 08
Overall:
Ratings 05