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TV REVIEWS: GOTHAM

Fox’s Gotham has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2014-2015 season.

I must admit when I first heard about the show, I wasn’t sure about how they could pull off Batman‘s universe without Batman and make it completely about his most trusted confidant in law enforcement, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie).

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that I get to see how Gordon starts from a young idealistic cop to a person nearly broken by the corrupt system he wanted to change sounds appealing, but are we seriously going to wait all these years before Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) takes the cape and cowl and makes those said dramatic changes? That’s what showrunner Bruno Heller intends to do.

DC’s been enjoying a string of stability on TV particularly in recent years with Smallville (2001-2011), Arrow (2012-) and The Flash (2014). While the other three show focuses particularly on the main protagonist in their respective worlds, Gotham’s primary focus is Gordon, an auxiliary character in the Batman universe.

Also adding to the challenge of making Gotham a success is that Fox is a major network compared to the CW which aired the three other DC shows. Prior to the creation of CW, Smallville was on the WB in its first six years.

The world of Gotham takes place around the events of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ murder. Despite spending his entire young life in and around the city, he’s discovering nothing is what it seems. This results in persistent trust issues with those around him like Gordon and Selina “Cat” Kyle (Camren Bicrondova). Currently Wayne’s investigating his parents’ murder on top of the ongoing corruption with his parents’ company, Wayne Enterprises which included an attack on his faithful butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee).

It will be interesting how Heller plans to develop Wayne as a resourceful character in future seasons as the series was announced for renewal on January 17 for a second season.

Gordon, meanwhile, is finding his bend, but don’t break demeanor is leading him to more trouble than anyone could have imagined as he finds himself looking over his shoulder not only from criminals, serial killers, the mob, his shady colleagues and the corrupt Police Commissioner Gillian Loeb (Peter Scolari).

The show’s anchored by the rogue’s gallery of criminals that may be Batman’s greatest foes. You have Carmine “The Roman” Falcone (John Doman) and Sal Maroni (David Zayas) as the principal mob figures in Gotham battling it over turf who command dominating presences on screen. You have Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), who’s making his way through the mob, planning and scheming his way to the top. Personally, I’m wondering if the Penguin will be growing more into the form we’re used to seeing him in later seasons. The final cog to this piece is Jada Pinkett Smith, who plays Fish Mooney, a mob figure who becomes the Penguin’s biggest rival.

Her scenes are some of the biggest scene chewing. Her presence adds credibility and she can prove she’s as dangerous, if not more so than Falcone and Maroni.

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Back at Gotham City Police Department, you have the future Riddler in Edward Nigma (Cory Michael Smith), who plays him so pathetically timid, you’re just waiting for him to ultimately snap and you have Gordon’s partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), who’s the one lifeline he’ll rely on for his very survival.

Bullock, despite everything he’s seen and done, becomes Gordon’s biggest ally throughout the show becoming one of the first officers to help turn over an ongoing leaf despite the uphill battle.

As the show closes on its final two shows of its first season, we’ve seen the evolution of a universe that can live beyond its gimmicks. You can have the stories where you can discover the origins of the Scarecrow who kills people to harness their fears and you can have a more traditional serial killer in the Ogre (The very talented Milo Ventimiglia) building up that suspense as you would any crime drama without having to resort to Batman’s theatrics.

It suddenly makes the people of Gotham very real and capable people while at the same time, leaving enough to the audience so that there’s much more to do.

I don’t mind that since often in Batman, you often don’t really find anyone who really helps Batman at a civilian level outside of Gordon and Pennyworth. Batman is always doing the brunt of the work and Gordon just picks them up when the criminals are brought to them. The only real form of help Batman ever gets, when it’s not Alfred minding the batcave, is when another costumed vigilante like Robin, Batgirl or Nightwing comes to help. The police, I find, are either misunderstanding Batman’s presence or too inept to do anything. The closest of true cooperation Batman does get with the police is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012) as he takes back Gotham with the help of the police.

Maybe Fox’s Gotham will let Batman naturally grow so he can be a part of the change and not become THE sole beacon of hope.

Gotham airs Mondays 8/7c on Fox .

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