In keeping with my resolution to become a “better informed geek,” I decided to check out Gotham. I initially passed on this series when it debuted in 2014. My thought was that if it took off, I could always catch up. Over sixty episodes later, I’m just getting around to it. Therefore, I watched the first two episodes from the first season.
My Initial Reluctance
Gotham tells the story of a young James Gordon before he became commissioner of the Gotham police force. One of his earliest assignments is to investigate the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Yes, they are the parents of Bruce Wayne, also known as Batman. Chances are you already knew that about this show. My initial reluctance to embrace this show was the pitch. I had heard that series featured Gordon combating Batman’s enemies while Bruce Wayne grew up. This wasn’t appealing. I had visions of Gordon with a bushy mustache taking shots at Penguin complete with his top hat, caw, and umbrella. I’m pleased to say that the final product is far better.
Caution: Not a DC Guy
So, up front, I should say that I’m more of a Marvel kind of guy. I always have been. Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. Over the past few years, I’ve read an increasing number of comics and focused on Thor, Iron Man, and The Avengers. As for DC titles, I have only read a few issues here and there. But…Batman. Who doesn’t love Batman? If there is one character from the DC universe for whom I feel I have a reasonable knowledge base, it is Batman. So, even though he wouldn’t be appearing in this series, that is why I decided to check out Gotham. How does it do?
In nearly any Batman story, there is a theme of corruption. That theme primarily presents itself in the police force. Gordon, whether as commissioner in the comics or a as young detective in Gotham, struggles combating that corruption. In Gotham, his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is a little too comfortable with a local crime boss known as Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). Later, in episode two, when a homeless veteran is murdered in the streets, Gordon confronts the first responder that should have secured the crime scene. When the first responder retorts that he was at a restaurant that pays him $50 a month to look after the place, Harvey sides with the first responder. These examples demonstrate how corruption is both subtle and patent in this series.
Bullock’s and other officers’ ties to the criminal underworld create difficulties for Gordon. Another crime boss, Carmine Falcone (John Dorman) takes notice when Gordon is taken hostage by Mooney’s gang. Before Gordon and Bullock are butchered, Falcone and his gangsters show up to save them. Falcone explains to Gordon how he had an understanding with Gordon’s father, a former district attorney, about the criminal underworld and how it should be run. Ultimately, Gordon must fake the murder of one of Mooney’s henchmen, whom DC fans will recognize, but more on that later, in order to save himself and family.
Gordon’s fight against corruption puts him at odds with the rest of the police force. He clearly doesn’t approve of Bullock’s methods, but as a novice detective he has little leverage to push back against them. He certainly tries. A certain amount of corruption is expected by the police force in this series. It is the cost of doing business in Gotham. Clearly, Gordon’s resistance to and fight against corruption is a theme of the series, and it is done well.
Bruce Wayne and Alfred
Bruce Wayne, played by David Mazouz, teases behavior that might one day lead him to become Batman. In the premiere, he balanced precariously on the roof of Wayne Manor until Alfred (Sean Pertwee) noticed and called him down. Later, Bruce holds his hand over a candle attempting to see how long he can stand the pain before Alfred barges into the room. Alfred has a heavy burden. He is clearly the guardian to a troubled ward. Pertwee turns in a good performance as a firm parental figure who is both loving and stern when needed. However, he knows Bruce needs a mentor in a fashion that he cannot provide. Therefore, he turns to Gordon.
Likewise, Mazouz plays a young Bruce Wayne very well. Bruce is clearly confused and conflicted. He doesn’t know how to handle the death of his parents. He understands someone is to blame, and he wants some sort of vengeance. His inner conflict leads to self-destructive behavior. Of course, audiences know he will grow up and don the mantle of the Bat someday. His scenes in the first two episodes were short but adequate. Bruce clearly respects Gordon. So far, he is showing just enough hints that he’ll one day become the man under the cowl.
Batman’s Rogues Gallery
What is a good Batman story without his rogues gallery? Gotham gives a fresh take on many of the Bat’s enemies. There aren’t any vats of chemicals or other terrible, random accidents to give rise to these villains. They are all grounded in the grittiness of Gotham city itself.
First, there is the “Cat.” Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), the Catwoman from the comic books, is a young, and apparently homeless, woman who witnesses some of the largest crimes in Gotham. In the premiere episode, she is a silent witness and petty thief. That changes with the second episode. She takes on a much larger role. As an orphan child, she is often overlooked on the streets until someone specifically begins targeting such orphans. She hasn’t yet become the expert burglar seen in the comics.
Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), the Riddler, is already in the habit of asking annoying questions. He starts the series as a forensic examiner working in the lab of the police department. At least in the first two episodes of this series, he isn’t a villain. However, it is easy to see his style develop. He cannot resist teasing out his discoveries to the rest of the police force when he has a bit of forensic discovery to share. Bullock has little tolerance for Nygma’s antics and shouts the examiner down rather than indulge him.
Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin, was a henchmen of Fish Mooney. He made a power play to displace her. Unfortunately for him, his power move failed, and he fell out of Mooney’s graces. It was Cobblepot that Gordon had to pretend to murder. Of course, Gordon doesn’t murder in cold blood, and he let Cobblepot go. Whatever you do, don’t call him “Penguin.” These first two episodes set up an ongoing plotline detailing the Penguin’s rise to power.
Finally, there is Ivy Pepper. Ivy is the daughter of a man framed for the murder of the Waynes. She is a witness to his demise. Although she is just a child, there are clues to her alter ego. First, of course, is her name. Second, she is surrounded by plants in her parents’ apartment. Compared to other children, she is a quiet child. Like Bruce Wayne, she has her own tragic childhood that will likely shape her future.
Gotham is not as colorful as many superhero themed shows. At least in the first two episodes, there are no super powers displayed by anyone. Of course, Batman didn’t have any. However, he had plenty of enemies that did. Instead of telling stories of epic battles between heroes and villains, Gotham focuses on Gordon’s detective work and the rise of Batman’s many enemies. In that way, it is similar to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
This show has piqued my interest. I’ve heard unflattering reviews of this series. However, I found it engaging. Batman has been done many, many times. Some, such as the aforementioned Dark Knight trilogy, are successful. Others, not so much. Batman’s story is well known throughout geek fandom. Therefore, it is difficult to engage those fans who have high expectations. This show may not have met everyone’s expectations, but I’m enjoying it. I didn’t expect to like watching a young Bruce Wayne, but I find his development intriguing. Gordon is the white knight of this series. His armor is slightly sullied, but he is a man of principle. I’m looking forward to following his journey and the rise of Gotham’s most vicious criminals.
by Jeremiah Stewart
Well, 2015 is coming to a close, and it has been quite a year for us geeks with huge blockbusters such as Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and a little Star Wars film. It was a year that also brought us Kingsman, Ant Man, Fantastic Four, Terminator: Genisys and more.
We had several of the DC animated films such as Throne of Atlantis, Batman vs Robin, and Bruce Timm’s return to animation with Gods and Monsters. On TV we’ve had Arrow, Flash, Gotham, Supergirl, Agents of Shield, Star Wars Rebels, and all of the Marvel shows Disney has running on Disney XD.
While there was a lot to be excited about, these are my top 10 geek outs of 2015.
10) The new costume and team look in Arrow
While Arrow was fine last season, it's been a breath of fresh air this season to watch this new-look/new attitude hero team take shape. Dameon Darke is possibly the best villain the show has ever had, and it's been fun watching Thea, Laurel, Diggle, Felicity and Ollie (of course) fight against him. Finally, seeing more green in Arrow as he became the Green Arrow led to one big geek out.
9) Court of Owls in Gotham
Some hated and some loved the first season of Gotham. I loved it. So far Season 2 has been focused on a very strong group of villains. The biggest surprise turned out to be that this was The Court of Owls. They are perhaps the most famous or strongest element added to the Batman mythos in the New 52, and their inclusion in Gotham led to a lot of brutal moments. It showed just really how far Gotham has fallen.
We know it will fall even further before the caped crusader dons his cape and cowl.
8) Trickster in Flash
What a year for Mark Hamill! Yes, we knew we'd see him in The Force Awakens, but he also made appearances in The Kingsman (he was in the comic too), a Batman game and The Flash. The Trickster was a role he owned in the 90s when John Wesley Shipp played the Flash. On the CW, Mark returned as his character with a new look and new attitude that still paid homage to the original version. It’s just really good seeing Mark on the screens again and most importantly...having a blast.
7) Darth Vader the flying Ace in Star Wars Rebels
Throughout the prequels and the original trilogy, we’re told that Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) is a great pilot. We get to see some of that in A New Hope via the trench run, and a little bit in the prequels. However, the biggest and best moment for him to shine was in the “movie of the week” kick-off of Star Wars Rebels Season 2. There we got to see Darth Vader flying his signature ship against an entire Rebel fleet.
Oh and did I say he was doing this alone and basically won single-handedly? If that is not geek out awesome, what is?
6) Batman busting in and tearing up the place at the end of Batman vs. Robin
There is something about seeing Batman in action that is just awesome. The animated DC film Batman vs Robin continues to show us the tumultuous relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son Damien. At the same time, it also gives us a villain voiced by Weird Al and the Court of Owls (twice in one year). Yet the biggest geek out moment came in the final act when Damien is on the rocks (due to choices) and Batman bursts in wearing an armored suit and just trashes the place.
5) Bruce Timm returning to DC
Bruce Timm made DC animation what it is, giving us Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and even Freakazoid! The DC Animated Universe has changed over the years, especially with the New 52 . That's where we got a new look and a new team of creators behind the films.
Last year, Warner Bros announced that Bruce Timm would return to the directors chair. Would he be directing a show we know and love? In a way, yes, but an all new story titled Gods and Monsters. We'll also get a web series to go with it. So, a TV show and a movie from one of the biggest and best animation directors ever? What's not to love? The movie ended up being DC’s best of the year!
4) Han Solo returning to Star Wars
Now before someone destroys me, threatens to take my geek card for making this number 4, let me explain why it's not number 1. First of all...he isn’t my favorite Star Wars character. My favorite is Luke Skywalker, and he’s not the star of Episode VII. Second, while The Force Awakens is my favorite film with Harrison Ford as Han Solo, it didn't mean that I screamed and clapped in delight after seeing him. Regardless of that, seeing him return to the franchise felt like watching him return “home” and it was really a welcome sight. Even better - he actually looked like he was having fun and enjoying himself for the first time in years.
3) Vision Appearing in Age of Ultron
I am not a Marvel fan, and I am not really knowledgeable in the Avengers. However, even I was excited in the trailers for Age of Ultron when we finally saw Vision open his eyes. Sure enough, the character seen in the film as played by Paul Bettany did not disappoint. Whether it was in his humorous moments or action scenes, Vision was awesome to see on the big screen.
2) Returning to Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park is my favorite film of all time, and this year, the franchise returned to some form with Jurassic World. Not everyone liked the film, but people like me experienced a real emotional response within the opening minutes. We watched a child (who could be any of us) enter the park and explore it all in great detail. The vision of Mr. John Hammond came true in all its glory. It was quite an emotional experience.
1) Martian Manhunter on Supergirl
This is an unexpected number one. Supergirl is not the best superhero show on television, but it is good enough for me to continue watching. Nonetheless, this show did have the biggest geek out moment of the year for me and it involved a character I never would have thought we’d see in a live action setting.
Martian Manhunter, the character many of us LOVED from Bruce Timm’s Justice League series, appeared as a regular in the show as a human. Then came the moment they showed us his true form. This wasn't film, this was TV! How could one not geek out? Who’d have thought we’d not only get him and see him done RIGHT?
Assembly of Geeks has said that sometimes we have those uncontrollable geek outs, and this fan got a big one when the Martian Manhunter, aka J’onn J’onzz, revealed himself!
Jeremiah Stewart is a podcaster and runs the Bombad Radio Podcast where he interviews authors, voice actors, as well as writes and directs Star Wars radio dramas.
Geek topics from AoG hosts and contributors.