New series Gotham is Fox’s brightest star and biggest hope for the season. With the fervor surrounding Monday’s premiere, I think the excitement is holding.
DC comic’s iconic Batman stories are well-known. Gotham recounts the early days of Batman’s childhood, directly following his parents’ death. It’s a dark and moody modern take on the character, and its steampunk cityscapes do create a beautiful backdrop with a surreal quality not often seen in network television. And it’s always fun to hear an origin story, even if it’s basically in the form of Batman: The Beginning-ing. In this case you’ll certainly be introduced to nearly all of Batman’s foes way back when, whether they are also children or already grown, which turns the whole show into a guessing game where the prize is smiling knowingly at your TV whenever you identify a villain.
But the reason we all might want to tune in is the hot lesbian police detective in Major Crimes, Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena). We are also offered tantalizing hints that main series villainess Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) might also be less than straight. Now let’s get down to some recapping!
Deft, thieving young woman (Camren Bicondova) opens the show. The shots of Gotham are creepy and great and there’s even almost an ounce of humor as she uses her switchblade to steal a quart of milk. It’s like the opening scene of Aladdin but with less singing and not as racist. But her only relevance so far is that she is witness to the event that begins the show: the murder of the Waynes. (For those new to the Batman mythos, witnessing the death of this parents as a child is what eventually spurs Bruce Wayne into becoming Batman.)
The “mugger” calls Bruce Sr. by name, even as he pretends to care about their valuables before shooting them point blank. It’s meant to be a signal to us that this is more than a random mugging, but it also signals to us that this show isn’t always subtle in its hints.
Somewhere else in this giant, timeless metropolis, the Gotham Police Station is hustlin’ and bustlin’ because of the recent as-yet-unexplained crime wave. Suddenly, one of the inmates grabs an officer’s gun and takes a (woman) officer hostage! Every gun in the station is immediately pointed at him, except for Jim Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie). Gordon introduces himself to the criminal and to us so we know he’s a Good Guy ™, but the dude won’t back down until he has his “pills.” Grabbing a convenient bottle of Asprin, Gordon is like HERE YA GO, CERTAINLY THIS IS IT, THIS ISN’T A TRICK, and the dude falls for it only because we’re trying to establish that Gordon is a smart guy who doesn’t believe in unnecessary violence. Gordon disarms the dude and saves the damsel and nobody shoots the criminal because he’s white, but the celebration is cut short by the appearance of Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), who we infer is Gordon’s partner in not-crime. Bullock is the Starsky to Gordon’s Hutch, the Lilo to his Stitch, the Mary Kate to his Ashley; that is to say, if Gordon is an Eagle Scout, Bullock is selling weed to other Boy Scouts under the bleachers. Or something. I don’t know, this metaphor got away from me. The point is that Bullock is a shifty character who is definitely corrupt and definitely wanted to shoot that guy.
They head to the Wayne murder scene and, of course, only Boy Scout can magically get the young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) to talk. He’s gonna have daddy issues forever. Unfortunately, I am finding his pep talk less than convincing. There’s a lot of “I promise” and “be strong” that just don’t convince me, although I’m not operating on the Straight White Guy Frequency, so maybe it’s more effective than I’m giving it credit for. Then Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) shows up and takes charge like a real boss.
Now we see the new partners in the quintessential diner where Bullock calls Boy Scout “Hotshot” so I’ll be switching between those 2 nicknames from now on. We are also introduced to partners from Major Crimes Unit Crispus Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) and Renee Montoya (finally), also as annoyingly good guy-ish as Gordon.
They try to get the white guys to give the Wayne case over to them because they’re the major crimes unit, damn it! But even though Harvey wanted nothing to do with it in the first place he refuses becuase Montoya “disrespected” him, which is our first not-subtle clue that he is an insane person.
“Stay frosty,” Allen offers, to which Bullock replies, “Self-righteous, do-gooding, skill huggers.”
I listened to that several times and I think that’s what he said. What does that even mean?
Captain Essen (Zabryna Guevara) just wants Bullock to close the case and he just wants a new partner. Words are exchanged, wild gestures are gestured, it’s a madhouse. A few more words are exchanged between Hotshot and Bullock.
“Jim, you seem like a nice guy but this is not a city, or a job, for nice guys. You understand?” asks Bullock.
Bullock gets called a slovenly, lackadaisical, cynic, which is, coincidentally also how I identify.
Then there’s a great interrogation montage with some bad Rage Against the Machine-style music in the background before cutting to the “squint” who analyzed the bullet that killed the Waynes. It’s a high end ammo from a gun they’ve never seen before. GASP! WHAT A TWIST. But at least we get to look forward to meeting Fish Mooney.
Jada Pinkett Smith plays a hot villainous club owner who employs a young but no less creepy Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) who can’t even hold an umbrella properly.
Mooney greets Bullock as an old friend and to his new partner she says, “Aren’t you a cool glass of milk…”
Wait, isn’t that expression “tall drink of water”?
Boy Scout goes to check out the beating that is currently happening, and we see Oswald so worked up that even his evil compatriots are telling him to calm down with the evil. Gordon returns to the club to catch the tail end of Harvey’s interaction with Fish…What did she tell him and are they in, like, cahoots or what? SPOILER ALERT, THEY TOTALLY ARE.
Another city shot cuts quickly to the nicest apartment New York, I mean Gotham, has ever seen. This is where Hotshot’s fiance Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) lives I guess. Perfect, blonde and basic…more banter. I’m a little bored. And the “out of my depth” metaphor is not really working for me. And does anyone ever really call hot dogs “dogs?”
But we get a little sex by the fire so, there’s that.
More shots of Steampunk City as Boy Scout goes to meet Harvey for an important tip from Mooney. They’ve got a suspect: Mario Pepper. He’s got quite the record. And when they knock on his door an innocent little thing with crazy tangled hair named…Ivy…answers.
First of all, we know right away that Mario isn’t the guy: All the clues point to a rich dude being the mugger, and the show is making it clear that the Peppers are by no means rich. Mario’s terrified and beaten wife tries to defend him, but he dashes out the door doing that “running on building rooftops while shooting” thing, and young Hotshot chases him through kitchens, tenements, fire escapes and all the usual places before an epic hand-to-hand combat fight scene in which Gordon is saved by a bullet from Bullock’s gun at just the right moment.
I’m making this all sound worse than it is. It is cheesy, but I’m still liking it. I swear.
A doctor stitches up Gordon’s hand right there in the suspect’s home (because we are tough in Gotham) while a crack team discovers Mrs. Wayne’s lost pearls. They’ve got their man… or do they? (They don’t.)
Because in the next moment Penguin is ratting Mooney out to the Major Crimes police! God he’s creepy. That pale sweaty skin sends shivers up my spine. Then he puts on some round spectacles and my housemate Taylor calls him a hipster. The shivers remain.
Look! Our crafty little thief is back, creeping her way stealthily around the Waynes’ funeral. Gordon and Bruce have another white guy heart-to-heart, and the li’l Wayne keeps a stiff upper lip because he’s BATMAN.
Montoya heads over to Keen’s beautiful apartment to warn her that her husband-to-be may not be as wholesome as he seems since somebody framed Pepper and it was probably Jim (although we know it wasn’t). It’s also our first moment of gayness as we learn that Renee and Barbara were previously lovers and that there is def some unfinished biz here. There’s a point where Renee asks Barbra if Jim knows her like she does. It’s really gay.
Another rain-soaked window shot and Keen confronts Gordon to find out if his first case as a Detective has already turned him as evil as it has the rest of his department. But she believes in him when he says he did not frame Pepper.
Boy Scout confronts Montoya, but it is definitely about the case and not about having a sex partner in common.
Either way, Gordon is having doubts, so he goes to the Peppers’ house and talks with the family. He discovers that Mario had no shiny shoes! Which is what li’l Wayne said he saw on the shooter! It couldn’t have been Pepper!
He then takes his theory to his partner who is obviously not having it because he is obviously in on it.
Yet more gratuitous city shots. It’s like landscape porn up in here. Or The Room.
Gordon visits Fish, and she doesn’t let the fact that he is a cop stop her from sicking her dogs on him. He fights back admirably so we know that he’s still a good fighter even though the bad guys ultimately have to win out in this moment.
Barbra is rightfully worried. Bullock stalls her as we cut to a scene of Fish’s goons dragging Gordon into a meat locker. Of course they never just kill the protagonist outright. They always have to hog tie him long enough to give someone a chance to rescue. And, as corrupt as he is, Bullock does come to his rescue, showing up to chat it out amongst the carcasses. Gross.
Meanwhile Mooney interviews a comedian whose dark one-liners pale in comparison to what he is about to witness.
“I’m not afraid to die,” he says “I want to die like my father did, peacefully his sleep, not like his terrified passengers.”
Mooney’s laughter is just villainous enough. And actually quite charming.
She gets on the phone with Bullock, who tries to convince her to let Gordon go and tells her that she has a mole. Then he threatens her and she appears to give in, instead telling her boys to hang him up with his partner. He really doesn’t see this coming. God bless him.
Mooney immediately knows the Penguin is the mole and asks him to rub her feet as she slowly gets around to confronting him. (He’s going to have mommy issues the rest of his life). He offers to open a vein and she hands him a knife. Hipster tries to say that he was just speaking “poetically.” She hits him over the head with a chair and beats him with the broken leg.
The traumatized comedian cowers in the corner.
Strung up cops give us some upside-down banter about what a bummer it is that they’re going to die, and the scariest butcher you’ve ever seen (when did they start wearing masks?) approaches to carve. Instead big boss Carmine Falcone (John Dorman) interrupts the slaughter.
“Tell Mooney she is too impetuous,” he says “If she wants to kill policemen, she’s got to ask permission.”
Once the cops are cut down, Falcone waxes poetic about his relationship with Gordon’s DA father, but Boy Scout won’t play ball, even with the man who saved his life. He would much rather talk politics and moral gray areas!
“I’m a businessman. You can’t have organized crime without law and order. I love this city.”
“You make a life of crime sound very noble.”
Gordon and Bullock pull up to a pier, and Harvey shows Cobblepot in the trunk. He tells Gordon that he has to kill The Penguin to prove to everyone that he’s down with the whole corruption thing, otherwise Bullock will kill the Penguin AND Gordon. Moral relativity. Uh oh!
Faced with this impossible decision, Boy Scout pulls a fast one and walks Penguin (walking especially Penguin-y) up to the water and tells him to never show his face in Gotham again before pushing him over the side and firing his gun into the air.
There is spittle and other fluids everywhere.
“Atta boy,” Bullock coos when he thinks Gordon has done his job.
Meanwhile back at Wayne Manor, Gordon catches the little bat seemingly about to jump off the roof. Instead Wayne says he was learning to conquer fear. But Gordon says that “fear tells you where the edge is. Fear is a good thing,” and Alfred rolls his eyes and explains he has already tried to tell the kid that.
Then Gordon goes on to confess that he was wrong and that they didn’t catch the parents’ killer. “He was framed by the police department and the mob working together.” But he wants to fix it from the inside and asks Bruce to let him do so? I don’t know why either.
The kid is all together too calm, and in the distance little thief is watching yet again…
Penguin pops up in the icy water dramatically pulling himself ashore next to a swarthy fisherman. Then, for seemingly no reason, he steals his knife and slashes his neck before stealing his lunch.
And the show ends with him eating a bloody sandwich. No, Brits, literally a sammie soaked in blood.