If you’re a casual television viewer, you probably remember Jim Gordon as the bumbling commissioner on the Batman live-action television show. If you’ve seen the recent Dark Knight trilogy, you might have a more positive opinion of Gordon as a hero.
But if you’re a reader of comics, especially Batman: Year One, then you know Gordon serves an incredibly important role in the Gotham mythos: he’s Batman’s conscience and the moral center of a city already half in ruins.
This is why he was picked as the centerpoint of Gotham.
The first episode of the series nails Jim Gordon’s essential morality. There’s a line he won’t cross and shortcuts he won’t take. At least so far, because the first hour of Gotham promises some serious challenges to his worldview. It also provides Gordon an excellent counterpoint in cynical, slovenly and yet smart Detective Harvey Bullock. If Ben McKenzie doesn’t watch out, Donal Logue’s Bullock is going to steal the show from his Gordon. Watching the two of them this season together promises to be a lot of fun, especially if they can continue to exchange the wryly funny looks like the ones they gave each other while upside down on meathooks.
So what did we learn about the future of this show in the pilot?
First, we know Gordon would rather save lives, not take them, even at the risk of his own life. This is underscored by the way he takes down the mentally ill prisoner in his first scene. It’s a fine introduction for our hero, skimping on backstory and going right to the action.
Second, we learned that young Bruce Wayne, Alfred and Selina (Catwoman) Kyle will be a large part of the story. That’s due to a major addition to the inevitable and horrifying murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of young Bruce: Selina saw the whole thing from a perch on a fire escape. By the end of the pilot, she’s tracked Bruce to Wayne Manor.
I like this addition. Selina is already stealing milk to feed stray cats and leaping around rooftops and thus promises to be Bruce’s introduction to the seedy side of Gotham. However, I hope they tone down her sensuality. I know she eventually becomes the sexy Catwoman but, right now, she’s a pre-teen. Let’s not get creepy, show.
And there’s Alfred, played by Sean Pertwee, as an intense former military officer fiercely protective of his newly orphaned charge. Series Executive Producer Bruce Heller said in a conference call with press last week that Alfred and Gordon will be somewhat opposing father figures for young Bruce. I can already see the tension between them.
Third, we learned that Oswald Cobblepot, eventually Penguin, is likely going to be the Big Bad for the whole season. Gordon’s act of mercy in letting Oswald escape is going to bite him in the ass. It already has since, at the end, Oswald murders a man after he crawls up from the Gotham river. Gordon already has his hands dirty, in one sense. I see angst approaching on the horizon and a bloody trail behind Oswald.
Fourth, much as I like Jada Pinkett Smith, her portrayal of Fish Mooney was the weak link in this episode. Fish was so over-the-top in her villainy that it almost feels like she’s in one of Joel Schumacher’s cheesy Batman films rather than in the more realistic and noir-like environs of Gotham.
But Fish is obviously important to the plot. She’s the one running a gang, she’s possibly involved in the Waynes’ murder, and she’s the one who determined Oswald had to die. She’s also the one auditioning a comedian in a scene where she’s beating the crap out of Oswald. I didn’t pay much attention to the beating because I was thinking “are they setting up the Joker by keeping the stand-up comic in that scene? Will he show up again?”
That better not be a throwaway, show.
Fish is an original character and her fate could go several ways but I’m guessing she dies gruesomely. I hope she acquires a more interesting personality before her inevitable demise.
Fifth, it’s just plain weird for a long-time Batman comics reader to see Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen as not only contemporaries to Jim Gordon but his superiors in the force. At the end of the first hour, the pair believes Gordon’s corrupt and will probably continue to believe it until he trusts them enough to clue them into his one-man sting operation against Gotham’s underworld.
I look forward to an eventual friendship developing between the three of them but that’s not going to be easy as there’s one other new wrinkle the show tosses out: Gordon’s fiancée Barbara Kean and Det. Montoya have a romantic history. Not a surprise for Montoya, as she’s a lesbian in the comics. It is a surprise for Barbara Kean, whose personality has rarely been fleshed out in the comics. Barbara steams up the screen with Jim, then tossing around lots of UST with Montoya. I’m intrigued.
The pilot moved so fast and set up so much that there wasn’t much of two characters also eagerly anticipated by comic fans: Edward (Riddler) Nygma and Police Lt. Sarah Essen. Nygma did get in some riddles, however. And, okay, I’m probably one of the few anticipating Essen because I love her and she’s gotten a raw deal in the comics, going from femme fatale to Gordon’s second wife, to dead, to limbo. (Comics, everyone!) But Essen is one of the few three-dimensional female characters created by Frank Miller. (Comic writer Gail Simone once quipped that Miller’s women run the gamut of whore to dead whore.) Therefore, I want Essen to finally shine. She’s white in the comics but is being played by an African-American actress, a move to add diversity to Gotham that I applaud. She’s also Jim’s boss now, which should make things rather awkward if a romantic relationship develops.
The pilot ends with a new status quo. Bullock and Gordon are sort-of owned by crime boss Carmine Falcone, though Gordon has his own plans, young Bruce is seething, Selina is watching and waiting, Montoya and Allen are looking to investigate Gordon for corruption, Barbara might be doubting her fiancée, and Oswald is walking around in a murderous rage, bent on revenge against Fish and Falcone.
So, things are falling apart in Gotham. Must be Monday. Tune in next week, same Gotham-time, some Gotham-channel for another recap.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.