Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Countdown To Gotham: The Journey Begins

This is the first installment of a special five part series on Gotham. Whether you’re new to the show or simply want to refresh your memory, we’ll recap all ten episodes that have aired so far in time for the midseason premiere of Gotham on Monday, January 5th. In this installment, we’ll be recapping the show’s pilot episode. We would also like to remind readers that Gotham contains some content suited only for older viewers, and viewer discretion is advised.

I've always loved characters that are — shall we say — less than heroes. For me, a character being moral or a good role model isn't half as important as a character being fascinating from a psychological standpoint. Because of this, I’ve always found Snape more interesting than Harry, Zuko more interesting than Aang, and Loki more interesting than Thor or even Captain America. It’s always been the antiheroes and villains who capture my heart. Well, perhaps not the completely morally black villains. The Voldemorts and the Saurons have their place, I suppose. But what I want is complexity. I want to know their motivations, their joy, their pain. Their story must be human. So when I first heard about Gotham, I knew it was just the sort of thing I would like.

You see, Gotham is very different than what you would expect from a show taking place in the Batman universe. When the story takes place, the Batman identity isn't even an idea in Bruce Wayne’s mind yet. (In fact, little Bruce is just a child still, freshly mourning the recent death of his parents.) Instead, the story focuses on a number of curious people living in the city of Gotham. And then the show does the most cruel thing imaginable — it makes you love them. Why is that cruel, you ask? Because, though all of these people differ in their personalities, social positions, and moral standings, they all have one thing in common: each will one day become one of Batman’s greatest foes. That’s right. All the characters you grow to love are really villains in the making who have yet to embrace their evil personas. Gotham is a show poised and ready to break our hearts. And you know how much we fangirls love that.

We meet these characters through the eyes of an idealistic veteran-turned-police detective named Jim (really a young Commissioner Gordon) who has newly arrived in Gotham, and is taken aback by the amount of corruption in the city — not just on the streets, but among his fellow cops and the political figures they serve. It’s his goal to clean up the city, and we see his journey begin when he takes on his first major case — the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Spoilers from here on out!


The episode opens on that fateful night when young Bruce Wayne is walking home from the theater with his parents, only for them to be held up at gunpoint by a masked man. The Waynes make a point to cooperate in order to avoid bloodshed, but the masked man shoots Thomas and Martha anyway. He decides to spare Bruce, and flees the scene, leaving the now orphaned little boy alone in the alleyway.

When Jim Gordon arrives on the scene, he bonds with young Bruce immediately. He comforts the boy, who is already blaming himself for his parents’ death, and tells him that he too lost a parent when he was Bruce’s age. As further encouragement, he makes it his personal responsibility to solve this case.


By this time, another man has arrived at the crime scene. Alfred, Bruce’s butler and now legal guardian. (Doctor Who fans may find Alfred’s face familiar. He’s played by Sean Pertwee, son of Jon Pertwee who played the Third Doctor.) Alfred’s manner towards Bruce serves as quite a contrast next to Jim’s. While Jim Gordon was immediately understanding and compassionate toward Bruce, Alfred is surprisingly stern. And as we see the butler leading the young boy away, we’re given the impression Bruce is walking toward a very cold and strict new life.


We also meet Jim’s partner, Harvey Bullock, who Jim describes as a “lackadaisical cynic”. Harvey doesn’t seem to take his job too seriously, and is more interested in avoiding trouble or unnecessary work. He doesn’t at all approve of Jim’s idealistic approach to the job and tries to get rid of him as his partner, which doesn’t work at all. He also wants to get rid of the Wayne case. It’s too high profile, he says; especially since the street robber could be anyone, and they don’t have a lead.

We learn that Harvey has something of a rivalry with two detectives from Major Crimes Unit named Montoya and Allen. The two detectives try to convince Harvey to give them the case, but apparently his dislike of Montoya and Allen is stronger than his dislike of the Wayne case, and he refuses.

Once Jim and Harvey head back to the police station, we meet yet another very important character: EDDIE.


It’s no secret that the GCPD’s forensics guy, Ed Nygma, is to someday become the Riddler, but he hasn‘t gone to the dark side yet. He’s very friendly and energetic, but awkward and seems to be widely disliked by his coworkers — mostly because he has a habit of reporting his findings using guessing games.

Eddie explains to them that the man who shot the Waynes used high end ammo. That, combined with the fact that no one on the streets seems to know who the guy might be, suggests the killer is not just a common street robber, but either a professional contracted killer or someone with a personal grudge against the Waynes. To get more information on possible suspects, Jim and Harvey decide to pay a visit to Fish Mooney, a nightclub owner who also works for the most powerful mobster in Gotham, Carmine Falcone.


Anyone interested in strong female characters — particularly female villains who are used as more than just sexy, dangerous eye candy — should pay special attention to Fish Mooney. She’s clever. She’s acted superbly. And she’s the sort of person audiences will love to hate, while simultaneously rooting for her in spite of themselves. Just as a villain should be.

Harvey and Fish hint to Jim that they would like to talk in private, so he heads toward the back where a group of men are beating a guy who apparently got on Fish Mooney’s bad side. Among these men is Fish’s right hand man Butch Gilzean. Also among them is the man whose job is to hold Fish’s umbrella.


This wonderful emo disaster is Oswald Cobblepot. AKA the man who will become the Penguin. In fact, Fish’s men already refer to Oswald as “penguin”, but it seems to be something of a sore spot to Oswald at this point in time. Jim, disturbed by the violence, asks if anyone wants to press charges against anyone else, but they all decline. (“All in fun” in Oswald’s guilty-4-year-old voice is my favorite thing.)

Harvey gets a lead from Fish that a man named Mario Pepper tried to sell Martha Wayne’s necklace to one of Fish’s fences. Pursuing the lead, they are let into Pepper’s apartment by his daughter, Ivy (a young Poison Ivy).

Both Pepper’s wife and daughter seem very frightened of him, and when the detectives question him about his whereabouts on the night of the Wayne murder, they fearfully support his story. When Pepper learns the detectives have the right to search his apartment without a warrant, due to his long history of crime, he bolts. A chase ensues, and Harvey saves Jim’s life by shooting Mario Pepper after Pepper almost kills Jim in an alleyway. They go back and search the apartment, finding Martha Wayne’s necklace in a bag of drugs. Jim and Harvey are hailed as heroes for solving the case of the Wayne murder. At his parents’ funeral, Bruce thanks Jim for keeping his promise.

Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot, who has plans to usurp Fish, contacts Harvey’s previously mentioned rivals at the MCU, Montoya and Allen. He tells them that Mario Pepper wasn’t actually the Wayne killer, but was framed by Fish. Oswald saw her with the necklace, who had it placed in Pepper’s possession. The detectives assume that both Falcone and the GCPD must also be involved.

Montoya pays a visit to Jim’s fiancée, Barbara Kean.

She tells her that Jim Gordon was most likely in on framing an innocent man for murder. It’s hinted that Montoya is Barbara’s former girlfriend, and that Montoya doesn’t want someone she loves getting mixed up with someone like Jim, who she believes to be corrupt. When Barbara confronts Jim on Montoya's suspicions, he denies them and wonders why Pepper‘s guilt has been thrown into doubt. He confronts Montoya about it, but she’s unwilling to talk.

Jim visits Pepper’s apartment once more. He finds that, even though they were abused by Pepper while he was alive, Ivy and her mother are now quite bitter against the police over his death. Gordon discovers that Mario Pepper did not own any shoes of the type the Wayne killer was wearing, which confirms Pepper was indeed framed by Fish. Like Montoya and Allen, Jim wonders if Falcone is responsible, and that Fish is trying to protect him. He goes to Harvey with this information, but Harvey is unwilling to reopen the case because he believes it’s too perilous.

Still unwilling to give up, Jim pays a visit to Fish, asking her what it was she and Harvey talked about privately on their first visit. She knocks him out. And when he wakes up, he finds himself being hung up in a butcher’s plant. Harvey tries to come to his rescue. He calls Fish and tells her someone snitched on her, and asks to have Jim let go. Unfortunately, he just ends up getting himself hung up too.

When Fish hears someone snitched on her, she realizes it must have been Oswald. He tries to put the blame on Butch instead, but she doesn’t buy it. “I would open a vein right here and now if you asked me to,” he says.  But Fish hands him a knife and tries to hold him to his statement literally, to prove his loyalty. He refuses, of course. And Fish beats him mercilessly, injuring his leg.

Jim and Harvey are saved from a particularly gruesome death by Don Falcone himself. “If [Fish] wants to kill policemen,” he says, “she has to ask permission. There are rules.”

Falcone claims he was friends with Jim’s father and that’s why he’s sparing them. Jim realizes he must not have killed the Waynes, since there would be too much risk in letting him go otherwise. It turns out the necklace was a not really Martha Wayne’s, but a replica. Falcone tells Jim he loves the city of Gotham, and that he was actually trying to frame Fish so the case would be closed and the people of Gotham would feel safe again. “You can’t have organized crime without law and order,” he says. In fact, Falcone seems to have the entire police force in his hands.

Jim and Harvey’s lives are spared, but there’s a catch. Jim must now prove that, like the rest of the force, he is loyal to Falcone. He’s given a task to show that he’s with the program: take Oswald to the end of a pier and shoot him. If he chooses not to complete this task, Harvey is ordered to shoot both Jim and Oswald. In turn, if Harvey fails to do this, he, Jim, Oswald, and Barbara will be killed. “Sometimes you got to do a bad thing to do good,” Harvey tells Jim.

Oswald bargains for his life, frantically telling Jim that he senses a war is coming and that he’ll be Jim’s spy if he’ll let him live. Jim tries to shut him up as he considers his options. He can’t in good conscience shoot a man in cold blood; but if he doesn’t, he forfeits not only his own life, but most likely also the lives of his partner and fiancée. In the end, he does the only thing a good man can. He tells Oswald never to come back to Gotham and —


— he fakes Oswald’s death.

Now that his and Barbara’s lives are safe, and Falcone and the GCPD thinks he’s on their side, he can get back to work trying to fix Gotham.

Provided that no one ever finds out Oswald is secretly still alive, of course.

Jim shows just how seriously he takes his promise to Bruce, when he goes and visits the boy to update him on the case. He tells Bruce he was mistaken in labeling Mario Pepper as the man who killed his parents, that the real killer is still out there, and asks the boy for a second chance to find the true murderer. Despite the fact that Bruce is just a child, Jim Gordon seems to highly value the boy’s feelings and personal ties to the case (in fact, Alfred seems a bit jealous over their relationship). Bruce gives him the second chance, and agrees to keep quiet on the matter. Jim also addresses Bruce’s newly formed habit of attempting daredevil stunts in order to conquer fear, and tells him fear is nothing to be ashamed of.


In this episode, we also get a few teasers on what’s to come in future episodes. We get a glimpse of a young girl who will one day become Catwoman. She appears in several scenes, spying on the actions of other characters (including witnessing the Wayne murder). We haven’t gotten to hear her speak yet, but so far she looks fantastic.


We also see a stand-up comic perform in front of Fish. Of course, this is meant to be a tease for a future Joker, but most viewers suspect it’s a red herring. The Gotham showrunners have hinted that, since the Joker is Batman’s most infamous nemesis, there will be several red herrings concerning him before they reveal the true character.

In closing, not a whole lot happens in the pilot episode of Gotham, as its purpose is mainly to show the audiences the murder that would later lead to Bruce’s transformation into Batman, as well as introduce the characters. And great characters they are, for the most part. I’m not overly fond of the way Jim or Barbara are portrayed so far; the actors are very dry and don’t bring much life to their roles. Despite that, though, I still admire Jim Gordon as a moral man due to the choices he makes and like him for that, which is testament to the writer’s talent. Usually the goodness or badness of a show depends not on the script but the actors who deliver it. For the script to shine through despite some of the actors, says a lot about the writers on the show. Aside from Jim and Barbara, I think the rest of the characters and cast is fantastic. Bruce, Alfred, Fish, Oswald, Eddie, Harvey and the rest all keep my interest, and I look forward to seeing where the show goes with them. Overall, I’d say Gotham is off to a great start.

1 comment:

  1. This is a superb recap. I really need to get back on the Gotham train.