Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gotham: A freshman show with a few problems

When Fox announced the Gotham, naturally I was curious.  I've never been a DC fan, but I've always  enjoyed watching Batman in media.  I grew up watching the 1960s Batman on reruns, I adored both of Tim Burton's Batman movies and finally Christopher Nolan's brilliant Dark Night trilogy.  I'm skipping over every Batman movie in between because I either didn't see it or hated it.  Anyway, I would not call myself a Batman expert, I've never read a comic, I don't obsess over it at random times (like I would with Doctor Who or something) but I enjoy the character and his villains.  So I knew I would watch.  I am now 5 episodes and and I am struggling to keep watching, but I have a rule to give everything one season.  Initially, I wasn't a fan of Sleepy Hollow, I was going to cut it loose and then got slammed with a brilliant season finale.  I would now count myself a fan of the show.  So, I decided to boil down my unease with Gotham into what I would consider three glaring issues.  If some of them are resolved end of season, I would be happy to come back as a season 2 viewer.

Are you Campy or are you Serious?

Gotham seems to be unsure of whether it wants to go 1960s camp or super serious Christopher Nolan.  There seems to be a huge disparity between the violence and the goofy almost slapstick moments.  We get very silly comedy with over the top brawl scenes at the GCPD station, the bumbling cop moments (well performed by Donal Logue), the cartoonish-ly villainous villains (I'm look at you Jada trying to channel Eartha Kitt and failing) mixed with some serious gang drama, over the top scenes of violence and a very stoic James Gordon who seems to be the only close to real life character on the show.  So what are you?  Am I supposed to take you super seriously as a prime time drama or am I supposed to roll my eyes and go "oh you" as people are murdered via weather balloon?  Seriously, I'm not sure, I am a very confused viewer.

I think the biggest issue here may be the Gotham's time slot.  You can't get away with things at 8pm that you can at 10 pm.  Actually, Gotham may have been better suited on something like HBO that would allow the optimal amount of sex and violence the show feels like it needs to be taken seriously.  I was actually shocked when Fox announced the 8pm slot.  Kids watch TV at 8 pm.  Maybe that's the reason for the camp-factor on the show, but it doesn't appeal to me as a viewer.  I want all or nothing, if you want to be campy, that's fine just immerse the show in it.  Otherwise, cut the camp and give me gritty drama, but this weird mixture leaves me feeling torn on how I felt each episode.

Too may characters and teases

If your a writer on a show, you should write knowing that you could have many seasons ahead of you!  Heck, if you do well on network, you can expect early renewals and hopefully the promising life of hitting at least the 100 episode mark.  Yet in the pilot alone, the show has introduced and teased SO many of the villains in the Batman universe it almost got frustrating.  Especially since we have seen so little of anybody but the Penguin (which is fine with me he is brilliant but I will get back to that).  In the pilot alone we met:

  • The Wayne's murderer 
  • Catwoman
  • The Pengiun
  • Poison Ivy (who got a name change)
  • Fish Mooney
  • The Riddler
  • Carmine Falcone
On top of that, it looks like they will be teasing Scarecrow next week.  Gotham, clam your tits.  I know you are trying to show the beginning of a universe, but there is no reason to dangle juicy bits in front of us only to take them away.  There are a LOT of Batman villains, plus the ones you've added that don't originate in the world of the comics.  Lets stick to one history lesson at a time.  I am happy to watch the story arc of the Penguin and the gangs of Gotham without the little peppered in moments with Nigma and Kyle.  And where the hell did Poison Ivy go?  She was in the pilot, she even got her own poster!  This is what happens when you bombard nerds with things.  We ruminate.  Meanwhile, we are getting this huge young Bruce Wayne plot, but I never expected to see that.  Not to mention the 10 year old is way too smart for a kid who doesn't seem to go to school or receive any sort of schooling at all.  All I ask is that you pare it back a bit.  To be honest, all anybody wants to see is the Joker, but I think that's a character that can really wait.  Let us have some time to munch on these other characters first.

Seemingly unnecessary plot lines

Also, why does Gordon live behind a clock face?  

Gotham is has some extremely heavy handed, complicated plot lines in place.  The show really doesn't need anything more than the episodic plots, layered with the serialized "the mob runs Gotham" plot.  But adding in extraneous plots have made the show feel choppy.  The story arc I have the biggest problem with is the Barbara Kean/Detective Montoya plot.  It is such a thin story it feels like the writers are struggling to keep it interesting.  Montoya's character is cartoonish-ly hateful of Gordon, though she has no actual proof of anything.  It seems they are trying to chalk it up to her past relationship with Barbara, but seriously?  That's like, stalker territory.  Thankfully that plot was missing from last night's episode, but I am sure it will come back.  Lucky us.

The other plot I'm finding irksome is the Fish Mooney/Liza plot.  I like the idea of that story, but we spent a LOT of time focusing on Fish teaching Liza.  The scenes were awkward, and Liza's motives are utterly unclear as she doesn't seem to give a shit about anything.  I'm interested to see where it goes, but I really hope they speed it up because it felt like it was rolling along at a snails pace.

Now, to talk about the one thing Gotham has absolutely gotten right.  Casting Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin was a stroke of PURE GENIUS.  I nearly gave up on the show after episode 2, but I just knew I would miss the Penguin.  They could do whole episodes around this Professor Quirrell type character and I would be fine.  The show could be called "The Penguin" for all I cared.  I love everything about him, the wobbly way he walks, the oddly formal way he talks, give me all Penguin all the time.  Honostly, he really is the one anchor holding me to the show, I just want to watch Taylor perform because whatever he is doing he is doing RIGHT.

So those are my thoughts, feel free to comment especially if you disagree!