‘Gotham’ review: you’ve never seen a city quite like this

I’ll admit, I don’t watch much TV. My viewing habits consist of mostly sports, New Girl, and the occasional Saturday Night Live episode. But when I heard that FOX was coming out with a Batman prequel called Gotham, I was intrigued. After watching the pilot episode I’m hooked, and can’t wait to see where the series takes these characters.

Gotham follows Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) on their journey through Gotham City, as they take on the mob and young versions of your favorite Batman villains. Don’t expect to see Batman, though. Bruce Wayne is only 12 years old.

The first episode of Gotham wastes no time showing the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. I was immediately surprised at how violent this scene was. We’ve seen it plenty of times in the movies, but for the first time there was blood. Lots of blood. David Mazouz delivers a memorable performance as Bruce Wayne, and is definitely the best young actor to ever take on the role. Is he better than Christian Bale, as Gotham creator Bruno Heller suggested? We’ll have to wait and see, but his scenes with Gordon are great. Throughout the episode you see him go from a scared kid to a confident young man who wants to over come his fears and seek vengeance.

The Wayne murders are the central plot around the first episode, with Gordon and Bullock being assigned to the case to find out who did it. I can’t give everything away, but it feels like a one hour movie with lots of twists and turns and suspense. The first episode introduces a lot of familiar characters, and an entirely new one created just for the show. But what’s great is these aren’t the characters we know and love… not quite yet. Gotham is very much an origin story for the Batman villains, which allows for new stories to be told that we’ve never seen before.

For example, Selina Kyle is seen stealing and feeding cats, but she’s not quite Catwoman yet. She’s only about 14 years old and it looks like she’ll have some kind of friendship with Bruce Wayne as the season continues. Pamela Isley’s name has been changed to Ivy Pepper for Gotham. She’s just a young girl as well and is seen tending to plants, but she’s not Poison Ivy. Edward Nygma isn’t quite The Riddler yet, he’s a forensic scientist for the Gotham City Police Department.

And then there’s Oswald Cobblepot, played by Robin Lord Taylor. He already has the nickname “Penguin” on the show, and is the closest character in the pilot to being a full on villain. He works for Fish Mooney, a mob boss created just for the show, played by Jada Pinkett-Smith. Of all the characters we meet in the pilot episode, Robin Lord Taylor’s performance as Cobblepot stood out the most to me. He’s fantastic and I can’t wait to see more of him.

Another one of my favorite performances is Donal Logue’s portrayal of Harvey Bullock. This is the first time we’ve seen Bullock in live-action and Logue is absolutely perfect in the role. Bullock is rough-around-the-edges and a little corrupt, but he cares about his partner James Gordon. Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue have great chemistry and play off each other well. Sometimes you have to do a bad thing to do good, especially in Gotham City, and Bullock isn’t afraid to practice what he preaches.

Gotham City is almost a character itself. Not since Tim Burton’s Batman movies has the city looked so dark and gothic. Gotham is shot on location in New York City, the city that Gotham was based on in the comics, which really helps with the gritty storytelling. Gothic Gargoyles, buildings, and smokey alleys are added in with CGI to make it the city feel like its own. They’re also trying to make the city feel “timeless”, it doesn’t take place in the present day. You’ll see cars from the 1970’s, but flip phones from the early 2000’s. It all works together well to make Gotham look and feel like the city from the comics.

Gotham will offer unique Batman stories that fans have never seen before. Have you been hoping to see a live-action version of Hugo Strange? He’ll be on Gotham. The show will introduce well known characters from the comics that haven’t been on screen before. It will also re-imagine some fan favorites like Mr. Freeze and Harvey Dent. It’ll have the characters Batman fans want to see, and exciting, suspenseful storylines to bring in casual TV fans. I loved the first episode of Gotham and encourage you all to check it out when it premieres on Monday, September 22nd. And if this review hasn’t convinced you, check out a great 21-minute Gotham preview titled “The Legend Reborn” below.