6:01pm PT by Graeme McMillan
'Gotham' Central: Five Questions About the Pilot
If there was one thing we could learn from the first episode of Gotham, it’s that Jim Gordon’s name was Jim Gordon. No, really; the number of times someone said that man’s name in the episode bordered on the ludicrous. It’s not even that catchy a name; if I were one of the various ne’er-do-wells in Gotham City, I’d be much more eager to say “Harvey Bullock” over and over again. I mean, at least that has a rhythm to it.
If there were two things we could learn from the first episode, the other would be that Gotham City isn’t likely to top anyone’s vacation destination list anytime soon. From the low-level crime that started the episode — with Selina Kyle cheerily stealing money for herself and milk for the hobo cat population, because she’ll grow up to be Catwoman one day and it’s always good to get an early start on such careers — to the murder of two millionaire philanthropists and the half-hearted, corrupt police investigation that followed, it’s not a nice city.
In case we somehow didn’t gather that for ourselves, the show kept on making sure we knew: It’s not a city for good people or good cops, according to Bullock. It’s a city in danger of becoming too corrupt even for the crime bosses, according to Carmine Falcone. And, as became obvious as the first episode went on, it’s a city that’s absolutely filled with people who’ll turn out to be master criminals and/or psychopathic villains; in addition to Catwoman, the future Penguin, Riddler and Poison Ivy were featured in the first episode alone. All of that before we even get to the fact that it’s a city where Jim Gordon can apparently get away with thinking that three hot dogs counts as “dinner,” no matter what he tries to tell Barbara Kean. Do these people have no sense of decency?
For those who haven’t seen the pilot yet, there are spoilers after this point, so enter at your own risk. For everyone else, here are some questions the first episode of the series threw up that even a dark knight detective might want to think about.
Who Will Catch the Waynes’ Killer? It would seem, based on this episode, that the identity of the man who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents is going to be a continuing storyline — or, at least, a question that will drive Jim Gordon as much as it does Bruce Wayne in later life.
Gordon swore to find the Waynes' murderer, which worked from the dramatic perspective of the show — he is, after all, its lead character — but sits uncomfortably with the Batman mythos where one of two things happens: Batman is responsible for finding his parents’ killer, or no one finds his parents’ killer (If the latter one sounds unnecessarily depressing, don’t worry; it’s not nearly as common as the former throughout the years). Given the seeming prominence of the question in the pilot, it’s almost unthinkable that no one will catch the killer before the end of the series, so the question is who does it: if Gordon finds out the identity of the man behind the Waynes' death, then it helps cement his importance to the show, but hurts the idea that Batman can do what no one else can. Is Gotham more interested in telling a story where Jim Gordon is the hero than one which ends with Batman triumphant?
Who Did Kill the Waynes, Anyway? So, we know that the murderer had shiny shoes and a black mask (Or, may be, a Black Mask?), but the show didn’t give too many other clues about the identity of the man who accidentally created Batman.
In most tellings of the Batman origin, the murderer was Joe Chill, a small-time crook who was either working alone or hired by a crime boss unhappy with Thomas Wayne for one reason or another (In one recent retelling, for example, Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot because Thomas had decided to stop supplying the local crime boss with drugs; in others, he was simply too much of a humanitarian to live).
Assuming that Gotham stays faithful to the comic book mythos and Chill is responsible for the death of the Waynes, he doesn’t really seem enough of a big name to be worth all the misdirection and intrigue of the pilot, so perhaps we should be expecting the “hired gun” take on events this time. If that’s the case, however, the question then becomes: Who hired him, and why?
(This, by the way, is the fourth time the Waynes’ murder has been shown in live action — the other times being in the 1989 Batman movie, a totally different version in 1995’s Batman Forever and in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins — with at least five different versions of the murder shown in animation throughout the years, from an episode of Super Friends through Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman and Beware the Batman, as well as a flashback in the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns animated movie. All of which leads me to wonder: Are Martha and Thomas Wayne the most murdered characters in movies and on television?)
Is Gordon Really the Only Good Cop in Gotham? The first episode goes out of its way to show that the Gotham City Police Department is amazingly corrupt, to the point where Bullock pleads with him to get with “the program” in order to survive (Note, too, the way in which the cops beat up the perp in the opening scene in the precinct after Gordon has knocked him out). But is Gordon the only uncorrupt cop in the city?
That’s unclear from this episode, but the brief glimpses we see of Montoya and Allen suggest that that might not be the case. Those two cops from the Major Crimes Unit are characters well-known to readers of the late, lamented Gotham Central comic book (For those who like the procedural elements of Gotham and wish they could see more of that with added Batman and villains in costume, you owe it to yourselves to search out Gotham Central), and were very much upright — if, thankfully, flawed — police. Will that be the case here? (No police/case pun intended, I promise.)
What if Batman Wasn’t Gotham’s First Masked Hero? The scene where Montoya and Barbara Kean confronted each other was notable for the way in which it mirrored Montoya’s relationship with another Gotham socialite in the comic book mythos — Kate Kane, who would later be revealed as Batwoman. For that matter, the series that introduced the modern Batwoman — 2006’s 52 — also remade Montoya from a disgraced cop (I said she was flawed, remember?) into a faceless vigilante called The Question. We know that we’re not going to get Batman anytime soon in this series, but there’s nothing to say that we won’t get some other vigilantes keeping the city safe before that.
Where Do We Go From Here? Although the main plot of the pilot was the murder and (botched) investigation of the Wayne murders, a lot happened in this first episode: Gordon discovered firsthand how corrupt, and dangerous, the city could be. The conflict between mob boss Carmine Falcone and Fish Mooney, his Machiavellian right-hand woman, was introduced (and we saw how much Fish likes to hit people with objects: The guy in the alley with a baseball bat! Gordon with a lamp! Oswald Cobblepot with a chair!). Selina Kyle’s involvement with Bruce Wayne was teased, when she saw the murder and then followed him home. Oswald Cobblepot was thrown out of Mooney’s mob, and became more savage as a result. Montoya is convinced Gordon is corrupt and is investigating. So where do we go next?
That’s the biggest of the questions after this first episode. There’s more than enough here to carry the show forward for a while, especially if Gordon and Bullock also have to deal with a new case each week. Hopefully, future episodes won’t lean quite so heavily on bringing in familiar characters from the comic books, and, instead, focus on expanding and exploring those that are already there for a while. But for a first episode, Gotham felt right: it wasn’t perfect, and at times wasn’t pretty — just like the city and its inhabitants. But it was exciting and intriguing, and let’s be honest: We all want to see if Gordon can live up to his potential, right…?