The show opens with Selina Kyle. Those of you new to Batman will find out very quickly that she is Catwoman, the on again/off again love interest of the dark knight. She happens to be sitting up in Park Row and witnesses Dr. Thomas Wayne, his wife Martha, and son Bruce, coming out of the theater to catch a cab home. Selina watches as the killer takes Thomas’ wallet, Martha’s necklace, and Bruce’s childhood.
OK, we already have a problem here. Typically, the murder of the Waynes looks like an accident. Something spooks him and the gun goes off. Sometimes Thomas steps in to defend his wife. In this, they give the guy what he asks for and he just blows them away for no reason (Unless he kills Dr. Wayne for terrible acting). Hopefully this is setting up a fresh take on the murder because otherwise this is pretty bad.
Eat your heart out, Christopher Nolan.
Enter into this little drama Ben McKenzie (The O.C., Southland) and Donal Logue (Blade, Ghost Rider) as Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock respectively. Bullock is a shady veteran who seems to be openly hated by the rest of the force. Gordon is a rookie who for some reason has been promoted to a homicide detective (If this show was about them being forced to live together it would be like eighty percent of shows on Fox). He’s able to identify with Bruce a bit and Bruce opens up and shares everything he can remember, which turns out to be a lot. This is a clever bit of foreshadowing into his becoming the world’s greatest detective. Afterwards, the Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth shows up to take Bruce home (While scolding him to hold his head up).
Bullock doesn’t want such a high profile unsolvable case but refuses to pass it off to Major Crimes (Batman faithful will recognize Bullock’s future partner Renee Montoya) because they’re disrespectful to him. He also tries to reason with Captain Essen (Future Mrs. Jim Gordon) to get a new partner that he can actually solve the case with. He’s stuck with Gordon though, and after a montage of interviewing purse snatches he’s stuck without a lead. Forensic analyst Edward Nygma (The Riddler) informs them this was no average street killer. Gordon thinks it was a professional hit so Bullock takes them to go see Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith), who is in charge of Carmine Falcone’s mafia in the theater district. At this point, they add in the Penguin in so Batman fans won’t lose interest.
Do you want to know the special place where I keep this umbrella?
Bullock and Fish have history, a history that a noble soul like Gordon can’t stand. After a day in the seedy underbelly of Gotham, our hero needs to go home and decompress with his smoking hot fiance’ Barbara, but Bullock soon calls to inform him he got a lead from Fish Mooney on a guy trying to fence a pearl necklace matching the description of Martha Wayne’s. The viewer is losing interest again at this point so they make the guy Poison Ivy’s dad.
When questioned about the stolen necklace, he flees and opens fire on Gordon as he chases him. The man is much larger than Gordon so at this point they’re probably going to showcase what a badass war hero the future commissioner is… but instead the guy beats him up and is about to kill him when Bullock shoots him. Oh well, at least Gordon and Bullock will get along now.
A search of the apartment finds the missing necklace and case closed! Except that Penguin reveals to the Major Crimes detectives that it was all a set up by Fish Mooney. They show the Waynes’ funeral for thirty seconds (Catwoman is there for some reason) and then Detective Montoya visits Barbara Kean and reveals to her that Gordon is in on the GCPD frame job. Montoya and Kean clearly have some sort of past, possibly romantic (Montoya is a lesbian in the comics). This is now turning into the General Hospital version of a Batman show.
Gordon finds out about the frame job and goes back to Pepper’s apartment to speak with his widow. She reveals that he had his demons but that he was no killer… she is explaining this to Jim, whom he had just shot at and tried to kill with a knife *facepalm* Gordon reveals the conspiracy to Bullock who tells him to back off because they’ll both lose their jobs for killing an innocent man… in the completely justifiable homicide of a man about to stab a police officer *double facepalm*
Gordon goes to see Fish Mooney to see if he can find out what her and Bullock talked about. He finds the answer he’s looking for, but Fish and her goons jump him. At this point, and I am not making this up, they hang him up in a meat packing plant so that they can videotape a man in an executioner mask dismembering him. Bullock shows up and calls Fish, who is auditioning the first mystery person who could end up being the Joker, and asks her to reconsider killing Gordon. After he threatens her, Fish tells her men to kill him too. She figures out that Penguin snitched on her and attacks him. Meanwhile, Carmine Falcone shows up at the meat packing plant and kills several of Fish’s men and gives her the message that she needs to ask permission to kill cops.
I married Will Smith for this?
There’s actually a cool scene here between Falconi and Gordon. Carmine tells Jim that he knew and respected his father (The old district attorney) and that they were even friends. He’s worried about what’s happening to Gotham also because it’s bad for his business. The noble gangster routine is interesting and John Doman is a good actor. He finally seems to get McKenzie back on track.
Bullock drives Gordon to a pier and reveals that’s he’s been on the take with Falcone. He opens the trunk to reveal a beaten Oswald Cobblepot. Carmine says that Gordon is supposed to kill Penguin for snitching to prove that he’s on Team Mafia. If not, Bullock is supposed to take them both out. Gordon, very predictably, walks Penguin to the end of the pier and warns him to never come back to Gotham before pretending to shoot him and throws him in the water. At this point, if you want to take things in a different route or do something fresh, why not just have Gordon shoot him for real? You could always have him survive but killing Penguin in the pilot would have been EPIC. Get some of the squeaky clean off Gordon. Anyways…
Gordon drives to Wayne Manor and confesses to Bruce Wayne about the frame job between the mob and the police and asks for a second chance so he can catch the murderer and clean up the police department. He also asks that Bruce not tell anyone about it. This makes much more sense than just doing it and filling him in once you’ve fixed everything, but that’s what kind of man James Gordon is. Bruce gives him a second chance, presumably because Gordon is such a bad cop he realizes that the murder will never get solved with him on the case so he can become Batman and do it himself. As Gordon leaves, we see Catwoman climbing on the fence outside and then Penguin washes up on shore and kills a fisherman for a turkey sandwich.
What did we learn? Well, the show looks cool. The aesthetics are very nice but that’s about the only positive thing I have to say. Even these are confusing at times though. When exactly does this show take place? A lot of the sets, costumes, and automobiles seem very old timey but people have cell phones? The acting is bad. Donal Logue is the perfect person to play Bullock and somehow is bad at it. Ben McKenzie’s trademark seething rage is misplaced. Everyone’s accents are horrible, even Alfred’s and that actor is actually British. The writing is terrible. At one point Gordon tells Mario Pepper that they only need reasonable cause to search his apartment. There’s probable cause and reasonable suspicion, no cop says reasonable cause. That’s just lazy writing. And Fish Mooney is a TERRIBLE name. I suspect she was only named that because Cobblepot is going to kill her down the road and make some kind of line about penguins eating fish. Almost everything about this show is just a little off.
The show is kind of a Where’s Waldo of Batman. They put in a lot of hints to things like sprinkling in the villains and Bullock telling Gordon to meet him at 4th and Grundy so hardcore fans will be like, “OH! They’re alluding to Solomon Grundy!” but the actual show isn’t good. It’s like eating a bowl of Captain Crunch while only occasionally coming across a crunch berry. I’m going to stick around for a few episodes and see if it improves but in the end I just don’t know if I can watch a Batman show without Batman.