Pre-Batman GOTHAM an Engrossing Crime Drama with Mass Appeal

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Gotham Season One Fox Batman James Gordon Bruce Wayne Ben McKenzie Critical Blast

There's an interesting, long-standing trope in comic books that posits a superhero creates his own villains; that before the arrival of the superhero, there were no super-threats to the city he calls home, and that they are attracted there solely because the hero exists there to fight them.

The theme of GOTHAM runs counter to that proposition, putting forth the story of the titular city at least a decade prior to the arrival of the Dark Knight who would make Gotham City a name known around the world. It's a grim place, where the forces of law and order and the forces of the criminal underworld aren't pitted against each other but rather are entangled so much as to be indistinguishable one from the other.

Into this world comes Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie, BATMAN: YEAR ONE), the only honest cop in Gotham, determined to clean up the town starting with the Gotham City Police Department. He's partnered with Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue, COMIC BOOK VILLAINS), a jaded cop who long ago gave up his ideals and now just goes along to get along and survive in the harsh world around him. He tries to rein Gordon in, to teach him how things are -- but the more Gordon continues in his crusade, the more he awakens a spark in Bullock to fight on the side of the angels.

Gotham without Batman is not a Gotham without villains. Throughout the freshman season, we see not just the rise of the villains of the future -- Selina "Catwoman" Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Edward "Riddler" Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), Jonathan "Scarecrow" Crane, Poison Ivy, and at least one potential Joker -- but also villains already made, in the early stages of their career, like The Electrocutioner, The Dollmaker, and -- the standout villain of the entire series -- Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot (played to perfection by Robin Lord Taylor, THE WALKING DEAD). In fact, as much as the season is about Gordon's mission to clean up the town, it's equally about Cobblepot's rise to head of organized crime, pitting mob bosses against each other and manipulating both crooks and cops to clear his path to his goal. And just to make things more interesting, Cobblepot sees Gordon as a friend who saved his life, while Gordon uses Cobblepot as a source of information against the mob when conventional methods don't work.



Of course, the story could never truly begin without the turning point that set everything in motion -- the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the parents of Bruce Wayne. In this series, it not only serves as the catalyst that propels young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz, TOUCH) onto the path that will lead him to be the Batman, but also as one that sends the city on a downward spiral of a power struggle among the elite of Gotham's underworld -- power-hungry underboss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), the godfather of Gotham Carmine Falcone (John Doman, THE WIRE), and the rival looking to take over, Sal Maroni (David Zayas). As Gordon and Cobblepot's stories are told, so also is Bruce's, as he investigates the death of his parents, leading him to shady corners of Wayne Enterprises and secrets his father kept. It's a dangerous journey, but fortunately he has the protection of his butler, Alfred J. Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee, ELEMENTARY and son of DOCTOR WHO actor Jon Pertwee), a war veteran who is protective enough of Bruce to fight dirty when he has to.

There are several nice nods to the future that will come. In the episode "The Balloonman," Gotham gets its first vigilante in the form of a masked man who attaches criminals to weather balloons and sends them soaring into the stratosphere. That The Balloonman wears a kerchief over his mouth and a sloped hat, and has the last name of Lamond (with one of his victims being named Cranston), the episode is very evocative of one of the pulp heroes that preceded and inspired Batman -- The Shadow. Later, in "Spirit of the Goat," Gotham is plagued by a seemingly immortal punisher -- who wears a black leather mask with two pointed horns atop it! And when Bruce and Selina go into hiding together among the city's homeless children, Selina re-dresses him in something more street-worthy -- and is that the head of a screaming bat emblazoned on Bruce's new tee-shirt?

For fans of Batman, GOTHAM is a giddy Easter egg hunt. For those who are only passingly familiar, GOTHAM is a gritty crime drama with some over-the-top but believable psychos. For everyone, it's a series that features stellar writing and casting, with an overarching story that drags the viewer inexorably into the anarchy that is overtaking the city. This is binge watching at its finest.

The bonus features on this Blu-ray release include:

Gotham Invented:

     Part 1: Building Our Gotham - Executive producers Bruno Heller, Geoff Johns, Danny Cannon, John Stephens talk about the universality of the city's design, haveing no specific place or time, where cell phones co-exist with 1970s cars.

     Part 2: Paving the Way for the Caped Crusader - The producers and cast look at the "why" of Gotham's evolution, with attention to the villains being born, the underworld, and the relationship between Gordon and Cobblepot.

     Part 3: Fractured Villains of Gotham - A focus on villains like the Red Hood (the mask, not necessarily the character), creating the seeds for the need for a Batman, and the season's final villain multi-episode villain, The Ogre (Milo Ventimiglia).

Gotham: Designing the Fiction -- McKenzie on the "dangerous, sexy, dirty" look of Gotham; Logue on the Freudian aspects of the city; Robin Lord Taylor sums up the city best: "It forms everyone."

The Game of Cobblepot -- Narrated by Randall Moore, this feature takes a look at Cobblepot, with Taylor on how Cobblepot was the bullied kid, while the narrative compares Cobblepot's actions to a chess grandmaster.

Gotham: The Legend Reborn -- A focus on the origins of the villains -- including the possible (per McKenzie) appearance of The Joker.

DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014 - Presenting GOTHAM, THE FLASH, CONSTANTINE and ARROW -- This one's self explanatory, but if you didn't make it to SDCC in 2014, you can make a virtual visit.

Character Profiles -- A collection of mini-interviews on the major players of the series, including Detective Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne and Alfred J. Pennyworth, Detective Harvey Bullock, Fish Mooney, Oswald Cobblepot, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, and a collected look at maybe-Joker, Electrocutioner, Dollmaker, Doctor Crane, Nygma and The Ogre.

Gag Reel

Deleted Scenes

4.5 / 5.0