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It’s been just over two years since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy ended and it’s safe to say that Batman fans are getting withdrawal symptoms. Luckily, Gotham could quickly become everyone’s new television addiction, not just for Batman fans but for lovers of the crime genre in general. Gotham is such an interesting concept that I’m surprised hasn’t been done before on screen: a prequel to Batman. The story revolves around a young Detective Jim Gordon (who we all know will eventually become the Commissioner) while he navigates his way through the crime-ridden underworld of Gotham City. However, he soon realises that having a moral compass will get you nowhere in a world where loyalties are bought by money and law and order is created by the mobsters that run the town.
It is clear that the villains will be a pivotal aspect of the series as we observe what their lives were like before they became the iconic characters we love to hate. The first episode has a lot of strands to tie together as it teases appearances by Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin), Edward Nygma (The Riddler), Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Ivy Pepper (Poison Ivy) and Carmine Falcone. However, on the most part, the writers blend the separate characters and storylines seamlessly and ensure that the episode is fast-paced and fluid. A couple of guest appearances do feel slightly shoe-horned in to appeal to Batman fans, but hopefully they will become essential to the plot as the series continues.
The production values are stunning; and the dark tones help to bring the infamous city of sin to life in a way we’ve never seen before. Yes, some of the acting is slightly hammy at times, and the introductions to the characters are completely unsubtle (Edward Nygma is spouting riddles from the start and teenage Selina Kyle is shown feeding a group of cats) but these are minor niggles that I’m willing to forgive due to the very nature of the comicbook genre.
The majority of the cast are relatively unknown which is a great advantage as the audience have no preconceptions of the actors. Considering the world almost started rioting when Ben Affleck was announced as Batman, I think this is a brilliant strategy. Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon and Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot are the standouts for me. McKenzie makes for an immensely likeable protagonist; he is strong, sensitive and uncompromising in his pursuit of justice. On the other hand, Taylor is a worthy opponent as the man who will eventually become The Penguin and is unnervingly sinister and ruthless in his attempt to ascend the ladder of Gotham’s underworld. I’ve never really seen The Penguin as a major threat and always viewed him as more of a comedic villain, but I think he’s done brilliantly here, and I’m excited to see how his arc plays out.
Overall this was an extremely strong start for Gotham – the series definitely has a lot of potential. If you’re wondering whether a Batman story can work without Batman then the answer is a resounding yes.