TV Review - Gotham

Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon in "Gotham"
There are about a dozen cop shows or police procedural programs on broadcast television. When you count those on cable TV, you add about a dozen more. Of the new shows that have premiered within the past month, about six or so were cop shows too. Obviously, these shows in general are successful and always have been. The problem is that there isn't much more that can be done with them. There's also about a half-dozen series that are based on comic books. This series in fact is based on the Batman comics, which have been one of the most popular, but it also is a cop show to boot, so it will more than likely also be successful. Yet, there's something stale and off about this show.

Created by Bruno Heller (Rome and The Mentalist), the fatal flaw of the show is that Heller decided to set the events during the time when Bruce Wayne, the alter ego of Batman, is just a little boy. Thus, it renders Bruce Wayne, played by David Mazouz (Touch), completely useless and as a character in the police procedural portions totally pointless. Yet, this doesn't stop the show from randomly checking in on this useless and pointless character, wasting time and frustrating its audience.

Ben McKenzie (The OC and Southland) stars as James Gordon, the only good and non-corrupt cop in the Gotham Police Department. He's partnered with Harvey Bullock, played by Donal League (Grounded for Life and Terriers). Bullock is probably one of the most corrupt. Bullock isn't actually all bad. He does save Gordon's life on several occasions. Yet, he's also completely complicit with the fact that the mob has so much power and basically runs the city. Bullock isn't willing or interested in doing anything about it, whereas Gordon wants to fight against it as best he can.

Obviously, there are complications. Namely, a brewing mob war threatens to break out at any time. At the center of it is Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith (The Matrix Reloaded and Collateral), a ruthless mobster on the rise. She runs her own high-end bar and restaurant like so many mobsters. It's not overtly seen, but she must traffic in illegal product like drugs.

There is a mob hierarchy and atop is Falcone, played by John Doman (The Wire and Damages). No matter how powerful Fish thinks she is, she still has to answer to Falcone and she doesn't like that. She wants to rise and take down Falcone. When Bruce Wayne's parents are murdered, she frames a low-level thug in an attempt to shake things up in Falcone's city.

Robin Lord Taylor co-stars as Oswald Cobblepot, the alter ego for Penguin, probably one of the top five villains from the Batman comics. Oswald is an up-and-coming mobster himself. He initially works for Fish Mooney, but he betrays her, which also causes trouble for Falcone who is trying to maintain order. Mooney and Falcone want Penguin dead, but he's able to go work for another rival mobster named Maroni, played by David Zayas (Oz and Dexter).

Where things slightly go wrong is Gordon wants to use Oswald and bust Fish Mooney for her frame job, yet Fish Mooney's response is to kill Gordon. That seemed a bit drastic and not the smartest thing to do. No matter what, killing a cop would put a lot of heat on her, but she acts like it wouldn't. Unless the point is she's so narcissistic and self-assured, she simply doesn't care.

It makes the case that her behavior is going to get her arrested or killed. The show will then be how long can Mooney or Penguin's machinations go on before they're taken out. Heller and his writers are trying to weave this complicated, crime story. Given this is a prequel, there's a question of where it will go, but, so far, this complicated, crime story isn't so complicated. Mooney is mysterious, but the other mysteries, the so-called crimes of the week, aren't so mysterious.

Batman is regarded as the world's greatest detective. This series based on or inspired by him does that regard no justice. Episode 4 is all about this land deal about redeveloping Arkham Asylum and the area around it. It boiled down to the burgeoning mob war between Falcone and Maroni. Unfortunately, Falcone doesn't even appear in the episode and Maroni is marginalized as just a puppet whose strings get pulled by Penguin. There's a lot of exposition from Gordon about Falcone and Maroni, but there's no character development of Falcone and Maroni themselves.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-14-LVD.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 8PM on FOX.


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