At A Glance:
Premiere: September 22, 2014
Production Companies: DC Entertainment, Primrose Hill Productions, Warner Bros. Television
Showrunner: Bruno Heller
Executive Producers: Bruno Heller, Danny Cannon, John Stephens
Writers: Brian Edlund (1 Episode), Bruno Heller (2 Episodes), Bob Kane (1 Episode), Ken Woodruff (1 Episode), Mitch Brian, Laren Bright, Howard Chaykin, Sean Catherine Derek, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, Archie Goodwin, Robert Kanigher, David Mazzucchelli, Frank Miller, Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Robinson, Greg Rucka, Dick Sprang
Starring: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Jada Pinkett Smith, Zabryna Guevera, Sean Pertwee, Robin Taylor, Camren Bicondova, David Mazouz
The premise behind Gotham is very simple: take a beloved fictional superhero, head to his hometown when he’s young, and follow the events that form both him, and his enemies, as they grow up. Wait, no – that’s Smallville. Gotham plays with that trope, showing us a young pre-Batman Bruce Wayne [David Mazouz], but its primary focus is not on the Bat; rather, it’s on his non-superhero friend, confidant, and sometime rival, Jim Gordon [Ben McKenzie]. By starting early in his career, we get to see how Gordon evolves from being a Detective in the Gotham PD, all the way to Commissioner (presuming the series runs that long). Click through for the actors, the trailers, and my thoughts.
In addition, we’ll see the early rise and making of such classic Batman villains as The Penguin [Robin Taylor] and Catwoman [Camren Bicondova], as well as new creations like Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney, a mob boss with a fair bit of clout. This sets up Gotham to be a series of origin stories, without the superhero in the background to stop their ascent (descent?) into evil. Origin stories are, to my mind, among the more interesting types of tales we get from comic book lore; here, not only will we see these villains rise to prominence, but they will be faced down only by an ordinary (if also extraordinarily intelligent and perceptive) human protagonist in Jim Gordon. Origin stories are usually told in the context of how some hero or arch-villain, in their haste and/or disregard for consequences, inadvertently creates the villain that they must later face or compete against. Here, the villains will be given their due, and allowed to grow into their more notorious selves through their own actions and agency. I’m very excited to see this new approach, and how the very un-superpower-y Gordon manages to cope with them.
Aiding Gordon in his quest to clean up Gotham City is his partner, Detective Harvey Bullock [Donal Logue], and his boss Captain Sarah Essen [Zabryna Guevera]. However, in a city that is notoriously corrupt to its core, how far can Gordon trust either of them? Or anyone else, for that matter? Readers of the comics will already be familiar with most of these characters, and thus with potential plot lines moving forward as Gotham develops. Do not, however, rest assured that all will be the same as comic lore would have it; television producers have increasingly shown a desire and willingness to depart from canon, sometimes in an attempt to provide new twists for even the most knowledgeable of fans, sometimes in order to service the show’s agenda. The addition of entirely new characters, such as Fish Mooney, further complicates things, and should help to keep storylines fresh and interesting. For fans of the comics, fans of genre television, and fans of police dramas, this show should prove to be must-see TV for the Fall season.
Ben McKenzie as Detective James Gordon
McKenzie is best known for his role as Ryan Atwood in The O.C. (2003-2007), and his role as Officer Ben Sherman in the award-winning Southland. He’s young – by far the youngest Jim Gordon ever cast at only thirty-six – but that fits with the setting of Gotham. He brings experience to the role, most pertinently as a cop in his last show, so that should give his performance some weight and authority.
Donal Logue as Detective Harvey Bullock
Logue is a veteran actor of television, having been in an even dozen series as a regular or returning character including his new stint in Gotham. Most recently, he’s done turns as Lieutenant Declan Murphy in Law & Order: SVU, King Horik on the History Channel’s Vikings, and Lee Toric in FX’s Sons of Anarchy. He’s never had a leading role, but plays well as a supporting cast member, something he’ll be doing a lot of as Bullock.
Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney
Pinkett Smith came to prominence with her role as Lena James in the last three seasons of A Different World, as well as parts in early nineties films such as Menace II Society and A Low Down Dirty Shame. She’ll be most familiar to genre fans as Niobe in the second and third Matrix films, and as part of the Hollywood super-duo made up of her and her husband, Will Smith. More recently, she was the titular Dr. Christina Hawthorne in TNT’s Hawthorne, proving that she still has the stamina and willingness to keep up with a weekly TV series. Her Fish Mooney looks both seductive and deadly in the preview clips I’ve seen so far.
Zabryna Guevera as Captain Sarah Essen
Guevera has largely played bit parts and supporting characters throughout her decade-long career. Gotham will be her meatiest role so far, but will still be a supporting part rather than a starring role. Essen, like Bullock, is well-known to fans of the Batman comics – it will be interesting to see if showrunner Bruno Heller intends to use her in the same capacity here.
Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth
What’s this? A young Alfred? With everyone else being about twenty years younger than your typical Batman story, Alfred, too, is a relatively young man. Pertwee is an accomplished actor, spending time both on stage and screen. On a side note, and in a bit of a squee moment, Sean is the son of British actor Tom Pertwee – best known as the Third Doctor. His geek cred is multi-generational (and, being that his dad is a Timelord and all, multi-dimensional).
Robin Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot
Taylor is a relative newcomer to acting, having been in the game for less than ten years. Fans of genre shows may recognize him as the male half of a young couple found by Rick and Carol in the fourth episode of season four of The Walking Dead last year, hiding inside a house in a small suburb after becoming separated from their group. Beyond that, he’s played a lot of small roles in several shows and movies; playing as the early incarnation of The Penguin should give him the opportunity to show us what he’s got.
Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle
Much like Taylor, Bicondova is a newcomer – however, she’s only getting her third screen credit in the role of the proto-Catwoman, Selina Kyle. She bears a striking resemblance to a young Michelle Pfeiffer, who played the same role in 1992’s Batman Returns. She appears to have been cast because she looks the role; here’s hoping she can also act the part, as she is surrounded by some pretty experienced performers.
David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne
David Mazous, at the ripe old age of thirteen, is actually more experienced than his previous two co-stars combined. He’s been in commercials since a very young age, and acting in films since he was eight. He’s also had a turn carrying a series as a co-star, playing Jake Bohm in Touch. This bodes well should the series be successful. If it gets renewed, and runs for four or five seasons, Mazouz will be at the right age to start showing some of Batman’s early transformation, and he is already experienced enough that he should be able to handle the responsibility.
Promos and Teasers:
There have been a ton of videos, both character spotlights and full-on trailers, released over the last several months as the Gotham hype machine has gotten into full swing. Below, I’ll link to several of them, and give a brief commentary.
Official Extended Trailer:
This trailer shows us a bit of Gordon’s relationship with Bullock, as well as several interactions with a young Bruce Wayne. Glimpses of Selina Kyle, as well as young versions of The Riddler and Poison Ivy suggest future storylines; however, this clip belongs largely to Robin Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot. Does Gordon actually go over the edge and try to kill the future Penguin?
Half the length of the previous trailer, this one is much more tightly focused. Of particular note is the scene with the two young men picking up Cobblepot at the side of the road – is this where he takes his name from? There’s also a brief glimpse of an enormously muscled man in a chain mask – could this possibly be Bane? They haven’t mentioned him as one of the villains the show will be focusing on, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they have him here.
The Legend Reborn Preview Special
Here’s a link to the four-part Legend Reborn video – this gives an excellent overview of the series, with interviews with showrunner Bruno Heller and several members of the cast. There are definitely some spoiler-ish bits in this 20+ minute long preview, so be warned!
Gotham begins this Monday (September 22) at 8:00 on FOX.