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Gotham Begins – A Batman Parody (Plus: Why You Should Be Watching “Gotham”)

One of the current viral videos floating about is Gotham Begins, a parody of the new pre-Batman series Gotham. That alone is worth a post — it’s funny and points out one of the flaws of the show — but it also gives me a reason to talk a little about the show.

First things first. Here’s the trailer:

The parody makes a good point: Gotham is a show that all too often makes nudge-nudge wink-wink nods to fans. I get that. I do. Without the fan service, you’d lose your core audience. It’s not as heavy handed as the parody makes it out to be, but it’s noticeable to anyone who’s read the comics.

But Gotham is turning into something more than just Batman’s back story. In fact, it’s my opinion that most of the Bruce Wayne scenes so far actually detract from what I like about the show — and that is that Gotham‘s an interesting crime drama set in a comic book city. (That said, I think the Sean Pertwee’s portrayal of Alfred is excellent.)

The depiction of Gotham City is gritty and dark. It’s a little retro in its appearance, but up-to date in its technology. It’s populated by flash-in-the-pan colorful characters like Balloon Man, a criminal seemingly ripped from the pages of a comic book, who kills his victims by tying them to weather balloons. That sounds silly reading it here, but in the comic book world of Gotham, it works. Then there are more mainstay characters like Ed Nygma (or E. Nygma, a.k.a the future Riddler) and young Selina Kyle (future Catwoman). Selina is played by Camren Bicondova who, in a stroke of perfect casting, looks like young Michelle Pfeiffer (who played Catwoman in the 1992 film Batman Returns). Her appearances have been brief and not very integral to the plot…yet.

The show is largely about the war between Good and Evil. The death of Bruce Wayne’s parents in the pilot episode removed the last hope of a bright future for the city, and crime bosses like Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni are taking advantage of that fact with the reluctant help of a few of Gotham’s supposed do-gooders like the Mayor (who is in Falcone’s pocket) and the Gotham police force (who fear the crime bosses). Each of the crime bosses is weaving an intricate web of lies and deception…as do their right-hand underlings like Fish Mooney (nicely played by Jada Pinkett Smith). Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) is the driving force of good in the show and he is thus the central character. The show shines the light on his attempts to turn the city around and his relationship with Barbara Kean, a complicated character in her own right.

But the standout character for me by far is Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot. I wasn’t sure what to make of Robin Lord Taylor’s performance at first, but Penguin has since grown to be one of my favorite characters on TV. Taylor plays it with just the right mix of nerdiness, false submissiveness and diabolical plotting. It helps that the writers are telling his story with lots of excellent plot twists that suprisingly — for a show that can easily topple suspension of disbelief by using “Comic Book Logic” (I’m looking at you, Flash) — ties up its loose ends while enticing viewers with things to come.

In short: I’m a fan of Gotham. Not because it’s Batman’s story, but in spite of it, because it tends to be consistently good TV viewing.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

6 Comments on Gotham Begins – A Batman Parody (Plus: Why You Should Be Watching “Gotham”)

  1. Peter Willard // November 14, 2014 at 7:58 am //

    It appeared to me that the technology shown was somewhat dated. No one is using flat screen monitors, and everyone seems to have flip phones. I think they are trying to set it 15 to 20 years in the past, so that the modern continuity of The Flash and Arrow would have Bruce Wayne as an adult, and ready to become Batman.

    • Agreed. Instead of “up-to-date”, I should have said “modern”. The set pieces sometimes look like something out of the 1930’s. (I guess…I’m not a architecture historian. Is that a thing?)

  2. I couldn’t agree more, John. You sum up my thoughts as well. The Bruce Wayne parts are strange and seem just as heavy-handed as the parody. The rest though – it’s great. The Penguin is especially strong.

    I will say that the Barbara Gordon story-line is also not as well-done as it could be. It’s almost as if her story is being told by a bunch of boys giggling in the bathroom about it. I don’t want to spoil it, but it isn’t mature.

  3. Joshua Corning // November 15, 2014 at 6:13 pm //

    “The show shines the light on his attempts to turn the city around and his relationship with Barbara Kean, a complicated character in her own right.”

    Err could not disagree more. Gordon’s relationship with Kean is pasted on and her character’s flighty “I am leaving you, let me in, I would not leave you when my life was ion danger but I will cuz you were short with me on the phone” inconsistency seems only to exist to fill in random plot holes.

    • Joshua Corning // November 15, 2014 at 6:22 pm //

      Also what the hell was that Kean’s random ex-lesbian jilted lover drama crap about? It really feels like it was tacked on to check off some PC quota.

      Hey I have this crazy idea. How about just make their relationship a friendship of two women. One being concerned for the other. If you want to break stereotypes in TV drama two women being friends honestly concerned for one another is the friggin white whale of stereotype breakage.

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