Shayla K. Heavner

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GOTHAM FOX FALL (City Skyline)

Fall has officially begun and alongside the breezy weather and the turning leaves came an overwhelming amount of television premieres. If you have a DVR you may find yourself with hours of primetime television which makes one wonder if there is even much competition anymore; there is room for everything, OnDemand, on your own time. Welcome to a new era of the idiot box which in the 21st century has graduated to a beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent and visually stunning window into other worlds. While there are a plethora of series to talk about, I have chosen Gotham to review this week as it grasped the earliest timeslot plunging viewers into a city we are all familiar with, kicking ass and premiering some big names without the help of Batman for a change.

From the first few minutes to the scene changing city views, the city of Gotham captivated me. A dirty urban landscape paralleling the corrupted personnel of the police force and government in this mob-run metropolis presents just the atmosphere in need of a hero, but their savior is long from maturation. Taking out the concepts of quantum physics, let us assume that Gotham didn’t exist until forged as Batman’s city, and the hero’s origin lay in that fateful night where his parents were murdered in front of the young boy. This too is where the series began, and rightfully so, but this isn’t one of the many superhero flicks we have become accustomed to in the last two decades. Gotham is the story of a city that emerged in a dark alley, riddled with crime - a place for criminals and psychopaths to bloom and call home. This new drama tells its own origin story; that of a blemished city in the infantile stages of a plague that will spread and grow freely until Gotham becomes like a gangrened appendage whose only hope is a masked hero to cut out the infected. I feel like there is some misconception in the minds of viewers when it comes to what to expect from this new FOX drama and I have to admit I haven’t done any research into the show so the misconception may be mine. Various tweets I read throughout the premiere made claims that the CW’s Arrow paved the way for Gotham while others displayed disappointment or made clear references to Batman, yet I feel these viewers had the wrong idea about the premise. From what I understood, simply from the previews as well as the title that seemed to be somewhat confirmed by the pilot, is that this isn’t a superhero show. In a somewhat cleaver conceptual fashion, rather than focusing on the person they chose to center the series on a setting. Not about the youngest years of Bruce Wayne, although as I mentioned Gotham was birthed into existence simultaneously with the tragedy that would spawn the hero’s story, but the systematic rotting of an already troubled city and the origin stories of those to become the metropolis’ biggest, most dangerous criminals and ultimately Batman’s foes. While I believe we will see the young Wayne coming of age alongside the minor hero Detective Gordon, it seems to me that FOX intends to transport viewers into the bowels of the city, which is in a way a major character in the classic tale, as it contributes to the corruption allowing a hierarchy of crime that molds Bruce Wayne as well as his enemies. For this reason, I think that many viewers expected to see more of the young savior in the premiere and were perhaps disappointed when that was not the case. In addition, while I am a huge fan of Arrow and his Sterling City, and it may have very well persuaded the network to take the leap into the world of comics, I don’t think it is an appropriate comparison point to Gotham as we follow the hero’s story rather than the setting that created the need for such a hero.

With all that being said, the most captivating portions of Gotham was the gritty overcrowded metropolis with beautifully grotesque skylines, well-built sets such as the high arched and truly gothic police station and the overall gray tones that were prominent throughout every scene. The city appeared to be alive, not because of its inhabitants, but more like the innards of a machine going about its daily grind unpolished and raw yet with a purpose, albeit nefarious, dark and mob-run. Second to the setting-turned-main-character, the next well done aspect was the villain archetypes which were perfectly executed. When the Riddler came into the scene I paused the TV immediately as although it wasn’t Jim Carey who I identify with the role, I instantly knew who this character would become before a rhyme even exited his mouth. The same thing occurred with the soon-to-be Penguin, as he stood with his umbrella it was clear as day who he represented which was visually satisfying and amazed me how hard-wired my brain was to these personalities as well as the production’s ability to evoke this recognition so clearly and quickly.

With the majority of network series, especially those with long runs, being crime drams, Gotham has found a way to incorporate this high-demand genre into its ruthless streets. By following Detective Gordon as he navigates through Gotham’s underworld of criminals inside the police squad and out, they have essentially created a new-age crime drama. As Bruce Wayne is yet to realize his destiny, Gordon finds himself walking a tight rope between his moral compass compelling him to clean up the streets, the police force and public officials on a one-man crusade and staying in the shadows with the threat of the mob ready to take his life should he not obey Gotham’s criminal hierarchy. Essentially an undercover cop, he must attempt to keep his hands clean while also turning a blind eye, particularly when it comes to his partner Harvey who is just the type of officer Gordon wants to bring down. However, the line between good and evil is not as clear as Gordon expected, making it even harder to determine what’s right. He owes Harvey for saving his life more than once and now faces the hard truth that his father wasn’t the man he thought and was in fact working with who Gordon viewed as the enemy, mob boss and self-made king of Gotham, Carmine Falcone. In addition, as Gordon attempts to keep his promise to Bruce Wayne he witnesses the effect Gotham has on the child; his inability to save his parents from the dangerous streets creates a conviction inside his young mind to abolish fear and push his limits to adapt into a creature that is able to thrive in the cutthroat urban surroundings he calls his home.

Gotham isn’t a city for the weak and like a force of God it pushes and pulls the strings of its human occupants by twisting their fears, pain, goals, love and hatred into a misshapen wad of its original form and FOX has given us a front row seat. From diving deeper into the criminal structure, seeing our favorite villains take shape and Bruce Wayne’s early beginnings to watching Detectives Gordon and Bullock fight crime while simultaneously supporting it, we will see Gotham’s corruption grow like a fungus till the tipping point audiences of every generation have seen memorialized on the big screen.

Overall I was pleased with Gotham’s premiere mainly because of how visually striking each key character was, especially the title city which is uniquely situated as the main character in this new drama. More so in this interesting new format it seems as though the audience will not be asked to suspend their disbelief as with most comic book tales because we will be following Detective Gordon as he, in my opinion, fights for some normalcy in an environment that is anything but. With so many cop shows on primetime television I’ve become accustomed to the skylines of cities I’ve only visited a few times such as New York, Los Angles, Boston, Miami or Chicago making these metropolises seem so banal, an everyday occurrence. Gotham’s streets are fresh causing me to take pause and examine this new world created for our pleasure, which is in itself a visual accomplishment, but the fact that the skyline represents so much more than just a city and rather an infamous setting where within the dark streets forged in blood and crime a hero will one day emerge to achieve justice where others have failed. I’m quite excited to see how FOX depicts the rise of Gotham to the criminal playground viewers know it to be.

Written by Shayla K. Heavner
September 24, 2014 at 03:42 MST


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