Challenge: Watch an episode of “Gotham”, a so-bad-it’s-good show that I haven’t been watching.
Context: I watched the opening pilot to the series and not a minute more.
Results: Well, you tell me…
1. Lazarus shit
The episode cold opens on ancient times in, uh, Siberia or something. It really doesn’t matter. Anyway, it shows us a glimpse of a Lazarus Pit in action, raising Ra’s al Ghul from the dead. In less than a minute, the show was already wildin’ out in a way that feels unlike anything else in the episode. Because we don’t have time for anything to breathe or make sense, the old man who revives Ra’s immediately begins hollering at him about trying to find his “heir.” Sure, why not.
2. Mmmm….organized crime…
I feel like keeping the Falcone family intimately involved in a pre-Batman Gotham show is a good idea. While the show gets criticized for having full-blown cartoon villains running around without a Batman, it’s tough to criticize the inclusion of deep crime roots in Gotham – an idea as old as America itself. Like everything else in this show, it’s played pretty cheesy. Jim Gordon shows up to Carmine Falcone’s home away from Gotham, unannounced, and it’s made to look essentially like the Sicilian villa Michael Corleone hides out in from the Godfather films, complete with a comely daughter that seduces Gordon. As Ben McKenzie’s Gordon sits at the table with Carmine, he grits his teeth through their conversation with some very intense acting, an apparent hallmark of the show that we’ll discuss…
3. No Professor Pyg yet, but plenty of ham
…right now. The acting in this show, oh my word. The Gotham cops, including Gordon, act through their teeth. Everything is played as life and death, which maybe works in a generic network cop drama, but in a show as goofy as Gotham, it would be nice if the cops would lighten up a bit. They live and work in a ridiculous city. David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee are allowed to have more fun moments that they really seem to relish. A scene where Bruce and Alfred are trying to infiltrate a seaside shipping outfit, they both do fun, bad accents and Alfred gets to throw a couple punches. Later, Bruce is told to play up his rich orphan persona, and he ends up wildly bidding up a high stakes auction in a very fun scene. The villains are a whole other thing entirely. The Riddler is a sexy nerd, played as a psychopath. The Penguin is a jittery nerd, played as a psychopath. Mr. Zsasz is played as a vampish, ah, nerd…and also a psychopath. They all have the volume of their performances turned to 11, with Robin Lord Taylor as the standout. I don’t know if his performance is technically “good”, but the way he throws himself around a scene is something to see. At any given moment, he’s either boundlessly delighted in evil or mayhem, or crushed with brooding teenage physicality at something that went wrong. It borders on the edge of annoying (I couldn’t imagine watching this display on a weekly basis), but it’s also not boring.
4. Harley Qu…estion?
Well, they did it. They gave the Riddler his own Harley Quinn. When I signed up to do a one-off review, sight unseen, this was what I was hoping to see more of: horrendously bad ideas on their face, that are also executed really poorly. This, my friends, is the sweet nectar of campy television. I cackled as she told Edward Nygma, “Your brilliant mind is as damaged as the rest of your body!”
Did I mention she calls herself “The Riddlette”> Oh, madonne, that’s the stuff.
5. Ass-kicking Alfred
Warner Bros. seem to be really invested in de-aging Alfred and making him an ex-military ass-kicker. I’ll say this: I may not care for this status quo for Alfred, but Sean Pertwee, by far, has more fun when he’s in on the action with Bruce than when he’s doing the headset operator routine with him. Pertwee’s Alfred belongs mixing it up with the villains – he sounds like he’s phoning it in, otherwise.