Batman spin-off Gotham is set to hit our TV screens this week (October 13) on Channel 5. Here’s what we know so far about the Fox show set to expand the caped crusader’s universe and reimagine its origins.
With Gotham in the grip of a crime wave we will follow idealistic young detective Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie here and Gary Oldman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy) with his hard-boiled and occasionally corrupt partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). The show will chart the war veteran turned cop’s rise to the rank of Commissioner through the arc of an origin story pitting him against the dual threat of crime kingpin Carmine Falcone (The Wire‘s John Doman) and Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). She’s the new gangster on the block angling to take Falcone’s crown. “Someone has to take over. It might as well be me,” she warns.
The first pilot episode opens with an aerial shot of the metropolis as we follow a teenaged Cat Woman on the run through Gotham’s backstreets. Her crime? She’s stolen a bottle of milk. It’s clearly many years before the skintight suit shenanigans seen on the big screen with Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns and Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
She’s one of several iconic villains from the DC Comic (created by Bob Kane in 1939) we’ll get to know in their earliest incarnations. During a breathless 50-minute first season opener Fish Mooney’s henchman Oswald Cobblepot (a scene stealing Robin Lord Taylor, pictured) is revealed as the vengeful psychotic who will become the Penguin. We also meet a man who speaks in ‘riddles’, the adolescent Poison Ivy and, teased from the shadows of a nightclub stage, a young comedian cracking ‘jokes’. Joining them in future episodes will be district attorney Harvey Dent aka Two-Face (played by Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight) who will be brought to the small screen by Masters of Sex star Nicholas D’Agosto.
However, the shows creators see the Joker (immortalised by the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight) as the “crown jewel of Batman villains”. Brit Danny Cannon worked on CSI for six years and directed the pilot episode. He told the Guardian, “We’ll be careful about how we introduce him. It’s very likely that the Joker will be on screen for some time before people realise, ‘Oh jeez, that’s the Joker!’ He’’l be along sooner rather than later.”
The original comic imagined a city on the brink of criminal chaos pushed over the edge by the murder of Bruce Wayne’s millionaire parents. A crime that sets the wheels of motivation turning for the young Wayne’s path to life as a vigilante assisted by his steely manservant Alfred (Sean Pertwee stepping into Michael Caine’s Dark Knight Trilogy shoes). On the crime scene after Bruce is orphaned, Jim Gordon offers his support and promises that one day “there will be light”. It’s going to be some time before the Bat signal beams over Gotham but that’s the potential beauty of this show… Whether you’re a fan or a comic book agnostic, there may be a hero-sized hole in Gotham City waiting to be filled by Bruce Wayne’s caped crusader but the city itself is the captivating main character. With its rain-slicked streets and brooding back alleys it feels like a homage to old school thrillers – the New York of Al Pacino’s Serpico and Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle in The French Connection. Cannon calls the show “a love song to the New York of Sidney Lumet, William Friedkin, the beauty of the graffiti and the grime, the way the Bronx was, the way Brooklyn was”. He’s made good on his promise of imagining a Gotham of “unpredictable beauty” where the lunatics are poised to taker over the asylum.
Falcone reveals the depth of corruption in a broken city – “I’m a businessman. You can’t have organised crime without law and order.” Wthout a hero to save them there are tough times ahead for the citizens of Gotham but they needn’t be afraid… “Fear doesn’t need conquering,” Gordon tells the orphaned Bruce. “It’s a good thing. It tells you where the edge is.” And it’s an edge that promises Gotham will offer a whole lot more than the one off popcorn thrills of a summer blockbuster.