I never had high hopes for this show. From the previews, it appeared as if the program was having difficulties deciding just whose story it was: Bruce Wayne or James Gordon. After the premiere, I was still left wondering.
One gets the sense that it will be Gordon’s vehicle, but his story is far less interesting than that of Bruce Wayne’s. Simply, and to emphasize a point that the Joker has always spouted, Gotham is just not interesting without Batman. He’s the reason we care, his story is one that has lasted 75 years and without him, there’s just not a lot to be emotionally involved in.
The show also makes the mistake of trying to do too much too fast. Thrown into the show at random moments are cameos of Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Carmine Falcone and Catwoman. There’s no mystery, no intrigue of characters involved in the production, just an excuse to shove in as many references as possible. The result is not exciting, but dreary.
With so much being shoved into the plot, there’s no time for character development. Gordon is your stereotypical just-trying-to-do-the-right-thing-cop, the mobsters are thugs and everyone else barely has enough screen time to register. The characters are distant and caricatures because they are never given an opportunity to breathe and interact, always the next moment of available screen time given to another cameo, leaving the audience with no hero to root for.
On top of that, the writing is stiff when it could have revealed much more. After Gordon returns home to his wife at the end of the episode, his wife opens the door, exclaims, “Thank God you’re all right. I was so worried,” and embraces him. What could have been a moment that revealed true character (perhaps Gordon brushes her off to show that he is afraid of letting her into his world, perhaps Barbara initially cares for him and then berates him for getting involved with the wrong people), is instead treated with the most basic emotion that reveals no inner emotion or subtext. In essence, the entire show is just trying to get itself from moment to moment.
I’ve always believed that Batman could be an excellent television series (the 1960s version and animated version are proof of that), but with current television styles and tastes, a grittier, more character focused attempt, focusing on the relationship between Gordon and Bruce, perhaps on a network like HBO that allowed a truer show of violence, would better serve the story. This just seems like a poorly thought out marketing grab.