Gotham, still reaching for the hype


Like a lot of us comic book/scifi/fantasy/slightly left of normal grownups who defy adulthood types, I’ve been waiting for ‘Gotham‘ for a long time. Probably before I even knew a series like this was even in the works. This was the kind of show that I was looking forward to before there was anything to look forward to.

So now, as I’m sitting here watching episode 3, “The Balloonman,” I’m wondering when the payoff is supposed to arrive. I’m not quite as disappointed as some, and I still say it’s only episode 3 so there’s time to flesh this thing out and get a groove on, but that time is running out the door like a broke-leg man on fire. And after reading this post on The Nerds of Color (one of my new favorite sites), I started to worry that maybe that broke leg man didn’t quite make it out in time.

For some reason, Gotham has also decided it’s going to be a full-on Penguin origin story. And while Robin Lord Taylor is actually a really compelling actor, we’ve already seen Penguin as weirdo freak before in Batman Returns. I was hoping to finally see the sophisticated “gentleman of crime” from the comics. Instead, we get more scenes of Cobblepot being a murderous psychopath — and eating a tuna sandwich in the process.

The rest of the characters continue to have similarly odd characterizations and motivations: Fish Mooney is still channeling Eartha Kitt without the purring, Montoya and Barbara are still trapped in a melodramatic nighttime soap, and Alfred is still being a hardass Asian parent — mocking Bruce for being a not very good detective.

I hadn’t quite thought of it like that, but doing a quick mental review of the season, I think author Keith Chow might really have a point, especially when you consider that Robin Lord really is just about the only one bringing any acting chops to this show, at least so far. Like Chow, I think Jada Pinkett is falling pretty short of the bar, nowhere near her character in The Matrix, where her intensity practically burned the skin off. Another disappointment is Donal Logue, who usually is almost a guarantee of a good show all by himself. I’m sure there have been a few, and I’ll think of them if I just sit her awhile, but right off the top I can’t think of much of anything Logue has done that hasn’t crackled, and where he hasn’t commanded your attention. But in ‘Gotham’, he looks like he’s trying to bring the fire but the damned match is too wet – the match being the dialogue. For that matter, maybe that’s part of the problem with Jada too.

I heard a piece on NPR about how Star Wars creator George Lucas spared no amount of effort to get the sound and the look of his remarkable movie absolutely right, but when it came to dialogue – meaning the writing – he didn’t really crd all that much. Now I’ll confess that this is just one NPR radio story and nobody’s saying it’s the definitive piece, but having watched every single Star Wars flick in existence at least two or three times, I have to say this commentary does have the ring of truth to it. And I bring this up only as a comparison to Gotham, which seems like it might be bending under the weight of the same disease, except that it doesn’t have the firepower to escape gravity and blast past the absence of decent wordplay.

I still feel obligated to give this one some more time, but if it doesn’t come close to the hype in the next two to three episodes, I’m writing this one off. How much could it cost to piece together some memorable lines? It’s gotta be cheaper than Jada’s wardrobe.




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