Gotham S01E09 ‘Harvey Dent’

Nicholas D'Agosto as Harvey Dent in 'Gotham'

Gotham S01E09 ‘Harvey Dent’

Nicholas D'Agosto as Harvey Dent in 'Gotham'
Nicholas D’Agosto as Harvey Dent in ‘Gotham’

With previous episode ‘The Mask’ (reviewed here) ‘Gotham’ dipped in to some of the deeper Batman lore by introducing Tommy Elliot and Richard Sionis as supporting characters in it’s story of the week. This week ‘Gotham’ goes one step further by introducing a hugely popular character from the comics and even naming the episode after him.

‘Harvey Dent’ marks the first appearance of Nicholas D’Agosto as the titular Harvey who, at this stage, is already an Assistant District Attorney. For his first appearance the eager ADA works alongside Gordon under the belief that Gotham tycoon Dick Lovecraft is behind the Wayne murders in a story which bleeds in to the mid-season finale next week.

D’Agosto looks ridiculously young but plays a convincing Harvey throughout. His addition to the series is a little controversial given that Harvey and Bruce should be of similar age but there’s a legitimacy in the change here as a young Harvey and Gordon make a good pairing and his characterisation fits in perfectly with the atmosphere of the show.

We’ll have to see how the story plays out in next weeks second part but on first impressions D’Agosto could make a great addition to the cast if made a series regular.

‘Harvey Dent’ is one of the more solidly crafted episodes of ‘Gotham’ once again showing how the series can balance multiple storylines well without neglecting any of its better characters. There’s storylines for all in this episode and so it’s pretty packed from start to finish.

First up: Selena and Bruce. Holed up in Wayne manor the pair of teens don’t have a lot to do other than talking and being kids but it’s nice to see Bruce lightening up a little bit. As the viewer we know his ultimate destiny and the darkness that comes with it so to see glimpses of a younger, brighter Bruce make for an interesting distraction from the status quo. The promo for next week shows there’s some action taking place at the manor so sadly the new found level of fun won’t last long.

Pairing the two characters obviously sparks controversy amongst fans who strongly believe that the characters should meet until later in life but I, for one, find it interesting to see how younger and more undeveloped versions of the characters interact.

Next up: Fish Mooney & the mob. This week Fish is feeling like things are going her way. Liza is well ensconced at the Falcone house and she is able to manipulate the Russians in to making a move against Falcone. Fish is becoming a go-to character on ‘Gotham’ now, I’ve said before about my hesitation to embrace an original character being brought in to such an established franchise but she continues to be a major player in ‘Gotham’ and despite the extremeness of her character she makes for compelling viewing.

Lastly is our deer friend Oswald. This week Penguin is using his detective skills and is able to out Liza as one of Fish Mooney’s moles within the Falcone crowd. His appearance is a little fleeting but is as always a highlight of the episode. He’s continuing to manoeuvre himself in to a position of power and where much of the show remains a mystery it’s clear where the development of his character is headed.

Even with all of this there’s still a villain-of-the-week storyline to contend with. A bomber is kidnapped by the Russian mob and brought in to the plan to bring down Falcone. As always with ‘Gotham’ it all ties in.

Another very famous character from the Batman universe also makes an appearance in this episode… Arkham.

The downbeat ending to this first part of the story brings an announcement from the Mayor that Arkham manor will be re-opened as a home for the criminally insane thus pushing ‘Gotham’ one step closer to the inception of Batman.

‘Harvey Dent’ is a great opening gambit in a two part mid-season finale. I hope high hopes for a closing chapter which will leave fans hanging on for more over the Christmas period.

4 stars

 

 

4 stars

Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot on Fox's 'Gotham'

Gotham S01E08 ‘The Mask’

Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot on Fox's 'Gotham'
Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot on Fox’s ‘Gotham’

Coming off the back of a slow burning episode with ‘Penguin’s Umbrella’ (reviewed here) fans of ‘Gotham’ need a little injection of action to bring back the excitement and thankfully we got that with ‘The Mask’.

Straying off the fully serialised episode we get more of a monster-of-the-week setup although that overarching mob story is still bubbling away nicely in the background.

Firstly: the setup. The episode opens with a slightly mysterious sequence in a dimly lit office where we get to see two guys menace each other to death before one of the bodies turns up just in time for an Edward Nygma cameo.

Note: this show needs more Cory Michael Smith.

We launched into an investigation on how the body came to be where it was and in the state it was which can only lead to the usual sparky mix of questioning and detecting by the duo of Gordon and Bullock. The chemistry between Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue continues to be a draw to the show. Granted the characters have to get on well by the nature of the show but in the context of making the show believable and a great watch there needs to be chemistry between the leads and that exists here in spades.

Upon his disappearance at the hand of The Mask there’s a chance for Bullock to show his concern for Gordon and after the events of recent episodes with the reveal of Cobblepot’s non-murder it’s also great to see the GCPD beginning to get behind Gordon and search for him. Comic fans will know the history between Gordon and Captain Essen but I fear at this stage the show isn’t going to explore that territory in any particular rush.

There are few twists in the case of the week but it does prove an entertaining break from the heavily serialised nature of previous episodes. Even us die hard fans of serialised TV need a breather once and a while.

This week ‘Gotham’ does return to shoehorning in scenes for Alfred and Bruce who remain heavily disconnected from the rest of the show apart from the occasional visit from Jim. Up to this episode it’s been really bugging me that the two are so separate whilst shut up in Wayne Manor – still only having one room – but there’s been very little to help with that integration until now.

This week Bruce returns to school which gives him a chance to get out of the manor and visit some more real world locales.

Forgive me for my over excitement but there were two references in this weeks episode potentially lost on less well versed Bat-fans. Firstly: Richard Sionis, no doubt linked to the name Roman Sionis from the comics otherwise known as the villain Black Mask. This is a massive step towards bringing one of the lesser known (outside of the comics) villains to the live action world. Extremely exciting.

Next up: Tommy Elliot. Whilst in school Bruce squares up to bully Tommy culminating in Alfred allowing Bruce to punch the guy squarely in the face. Again those fans not up to date on all things comics will be unfamiliar with the name but Tommy will go on to become Hush. Another major villain from the comics who had an entire run named after him in the early 2000s and is currently pulling some major strings in the companion comic ‘Batman: Eternal’.

Both characters add some serious Batman lore to the show and I welcome both with a ridiculously over excited round of applause. The show needs to do more of this, particularly in this kind of subtle manner rather than the more awkward introduction of characters like Ivy Pepper who were perhaps a little too quirky at their outset.

Lets also give a big round of applause to Carol Kane as Gertrude Kapleput, the long suffering mother of Penguin. Her scenes may brief but she is whimsically insane and makes her scenes crackle with a comedic nature that the show lacks elsewhere.

The lore of ‘Gotham’ is coming together incredibly well at this stage, I have no idea where the show is building in terms of a big bad or even where we’ll be for the mid-seasons finale but actually I don’t care because it’s just too enjoyable to worry about these things.

4 stars

 

 

 

4 stars

Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot on Fox's 'Gotham'

Gotham S01E07 ‘Penguin’s Umbrella’

Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot on Fox's 'Gotham'
Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot on Fox’s ‘Gotham’

The intensity of Fox’s ‘Gotham’ is beginning to step up rapidly week-by-week as the serialised nature of the show really begins to pull all the various threads together.

Where Fox is actively pushing shows like ‘Sleepy Hollow’ to move away from the serialised structure to allow audiences to dip in and out ‘Gotham’ is continuing to forge ahead with the mob war storyline that pulls all of the major players in to the action.

For a show originally billed as an origin of the city which would feature the future Commissioner Gordon in the lead role the show has spent a great deal of time and effort developing the role of Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin. From the outside Robin Lord Taylor’s performance as the eventually owner of the Iceberg Lounge and regular foe to Batman has been applauded. Who’s side is he on? What is his endgame? Can he really turn in to the evil Penguin we know from the comics?

The writers have created a great dilemma for the audience in that, if you are like me, you really like Cobblepot. He can be pretty hapless at times and he loves his mother dearly but there’s a spark of evil in him which really concerns me for his future even though I already know in intimate detail where he’s going to end up.

This week Penguin ends up in the thick of the action by revealing that he has been working for Falcone all this time, ratting out on Fish and her plans to overthrow his empire. For weeks Penguin has been circling the periphery of the show having dealings with Gordon, working for Fish, being a police informant etc… but now he’s beginning to show that the knowledge he has provides real power and having power in ‘Gotham’ can make you a major player.

Jim Gordon actually takes a bit of a backseat this week, shipping Barbara out of the city only to later find her held hostage by Falcone after returning to plead for his life. Granted he is injured after the GCPD shooting for part of this episode but ‘Penguin’s Umbrella’ is really about putting him in the backseat and allowing the world around him to take centre stage.

Barbara has been underused so far in the show, sadly at this stage her uses are restricted to damsel in distress or upset girlfriend but we know that eventually she needs to come in to her own as the mother of Batgirl and not to forget the distinctly disturbing James Gordon Jnr whom I hope the show is able to explore at some point although that would require a bit of a time jump.

That begin said Barbara has a fair amount of screen time in this episode and Erin Richards proves her acting skills amongst the bigger names.

Anthony Carrigan casues a real splash as Victor Zsas in this episode. His scenes within the GCPD are a highlight of the series so far and hopefully his character will stick around thanks to his recurring status. We know the character isn’t going to be killed off otherwise he won’t be around to go toe-to-toe with Batman himself but the threat this show has is that some of the bigger villains could find themselves shipped off to Arkham or Blackgate taking them off screen.

The Falcone’s and Maroni’s of the ‘Gotham’ world are still a little lacking in depth but they’re scenes are coming together to develop a well structured, slow burning story about the mob underbelly of the city which works perfectly in the context of the Gotham from the comics. None of the problems that the city are facing can really go away until Batman arrives, Gordon and the GCPD are only fighting fires until the city realises it needs a hero like Batman and the writers are handling it brilliantly for a show in its infancy.

This episode is somewhere of a slow goer compared to recent instalments but that’s always going to be the case in serialised shows such as ‘Gotham’.

3 stars

 

 

 

3 stars

Ben McKenzie in 'Gotham'

Gotham S01E06 ‘Spirit of the Goat’

Ben McKenzie in 'Gotham'
Ben McKenzie in ‘Gotham’

With ‘Gotham’ beginning to settle in to a real rhythm and proving to be a hit amongst fans and critics – although perhaps not the hit that Fox were hoping for – it’s time for the series to being to ramp up some of the weirder aspects but more importantly also time to start to flesh out the characters to allow the melodrama to become less daytime soapy and more in line with the tone of a show set in a comic book world.

‘Spirit of the Goat’ gives us a glimpse into the past of Harvey Bullock. A brief but telling flashback which helps give some context to his attitudes and his approach to his work. Harvey or more specifically Donal Logue has been singled out as one of the standout aspects of the show right from the moment of his casting.

Most casual fans of the Bat-franchise may only be familiar with Bullock from his appearances in the animated series in which he spent most of his time chasing down the Bat and proving to be a useful but antagonistic thorn in Gordon’s side. But in the world of ‘Gotham’ he’s a much richer character whom the audience are salivating for more information on. What are his allegiances with Fish Mooney? He he faced similar situations to Gordon at the end of the pier with Cobblepot?

‘Spirit of the Goat’ doesn’t quite delve that far in to his past but we do get to see him working alongside his original partner. Yes it’s a setup to provide exposition on the Goat serial-killer to ensure he becomes a serious villain with more weight than those of previous episodes but flashbacks are a two-way street and seeing a more undeveloped Harvey is a great start to these ordinarily 2D characters taking on many more dimensions.

‘Gotham’ is already proving itself to have a solid grip on the wider arch of the season with the Cobblepot murder still fresh in the minds of most of the cast and Gordon squarely in the crosshairs of Montoya and Allen.  At some point the story will unravel and Gordon’s leverage over the GCPD is going to be taken away from him forcing his anti-corrupt nature to put him at odds with his colleagues.

The monster-of-the-week aspects of the show still need development although the Goat killer takes a great step towards this by creating a legend which puts fear into the citizens of Gotham. An ordinary crime show like ‘Bones’ or any of the various ‘CSI’ shows can handle generic deals and psychopaths because they’re set in the real world but in the heightened reality of ‘Gotham’ with a fan base widely versed in comic lore the writers need to craft villains who can truly inhabit the landscape and not drown in it’s sprawling scale.

There are some great twists to the story of ‘Spirit of the Goat’ which bring the episode to an unexpected conclusion, one which has hints of evil bubbling under the surface of the city trying to keep it at bay. Viewers could be forgiven for not comparing the masterminds mission of control over the rich of Gotham with that of Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins in ‘Batman Begins’.

There’s still a long way to go for this show to become a complete must-watch but for now it’s doing what it does well and learning its way through a market rapidly becoming flooded with comic book properties.

3 stars

 

 

 

3 stars

 

Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue in 'Gotham' S01E05 'Viper'

‘Gotham’ S01E05 ‘Viper’

Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue in 'Gotham' S01E05 'Viper'
Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue in ‘Gotham’ S01E05 ‘Viper’

Bringing us up-to-date on our ‘Gotham’ reviews is 20th Octobers fifth episode ‘Viper‘. Checkout our review of previous episodes here.

Trailers for the episode made it look like your average, run-of-the-mill drug on the street drug gone wrong episode which would see Bullock and Gordon chasing after some seedy scientist in a lab somewhere cooking up some new trendy drug a la ‘Arrow‘ and it’s interpretation of Count Vertigo. The episode we got? A precursor to the story of Bane and a great chance to show some super powered forces on the streets of Gotham.

Viper‘ slows down the pace in terms of developing the city of Gotham and its corrupted nature but ramps up the Batman-lore by showing us a drug which only goes and turns out to be the first incarnation of the famous venom which will one day give birth to the villain Bane. That run-of-the-mill street drug detective story takes on a pretty big twist when the results are creating grandaddy and grandmummy Bane’s who run around the streets causing havoc and ripping ATM machine out of corner stores.

There’s no pre-requisite to say that any villains can’t become super before the invention of Batman.

The story isn’t quite as exciting as last weeks ‘Arkham‘ but when you are dealing with a lesser known area of the Bat-verse that’s expected to happen. What is great to see is that even when ‘Gotham‘ is dialling back on the big plot developments it still doesn’t revert back to a bog standard crime procedural.

The ensemble nature of the show continues to bring a level of uniqueness to the show which elevates it above its network brothers and sisters and it’s still Jada Pinkett Smith and Robin Lord Taylor who make this ensemble really shine. After recruiting her new weapon in last week episode Fish Mooney’s motives become clear this week and it’s a clever ploy to advance her standing with Falcone meanwhile Cobblepot is rising through the ranks at Maroni until his past finally catches up with him.

With the recent announcement that series episode order is being bumped up from 16 to 22 it’s going to be interesting to see if slower episode like this become more of the norm for ‘Gotham‘ as originally it seemed the intention was to go a full pace for the season run. What also remains to be seen is if a overarching story is going to come to fruition beyond the search for the Wayne murderer.

Bruce continues to appear in each episode of the series and finally this week gets to leave the manor and have some involvement with his fathers company. It’s really beginning to gripe with me that we only see one room of the manor. Even in the Nolan movies we didn’t see a huge amount of the house but it felt like more of a real locale than it does here, Alfred enters and exits the room on multiple occasions but we never go with him to see anywhere but that drawing room which seems to have a roaring fire at all times.

Note to the writers & set builders: take us somewhere else in the house, PLEASE!

Don’t let that ruin the fun of the show though. It knows very well not to take itself too seriously even with its downbeat nature and that’s a good thing. I don’t think the show would work if it was to take itself any more seriously, it’s not indie enough to be that cool and on too early in the evening to take the violence to more extreme measures. Perhaps if it were a cable network show then it could push those boundaries but for now ‘Gotham‘ has to remain a fairly serious show on a very mainstream network.

There’s a feeling that events with the crime families are building towards a turning point and the will hopefully come before the show takes a midseason break.

3 stars

 

 

 

3 stars

Arkham as it appears in 'Gotham'

‘Gotham’ S01E04 ‘Arkham’

Arkham as it appears in 'Gotham'
Arkham as it appears in ‘Gotham’

After three weeks of setup and a couple of throw-away references it was time for a major setting from the world of Batman to make an appearance on ‘Gotham‘ and this week it comes in the form of episode four ‘Arkham‘.

I actually expected this episode to delve full on in to the world of the asylum itself which was probably asking for a bit much in only the fourth episode of the series, instead what we get is a great amount of development towards the gang war on which Gotham sits on the cusp of whilst delving further in to the corruption at city hall and the potential legacy of the Wayne family.

The episode picks up after the cliffhanger of ‘The Balloonman’ (reviewed here) with Cobblepot appearing on Gordon’s doorstep. The ensuing scenes between the two try to push the sense of impending doom that the show has but sadly on this occasion they fall slightly short of achieving their goal and although there’s a desperation to them it comes of as a little contrived.

The crux of the episode revolves around the stepping up of action between the Maroni and Falcone families. As Cobblepot worms his way in to Maroni’s back pocket the two families make moves to push the other out of the bidding war for the Arkham land previously earmarked for an affordable housing campaign setup by Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gordon finds himself caught in the middle of the action as each crime points towards one of the two families. The show ends with the official launch of the Arkham project with Mayor James showing his true allegiances.

Gotham‘ is now finding its feet within the genre, we’ve had episodes which push the crime elements and episodes which have pushed the more fantastical nature of the show all whilst trying to balance a slightly soapy human drama which needs to exist to take this show beyond the crime-of-the-week setup. ‘Arkham‘ balances out all those elements really well whilst introducing us to a new area of the city which we all know is going to become a massively important element in the future.

There’s a lot of talk about elected officials in danger this week which feels like a bit of a repeat from last week but all can be forgiven purely because finally we’re at Arkham. The setting itself brings together the same techniques which transform the city of New York in to Gotham on a weekly basis, there’s live action shot building mixed with some hyper-realistic elements which make it feel like the Arkham of the comics.

There’s not a huge amount of time to delve in to the history of the facility but hopefully as the project progresses there will be time to learn what the writers have in store for their own incarnation of the serious house on a serious Earth.

One of the slightly weirder elements to the episode is Fish Mooney’s attempt to find a new ‘weapon’ in the form of a young singer for the club. I’m sure there’ll be more to come with this story as the eventual winner does turn up in the trailer for next weeks episode ‘Viper‘ but in the meantime I’m in the dark as to her motives other than to make young girls dance sexily for her.

It’s good to see that the characters from the Bat-verse peppered throughout the series are not being pushed to the forefront and rammed in our faces as they were in the pilot. Edward Nygma has now made several followup appearances to that of the pilot and yet his character remains underused and nicely balanced out amongst the others. There’s a great subtlety to the series which I hadn’t expected given how shows like ‘The Flash‘ and ‘Arrow‘ are really pushing the boundaries of how much comic lore can be thrown on screen. The writers are clearly honouring the source material whilst allowed the creative freedom to create a universe of their own.

At this stage I’m really hoping to see some seismic activity in Gotham just to foreshadow the future ‘No Man’s Land‘ story that will probably never appear on film but as a fan I can only hope.

The actors are all really settling in to their roles well and the writing is continuing strongly. This is the best episode yet.

4 stars

 

 

 

4 stars

'Gotham' S01E03 'The Balloonman'

‘Gotham’ S01E03 ‘The Balloonman’

'Gotham' S01E03 'The Balloonman'
‘Gotham’ S01E03 ‘The Balloonman’

Having steered itself in to dark territory with its second episode (reviewed here) with its third episode ‘Gotham‘ has veered off in to the extremely weird for ‘The Balloonman‘ although its less of a light relief episode and more of a great example of the kind of story that being a comic book property can allow for.

Selina Kyle‘ was a great episode that allowed for some violence amongst all of the procedure and protocol whilst allowing some development in the Gordon-Wayne relationship which continues to lay the foundations for their future crime fighting partnership so in stark contract ‘The Balloonman‘ allows the writers to delve much further in to the corruption which is rife amongst elected officials in the city.

Bubbling under the surface of all the great cop action is the story of Oswald Cobblepot, this week he returns to Gotham and begins to make in roads with the Maroni family having crossed sides from the Falcone family. Lord Taylor’s portrayal continues to toe the line between insecure and madness brilliantly, there’s a calculated nature to him that makes you constantly question his motives and his end game. If ‘Gotham‘ is aiming to introduce a big-bad at any point don’t count out Cobblepot.

Around the Cobblepot action there’s a serial killer using weather balloons to take out some of Gotham’s more prominent public figures who also happen to have their hands in some really dodgy pies. So yes Gotham has found itself a vigilante of sorts.

Things are hotting up for Gordon as his lie about the Cobblepot killing bring Detectives Montoya and Allen to his door and also to Barbara’s door but how long will it be before Cobblepot resurfaces and the lies unravel?

The story in this episode is a little more streamlined than in the previous two, there’s less time for the ensemble cast as Bullock and Gordon work their way around the city solving the mystery being the murders. But what there is time for is some great development on the environment of the city itself. We get to meet elected officials and learn more about how the city itself runs, or doesn’t run as the case may be.

A lot of reviewers, including myself, have talked about how the city of Gotham is a character in its own right and here it works as almost the lead for the episode. Fans of the comics will never believe in the destinies of these characters if the city doesn’t begin to show itself on the path to needing a hero like Batman and here we can see the beginnings of that path.

For fans of crime procedurals themselves the fact there is much time and effort being put in to the setting is what is continuing to push the show above others on the market. Shows like ‘Bones‘ or ‘Elementary‘ have their settings but the shows themselves focus on the characters who inhabit them and don’t develop an infrastructure and background characters who are continuously present whether by reference or appearance.

McKenzie is settling in to his role very well but Gordon as a character still can’t carry this show entirely by himself, Bullock is such a well formed character and Donal Logue inhabits him so well that this show really does lean on the partnership to make it work. There’s a definitely level of development to Gordon that can be seen through these first three episodes but would like to see him start to move down paths from the comics to really being to realise the potential this show has.

After really coming on strong in the pilot at this stage I’ve adapted to the sheer volume of camp and evil that Jada Pinkett Smith brings to Fish Mooney. Her scenes are a sight to behold, as are her costumes. She is still channelling an extreme version of Ertha Kitt but it really does work in the context of the show. If you can get past the forced voice and the extreme nails she is actually a very strong character who has a huge amount of control over how the city runs. She’s going to become a very important figure in Gotham’s future so better get used to her now!

If you haven’t yet… watch this show!

3 stars

 

 

 

3 stars

Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle in 'Gotham S01E02 'Selina Kyle'

‘Gotham’ S01E02 ‘Selina Kyle’

Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle in 'Gotham' S01E02 'Selina Kyle'
Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle in ‘Gotham’ S01E02 ‘Selina Kyle’

Following on from a pretty wall-to-wall pilot episode jammed with references to comics and characters from Batman-lore and proving itself to be more than an average crime procedural in an unusual setting ‘Gotham‘ takes a slightly darker tone to its second episode by delving into the world of human trafficking with its unusually titled second episode ‘Selina Kyle‘.

It’s unusually titled in that Selina (or Cat as she likes to be known…) is not the full focus of the episode although she is present for much of the action.

Following on from the pilot Gordon is still hiding the truth about what happened on the pier with Cobblepot whilst others have him squarely in the frame for the supposed murder. His secrets are beginning to put a strain on his relationship with Barbara whose own past is catching up with her.

Meanwhile a mysterious character known as the Dollmaker – note: he has appeared in an episode of ‘Arrow‘ – is using some shady characters to traffic children out of ‘Gotham‘ and after having gotten herself tangled up with the authorities once more Selina Kyle ends up is danger whilst en route to an upstate facility.

The episode deals with some dark and shady dealings which really show off how far this show is willing to go to make itself standout from a market swamped with crime procedural. ‘Gotham‘ of course has elements of those which are pre-requisites to its genre and it does those well: the montage shots of Gordon and Bullock going about their business are artfully shot and worked in to the episode; the action is lead well by both cops carrying their guns and the plot is obvious enough to make the viewer feel like a detective in their own right without being overly predictable. But as great as these elements are there are derivatives available in any other crime show on TV.

What ‘Gotham‘ does which really sets it apart is bring a level of darkness that doesn’t let up at any time. The subject matter, the tone, visuals all scream darkness and because of that there’s little about this show which will make you feel good. For a show which airs at 20:00 in America there’s a level of violence which seems to take it beyond the expectations of a normal network show, this episode pushes the envelope by showing the aftermath of a Selina Kyle attach on one of the traffickers.

The story is definitely stronger than the pilot (reviewed here), now we’re moving on from the introductions and getting in to the mess that is the Gotham underworld. There are a few plot threads going on here which help to make the series more of an ensemble than a show placed squarely at the feet of Ben McKenzie as Gordon. As the main characters aren’t all in the same place they do each have stories to help progress their characters forwards.

Bullock and Gordon remain joined at the hip and at the heart of the show, the partnership works and there’s little development needed between them as clearly both actors get it and have great chemistry.

Despite being introduced through her relationship with Gordon, Barbara has her own thing going on in this episode albeit tied in with the relationship. It would be nice to see her given a full storyline of her own but considering where we she needs to be placed for future storylines there’s only a certain amount of danger that she can be placed in.

Bruce is still in a dark place after the death of his parents, naturally, and is locked up inside Wayne Manor which presently only seems to have one room. With Alfred always at his side there is a feeling that the writers aren’t entirely sure what to do with him given the grand expectations for his future. We have no idea how long this show will last so the writers have to contend with their early vision to end ‘Gotham‘ with Bruce putting on the cowl for the first time but at present he is only a young boy so he’s resigned to watching the events of the episode from his mansion and doing what he can to be involved.

What does work about the Bruce story are his interactions with Gordon. Oddly in these moments it’s almost as if Gordon has come to Bruce for advice and the scenes play out very much with Gordon needing to learn. Not sure they’re constructed to play out this way but weirdly it works in the context of the show.

One of the biggest strengths in this series continues to be Robin Lord Taylor as Cobblepot, having dragged himself back out of the river his actions are relatively dangerous throughout his scenes and his personality allows him to switch in a moments notice from being a comedic element of the episode to becoming a lethal weapon. There’s an inferiority complex to him that I can’t decide to be a put on or a genuine quirk of how the character is written. However he’s written there’s an excellent lethality to him and he really is going to be a character to watch throughout this series.

The visuals of the show remain stand out, the city is constructed so well that it barely seems like an augmented New York, the CGI elements mix in brilliantly with live action and bring together a city with so much character. The sets are also standout, there’s dark corners and shady building abound and spaces can go from vast and empty to tight and constricted in a matter of moments, I want to explore more of the GCPD compound and would love some wide sweeping shots of Barabara’s clocktower home.

A solid follow-up and a good sign for things to come in ‘Gotham‘.

3 stars

 

 

 

3 stars

Title card for Batman the Animated Series S01E02 'Christmas with the Joker'

‘BtAS’ S01E02 ‘Christmas with the Joker’

The second episode produced for ‘BtAS‘ was planned as the big introduction for two major characters to the animated universe: The Joker and Dick Grayson/Robin. The episode would also the first starring role for supporting cast member Summer Gleason, the ‘BtAS‘ equivalent of journalist Vicki Vale from the comics and ‘Batman‘ 1989.

Christmas with the Joker‘ first aired on 13th November 1992 as the series 38th episode putting slightly closer to Christmas than the shows September debut on US screens.

The story sees Joker escape Arkham Asylum on Christmas Eve and he has a special Christmas planned for Batman and Robin. Kidnapping Commissioner Gordon, Summer Gleeson, and Harvey Bullock, he threatens to kill them at midnight. Of course, things are never easy with the Joker and he sets a few disasters in motion to keep Batman and Robin busy that Christmas night.

In stark contrast to ‘On Leather Wings‘ (reviewed here) this episode is much lighter in tone and successfully shows a lighter side to the ‘BtAS‘ world. Any fan of comics is aware of The Joker and what he stands for and also aware that it wouldn’t be appropriate to depict his true character in animated form so instead what we get is a brilliant construct of manic and clown. His actions can cause laughs from the audience but at the same time he remains a threat.

Robin’s character does feel a little shoehorned in to this episode but mainly due to the last of a proper introduction, something with the show then rectifies during the brilliant ‘Robin’s Reckoning‘ two-part episode later in the season. After only one episode he appears as though he has always been there only which is just a bit jarring.
Voiced by Loren Lester Dick/Robin has the right mix of youthful energy and angst to fit in well with Kevin Conroy’s iconic Batman without resulting on becoming an annoying Scrappy Doo type character.

The character design for Robin also fits in well with the rest of the series design. His colour scheme stands out more against the dark backdrops but less so than an animated representation of Burt Ward would.

The animation continues to be top-notch for a show of it’s era with the episode taking the Dynamic Duo out of Gotham in to the hills following the train giving the animators chance to contrast the dark deco city with a more snowy countryside appearance… still at night of course.
Much like Robin does the Joker brings more vibrancy to the show. We’re not yet fully introduced to his purple suit due to the Christmas jumper he wears to celebrate the holidays but still his nature is colourful in visual and metaphoric terms.

Musically this episode follows the Elfman-inspired feel of ‘On Leather Wings‘. Shirley Walker has done a brilliant job working on DC/Warner properties over the years and the recent soundtrack album releases only serve to prove this more.
The Joker theme…..

This episode could have been used as the first in the series, playing on the familiar villain and using Robin to identify more with the young audience but it plays well where ever you might watch it in ‘BtAS‘ rewatch.

4 stars

 

 

4 stars

S01E01 'On Leather Wings'

‘Batman tAS’ S01E01 ‘On Leather Wings’

Where better to start with ‘Batman the Animated Series‘ that with the original pilot episode ‘On Leather Wings‘. Although the episode appears on home video releases of the series as the first episode it was screen as the second episode, the first aired being ‘The Cat and the Claw pt1‘ which was bumped up from episode 15 due to the popularity of the Catwoman character portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton‘sBatman Returns‘ released a mere 11 weeks before the episode aired.

Whilst the films of Tim Burton were rated 12 in UK ‘BtAS‘ shutting out the younger audience to the darkly gothic take on the franchise the TV series offered younger audiences a chance to emerge themselves in an equally dark but animated version of Gotham.

On Leather Wings‘ took a bold move in setting up Man-Bat as the first villain for the cartoon series rather than diving in with one of A-list villains which would so obviously appeal to young audiences with a knowledge of Batman’s most famous villains. The choice of villain sets up the excellent opening sequence which brilliantly deceives the audience by introducing the villain rather than right away bringing the titular hero to the screen.

The opening sequence also brings out all of the best aspects of the show one after the other from the outstanding dark deco style to the completely unparalleled score which takes more than a little inspiration from the work of Danny Elfman on both Burton movies in the ‘Batman‘ franchise.

The visual style of ‘BtAS‘ is one of the many aspects which set the show apart from everything else on TV at the time with the art team taking a huge leap-of-faith in deciding to paint many of the shows backgrounds on black paper in stark contrast to the usual white. The decision instantly gave the show the much darker appearance that the creative team were looking for and set them on track to defining the style of an entire generation of cartoons.

In ‘On Leather Wings‘ it is most notable that there are no scenes set during daylight hours despite the Bruce Wayne character making several appearances. In later episodes the show would venture out to see Gotham during the daylight but in enhancing the Jekyll and Hyde atmosphere of the episode the script was written to reflect the darkness of the subject matter.

Running to approx. 15mins 30secs the episode sets up the urban legend that is Batman whilst also introducing most of the shows supporting cast including Commissioner Gordon, Detective Bullock, the Mayor and of course Alfred Pennyworth. There are glimpses of the Batcave and Batmobile and all the while Batman has time to flex his detective muscles.

One day we’ll hopefully get to glimpse these episodes in high-definition but for now the episodes hold-up well via individual and complete season box sets all available via Amazon. The animation style even now holds up well in comparison to the CGI animated styles of many of todays cartoon series, there are a few pops and crackles here and there but those aside this show is as stunning to watch today as the day it first aired.

The script for ‘On Leather Wings‘ was provided by Mitch Brian who would go on to write 1994 episode ‘Bane‘. There’s a good mix of dialogue and action and sets the tone well for the ongoing series. What ‘BtAS‘ does so well over any other series it not treat the audience as children, ironic for a series marketed to them in the first place. ‘BtAS‘ knew that it would be watched by Bat-fans old and young and caters to all of them in spades by not dumbing itself down.

On Leather Wings‘ might not roll out the pomp-and-ceremony of The Joker for it’s opening episode but what is does bring is buckets of character and style and it will forever remain and an episode that I jump back to when I feel a craving to watch the series.

4 stars

 

 

 

4 stars