The rest of the cast deserves praise as well. Jada Pinkett Smith is magnificently menacing as gangster Fish Mooney, who is equally concerned with taking care of her enemies as she is with making sure that her hair remains flawless while doing so (no worries: it does). Robin Lord Taylor does a remarkable job as shaky, secretly sinister mess Oswald/Penguin. He’ll likely become the season’s actor MVP. Camren Biocondova as Selina/Catwoman doesn’t say a word, but it’s impossible to take your eyes off her swift actions; she’s still only an observer but I’m already looking forward to seeing more of her character.
Although enjoyable, Gotham is by no means a perfect pilot. It’s full of “Look who it is!” fan service, though your reaction to these scenes is dependent on how integrated you are within the DC universe. It does a solid job introducing the world to people who have never heard of it, or have only heard villains’ names in passing (a sample exchange: “Take it easy, Penguin!” “You know I don’t like to be called that”), with not-too-subtle glimpses at characters like Poison Ivy and Selina Kyle, but it can cause a few groans from viewers. I only consider myself a casual Batman fan — I’ve viewed all of the movies and read the more essential graphic novels, but would be totally schooled in a trivia contest — and even I found myself rolling my eyes at the constant winking to the audience.
At times, the dialogue is cheap and laughable, trying so hard that it’s distracting, and I really hope it gets smoothed out in upcoming episodes. There are also some truly jarring directing choices from Danny Cannon, such as a clichéd interrogation montage that resembles a bad music video (swinging ceiling light, terrible filter, awful song) or an otherwise-great chase scene that suddenly switches to a SnorriCam, making it so reminiscent of a cheap action movie that it takes you out of the scene instead of heightening the action.
Despite those fixable problems, Gotham is certainly a promising show and much has to do with its heavy reliance on the setting, and the side characters that live there, rather than just Bruce’s transformation and superhero antics. It’s Batman without Batman, more riveting cop drama than flashy comic book adaptation, and that’s why it’s so interesting.
Gotham the city is gloomy and corrupt, so Gotham the show uses gorgeous cinematography to reiterate these characteristics at every turn. The visuals are wonderfully bleak and pessimistically beautiful, including sweeping shots of gray skylines and thrilling dashes through shadowy, rain-soaked alleys. Clouds are every-present as if the city is always on the brink of a storm — and maybe it is.