Gotham arrived in the US last year to much fanfare following hot-on-the-heels of DC Comics smash Arrow and debuting around the same time as the first season of The Flash. Unlike those shows, Gotham was picked up by a major network in the US giving it the opportunity to reach a much larger audience than both Arrow and The Flash. Despite opening with strong numbers, Gotham has struggled to find its audience and the recent season 2 premiere has seen it continue to flounder in the ratings.
Essentially Gotham is a look at the infamous city mostly through the eyes of a young James Gordon (Ben McKenzie). Determined to make the city a safer and better place, James is partnered with straight-talking Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), a man he respects but doesn’t always necessarily agree with. In the Pilot episode James and Harvey are assigned to investigate the murder of Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz) parents and through that investigation they, and we, are introduced to the variety of criminals that Gotham has to offer.
In the background of the entire first season is the battle between Don Falcone (John Doman) and Sal Maroni (David Zayas). There’s also the emergence of Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) as the Penguin who is caught in the middle of the war and quickly gets on the wrong side of Don Falcone’s associate Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith).
It’s clear from the offset that Gotham is an ambitious series but over the course of the first season it becomes quickly apparent that the show is trying to do far too much. It is frenetic in terms of introducing new characters and not all of those characters get the screentime they deserve. For example in season one you’re introduced to James Gordon, Bruce Wayne, Oswald Cobblepot, Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), Ivy Pepper aka Poison Ivy (Clare Foley), Edward Nygma aka The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee), Barbara Kean (Erin Richards), Harvey Dent aka Harvey Two-Face (Nicholas D’Agosto), Jonathan Crane aka The Scarecrow (Charlie Tahan) and a variety of villains!
Due to the extremely large cast of characters, the story often feels a little bit all over the place and it’s a shame that they weren’t spread out a little more to allow fewer characters to enjoy meatier storylines. A lot of time is spent on Fish Mooney, a character that was created specifically for the show, and for our money she’s the character you care the least about. The whole mob war storyline takes up a large chunk of the first season and it’s simply not that interesting.
Another issue that Gotham faces is that it’s not sure if it’s a procedural or a serialized show. There are elements of both and early in the season it feels very much like a procedural. It’s Cobblepot and the mob war that takes most of the focus with Bruce Wayne quickly relegated to supporting character.
Acting wise the show is a little all over the place too. Ben McKenzie wouldn’t have been our first choice for James Gordon as he has a limited range. He is frequently out-performed by the superb Donal Logue who really embodies the character of Harvey Bullock. Also worthy of note are David Mazouz as the young, and stubborn, Bruce Wayne and Camren Bicondova as the young Selina Kyle. Some of the first season’s best moments are the scenes between Bruce and Selina and it’ll be interesting to see where their friendship leads.
Extras on the Blu-ray release include 5 featurettes giving you a look at the making of the show, a selection of unaired scenes and a gag reel.
Gotham: The Complete First Season is unfortunately a bit of a mess. It has some really great episodes, and some truly engaging storylines but it pulls your attention all over the place. There are far too many characters and it doesn’t share the same focus that Arrow and The Flash do. We’re hoping that the showrunners recognise the issues of the first season and have scaled things back for season 2 in a bid to concentrate on story and real character development. DC Comics fans will find plenty to enjoy but the casual viewer may struggle to dive into such a rich and expansive world.