In this week’s series opener of Gotham, we meet Detective James Gordon in his early days with the Gotham City Police Department. Gordon and his partner, Harvey Bullock, stumble upon a high-profile murder case that plunges Jim into the seedy, dangerous world of Gotham. In a city so steeped in corruption, is there anyone James can trust?
Before we get into the recap, I thought I should mention that I am not familiar with the mythology behind this series — I never read the comics and have only seen a few of the movies — so if I miss a moment of foreshadowing or overlook a character who will become important later on, please let me know. Now let’s see if Gotham stands up to all the buzz created by that excellent promotional campaign.
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Jim Gordon Meets Bruce Wayne
The action kicks off with the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, but instead of jumping into the future to find Bruce Wayne battling bad guys as Batman, we stay in the present as Gordon and Bullock arrive at the crime scene. While Bullock tries to weasel his way out of taking the high-profile case, Jim introduces himself to Bruce and questions him about the man who murdered his parents. Jim then makes a rookie mistake by promising Bruce that they will catch the man who destroyed his family.
Bullock is less than thrilled that James got them involved in the case, but when two detectives from the Major Crimes Unit offer to take it off their hands — in the most condescending way possible — Bullock turns them down. Bullock then tries to get Jim taken off the case, but Captain Sarah Essen will not have it. Bullock advises Jim to get himself transferred because he is too nice for this job in this city.
Fish Mooney — Bad Name, Great Character
The search for information on the Waynes’ killer leads James and Bullock to Fish Mooney. Before the men can question Mooney about the murders, they overhear screaming coming from the alley. Fish explains that one of her staff members was stealing from her and she is having her boys punish him for it. Bullock seems cool with this, claiming that Fish gets some leeway in these matters, but James decides to check it out to make sure no one wants to press charges. While the tension between Mooney and Gordon is fascinating right from the start, Mooney also has an interesting connection with Bullock that I hope to see more of in future episodes.
Later on, Bullock tells Jim that Fish gave them a lead on a fence trying to sell Martha Wayne’s necklace. They track down this fence, Mario Pepper, to question him and he ends up running from them. A nasty fight ensues and Bullock has to shoot Pepper to keep him from killing Jim. After Pepper is down, a search of his place turns up the necklace. The case is closed and Bullock and Jim are considered heroes for bringing the Waynes’ killer to justice.
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Bullock Tries to Do the Right Thing
Shortly after the heroics, Oswald Copplepot — aka The Penguin — pays a visit to MCU detectives Montoya and Allen. He tells them that Pepper was framed by Fish Mooney and the GCPD. When Gordon finds out that Montoya and Allen are looking into these allegations, he decides to do some investigating of his own. He questions Pepper’s wife and believes her when she says that her husband was framed. Jim goes to Bullock with his suspicions and quickly realizes that Bullock was one of the cops in on the frame job.
James returns to Fish Mooney to question her about her involvement in the frame job and the murders. Fish’s reaction — signaling to her men that they should take care of James — tells James everything he wants to know. James manages to best Fish’s guys when they attack him, but Fish gets the drop on James and knocks him out. She tells her people to get rid of him.
At the same time, Bullock learns about Gordon’s situation and decides that he cannot let his partner be murdered. Hey, even a corrupt cop has limits. Bullock asks Fish to let Jim go, but Fish decides to have both men killed to cover up her part of the frame job. But Fish’s boss, Carmine Falcone, puts a stop to that, as murdering police officers is apparently against the rules.
Jim Makes a Choice
Falcone and Jim have a nice chat about Falcone’s relationship with Jim’s father, a former DA. Falcone claims that his friendship with Jim’s dad is the reason he is letting Jim live, but only if Jim cooperates. Jim has already figured out that Falcone was not responsible for the murders, so Falcone explains that he set Pepper up in order to give the people of Gotham the swift justice they craved. Falcone tells Jim to keep his mouth shut about the frame job because if it were to come to light that Gotham’s cops are just as corrupt as the criminals, the city would devolve into chaos.
Falcone also gives Jim a test to prove that he can play by the rules. Bullock tells Jim that he needs to kill Oswald-the-snitch or Bullock will have to kill him. Bullock also claims that Jim’s failure to follow through with the murder could result in Falcone going after Barbara. According to Bullock, it should be easy to kill one bad guy in order to save yourself and the woman you love.
Alas, Jim’s moral compass will not allow him to murder anyone, even someone as sleazy as Oswald. Instead, Jim pretends to shoot Oswald before throwing him into the river.
As the episode concludes, Jim pays a visit to Bruce Wayne and tells the boy everything about the frame job. Jim leaves it up to Bruce as to whether he will come forward with the truth or stay quiet while Jim continues to investigate the murders and hunt down the real killer. Bruce chooses to let Jim do his job, saying that he is glad his parents’ killer is still alive because he wants to see him again.
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— Frustrated by his lack of progress with the case, James confides in his fiance, Barbara Kean. Barbara appears to be a loving partner, but it is hard to get a read on her based on the limited screen-time she has in the pilot. Apart from her relationship with James, this episode also hints at Barbara’s connection to lesbian detective Renee Montoya. Here’s hoping the show uses Barbara’s history with Montoya to further their character development rather than simply using it to create more tension between Montoya and Gordon.
— Speaking of Montoya, I love what we get with her and her partner, Allen, in the pilot. They should make good professional foils for Gordon and Bullock. And from what I have been told by my Batman-loving friends, Montoya is the first openly gay character to appear in any live-action adaptation of the Batman universe, so I hope the show does right by her.
— The relationship between Fish Mooney and Oswald Cobblepot is a strange one. Fish claims Oswald is like a son to her so his betrayal breaks her heart, but she hands him over to be killed without batting so much as an eyelash. Oswald, in turn, claims to care for Fish, but he sells her out in an attempt to push her out of the business. Will Oswald come to appreciate Fish for pushing him onto the path of great villainy by sending him to his death, or will she become his first target upon his inevitable return to Gotham?
— Along with the Penguin, we meet several future villains in this week’s premiere. And while the introduction of Catwoman fits into the fabric of the episode, the rest of the appearances feel forced. We get a brief glimpse of Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler, at the police station where he works as a forensic expert not appreciated by his colleagues. Mario Pepper, the man framed for the Waynes’ murder, is the father of Ivy Pepper, also known as the future Poison Ivy. And Selina Kyle, future Catwoman, is a witness to the Waynes’ murder and spends the rest of the episode watching/stalking Bruce from the shadows. Is there more to Selina’s interest in Bruce than meets the eye?
What did you think of the series premiere of Gotham? Will you be tuning in again? For those who plan to come back next week, what did you think of James’ connection with young Bruce Wayne? How will their relationship continue to develop as James looks into this conspiracy surrounding the Waynes’ murders? What did you think of Fish Mooney and the other villains introduced in this week’s episode? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
Gotham airs Mondays at 8pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)