Saturday, September 20, 2014

[GOTHAM] The Legend Reborn part 2

Here we are again for the second part of my review of Gotham: The Legend Reborn. It's hard to believe that we only have three days before Fox launches the show and I look forward to it very much, most especially since I'll start reading the second wave of my Batman comics diet by next month which means that this blog will be extremely loaded with reviews on both Gotham episodes and individual comic book issues until December, I believe. There is always going to be a reason to geek out about my Dark Knight anyway, and having to watch and review a show alongside my comics reading will keep me preoccupied indeed and that means I'll be at my happiest state of mind until 2014 ends. What more could this dork ask? So let's get right to it. The second part is entitled A City on the Edge which is something I enjoyed viewing especially when something occurred to me about this show's structure which I'll discuss below. Like the previous one, the video footage is six minutes and forty-five seconds long.
"The Waynes are very important to Gotham City so their deaths created a power vacuum filled with various people with less than philanthropic notions on how to run Gotham.
"The only man who can break down that downward spiral is the last good man in Gotham, James Gordon."

Before I do discuss the show's structure, let's first talk about the young Bruce Wayne's role in all of this. I think it's important to correct the expectations of anyone who would be interested to watch this show especially if they hope to see Batman appear. You'll be sorely disappointed because that's not what Gotham is about. This is about the city's political, criminal and economic struggles against its mob families, own corrupt police force, and the exceptional individuals who want to exploit the city and turn it into their own dynasty. With a city teeming with such dark forces like that, it's no wonder that a vigilante like Batman has to happen sooner or later--and it's not a surprise as well that he's from a family of wealth and prestige himself, whose parents have high hopes of establishing Gotham as a place of integrity and progress. After their untimely demise, their son was the only one left to shoulder that responsibility and, as we know, he found another way to fulfill that duty and strengthen their legacy. Batman stands up for something ideal that's unkillable and to better understand and appreciate how significant he is as a hero of his own right, it's best to contextualize him in the world he struggles to save, a city that badly needs a symbol of justice and hope. The show promises to tackle that and that alone should be enough to watch Gotham. It certainly is for me.

That said, it wouldn't have to be strictly abstract in execution. Like all great stories, there are central characters we need to establish an emotional connection with because it's with these characters that our investment on the show itself will flourish from. As I've mentioned in the first part of my review yesterday, Gotham will have James Gordon as the detective assigned to the case of the Waynes' murder which would allow him to interact with a young Bruce Wayne and consequentially form a bond with. Their relationship may turn out to be the emotional high-point of the series if handled carefully and I certainly hope that it will be central to the other conflicts that Gordon will face as he follows the scarlet thread. It wouldn't be difficult to imagine that Gordon might consider Bruce Wayne a representation of all his dreams and hopes about a better Gotham, which means that he will be more involved in the boy's life--even if it's both to their detriment. If the show would last for another five years or so, and the child actor who plays Bruce Wayne will grow up, then it will be very interesting to see how Gordon handles the boy becoming a young man who is determined to fight crime himself; conflicts will arise between them and Gordon who by then is the Commissioner will also learn the truth about Batman's identity sooner or later, and that revelation will be poignant because Bruce was also the same boy he treated as his own son and whom he hoped will not stray to a dangerous path. He might even consider it a personal failure to see Bruce become a vigilante--this Dark Knight--but then he would embrace it eventually, recognizing the noble and admirable things that Batman stands for especially since Gotham needs heroes in any shape or form possible. Mostly, he would accept it because he loves Bruce because he's family and he has to trust that he is doing the right thing. But yes, I'm getting ahead of myself again but that just goes to show the potentials this kind of set-up will bring about. This is why I want Gotham to work and fare well so we'll get an opportunity to see a well-written and well-acted television series about superheroes (I'm a fan of CW's Arrow and the most compelling moments of that show have always been character-driven) so it's very important to make sure that the foundation of the relationships among central characters are strong.

We also get to see a few clips about Alfred in this footage which is yet another promising aspect of the show. Alfred raised Bruce and was always there no matter what, and I would very much want to see that relationship evolve in this show because no one understands Bruce Wayne better than his most loyal butler and surrogate parent. From what I can tell from the clips, Alfred looks like a tough man and he seems to distrust if not dislike James Gordon. It'll be great to see some conflict between them and a difference in opinion as to how to handle and take care of Bruce. After all, these two men are Batman's most trusted allies in the comics so I have high hopes that Gotham can give me a very nuanced approach to their relationships.

"When we begin this series, Gotham City is struggling. It's in the midst of a crime wave. It's battling corruption." 
"Gotham is on a knife-edge."

Now let's discuss the show's structure that I mentioned when I began this review. As all of you may know by now, showrunner Bruno Heller was best known for his work on the HBO series Rome which is just stunning (but only managed to get two seasons due to budget restrictions). The reason I bring this up again is because it's hard for me not to see the parallels between that show and this new one by Heller. It's really no surprise that I'm connecting the dots between them, seeing as both are titular shows about cities, and the parallels arguably do exist between Heller's version of Rome and now Gotham. The intense political climate in the show Rome during its first season was about Julius Caesar and his ascension as the first emperor of Rome, much to the repugnance and disapproval of the Senate and his best friend and fellow politician Pompeii. There are also side-stories in this backdrop that are happening such as the story of the two retired soldiers from one of Caesar's legions as they navigate their personal lives and sometimes find themselves caught up with the politics of their superiors. There is also Caesar's nephew Octavius (future Emperor Augustus) who is figuring out his place in Roman society and how that role will cost him things he'd never imagine is possible; and then there is his mother Atia of the Julii who schemes and deceives her way to maintain a greater social standing as only a noble woman of birth can do to secure power during those times. We also have several plotlines that build up to the eventual betrayal and conspiracy murder of Caesar in the hands of the Senate and Brutus, one of his loyal friends who turned cloak and (literally) stabbed him in the back.

It's easy to put Gotham in the same league, given that Rome might be Heller's finest work to date, and I honestly wouldn't mind because it could work given that the source material that does have the same type of elements. Besides, I noticed that Gotham characters have counterparts in Rome to a lesser extent. Bruce Wayne could be Octavius, a perceptive young boy in the brink of accepting the greatness thrusted upon him. Fish Mooney could be the new Atia, a cunning woman who has unquenchable ambitions and will do anything to stay on top. Gordon and Bollock could fit the mold of the two soliders who witness the awful things happening in their city and are compelled to do something about it. And Oswald Cobblepot might be the Brutus to Fish Mooney's Caesar--and later become a Mark Anthony of his own making. There is also repeated mentions of the mob wars between the Falcone and Maroni families, and the disruptive relationship between the Major Crimes Unit and homicide division of the Gotham Police Department which could substitute for the roles of class struggle and political strife that was present in Roman constituents on the other show. Like I said, I can't ignore these comparisons. Now if Heller and his writers will respect the comic book source material and elevate it into a level it that deserves, then Gotham might even surpass what Heller had previously accomplished in Rome. I certainly hope so because what an achievement that will be!

Another show that reminded me of Gotham's set-up is Person of Interest but only in the aspect of police corruption and the terrifying consequences of a world spiraling down into chaos. Said show is created by no other than Christopher Nolan's brother and more or less focuses on the aftermath effects of a post 9/11 world. The tonality of POI seems to match Gotham since both shows deal with the realities of a deteriorating society and the men and women caught in the tidal waves, ones who can make a difference and change the course of things or destroy them forever.

"There is a split in the underworld between the Maroni and Falconi families. A character like Penguin, for instance, is able to come in and play both sides against each other." 
"When Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered, he sees that as an opportunity to make his move to finally become someone of power and status. He's learned to play good people off of bad people, off of good people. It's fascinating."

Of all the things I look forward to the most, Taylor's portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot (before he becomes Penguin) on screen is the one that makes me giddy. I believe the third and fourth videos might expand on his character some more so I'll save more of my general assessment of him until then. But he seems to be the most intriguing of the casting choices because I get the sense that this actor has a vulnerability to him that could mesh well with the show's interpretation of Oswald Cobblepot before he became Penguin. I'm curious of his range because I haven't seen him act before (while McKenzie and Pinkett Smith as well Logue are actors whose skills I have gotten to see firsthand before).

Stay tuned for my reviews of the last two videos! Monday is almost upon us!

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