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June 18, 2018

‘Gotham’ Winter Premiere Review: Fun, Failure, and ‘Bed’ Barbara

gotham season 1 gordon thomkins Gotham Winter Premiere Review: Fun, Failure, and Bed Barbara

[This is a review of Gotham S1, E11. It will contain SPOILERS.]

Gotham returns after a brief hiatus, ready to kick off the next chapter in Jim Gordon’s illustrious career: Arkham Asylum. New sets, new faces; same troubled show. Just don’t deny that it’s fun.

In “Rogues Gallery”, written by series story editor Sue Chung, Guard Gordon (Ben Mckenzie) investigates a recent attack on an inmate, which leads to a shocking discovery of experiments being performed. Gordon’s investigation continues as a friend is made in fellow co-worker Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin), and Gordon taps GCPD’s own Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) – as well as his new boss, Director Dr. Gerry Lang (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) – to help deal with the case.

Elsewhere, Selina (Camren Bicondova) rescues Ivy (Clare Foley) from the cold, while Maroni (David Zayas) rescues Cobblepot (Robin Taylor) from himself (Robin Lord Taylor). And meanwhile, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards)… lays in bed.

Little Batman (David Mazouz) stole the show with his rooftop-leaping, villain lair-visiting adventure in last year’s finale . As such, this week’s return episode is shackled with the responsibility to prove that this series deserves, yet again, to exist on its own merits. That question is still left unanswered, even after this week’s airing; however, there does seem to be an irrefutable allure to whatever amalgamation of forced television mechanics creator Bruno Hellar is tacking on to the word “Gotham”.

This week’s episode is less a story, more a virtual tour of the impressive sets that Gotham now has – except, it’s always had wonderful set design. An electrical attack is, if anything, an extremely underwhelming premise to use in an obviously archaic mental facility. More importantly: no one is really all that interested. Guard Gordon, as angelic as he may be, is basically forced in to caring about this crime after the few co- workers he has are comfortable simply dismissing it, and it absolutely feels as empty as that. At no point is Gordon’s journey through this story anything more than a few grunts and intense stares, all in an attempt to get home to… nobody. (Apparently his apartment smells, as well.)

gotham season 1 episode 11 gordon Gotham Winter Premiere Review: Fun, Failure, and Bed Barbara

Bringing in Morena Baccarin (Homeland, V) as Arkham’s Dr. Leslie Thompkins is a solid decision, as she’s proven to be able to easily take control as a strong lead, or replace a strong lead who never existed, as is the case here. Barbara, who has the most screen time of all her episode appearances here, is still in bed, while Thompkins is delivering sage wisdom to Guard Gordon. Who is talking to Barbara? Poison Ivy, of course. Somehow they need to make Barbara more than she is, and right now it’s clear they still haven’t figured out that piece of the puzzle yet, to which Baccarin is likely greatful.

Fortunately, we are allotted a very brief moment in “Rogues Gallery” to enjoy the impressive guest stars of this week’s episode – Christopher Heyerdahl as “Electrocutioner” Jack Gruber, and Allyce Beasley as Nurse Dorothy Duncan – before they’re essentially thrown to the side as collateral damage to some great ideal. Hopefully the ideal will be revealed soon (and not be “Batman”), but there’s no point in relying on that. Like in many previous episodes of Gotham – especially in all the successful executions – these seemingly superficial stories can be brought to life by the character actor that’s given the role. You can absolutely see that both Heyerdahl and Beasley are ready to do more than what’s given to them – only nothing more is needed of them. They’re not Gotham; they’re not Gordon; they’re not… Batman. So: where’s the substance?

gotham season 1 episode 11 electrocutioner Gotham Winter Premiere Review: Fun, Failure, and Bed Barbara

Whatever creative direction there is behind this series, there’s clearly a lack of appreciation of the source material, and it’s beginning to make a mess of the overall intention of the series. Gordon doesn’t need to be Batman (in voice); Catwoman doesn’t need to be friends with Poison Ivy (in spirit); Arkham Asylum can exist, and we can visit, without the rent-a-guard treatment. Gordon is simply one piece of a much bigger, more interesting world, and at no point has any of the producers taken the time to establish that, yes, Jim Gordon is actually interesting. (Perhaps he simply isn’t.)

Comic books are 24 pages of beautiful drawings with typically few words. Still, superficial and pompous is something the art form is not – and something Gotham very much is. Comic books simply can’t afford such things. Month after month, year after year, comic book writers have to earn their continued audience, or else the comic dies, or they get fired. They’re told which characters they can and can’t use, and then they’re expected to write an interesting story… simply to exist, and not because of name alone. Why is this show different? Why is Gotham allowed to stand on the shoulders of giants while disregarding the hard work of those who have invested their time in establishing this property?

Bruno Heller can certainly make a show that does well on CBS – as can many people. When it comes to Gotham, however, it feels as if we’re stuck with a bunch of television tropes which viewers must then use their own affinity of the franchise on, in order to make this series enjoyable – which it absolutely can be. Throw out namechecks all your want; burn through all the earned good will; Fox does not care. At some point, though, someone at Warner Bros. Entertainment, parent company of DC Comics as well as Warner Bros.Televisions, who produces this show – including many outstanding ones – is going to have some very good questions that need to be answered.

Gotham continues with “What the Little Bird Told Him” on January 19th, 2015. Watch a preview for the episode, below:

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‘Gotham’ Winter Premiere Review: Fun, Failure, and ‘Bed’ Barbara

Comic-Con in London: a helluva costume drama

People want different things from costumes, I realised, at the Comic-Con convention at London’s Excel. Some people just want to show you their washboard stomach, and will dress up as any character that typically wears a short shirt. Some are transfixed by detail, and will spend three hours on a realistic wound or some nose shading.

Others still are trying to animate a character, drag Poison Ivy into real life with careful attention to the bodice she might wear and the facial expressions she would be likely to make. Some just want to carry a fake gun.

The variety is wide, with one pretty significant uniting feature: they all really like dressing up. Although you can’t call it dressing up when you’re an adult. This is cosplay.

Sunny Strike as Xiao Qiao from Dynasty Warriors at Comic-Con in London.
Sunny Strike as Xiao Qiao from Dynasty ­Warriors. All photographs: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The main sources for costumes are video games, cartoons, Japanese anime (like cartoons, except taken more seriously) and comics. Sunny Strike, 18, is dressed as Xiao Qiao from Dynasty Warriors, “a game based on the Chinese war”, he explained carefully, “that took place in history”.

He loves this game. “It creates this comfort zone where it’s just you, you’re in this entire world, you don’t have to think about your problems, but sometimes you find the answers to your problems inside the game.”

Ros (left) and Liam as Lady Hulk and Hulk from Resident Evil at Comic-Con in London.
Ros (left) and Liam as Lady Hulk and Hulk from Resident Evil.

Ros, 32 and Liam, 38, have come as Hulk and Lady Hulk from Resident Evil. I can’t imagine how many life problems you could solve from inside Resident Evil. At home they play the game for maybe 15 hours a week; discuss it when they’re not playing it; dream about it. That’s what Ros says, anyway.

Liam I can’t hear at all, through his gas mask with the reflective red eyes. These two are quite unsettling to look at, but I didn’t scream out loud until I met a Swedish guy with contact lenses that made his eyes look like they were swimming with blood.

“This is not a big thing for me,” Kris Resin, 29, said, from beneath a long black wig, his maroon satin suit so tight I could tell you the model of his iPhone. “I’ve come over from Sweden, this is just a fun thing to do with my pals.”

Michael Compitus as Barry Burton from Resident Evil at Comic-Con in London.
Michael Compitus as Barry Burton from Resident Evil.

Michael Compitus is with the Resident Evil lot, dressed as Barry Burton, a character about whom he doesn’t know a huge amount; he chose the character for the gun.

These games generate huge merchandise markets. Maybe everybody else already knew that. “I only change into this once I’ve arrived,” says Compitus. “From what we know of the New York Comic-Con, there was a lot of confiscation of weapons. It’s fine for the Disney princesses. They’re not generally coming as Elsa or Snow White with an M16.” Yeah. Princesses get all the breaks.

Rik Booker, Roxas Strife and TJ Bailey dressed as Gothic Lolita, Doctor Who and Rose Tyler respectively at Comic-Con in London.
Rik Booker, Roxas Strife and TJ Bailey dressed as Gothic Lolita, Doctor Who and Rose Tyler respectively.

Rik Booker is a 27-year-old Gothic Lolita, which is more of a Japanese fashion trend than an actual character. He looks exquisite, like a young Grayson Perry. His friends here, Roxas Strife and TJ Bailey, are the Doctor and Rose Tyler, respectively. I ask him what his other friends, the ones who aren’t here, think of cosplay. “I don’t really have any other friends,” he says, delighted.

A bit later, Sarah, who is a zombie with her boyfriend, Tom, and his flatmate, Sam, says: “I can come here once a year and feel actually normal.”

Emily Birch as Poison Ivy at Comic-Con in London.
Emily Birch as Poison Ivy.

Emily Birch, who is Poison Ivy, says: “Personally, I find it hard to meet people. You take yourself completely out of context, you’re in a costume that makes you happy, people appreciate you for the effort you’ve put into it. I love it.”

Everybody is open, and open-hearted. They all claim to be misfits or oddballs or geeks; they all come across as people who could walk into any room and take it. I feel like they’re saying it as a favour to me, because if I had any idea how great they truly were, I’d feel bad. In my scarf. With my flat, brown hair.

Birch then explains to me the two different readings of Adventure Time, and describes how she made her hair when she dressed as Princess Bubblegum. Fan conversations, deeply shared enthusiasms, are very intimate. I notice that today for the first time, which I suppose is because there just aren’t that many things I like.

Eleanor Herbert and Katie Hopplewell at Comic-Con in London.
Eleanor Herbert and Katie Hopplewell.

With Strike, though he only met them for the first time this morning, are two stepsisters, Eleanor Herbert (“I’m nobody,” she says modestly of her wings. “I’m just a regular demon”), 16, and Katie Hopplewell, also 16 (“It’s really quite crazy that you could wear something at school and get loads of comments about it, whereas here, it’s normal to wear wings.”)

“We’ve made so many friends,” says Herbert. “Lifelong friends,” agrees Hopplewell. Are they really talking about each other? The thought makes my eyes prick, sentimentally. They’ve only lived together six months. What do their parents think, I wonder … “Isn’t it great that they share this interest?” or “WHY ARE THEY WEARING WINGS?”

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Comic-Con in London: a helluva costume drama

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