"I haven't been ashamed since I was twelve and my mom caught me jacking off" – Harvey Bullock.
This isn't your grandfather's Batman. Of course it's not Batman at all. This is Gotham. And thanks to a rather entertaining source, I've just seen the pilot episode.
The first character we see is the city. The second is a young girl is in PVC and goggles on her forehead, leaping across the rooftops, smiling at her city before jumping down into its street. A thief, who steals without thought for the victim, because they are people and she cares for cats. That's until she witnesses the murder of a mother and a father in front of their young son Bruce.
The pearls drop and fall on the floor, bouncing as the Wayne's bodies fall to the floor. And now the young Catwoman has a new obsession. But this is not their story.
So first things first. It's better than Flash. And Constantine. And Arrow. And Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. It's the best TV pilot based on an English language comic book I've seen. I'm serious, and so is this show. This is not a place for humour. The quite at the top? That's about it.
It's the story of rookie legacy cop James Gordon, ex-soldier entering GCPD as a young idealistic and remarkable capable police officer, willing to take control and find the right solution rather than the easy solution from the get go. But not every problem he is presented with has a right solution.
Teamed with grizzled old hand Harvey Bullock, the murder is their first case together, and they have very different ways of working. Bullock is corrupted into the lifeblood of Gotham, corrupted and pragmatic, driven only by some remaining pride that seeps through.
And their first case is the murder of the Wayne's. Through which they find common cause, burning their way through a criminal underground… while smacking up against their different moral lines. Grimmer, dirtier and less slick that CSI, this isn't The Wire but at points it's not too far from The Shield. The city looks like a proper city, as with Nolan, but you do get a plenty of Tim Burton gothic madness. Take the precinct. You accept it in the show… but could you ever actually work here?
There's one scene that sums up much of the episode for me. Because we get the feeling that Gotham has been around a while, everyone has been around for a while, so when pathologist Edward Nigma starts asking his riddles he is cut off mid sentence "Ah ah ah! Don't ask. Just tell." Bullock has heard this a million times and is tired of his shit. This could be Series 10 of Gotham and James Gordon is just a new character brought in to freshen things up. Which he really does.
Because this is not a Batman show, it's a cop show. And weird freaks just fit in with the graffiti of the city, both inside and outside of the copshop.
And that's the show. Crime fans should love it, it appears elegant and grim and pervasive. And the comic fans will love the references that get dropped – but be warned this happens far fewer times than with Flash, Arrow or Constantine. It's not that kind of show and chances to stuff in easter eggs are dropped.
Nevertheless there issome Batstuff to look forward to.
As we referred to, a Bruce Wayne-obsessed very young Catwoman, and a far commoner, more thug-like Alfred Pennyworth, not shy of a "get your arse down here now" and a Bruce Wayne obsessed with justice.
Oswald Cobblepot. Not the short fat guy, but a tall, thin, snakelike, vicious killer, powerless but playing angles to improve himself. Despicable, creepy, slimy, and we first see him holding an umbrella for his boss, Fish Mooney. And he already has the nickname of Penguin. Not one redeeming feature about this snivelling vengeful man. So obviously my favourite character in the whole show and a real stand out.
And, yes, the significant presence of Mooney, working for Carmine Falcone also explains one change in the comic books recently. And it's Falcone's presence and his relationship with the police that emphasises the moral lines of each and every character. No one in this show is a good guy. No one is a bad guy, Everyone can justify their behaviour along their own moral lines, and probably make a good, pragmatic, believable case, to more than just themselves. And everyone does.
We have a rather nervous stand up comedian in Fish Mooney's place. Ladies and gentlemen do we have our new Joker?
And Bullock and Gordon aren't the only cops in town. We have Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen from Major Crimes… and tat is not their only connection to young Gordon.
Because one of the more interesting character tweaks might be that of the relationship between Montoya and Gordon's fiancée Barbara Keane. For comics fans who know Renee's life story it might indicate something closer to Piper and Alex….
Gotham will premier its pilot episode in two weeks at San Diego Comic Con and air later in September. Enjoy, I know I did.