Before there was Batman, there was Gotham City. Everyone knows the name of Commissioner Jim Gordon, but what of his rise from rookie detective to Police Commissioner? What did it take to navigate the layers of corruption in Gotham City, the spawning ground of the world's most iconic villains? Gotham tells the story of the world's most iconic DC Comics Super-Villains and vigilantes from the very beginning, revealing an entirely new chapter that has never been told. From executive producer Bruno Heller (The Mentalist, Rome), this crime drama follows GCPD Detective James Gordon's rise through a dangerously corrupt city, while also chronicling the genesis of one of the most popular DC Comics Super Heroes of our time. Although the crime drama follows Gordon's turbulent and singular career, it also focuses on his unlikely friendship with the young Bruce Wayne – with his mentorship a crucial element in developing the mythology of Gotham City.
I thought the idea of 'Gotham' was a horrible one. In a TV world that's already been over-saturated with a bunch of superhero series geared toward the teen crowd, did we really need another? Even when I heard the series would focus more on Jim Gordon than young Bruce Wayne, I wasn't excited about it. I even didn't think the trailers that led up to the series premiere were all that impressive. Yes, I was bound and determined not to like 'Gotham', but still DVR'd the pilot to check things out.
Boy, was I wrong. Not just a little wrong, but completely, totally, 100 percent wrong. 'Gotham' is not only a great show, but really the first superhero series to come along that feels like it was made for grown-ups. It's not so gritty that young viewers can't enjoy it, but it doesn't pander toward younger viewers the way so many other comic book-based television series seem to do. 'Gotham' very much stands on its own, and I'm quite sure it could be enjoyed by those who don't read or follow comic books at all and are just looking for a really entertaining crime-drama.
For those unware, 'Gotham' tells the story of Batman's home city before there was a Batman to protect it. The series begins with the death of Bruce Wayne's (David Mazouz) parents, and it's a young and uncorrupted (rare in this series) Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) who is assigned to the case, along with his more grizzled veteran partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). Gordon wants to clean up the city, which is more-or-less controlled by mafia kingpin Carmine Falcone (John Doman), but he's about to find out how difficult that is going to be to accomplish.
'Gotham' isn't just about how Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne developed into the heroes we know them to be, it's also about how many of Batman's arch-villains got their start. The primary future villain who gets the most attention in Season One is Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), who we all know will turn into The Penguin (a nickname already given to him in the pilot). As Season One unfolds, we see Oswald as little more than an underling of crime boss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), but he's soon figuring out how to weasel his own way into power, especially after Mooney suspects him of betraying him in the pilot and banishes him from the city. Other future villains are part of Season One as well, including future Riddler Edward Nygma (who works for the police department) and future Catwoman Selina Kyle (Carmen Bicondova), who befriends Bruce. What's this, you say? No Joker? Well, just watch Episode 16 very carefully…there may be something there of interest.
One of the characters worth noting in Season One, and far and away my favorite of this ensemble group, is that of Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). We've often seen Alfred as the surrogate father to Bruce Wayne, and that's still very much the case here…with the wonderful exception that the Alfred of 'Gotham' is a certified bad ass. That's not immediately obvious, but as the series develops, we learn that Alfred has a military background and is very much involved in raising Bruce in that manner. One of my favorite Alfred moments in Season One is when Bruce gets picked on by a bully in school and instead of comforting young Wayne, Alfred drives him to the bully's house and tells him to go punch his lights out. Most past adaptations of the Batman legend have Bruce Wayne learning his fighting skills at a much older age (and via the training of Ra's Al Ghul). It's nice to see a version where Alfred might be the one responsible for developing Bruce Wayne into the Dark Knight.
As much as I loved Season One, it's not flawless. Shortly after the series debuted and the first handful of episodes did well in the ratings, FOX announced that they were bumping up the number of ordered episodes from an originally planned 16 to 22. Sadly, the second half of 'Gotham's first season seems to suffer from this addition, as it's easy to spot episodes that are 'fillers' or, at the very least, seem to deviate away from a well-planned arc for the first year. Heck, there's even a gap where a few episodes in a row don't feature Bruce Wayne or Alfred Pennyworth at all. Less would have definitely been more in 'Gotham's case, and the addition of extra episodes hinders rather than helps this first season.
All in all though, 'Gotham' is a wonderful show and deserves to be owned by any Batman fan, and given at least a look by anyone who just likes a good TV police drama. I do have concerns about this series turning into little more than a 'special guest villain of the week' series in Season Two and losing its focus on character development, but Season One is certainly entertaining enough to add to one's Blu-ray collection.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
The first season of 'Gotham' debuts on Blu-ray in a slightly oversized Elite keepcase, which houses all four of the 50GB Blu-rays on a pair of attached plastic hubs (meaning no discs are kept on the inside left or right of the box). The case also includes a pair of inserts. One is a tri-fold that lists all the contents of each disc, including a short synopsis of each episode. The other insert contains a digital code for an UltraViolet copy of the season. The keepcase slides inside a sturdy cardboard slipcase, with artwork that matches the keepcase's slick (although the back cover is slightly different – the keepcase back cover contains photographs that the slipcase does not).
There are no front-loaded trailers on any of the discs, whose main menu's image is similar to the box cover, with the exception that the four characters' faces are spread out from left to right instead of in a square image. Like the majority of Warner Bros. menus, selections run across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Note: There's at least a pair of retailer exclusives I'm aware of with this release. First, there's a metal tin (not a steelbook) that is only available at Target. It basically houses the same set minus the slipcover. Also, Best Buy is offering this release with an additional bonus DVD (not a Blu-ray). The bonus DVD contains just a single 11-minute featurette titled 'Gotham by Noir Light' that discusses the influence of film noir on the look of the 'Gotham' TV series.
Each episode of 'Gotham' was shot digitally with Arri Alexa equipment and is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The series has a very 1970's film noir (think crime-drama movies you've seen from that era, like The French Connection) style to it, although the pilot episode seems to make use of color and lens flares far more than the episodes that follow. Gotham's outdoor sequences have a heavy bluish/grayish push to them, but many of its indoor sets lean to the warmer side of the color spectrum. Details are pretty strong throughout, regardless of location, and black levels are equally impressive – even in the darkest of scenes, which (as you can imagine) there are quite a lot of in 'Gotham'.
In terms of any defects in the transfer, I was hard-pressed to find any, and things like banding, aliasing, and marcoblocking appear to be non-existent on this Blu-ray release. Rest assured, if you're a fan of this series, you'll be quite happy with the quality of the video that Warner Bros. has provided on this Season One set.
One of the things I noticed immediately about 'Gotham' when the episodes aired on FOX was how strong and aggressive the sound mix was. I'm happy to report that the audio here doesn't disappoint, sounding even better than the television broadcasts with an impressive English 5.1 DTS-HD track for each of the 22 episodes on this release.
While dialogue is primarily up-front throughout, there's some fun directionality in each episode, and some nice low-end work as well. A feeling of immersiveness is also present, particularly in outdoor scenes, and especially when it's raining – which it seems to do a lot of in Gotham. Everything is properly mixed as well, so when a big action sequence occurs, the audio doesn't sound significantly louder than the spoken word. All in all, I'm quite happy with the sound of these episodes, which mesh nicely with the equally-impressive video quality.
In addition to the English lossless track, each episode also has 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks available in Spanish (Castilian) and Portuguese. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), Portuguese, Korean, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
I didn't expect much going into 'Gotham', but give the creators, cast, and crew credit for creating one of the most entertaining comic-book television series we've seen in a long time. Instead of giving us another show geared toward teen viewers, 'Gotham' is a gritty, hard-edged crime drama that still manages to honor its source material. It's fun viewing for both Batman aficionados and those brand-new to the story. This Blu-ray release is equally well put together and is highly recommended.