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Gotham: The Complete First Season

Gotham: The Complete First Season
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and for Digital Download
Home Video Release Date: September 8th, 2015

Synopsis: The good. The evil. The beginning. When rookie Gotham City detective James Gordon, dedicated to restoring his crime-ridden metropolis back to its decent and illustrious past, catches the case of a murdered socialite couple, he promises their shattered, surviving son Bruce Wayne he'll find their killer. It is an obligation and an obsession that will cost him dearly – and set the stage for the gritty and exciting world of Gotham. Inspired by DC Comics characters beloved by generations, this gripping hit series from the talents behind The Mentalist, CSI, Nikita and Gossip Girl reaches deep into Batman lore to uncover the sinister layers of corruption that secretly rule Gotham City, spawning ground of the world's most iconic villains. Delve into the circumstances created the bizarre personas who would become Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face and The Joker in an entirely new chapter that's never been told. Prepare yourself as this 4-Disc, 22-Episode Season One straps you in for one furiously entertaining ride!

Special Features:
*Gotham Invented: Building Our Gotham
*Gotham Invented: Paving the Way for the Caped Crusader
*Gotham Invented: Fractured Villains of Gotham
*Designing the Fiction
*The Game of Cobblepot
*Gag Reel
*Unaired Scenes *DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014 Presenting Gotham, The Flash, Constantine and Arrow
*Gotham: The Legend Reborn
*Character Profiles:
--Detective Harvey Bullock
--Detective James Gordon
--Oswald Cobblepot
--Bruce Wayne
--Alfred Pennyworth
--Fish Mooney
--Dr. Leslie Thompkins
*Killer Characters
Includes UltraViolet

Gotham: Season One Blu-Ray Review
By DCAUResource founder Yojimbo

Gotham, one of the more recent television ventures inspired by DC Comics characters, is a crime drama that explores the untold origins of villains, vigilantes, and more who call Gotham City home. The series revolves around Detective James Gordon, who tries to work his way through the corruption infesting the Gotham City Police Department, and Bruce Wayne, who investigates the murder of his parents and a secret conspiracy that has lived in the family company for generations, all the while a mob war and insurrection threatens to break out. All the while, the city lurches towards anarchy and insanity.

The cast is made up of Ben McKenzie (Southland, The O.C., Batman: Year One) as Detective James Gordon, Donal Logue (Vikings, Sons of Anarchy) as Detective Harvey Bullock, David Mazouz (Touch) as Bruce Wayne, Sean Pertwee (Elementary, Event Horizon) as Alfred Pennyworth, Robin Lord Taylor (The Walking Dead, Another Earth) as Oswald Cobblepot, and Jada Pinkett Smith (HawthoRNe, The Matrix Revolutions) as Fish Mooney. Gotham is executive produced by Bruno Heller (The Mentalist), Danny Cannon (Nikita, CSI series), and John Stephens (Gossip Girls).

Gotham: The Complete First Season released on September 8, 2015 on DVD and Blu-Ray, includes all 22 episodes of season one and nearly two hours worth of bonus features such as deleted scenes, featurettes, footage from the Comic-Con 2014 panel, character profiles, and a gag reel. The first episode in both sets is the extended version and are all presented in the 16.9 widescreen format.

Personally, I admit I did not give this show much of a chance back when it first aired. I shared in the sentiment of those who didn't buy the premise of a Batman show without a Batman or a Batman prequel show. Some superheroes don't need elaborate origin stories -- some get by with a five minute flashback. Batman is Batman. On the flip side, DC Comics did have a lauded Gotham Central series focused on the G.C.P.D. and currently, as of September 2015, James Gordon is the new Batman. Additionally, the Batman mythos has proven to be malleable in the past 75 years and subject to numerous interpretations. Or just in general, some may feel the so-called superhero fatigue - an inundation of superhero based media. Some are just not into the grim dark tone that has permeated through DC live action lately. At its core, Gotham is a crime drama that combines elements from classics like the mob intrigue of the Godfather, the cop vs the whole department struggles of Dirty Harry, the crusading do-gooder from Untouchables. If you keep that in mind rather than dwell on its DC roots, Gotham will be an enjoyable experience.

Ben McKenzie is a blast as James Gordon. McKenzie had a tough sell portraying young Gordon and embodying the glutton for punishment good cop who won't stray nor give up. As the season progressed, it was clear that even the good he did, like sparing the life of Oswald Cobblepot, was the worst outcome for Gotham in the scheme of things. But in the same vein, as the fallible white knight, Gordon became a symbol of hope and you could see it affect other characters, like Harvey Bullock, Captain Essen, Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen to name a few. So far, we see Gordon chip away at the spheres of corruption - Flass in Narcotics, Commissioner Loeb, Don Falcone - while dealing with homicide cases. But it all still feels like a shaky balance. What happens next season when the two pillars of organized crime are gone and super crime really starts to gain a foot hold? Donal Logue embodies Harvey Bullock, the embattled detective who has settled for living in the morally gray world of Gotham. It was fun to see Bullock forced to work with Gordon, someone who was probably a lot like him when he first started out, and see him affected - see him push back... and eventually fall in with Gordon and his crusade. McKenzie and Logue are one of the top castings for his show and their chemistry is dynamite.

Robin Lord Taylor is the break out star of the show. Oswald Cobblepot's origins were always surface level - an outcast in an affluent family. Taunted for his freakish avian features. Rejected. The polar opposite of Bruce Wayne. And he ends up as one of the top crime bosses in Gotham City. Somewhere in between, Gotham explores Cobblepot's rise from an underling of a mob lieutenant, Fish Mooney. Taylor's pathos and ethos very much sell Cobblepot as the underdog and the trickster. While I didn't care for adding the cliched 'momma's boy' angle, it did help realize this illusion of grandeur -- that Cobblepot believed the world owed him and it was his birthright to be at the top.

John Doman and David Zayas are the dueling mob bosses Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni respectively. Considering the source material that inspired Gotham, all the crime noir movies, Falcone and Maroni embody the spirit of the two classic kinds of mob boss tropes. But in conflict with other characters, they come off as very cliche and cheesey - more so with Maroni, diluted to no more than a mook and bully. By the time he is dealt with, it's a mercy killing for both Maroni and the audience. As for Falcone, the frustrating part is he's got all the answers and he just walk off into the sunset after telling Gordon a story about his dad.

Jada Pinkett Smith had the unique task of playing Fish Mooney, a new character created just for the show. Both liberating and challenging. Like Cobblepot, Mooney is oddly endeared to the audience as an underdog who came from nothing and claws her way to the top - overcoming every setback with a greater ferocity. But for such an intriguing character, Mooney gets the punk ending. Maybe because the crew has some grand vision of using her for season 2 or just don't know what to do next and gave her the lame and ambiguous death fall out. Or she was just the opening number. A prop to set up Cobblepot's arc. We shall see.

David Mazouz portrays 12-year-old Bruce Wayne. I found Wayne's inclusion to be a guilty pleasure as far as the show goes. I always thought one of the cool things about Batman was a large chunk of his life was a mystery. We know when he was old enough, he went around the world for years and trained with masters of martial arts, the sciences, and anything else you could imagine. Then flash forward, he's back in Gotham in his early 20s and Batman begins his war on crime. One of the best aspects of his parents' death (poor choice of words, I know) was that it was not some conspiracy or a mob contract. It was just the wrong place at the wrong time. A random tragedy. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and you have to move past it. Aaaand Gotham takes it another way. There's a conspiracy. Wayne Enterprises is mostly corrupt. Wayne wants to solve the case and along the way, we see him learning things that leads him to become Batman like the no kill rule, the strict regiment, or utilizing fear. However, it's so frustrating to see Batman dangled to fans and we'll never see it come to fruition on the show. That's not the point of Gotham but arguably, Wayne is a distraction to what it really is about. The worse part is by the end of the season, it feels like we hardly got any answers about the conspiracy, what we do learn is too little, and the 'reward' we get in the last scene of the season is controversial to say the least.

The recurring stars were also a mixed bag. Not a slight against Camren Bicondova and Erin Richards, but Selina Kyle and Barbara Kean felt shoe horned into the show and periodically performed shocking moments to desperately stay relevant. Kyle suddenly kills someone to bring up Batman's no kill rule. You never get a strong feel of what's going on in her head. I thought Barbara Kean was the biggest waste of a character. And I don't see anyone feeling bad for 'sad rich white girl.' I did not feel bad when Leslie Thompkins bashes Kean's head on the floor. Populating the police department were Captain Sarah Essen by Zabryna Guevara, Edward Nygma by Cory Michael Smith, Renee Montoya by Victoria Cartagena, Crispus Allen by Andrew Stewart-Jones, and later on Leslie Thompkins by Morena Baccarin. Nygma's journey was a fun side romp but the last bit with his insanity manifesting was a bit over the top. Once Montoya and Allen stopping being difficult, something the script never truly fleshes out besides it's something the scripts tells them they have to do without providing real motivation, and started being allies, they just vanished from the show. A pity. The late addition of Morena Baccarin gave the show and McKenzie a boost. The two actors played really off each other and their chemistry re-energized the show as it reached the season finale. Though in the back of my mind, I was still fighting off the old perceptions - is this version of Thompkins connected to the Wayne family? Gordon and Thompkins hooking up?! The two big teases were Chris Chalk doing a cameo as Lucius Fox and Nicholas D'Agosto doing a (forced) bit as Harvey Dent.

The season long arcs could have been better handled. By the time the season ends, they've mostly lost strength and sputter past the finish line. Namely the mob war. By the time it finally starts, it seems more like a handful of three man ambushes. And the finality of the war was a let down. Maroni gets a swift death without much fanfare. Fish has an ambiguous cliche death after clawing her way back up from the literal gutter. Falcone gets to retire. Penguin wins. Gordon gets a knife. Bullock... did he get anything? The action was really weak and the writing became schizophrenic as the finale closes in. Interesting guest starts take odd new roles at the last minute to stay relevant - Barbara Kean and Selina Kyle namely - while others sadly vanished - like Renee Montoya, Crispin Allen and Harvey Dent. Another arc, the Wayne murders, also ran out of gas and lacked any real resolution. I mean, the last scene screams Lost season one -- we're tired of 'hatch' endings! Not only do we still not know who killed Thomas and Martha, we don't know if Bruce's connections were correct, we only see two players at Wayne Enterprises and their big moments are tantamount to the Architect and Neo in The Matrix Reloaded. That's not a compliment. Whatever happened to Arkham Asylum? What was the mystery of Indian Hill? The Dulmacher arc also was a let down. It became way too separated from the show and is promptly forgotten. Much like Fish getting shot during her escape. She's completely OK in her next appearance, with no mention of what looked like a serious wound to be mentioned. Baffling.

Luckily, the crew seems to have learned their lesson later in the season and packaged some really thrilling mini arcs rather than stifle the story in a villain of the week story. The two-part Scarecrow and three-part Ogre mini arcs were pretty amazing and probably the strongest episodes of the season. I hope season two keeps this going. In the similar vein, the stronger episodes were the one that completely embraced the Batman mythos, rather than dance around it, like Haley's Circus (and probably Joker) in "The Blind Fortune Teller" and the Red Hood Gang in "Red Hood." To be fair, it's always a tough task to set up the foundation of a brand new show. The characters, their tropes, their stories, the locations, the mysteries and so on. Once everything is said and done, shows have room to breathe. For Gotham, around episode 12 "What the Little Bird Told Him" and episode 13 "Welcome Back, Jim Gordon" is when the show really picks up steam and hits its stride. Add in a bit of swagger. James Gordon face to face with the Electrocutioner after a mini arc to recapture him - at the mercy of his electric attacks - Gordon, without much fanfare, turns to a cup of water and short circuits his gear.

The story of Gotham is a generational one. The generational angle is a boon and a strike against the show. Bruce Wayne and James Gordon draw strength from the fact they believe their fathers were good men but others try to poison their respective wells. We see future villains set on the path by their parents like Scarecrow and Joker and Gordon is the center of that flashpoint. But it also dilutes the characters. Scarecrow's dad made the Fear Toxin? Joker was a carnie with a loose mother? Thomas Wayne found the location and built the Batcave? Penguin is a momma's boy? On paper, sounds like good ideas. But in reality, some of these were cringe worthy.

So, the show is a mostly postive endeavor with a few frustrating turns. Does that mean the Blu-ray release will follow suit? Well, thankfully, we get a nice bit of content to chew on, even if the execution is imperfect.

The Special Features were atypical. Viewed together, one can see a lot of the same being repeated and regurgitated. The real stand out among the featurettes was Designing the Fiction. The focus is on what inspired the locations of Gotham, the brainchild of Danny Cannon and Doug Kraner. Time is spent on what decades inspired Gotham City's urban decay motif such as New York City circa 1970s before the big clean up, 1920's Art Deco, 1930's Chicago then a spotlight on Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, a story arc credited to modernizing Batman into the 1980s and beyond. The last part of the featurette gives the spotlight on the creation of the G.C.P.D. HQ, Mooney's nightclub, and Wayne Manor sets. Rounding out the special features are the gag reel and a recording of the DC TV panel at San Diego Comic Con 2014 which featured all four live action series at the time - Arrow, Flash, Gotham and Constantine (please give that show a Blu-ray release!). The Comic Con recording is good for archival purposes rather than sifting through YouTube and is something becoming ubiquitous as a special feature on Warner Brothers home entertainment releases. I'm always a fan of commentary reels but sadly this set was lacked any.

While the freshman season was riddled with inconsistencies that might be ironed out in the show's return, Gotham: The Complete First Season is still a recommended purchase because it is the closest we've gotten to a live action Batman show in recent times, it's a compelling police procedural intertwined with one of the biggest comic book mythos, and it stands out on its own from its brethren by exploring the human pathos rather than the exploits of a superhero.


Gotham – The Complete First Season is now available to own on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download from Warner Home Video.