“Gotham” recap (1.1): Some questions can only be answered with a mask

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I figure there are two ways to recap Gotham: 1) Like a curmudgeonly pedant who pisses on every flaw and Bat-mythos alteration, or 2) Like a comic-loving gay lady who wants to swoon with her friends over kickass women in Gotham City, including ground-breaking lesbian Latina detective Renee “HBIC” Montoya. I will be recapping the second way, so if your whole deal is like, “Ugh, who wants to watch a Batman show without Batman???” please see yourself out.

Of all the tricky things to write in all the world, pilot TV episodes must be the trickiest. In 42 minutes, you have to trot out everyone one of your characters and recommend them all to the audience; weave an interesting conflict around all of them to draw them together; plant a hundred promises you’ll pay off later; and ask questions that are so eyebrow-raising people are willing to invest eight months to let you answer all of them. (If you want to see that done with an intensity that will make you actually breathless, watch How to Get Away with Murder Thursday night, holy crap.)

Those classic conundrums are compounded exponentially when you’re talking about Gotham City because we’ve been knowing Batman and his cast of supporting villains and heroes in various incarnations all of our lives. We know Adam West’s campy version and we know Chris Nolan’s dark and twisty version. We know Gotham City in print, we know it in animation, we know it on live-action TV, and we know it on the big screen.

Gotham‘s pilot assumes we’re all set with the vanilla basics, so mostly it just rolls out its entire cast to help us put new faces with old names. The plot, of course, is: Bruce Wayne’s parents get murdered in Crime Alley and rookie detective Jim Gordon shows up to investigate, accidentally diving head first into a cesspool of corruption because the mob has Gotham City PD in its pocket. So, to reduce the redundancy, I’m going to skip the blow-by-blow this week and offer you a ranking of “Pilot”‘s characters in order of most to least kickass.

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Fish Mooney — For starters, how ballsy is it to call yourself Fish Mooney? Somebody says to you, “Put on some pants, we’re going to talk to Fish Mooney,” you know you better slide into the best trousers you own because Fish Mooney, just by nature of being called “Fish Mooney,” is flawless. On one hand, she’s puppeting her criminal empire, standing in the rain beating the donk out of some thug who doesn’t have her money, bitching out Penguin for letting her hair get wet, and then smashing him upside the noggin with a chair later on for diming her out to the cops. On the other hand, she’s setting up some rando petty criminal for killing the Waynes to make Harvey Bullock indebted to her and then ordering both his and Jim Gordon’s execution for questioning her methodology. Then, when both her hands are free, she straightens her wig and looks hella unimpressed with everyone.

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Renee Montoya — In Gotham City, you’ve got your regular police detectives and then you’ve got your Major Crimes Unit. Renee Montoya is the second one, which means she’s always descending on you and your beat cop buddy suggesting she should take over your case because you are a real-time jingle-blaster and she’s both Good Cop and Effective Cop. This is what she does to Jim and Harvey when they land the Wayne double homicide, and then she undermines Jim even further by strutting right into his fiance’s apartment, all, “I know he doesn’t get you (off) like I got you (off), and also he’s a crooked jerky jockey, so.” Hetero burn! Hero burn! Hellllooo, Detective Montoya.

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Selina Kyle — High above the city of Gotham, Selina Kyle parkours here and there and teases her hair to look like she always just finished playing Quidditch and spies on all the city’s sadsack shenanigans, including: a) The murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, b) The funeral of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and c) The comings and goings of folks at stately Wayne Manor. She also does a little thieving now and then: money for herself for some food and some hoodies, and milk for Gotham City’s stray cats. Compassion for homeless animals is even more kickass than compassion for orphaned genius billionaires. (I’m grading on a lesbian curve, hush.)

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Bruce Wayne — I mean, whatever, he becomes Batman after witnessing the brutal murder of his parents, fine. But who knew he started becoming Batman like the literal afternoon they were buried? Just climbing up onto his roof, flapping his arms, telling himself he’s not afraid of anything. Hardcore, Master Bruce. Hardcore.

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