Friday, September 18, 2015

Gotham: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Before there was Batman, there was Gotham City. Everyone knows the name of Commissioner 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.
Show (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Many people mistakenly believed that Gotham would be a show about Batman, but it’s not even what I would consider to be a show about Bruce Wayne. Instead, "Gotham" is about the city and all its inhabitants, where much of the police force is corrupt and crime lords rule the city. We meet many of the villains we're familiar with long before they've made their mark on the world.

Detective James Gordon is played by Ben McKenzie and his partner Harvey Bullock is played by Donal Logue. As the season begins, Gordon is involved with Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) who previously had a relationship with Detective Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) who is now part of Internal Affairs, which will lead to complications for Gordon later. As for the criminals, Gotham City has always been controlled by Boss Salvatore Maroni (David Zayas) but Carmine Falcone (John Doman) and Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) are fighting to take over the city, a battle which will threaten to tear the city apart this season.

"Gotham" shows us how it became the city that would later require a masked vigilante to patrol its streets. We'll also get to learn the origin stories of The Penguin, Scarecrow and other villains which are slowly revealed in this gritty crime drama throughout the season. In season one, we meet Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), the future Riddler, Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), Dr. Crane/Scarecrow (Julian Sands) and many other short and long term bad guys and other various bad guys to be. 

Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) who at this point is a young man, launches his own investigation in the murder of his parents, is at times assisted by Selena Kyle (Camren Bicondova) who is destined to grow up to be Catwoman. Bruce is also cared and mentored by butler and Wayne family friend Alfred J. Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). Alfred reluctantly helps Bruce, but his concern for the boy's well being makes it difficult for him. This vast collection of characters and their story-lines intertwine throughout the season, making their interactions interesting as there's so many combinations, each with their different goals. Saying this is an ensemble cast would be an understatement.

The following episodes are found on four Blu-ray discs:

Disc One 

1. “Pilot: Extended Version” – Thomas and Martha Wayne have been murdered and Harvey Bullock wants nothing to do with it. James Gordon, who suffered a tragedy as a child, wants to help and promises young Bruce that he will find the man responsible. They are ordered to close the case but a suspect is handed to them, and it’s clearly too good to be true.

2. “Selina Kyle” – Selina Kyle is one of Gotham’s street kids, many of which have been disappearing. These children are easy prey for a trafficking ring with no one to report them missing. Penguin doesn’t follow Gordon’s instructions and makes his way back to Gotham. Gordon continues to butt heads with every shady cop not doing his job to the fullest.

3. “The Balloonman” – Corrupt citizens are targeted by a vigilante who ties them to weather balloons. Penguin has returned home and gets a job with crime boss Salvatore Maroni. Gordon continues to investigate cases that are officially closed, when the answers don’t add up.

4. “Arkham” – The future of the Arkham District is up for a vote. Penguin angles for a promotion and Fish Mooney auditions for a singer while really looking for a weapon.

5. “Viper” - A new drug has hit the streets which causes extreme strength and imminent death for those who inhale it. Fish’s weapon is finally unleashed.

6. “Spirit of the Goat” – A killer targets the first born children of Gotham’s high society. Bullock remembers a previous case with terrible consequences. Bullock at first suspects a copy cat, but the details are too precise. Montoya and Allen take steps to arrest Gordon for the Penguins murder

Disc Two 

7. .”Penguin’s Umbrella” – It seems as though everyone wants Gordon’s head as a war rages between Dons Falcone and Maroni. Penguin is playing all sides to manipulate the situation and advance his standing in Gotham.

8. “The Mask” – Gordon and Bullock catch a case where finance execs literally fight for their dream job. Bruce goes back to school and has a fight of his own.

9. “Harvey Dent” – ADA Harvey Dent meets with Gordon about the Wayne case. A bomb maker causes destruction in Gotham. 

10. “Lovecraft” – Gordon is now assigned to Arkham Asylum while Selena dodges killers on her trail.

11. “Rogue’s Gallery” – An inmate has died at Arkham and Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin, Firefly) assists in catching the killer.

12. “What the Little Bird Told Him” - Gordon wants to be back at GCPD HQ and he tracks a man who kills by electrocution. Fish moves another chess piece in the game to rule Gotham and destroy Falcone.

Disc Three 

13. “Welcome Back Jim Gordon” – A dealer is found dead in what Bullock calls a public service homicide. The witness dies in police custody and Gordon won’t rest until he finds the killer. Fish finds herself in chains being tortured but still laughs her way through the experience.

14. “The Fearsome Dr. Crane” – Penguin’s loyalty is in question. Gordon and Bullock’s latest case has them hunting a killer who turns his victim’s fears against them.

15. “The Scarecrow” – Dr. Gerald Crane is using his victim’s adrenal glands like a drug. Fish continues to plot and scheme, using others to do her dirty work. Dr. Thompkins is the new GCPD Medical Examiner.

16. “The Blind Fortune Teller” – Butch is tasked with helping Penguin and the nightclub. They seek out a snake dancer at the heart of the brawling circus folk and they uncover a murder. Fish plans her escape working to unite her fellow prisoners. Gordon takes Leslie to the circus and the show is certainly not what they expect. Bruce meets the board of Wayne Enterprises.

17. “Red Hood” - The Red Hood gang is robbing banks and Alfred’s old friend comes to town. Selena and Barbara continue to bond as an unlikely relationship develops.

18. “Everyone Has a Cobblepot” – Gordon investigates Commissioner Loeb. Bruce and Alfred grow closer after an attack on Alfred. Alfred won’t allow Gordon to help him deal with Reggie. Fish recovers from her unbelievable injury and makes a deal with the founder of the facility that holds her.

Disc Four

19. “Beasts of Prey” - A cold case resurfaces which involves the Ogre who targets young women. Fish has made herself at home but still plots to escape the island. 

20. “Under the Knife” – The Ogre strikes close to home for Gordon. Bruce and Selena seek to expose a corrupt employee of Wayne Enterprises.

21. “The Anvil or the Hammer” - The Ogre has plans for Barbara and Gordon and Bullock seek to rescue her. Penguin’s actions start a mob war.

22. “All Happy Families are Alike” – Falcone is targeted as the mob war rages. Fish returns and Barbara’s therapy may be harmful to others in the season finale.

When I first viewed Gotham when it aired I considered giving up on the show once or twice. Not all of the episodes are gems, but there are some amazing ones that keep you going. Watching the show on Blu-ray I had a greater appreciation and understanding of the story-line. There is so much going on that it’s easy to forget the details with a week between episodes. All of the cast do a fine job in their roles and each of them seem perfectly cast. It will be interesting to see where the next season goes as the show keeps getting better. With the villains on the rise, Gotham City is also moving closer to needing the Dark Knight to save it. 
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Gotham is presented on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition and a 16x9 1.78:1 ratio. Even in the daylight, Gotham is a dark and gritty place and the detail is excellent. Skin tones are accurate and imperfections in the skin can be seen, due to the level of fine detail. 
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix includes a robust soundtrack. There is often yelling, gunfire and other action that comes across as authentic. In one of the Ogre episodes he slams the table and the clanging plates sounded like they were in my living room. 
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray discs contain a healthy set of special features, my favorites being the Comic-Con Panel and gag reel.

Disc Two Extras
  • Unaired Scenes from “Penguin’s Umbrella”, “Lovecraft”, “Rogue’s Gallery” and “What the Little Bird Told Him,”

Disc Three Extras
  • Unaired Scenes from “Welcome Back Jim Gordon”

Disc Four Extras
  • Gotham Invented – A three part series that includes:
    • Building Our Gotham (13:19) – The Executive Producers introduce us to the world of Gotham and its characters.
    • Paving the Way for the Caped Crusader (6:56) – Creating Batman’s backstory and the events that led to the creation of the villains.
    • Fractured Villains of Gotham (11:13) – An exploration of the evil side of Gotham.
  • Gotham Designing (20:01) – Cast and crew discuss the look and feel of Gotham including concept and execution of the gritty streets.
  • The Game of Cobblepot (26:25) – Oswald Cobblepot's maneuvers are examined as he rises to the top of the Gotham underworld.
  • Gotham: The Legend Reborn (21:37) – A behind the scenes look at the pilot and why Gotham would deliver so many villains and heroes.
  • DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014 Presenting Gotham, The Flash, Constantine and Arrow (29:31) – Cast and Producers at the Comic Con Panel discuss the roster of shows that aired last season.
  • Character Profiles – Profiles for Detective James Gordon (2:29), Bruce Wayne and Alfred J. Pennyworth (2:34), Detective Harvey Bullock (1:35), Fish Mooney (1:39), Oswald Cobblepot (2:05), Dr. Leslie Thompkins (2:07) and Killer Characters (2:57).
  • Gag Reel (4:55) - The bleep noise gets good use as the cast messes up their lines and has fun on the set. 
  • Unaired Scenes from “Beasts of Prey”
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I enjoyed Gotham more when I binge watched the season on Blu-ray than I did in its original airing. Robin Lord Taylor is an amazing Penguin and Jada Pinkett-Smith is as scary as any mob boss you’ve ever seen. Casting and production design are top notch and I’m interested to see where the story goes. Bruce Wayne is only 12 years old, so don’t go into this expecting to see Batman. This is about the city and the people of Gotham.

Order your copy today!

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