We’ve had Superman without flights and tights, and now we’ve got the Batman legend without the Caped Crusader. On the basis of this first episode, though, we don’t really need the Batman’s presence to make this show work, although it’s surely going to become clear exactly why he dons the outfit.
Bruno Heller’s series is set in a noir version of our world, where there are clearly mobile phones (at one point we’re told that Jim Gordon’s may have run out of power, hence why his girlfriend can’t get hold of him), but things seem to be otherwise less advanced. There are many familiar characters – anyone with any vague knowledge of the Bat story is going to recognise Selina Kyle, the first person we meet, who is a witness to the tragedy that triggers the story – and some of them are in surprising places. Heller has promised that he’s going to mess with the mythology, and it seems as if the best way to approach this is as with the BBC’s Merlin revamp of a few years back, and hope that the producers are true to the characters, if not their exact history.
Ben McKenzie makes an excellent Jim Gordon, with Donal Logue similarly strong as Harvey Bullock. Of the other cast members, Robin Lord Taylor is given considerable screen time as future Penguin Oswald Cobblepot, and Heller has intertwined Penguin’s fate with that of his own creation, Fish Mooney, a mob boss who really isn’t afraid to get her own hands dirty. Jada Pinkett Smith has the requisite blend of menace and charm for the role – something that can also be said of Sean Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth whose interactions both with McKenzie and David Mazouz’s young Bruce Wayne are very promising.
As with any pilot, a lot of time has to be spent setting up the world and ongoing plot threads, enticing the viewer to come back. On the basis of this first episode, there should be a lot to enjoy in the coming weeks.
Verdict: A strong start with engaging characters on both sides of the law. 8/10