The first thing I checked this morning was to see if English is Gotham head honcho Bruno Heller’s second language. Nope. His father is German, but Heller himself was born and raised in England. In fact, he created HBO’s Rome, a series I quite liked and which certainly did not suffer from the bizarre dissonance of Gotham.
The pilot episode of Gotham suffers from tonal dissonance – different elements of the story just kind of clash – but it also just plain suffers from dissonance. It sounds weird. I have never in my life heard the phrase “a tall glass of milk” used to describe a human being; the only reference I can find for it online is at the Urban Dictionary, which – frankly – seems to make a bunch of crap up. The word “lackadaisical” is prominently used in the pilot, causing both the audience and Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock to ask “Lackadaisical?” There are forced references to penguins and awkward lines from Jim Gordon and it all just grates on my ears.
The tonal dissonance also bugs me. Gordon and Bullock’s moment of peril is suddenly a scene from a jokey buddy cop dropped into the middle of Gotham’s grim pretentiousness. There’s a twelve year-old child slinking around the city in sexy Catwoman poses (I shudder just thinking about it). Oswald Cobblepot looks like a skinny version of Danny DeVito’s take on the character but walks like Burgess Meredith’s version from “Batman ’66.” The most natural-feeling scene in the episode was Renee Montoya and Gordon’s fiancée having an “It was just a phase” conversation. It’s just weird.
This might all be deliberate. The show airs in the timeslot before Sleepy Hollow, a show I and many others love for its baroque insanity. Maybe Gotham is going to follow in that tradition instead of the more obvious “police procedural” mode; it’s hard to really judge a show by its pilot episode, so there’s certainly a chance the show will start to harmonize its elements.
I’ll keep a wary eye on it for now, but I don’t know how long my interest will last.