This Fall, FOX launches “Gotham,” a brand new take on the origin of Batman that focuses on Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), the man who will eventually become the mustachioed pillar of justice known as Commissioner Gordon, instead of the Dark Knight.
And though the series, which already has a full season order, doesn’t premiere for a few months, we were lucky enough to check out a screening of the show with members of the cast and crew late last night (June 12).
With that in mind, here’s every (spoiler-free) thing you need to know about whether you should visit “Gotham” City:
1. This Should Be Called “Penguin: Origins”
By far the best thing about the pilot is Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepott, the man who will later become one of Batman’s greatest enemies: the Penguin. Taylor is superb and transfixing in the role, down to his yellow teeth, creepy laugh and weird, freckled face.
In real life, the actor is adorable and charming, but on screen he conveys joy, menace and has one of the best bits of hand acting we’ve ever seen. There are a lot of things to like about the show, but Taylor makes it a must watch.
2. It’s Iconic
This isn’t too much of a spoiler for anyone who knows Batman lore, or has ever seen any Batman movie, ever, but: probably the most iconic moment in the character’s history is repeated here, where young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) watches his parents killed in front of him. In fact, this mystery is the focal point of the pilot, and — it seems — much of the series going forward.
But a moment like that you don’t want to get wrong, and the team on “Gotham” nails it, down to framing things just like in the comics.
3. When Bullock Met Gordon
Another big aspect of the pilot is the relationship between Gordon and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), who fans might recognize from “Batman: The Animated Series,” as well the comics. Since the hour is really about bringing the two together as a team, it isn’t until the last ten minutes or so that McKenzie and Logue start to gel; but when they do, it’s magic. We’re looking forward to watching them team up and lock heads throughout season one.
4. The Locations Are Real
One of the non-actor aspects of “Gotham” we particularly enjoyed was shooting in the real life Gotham, New York City. The production officially starts in the next few weeks, and will continue to shoot outside in the city, mostly in the downtown and Chinatown area. It adds an air of authenticity to the show, and one that separates it from the Chicago-based production of the Nolan Batman movies.
5. Not Your Father’s Alfred
Sean Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth isn’t a dottering old man, he’s a cockney thug in a butler’s suit. It’s something that may be surprising if you only know Alfred from the movies, but is taken straight from the recent, Geoff Johns written “Batman: Earth One” graphic novel, where Alfred teaches Bruce how to fight. Speaking of which…
6. The Comics Connection
Johns, besides writing DC Comics, is also Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, and the man responsible for helping usher “Gotham” to television. Happily, his hands are all over the show, as we found out talking to cast-members after the premiere. Johns hasn’t met them all, but he has spoken to them on the phone to offer tips and words of encouragement.
Possibly an even bigger influence, for those worried “Gotham” might ignore the books the show is based on? I was told that the writers room is chock full of books. And in particular, the currently running Riddler storyline in DC’s “Batman” comic titled “Zero Year” is a huge influence on where that character is going.
7. Riddle Me This
“Zero Year,” for those who aren’t up on their comic book reading, tells the story of a young Batman fighting his first big villain after The Riddler takes over Gotham City, cutting it off from the outside world until someone (read: Batman) can beat him in a riddle contest.
Will we see this storyline play out during season one? Actually, the cast has no idea, as they don’t start filming for another two weeks. But Cory Michael Smith, who plays Edward Nygma, wants to put it off for as long as possible. He’s currently a forensic scientist and amateur riddle aficionado for the Gotham City Police Department when we meet him, and as he told us, “I just keep telling the writers, let me be good for a little while!”
Also probably not happening anytime soon? Green spandex with question marks all over. Whew.
8. Joke’s On You
“Gotham” has its fair share of villains, including the young girls who will eventually become Catwoman and Poison Ivy. But one character that hasn’t officially shown up yet? The Joker. Except in the pilot episode, he does. Or maybe he doesn’t? As we learned from talking to the cast, Batman’s uber-bad will be teased in different ways in every episode of the season.
“You’ll think it’s that guy, and then maybe that guy,” a member of the cast confided. Whether Joker will eventually be revealed, we’ll have to wait and see. But he’s definitely going to be present in some form.
9. Gotham Central
Another book connection, Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen — two characters who anchored the police-centric comic series “Gotham Central” — are front and center in the pilot, played by Victoria Cartegena and Andrew Stewart-Jones respectively.
And they’re both incredibly faithful to their four-color origins. Incredibly faithful. Like, if you’ve read any comics involving Renee Montoya, they are very faithful, and in an extremely surprising way that ties her to one of the other characters — something that will be a bit of a shock to long-time fans of the comics.
10. Born On A Monday
It’s a small shout-out, but look for a scene that references a famous DC Comics villain, one who recently made an appearance on “Arrow.” Though it’s just a neat little Easter Egg, it’s a nice indicator that there will be plenty for fans to pore through, beyond the police drama at the center of the show.
11. It’s About Heroes, Not Superheroes
Despite the villains — including Jada Pinkett-Smith as mob boss Fish Mooney, and one uber-bad from Batman lore we won’t spoil — this isn’t a superhero show. If anything, it’s closer to a police procedural with some comic book trappings. Whether it eventually leans towards capes and tights, we’ll have to wait and see.
But it’s decidedly different from the rest of the comic based offerings on TV. It’s about Gordon crusading for justice, and trying to do the right thing in a world that is going perilously wrong. But will he wear a cape? Nope. We know he’s good, because he’s Ben McKenzie.
“Gotham” premieres on FOX this Fall.