Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Late review of Fox's "Gotham" and the season premiere of ABC's "Agents of SHIELD"

Fox's "Gotham" might have gotten the highest level of buzz during the summer, so I was pretty keen on checking it out. I'm not the biggest superhero story fan (unless you consider Jack Bauer to be a superhero), but "Gotham" has an undeniably appealing concept: what was the city of Gotham like before Bruce Wayne became Batman?

To be clear, this is not the 1960s Adam West/Burt Ward campfest. It's not even the Michael Keaton/Val Kilmer/George Clooney series of movies, which while considerably more serious than the TV series, were still full of bright colors. Nope, this is very much in the style of the Christian Bale "Dark Knight" trilogy: dark, grim, unrelenting, and mostly unhappy.

Of course, we start with the seminal moment in young Bruce Wayne's life - the murder of both of his parents during a mugging. Perhaps not a random mugging . . . . The main character, however, is police officer James Gordon, who is destined to become Commission Gordon. We also are introduced to a number of thugs, frustrated comics, street thieves, etc., who will later become the Joker, Catwoman, and other famous supervillains.

Visually, "Gotham" is remarkable. Dramas often talk about movie-quality production. "Gotham" lives up to that talk. The concept is intriguing. But I have to wonder if it's going to be too grim for a long (i.e., 5-7 year) run. It's not just that we know how the story ends, as movies like Zero Dark Thirty and Argo have demonstrated that knowing the ending doesn't necessarily spoil the suspense in movies. Rather, it's that what we're in for is N years of the bad guys becoming more evil and more powerful, and the city becoming more corrupt and more decrepit, until the only hope is for a billionaire with serious issues to don a Bat costume. . . .

Meanwhile, ABC's "Agents of SHIELD" returned. Its debut season started off slowly, the TV equivalent of wandering lost in the forest for about 2/3 of the season, until the crossover with Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier took place. I finally got around to watching Captain America 2 last weekend (thank you, Red Box), but of course I already knew about the big reveal in the movie due to the last 1/3 of the season of "Agents of SHIELD." (That is, the only way to experience TV show and movie perfectly would have been to watch the movie on opening weekend, in between the two episodes of "Agents of SHIELD" that bookended it.

The second season premiere picks up after the movie/first season, but not immediately after. At least a few months have passed, with the reference to the team having hidden all winter long. The opening segment was actually an "in the past" scene, with Agent Betty Carter from the first Captain America movie (and the upcoming Agent Carter series) in post-World War II leading a pre-SHIELD squad on a mission to recover an alien(?) artifact. Back in the present day, the remnants of Agent Coulson's SHIELD squad are still trying to neutralize the evil organization HYDRA, which was revealed in the series and movie to have completely infiltrated SHIELD. Lucy Lawless (aka Xena Warrior Princess) shows up as a SHIELD ally, while opposing them is a HYDRA agent with the power to touch something and turn himself into that substance at a molecular level.


A lot happened in this episode. Lucy Lawless's character was introduced, and then killed off at the end (but not before touching the alien artifact from the opening scene and having it infect her arm severely enough that she had her colleague cut her arm off to keep it from spreading), which was quite shocking. Fitz (one half of the tech nerd pair) was still suffering from the brain damage he suffered last season due to oxygen deprivation (from something - I forget exactly what happened) but Simmons (the female nerd) is there to help him complete sentences when he can't remember the right words. Only at the end we see that the producers pulled a Sixth Sense on us. The best thing about the episode is that it clearly wasn't meant to be a standalone, monster of the week; hopefully this means that "Agents of SHIELD" is continuing its move toward a heavily serialized format.

No comments:

Post a Comment