Fanboys (and fangirls) were in a tizzy when Fox announced that it had picked up a series that would serve as an origin story for the city that will one day be protected by the Dark Knight. The Comic-Con crowd devoured every detail about which characters from the DC comic would be incorporated into the series and eagerly awaited the chance to watch a young Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin and Poison Ivy in action.
And all those fan-favorite characters are in on the fun of Gotham, but at its core, this new drama is a procedural cop show that is worth watching even if you don't know Bruce Wayne from Bruce Jenner.
As Gotham begins, Detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) – who is years away from becoming the commissioner played by Gary Oldman in the latest trilogy – is on the case to solve the murder of socialites Thomas and Martha Wayne, the parents of Batman-to-be Bruce (David Mazouz). With the investigation underway, Gordon and his jaded partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) dive into the underbelly of Gotham and cross paths with all the aforementioned blossoming baddies along the way.
As the idealistic Gordon, McKenzie pulls out the endearing bewildered glances that made his fish-out-of-water character Ryan Atwood on The O.C. such a fan favorite. Jada Pinkett Smith gobbles up the scenery as deliciously campy mob queen-pin Fish Mooney. But the relatively unknown Robin Lord Taylor is the standout among the young villains as the future Penguin.
Taylor was gifted with natural facial features that evoke the well-known character (played by Danny DeVito in 1992's Batman Returns) but he has colored his version of Oswald Cobblepot with a watchability all his own. Even as a casual fan of the mythology, it's a delight to watch his transformation into the waddling creature he is destined to become.
Not all of Gotham is as successful – a side plot involving Gordon's girlfriend Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) has yet to find its footing – but this dark (and cinematically shot) series will feel right at home as the lead-in to Fox's similarly toned Sleepy Hollow.
Gotham premieres Monday (8 p.m. ET) on FOX.