- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2015

Home theater owners can now binge-watch the story of Batman’s origins, which has been transformed into a televised crime drama in Gotham: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video, rated TV-14, $60.10).

All 22 episodes from the Fox show reside on a 4-disk Blu-ray set that presents a new spin on the role of Jim Gordon in the life of a 12-year-old Bruce Wayne.

Specifically, after Master Bruce watches his parents gunned down, he hides in his family’s massive mansion while taken care of by his curmudgeonly guardian Alfred Pennyworth.

It’s up to a pair of detectives — newly recruited Mr. Gordon and the grizzled veteran Henry Bulloch — to solve the murders and lots of other crimes in a city corrupted by mob bosses, gangs, politicians and their own police department.

The series is light on the Dark Knight and much more about rise of Jim Gordon and the origins of a rogue’s gallery worth of bad guys who Batman will have to contend with over his career — including Catwoman, the Riddler, the Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Carmine Falcone, the Penguin and just a pinch of the Joker.

Notable performances include Robin Lord Taylor as the twisted, homicidal Penguin, Sean Pertwee (“Dog Soldiers”) as a surprisingly stern and grumpy Alfred, Jada Pinkett Smith imbuing a bit of Eartha Kitt as the underused mob boss (not found in the comics) Fish Mooney and Ben McKenzie as Det. Gordon.

Although, the show has found popularity with viewers, I am not yet sold. It’s just not as “Smallville” as I would have liked with Bruce being so young; it’s hard to imagine him having any impact on subsequent seasons.

The digital transfer fills television screens and offers a wonderful clarity to the shadowy and oppressive locations of the city, designed not quite as gothic as Tim Burton’s Gotham nor as realistic as Christopher Nolan’s take on the metropolis.

The continuous pans and angles of Gotham’s skylines and city blocks during every show look fantastic and are as potent to setting the mood as the actual storylines.

A collection of over two hours of extras spends a bit too much time promoting the series as the actors over explain each other’s roles or bask in fan appreciation (reference the 30 minutes at the 2014 Comic Con).

However, the best of the bunch offers 20 minutes on the cinematography and architecture as production designer Richard Berg explains his crew crafted a sexy, dirty underbelly of an urban landscape reflecting a New York City in the 1970s and Chicago during prohibition.

Also fun is “The Game of Cobblepot,” an extended look at Gotham’s version of the Penguin. The 26-minute featurette not only highlights one of my favorites in the series but also cleverly compares the villain’s rise to power using a chess match.

Now, it’s amazing how little of Batman’s comic book history is discussed, being more of an afterthought in the extras.

We do get some fleeting glimpses of some iconic art panels or illustrations to compare the show’s visuals to its sequential-art roots (heavy on Brian Bolland’s work in “The Killing Joke”) especially in the three-part production overview “Gotham Invented,” but that’s about it.

Even the set of seven character profiles never focuses on the characters’ comic book forms. The profiles mainly allow the actors to explaining their characters’ motivations and place in the Gotham universe.

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