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Warner Brothers Offers Who's Who In Gotham


McKenzie on Southland -- cleaner streets than Gotham City..

Over the weekend, Warner Brothers Television announced who would play young Detective James Gordon in the Fox pilot Gotham, which, by the way, is described as having a series commitment -- not just a pilot order -- from Fox.

Ben McKenzie, who rose to fame on Fox's The O.C., will be taking up the badge, and, from the way it was touted, we may still assume the lead role of the series. It may cover Bruce Wayne's painful adolescence and growth into donning the cape and cowl of Batman, but perhaps the intent is still to see it through the eyes of one good cop.

McKenzie has been playing that for a while on the cop drama Southland, and he certainly has the face of a man who could easily age into tired authority -- weariness laced with hope in the form of an alliance with a man dressed as a bat.

Or at least he could believably become Gary Oldman.

But today Warner added four more names to the cast, and if they follow through with the relationships these characters have in the comics, they could stay fairly true and still stir up lots and lots of soap opera.
Ex-Marine? We'll buy it
First, we know that James Gordon is not enough -- and too remote -- to really be serving as a surrogate father figure to Bruce Wayne. While the focus should be on Gordon, the series will live or die on the strength of Alfred Pennyworth.

To fill that role, producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon have cast Sean Pertwee as Alfred, described as "...a tough-as-nails ex-marine from East London." While long-time readers may find that a little startling, it makes sense. Alfred became progressively more tough as the decades went on, and this vision (which was shared on the animated Beware The Batman) borrows from Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's graphic novel Batman: Earth One.

Where it veers, however, is that the show still sees him as an employee of the Waynes, though the description stops short of calling him a butler:
Alfred Pennyworth has loyally served the Waynes. Now, in the wake of their tragic deaths, he’s fiercely protective of the young Bruce Wayne..

Pertwee is interesting casting for fans. He's long had a genre career, appearing in Dog Soldiers, Camelot and Doomsday among others. And yes, he is the son of the 3rd Doctor, Jon Pertwee, thus bringing the universes together.

Go ahead. Let me hear you say "waugh waugh waugh."
Bedeviling Gordon will be Robin Lord Taylor in the role of Oswald Cobblepot. Taylor has appeared on The Walking Dead and in the film Another Earth. The Gotham take on Cobblepot -- admittedly a character who seems to get rebooted in the comics every four or five years -- is that he has "... the brains of a chess grandmaster and the morals of a jackal." However, as is to be expected, his is also "...a low-level psychopath (for gangster Fish Mooney) who hides his sadistic lust for power behind an exquisitely polite demeanor."

If I were a gangster named Fish Mooney, and I had a henchman nicknamed The Penguin, I'd be careful not to get eaten. Just saying.

But again, that's not a description terribly out of character, and The Penguin in comics currently serves a dark role in Gotham society. Everyone wants to be at his club, and most turn a blind eye to his nefarious underworld activities. To some degree, he controls the social scene.

In Batman: Earth-One, Cobblepot has actually become Mayor, but even being a low-level psychopath doesn't necessarily take that out of the equation.

Definitely not taking crap.

Ultimately, it would not be a prime time action drama without ladies to add scope and soap to the proceedings, and if Warner has cast right, there will be sparks.

As Captain Essen, Gordon's boss at GCPD Homicide, the powers that be have cast Zabryna Guevara from Burn Notice. Essen "...balances the two worlds of police and politics with a Machiavellian skill that’s as much corporate litigator as cop."

Long-term prediction, if there is a long-term, is that Essen will be maneuvered into a lot of uncomfortable situations with Gordon. In the comics, Detective Sara Essen becomes Gordon's second wife, after years earlier causing a bit of friction in his marriage to Barbara Kean.

Again, to avoid confusion -- Barbara Gordon, the character who is currently Batgirl, is actually Gordon's niece, who he adopted when she was an early adolescent. And yes, she is named after aunt, Barbara Kean. We are years away from her appearing.

The wronged woman?

But what of Barbara Kean, who may or may not form the third point of a love triangle, and may or may not be the wronged woman? Warner does describe the character as Gordon's fiancee, "...joyful but with an edge of vulnerability."

Excellently enough, she has been endowed as "...a sophisticated emergency room doctor" ("Ten cc's of lidocaine and a brandy snifter... STAT!") for television, far better than the nervous stay-at-home mom created by Frank Miller for Batman: Year One.

Playing that sophisticated emergency room doctor will be Erin Richards, perhaps best known for a stint on Merlin.and the British Being Human. Do they have the sophisticated part down right? She definitely looks like she can stand up to Guevara.

So far, so good, or at least these are all castings we can live with -- and look forward to them proving themselves in the fall.

Derek McCaw

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