The start of the Fall 2014 TV season: Gotham, SHIELD, How To Get Away With Murder, and Fate/stay night

Gotham

Borrowed from hallels.com

Genre: Superhero

Synopsis: This show will follow the early days of Detective James Gordon, and little Bruce Wayne, in addition to addressing origin stories for Batman villains.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: First 2 eps

Verdict: Not promising

The show is a bit overdramatic, barely holding onto its story, and even a little dull. That’s partly because of the sheer volume of fanservice–there were what, five/six notable characters from the comics in the pilot alone? And that’s excluding the ones in the police department. In short, way too many names were being dropped, and it seriously messed with my suspension of disbelief.

It’s also because the story isn’t particularly grounded. This doesn’t feel like what a story of a cop reforming an organization from the inside would be like. It’s like the storybook version of what someone might dream reforming an organization would be like. Which is weird, because stories set in Gotham shouldn’t feel so sanitized and floundering.

Borrowed from pmctvline2.files.wordpress.com

The only characters who really stood out were Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen (the Major Crimes Unit duo), and they’re not even main cast. If the show was about these two, I’d have a lot more hope. They already have a lot more personality than James Gordon, the cop who magically manages to navigate his way through a corrupt department without getting his hand dirty or compromising his principles (or compromising at all, ever). Maybe Gordon would be more palatable if the show didn’t try to present him as so perfect and right–even Alfred is turning to him for help in raising future Batman. Give the man some flaws, already!

Also, Selina following Bruce around is seriously creepy. Stop stalking the boy, it’s not cool.

The ending of the pilot was a bit better, but it also made no sense. [Spoilers for the pilot:] Gordon should not have been given the opportunity to pull a fast one and spare Penguin. Not from a logical perspective, and not from a story perspective. It would have been immediately more interesting if Gordon really did have to do something against his morality, just to keep his family safe. It would have lent a lot more power to his motivation for reforming the department, and given him some complexity.

And it makes no sense for Penguin to immediately become a mass murderer and try to return to Gotham . I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to create a wonderful story from the main character sparing a villain and inadvertently allowing them to kill and destroy others–Naoki Urasawa’s Monster did just that, and it was brilliant (and Guillermo del Toro is presently trying to turn it into an HBO series)–but I’m calling it now. Gotham doesn’t have the chops to pull it off. It’s no Monster [/Spoiler]. This is a big, complex premise for a story that will never reach it’s full potential in a show so determined to have its main protagonist always do the right thing.

Borrowed from imgur.com. This is how it’s done, Gotham.

Prove me wrong, Gotham. Please.

So yeah, it could become okay, but it’s kinda boring now, and I really wish Montoya and Allen were the main characters instead of Gordon. It is impressive that they included a lesbian and a bisexual (potentially) in the cast. And the acting is great. But the show isn’t doing that any justice yet, and it has every hallmark of something that isn’t going to get better. I’m really not sure I’m going to keep watching this.

SHIELD

Borrowed from pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com

Genre: Action/Superhero

Synopsis: In the first season, our protagonists were one team in a huge organization, until [huge spoiler for season 1 that everyone probably already knows about]. Now SHIELD is in pieces, and it’s up to Coulson and his team to rebuild it (despite their illegal status as an organization).

Series: Season 2

I’ve Watched: First 2 eps

Verdict: Good

Strong pilot, consequences from last season being carried over, and new sacrifices being made. One new character is from the Whedonverse, and it’s great seeing the actor in this role.

The second season is diving right into the interesting stuff, beating up their characters and putting them in bad positions. A way better start than last season (no surprise). We’ve got new characters, and there’s interesting tidbits about their personalities which are already showing. Actually, tidbits about characters we haven’t even met are showing–newcomer Hunter is talking up his ex-wife so much, I’m actually starting to be really interested in meeting the character.

In other news, Skye seems to be copying May’s fashion sense, down to wearing ridiculously impractical shoes on missions.

How To Get Away With Murder

Borrowed from b-sidemg.com

Genre: Mystery/Drama

Synopsis: A defense attorney teaching at a law school finds herself and her students involved in a murder.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: First ep

Verdict: Good

This story grabbed me immediately, which I wasn’t expecting. It was a fast-paced, engaging, fluid pilot with a strong focus on characterization. Characters are hugely important, and establishing complex, flawed characters in the pilot episode is really hard to do. I can’t remember the last time a pilot episode was this good.

Suspension of disbelief obviously required (I didn’t know students could just walk into their professors’ houses at any time of night–and for some reason the professor apologized to him for it). And I’m no legal expert, so I could be wrong, but I didn’t know new evidence could just be admitted in the middle of a court session. Don’t both the defense and prosecution have to know about all the evidence ahead of time? It’s like a Phoenix Wright game–well, okay, maybe it’s not that silly.

Here’s an article by someone who knows way more about law school and the legal system than I ever will, on the portrayal in How to Get Away with Murder.

Additionally (and obviously), it’s great to see a lot of diversity in such a promising show.

So in conclusion, this was the best pilot episode I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ll definitely continue with the show for now, despite its sad lack of fantasy/sci-fi elements. Just don’t think of it as a legal primer, or anything like that.

Fate/stay night

Borrowed from madman.co.nz

Genre: Supernatural/fantasy

Synopsis: High school student Rin has been preparing to fight in the Holy Grail War, a recurring fight-to-the-death between powerful magicians (usually from legacy families) and the spirits of historical/mythological figures. The winner gets a wish, any wish, fullfilled.

Rin is from a legacy family, having lost her father in the last Holy Grail War. This time, she’s determined her family will win.

Series: Technically this is the first season of one series. There are non-required associated series, since this is a franchise born from a visual novel (that I haven’t read and never will, considering the…troublesome things I’ve heard about it).

I’ve Watched: Episode 0. Yes, there’s an episode 0.

Verdict: Promising

The first half of the prologue episode is a little slow, starting with the biggest opening scene cliche ever–the main character yelling at an alarm clock. The intro school scene was interesting, but that might have been because I knew that these characters were going to be important later. There was too much exposition, and it was hard to peg Rin’s personality and interpersonal relationships–something just a little off.

Then the second half of the episode happened. The story picked up, and Rin really grew on me.

With the intro cameos from characters that will be important later on, and the establishment of the status quo for this world, all out of the way, the story gets to happen. Rin makes a serious change in her life, and her focus shifts from the mundane to the magical. This opens the door for progressively more magical concerns to rear their heads. And that’s what we want to see.

Rin’s mistakes are understandable for someone of her age, mostly. It’s nice to see both her strengths and her flaws, and how they both stem from the same aspect of her character. She’s prideful and gifted, but still relatively inexperienced. Her impulsiveness works both against her and for her. Both the dumbest and the best thing she did in the episode stemmed from jumping in and following her feelings.

I only know the very basics of the story, having never seen any adaptation of this work before or read the visual novels–though I did see the (absolutely fantastic) prequel Fate/zero. This means I have no idea where the story is going. But it definitely has potential, and I’ll be back for episode 1.

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