On Monday, two new series were introduced to the world: Scorpion (9p, CBS) and Gotham (8p, FOX). Here’s my gut check based on the pilot episodes:
It wasn’t perfect but the show started off on the right foot, and I understand why critics named it one of teh top new shows of the fall. First off, can we all just take a moment and give a standing o to Mr. Ben McKenzie? Creator Bruno Heller made the correct choice in naming him as his Detective Ben Gordon. He was not only convincing, but actually fantastic to watch, enough so that he himself could make me watch more episodes of him. But enough gush-fest.
The characters were well cast, with the cameos of Catwomen (for now, Catgirl), The Riddler, and even Poison Ivy while minimal, effective to entice us about the characters in the future (although Catwomen really just observing was a bit…boring). I guess the only complain I had was with Jada Pinkett Smith. He taking a bat so someone’s body was a bit un-nerving. But I’ll attribute that to my problem than the show’s problem.
The plot wasn’t brilliant (SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH). It opens up right where the Batman story should begin: the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Of course the whole episode is about searching for the killer, using mob ties to find that guy, kill that guy, and wrap up the case. But you, me, my mother, and the creators all knew that this is Gotham. Justice is never served. Turns out there’s a rat who says the guy killed was actually innocent, Gordon finds out the police framed the innocent, and finds out in the last 22 minutes of the episode just how bad Gotham really is. Which we all knew. But, what the show did well was walk us through the moral ambiguity. It’s not exactly black-and-white, and although we knew that, the show makes the dilemma as real as it could get. His partner Harvey Bullock (played very well by Donal Logue) gives Gordon tons of chances, and tells him how corrupt the city is from the get go and tells him to get out when he can. But then the ending happened, and it definitely makes you question your sanity. And if that’s just the first episode, how about the season itself?
So while the plot was a bit on the predictable side (and the dialogue also had some “been there, heard that, from every superhero show/movie ever” moments too), the show did what it set out to do: Introduce the characters, introduce the overall story arc surrounding Bruce Wayne, and be entertaining. And it was absolutely that. A very good pilot episode.
This was a show that I really, really, really wanted to do well. It was first “intelligent” (NOT intelligence) TV show since Numb3rs (6 seasons, CBS) was taken off the air so many years ago. But, upon finishing the pilot, it was not that at all.
Don’t get me wrong, the episode’s concept was FUN. Fun, fun, fun. But not every episode will be the pilot: preventing 54 planes from crashing into LA. Plus, the believability level of this pilot went from 35 minutes of “alright, it’s a TV show and I’m fine with this” to 4 action minutes of “okay, now THIS is just silly”. I mean, there’s just no way that’d work in real life. If you saw the episode, you know what I’m talking about. But you know what? It was fun! It was ridiculous fun! I had fun watching this. And I guess, isn’t that all that matters…besides having The Big Bang Theory lead-in the show? Hint: the answer is yes.
I was bothered by the character development. I don’t see character’s likability helping the show’s future. They’re not really remotely fun to watch, really. I can get with main character Walter O’ Brien (Elyes Gabel) and even math man Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham). But the only thing amusing about psych man Toby Curtis is that he’s played by Eddie Thomas, who was Finch in the American Pie movie franchise. And the only thing amusing about Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong) is she might have a thing for Toby despite her tough exterior. All together, the Scorpion team make an awesome, interesting team, even when at odds with each other. But as individuals? Nope. I don’t feel for any of them the way I felt for the characters of Gotham, or the characters in Madam Secretary. As far as a cast goes, you can always have your favorite member, but you always get behind the cast as a whole. I don’t think this show has that. But they have 2 episodes to change my mind on that.
Katharine McPhee was fine, but her role as Paige the Waitress was just, kind of, thrown in there I feel. And the whole high IQ, low EQ thing felt thrown in there too. Her only role seems to be the drama/romance factor to the show. Which is fine. Every show needs that. But this pilot kind of dragged and dropped the drama as opposed to setting it in gently. Also, back to believability, do you think a waitress would even involve herself in a National Security issue? Let alone have people listen to her? Also, she didn’t translate anything for the Scorpion team at all (which is the pure reason she’s hired at the end). She just prevented mind blocks for Walter (and gave Sylvester the biggest and smallest chalk on the board). Also, for a guy with low EQ, Walter can talk to his National Security friend AND Paige quite alright. I don’t know. Maybe I’m a bit harsh in this section, but you can throw it on to the many things this show did wrong on this first try. Plot issues, dialogue issues, acting issues (sorry, Jadyn Wong, I’m just not convinced at all). There’s a lot. The episode was fun, but it can’t continue the high fun, low believability for multiple episodes. Sure, Grey’s Anatony has the one crazy, unrealistic episode each season. But even they step back to reality. Overall, an alright pilot with not much room to maneuver for improvement. But I think Scorpion can change course.