Every superhero has to start somewhere, and for iconic caped crusader Batman, that somewhere was Gotham – a city so corrupt only he could bring it to heel. New Channel 5 series Gotham examines that city in the years when Batman was still a child and crime roamed the streets, with a cast of cops, criminals and those who will become the heroes and villains of the future.
But who are these mysterious figures? And why do they all look so annoyed?
Ben McKenzie, best known as fighty Ryan Atwood from teen drama The OC, stars as idealistic detective and future commissioner James Gordon (and he still beats people up a lot). The son of a heroic District Attorney and a former soldier, Gordon believes the city can be saved – but he’ll have to swim through a river of death and corruption before he can make any kind of difference. Gordon is probably best known from Gary Oldman’s portrayal in the recent Christopher Nolan films – so McKenzie has a lot to live up to.
As played by David Mazouz, the future dark hero of Gotham begins the series with more angst than Batarangs, his parents gunned down in front of him in a seemingly random attack. He’s not Batman yet, but never fear – he does still like to stand pointlessly on tall buildings to look a bit cool (seriously, that happens).
Your typical shambolic, alcoholic and vaguely corrupt cop, Bullock (Donal Logue) is partnered up with the young Jim Gordon very much against his wishes. Unlike many other characters in the series, while he does exist in the comics, Bullock has never actually been played in live-action before, so this is the first time many viewers will come across him.
Sean (son of former Doctor Who star Jon) Pertwee is a noticeably tougher version of Batman’s batman (played by Michael Caine in the recent Christopher Nolan films). An ex-marine with a no-nonsense attitude, the traditionally wry butler of old is unrecognisable – thought he still looks Downton-ready in a dapper suit.
Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin
Robin Lord Taylor plays the future Penguin, one of Batman’s oldest but not necessarily best known foes (though he has been played on screen twice before – once by Danny Devito in Batman returns and by Burgess Meredith in the 1960s TV series and film). In the future, the Penguin is a ferocious, bird-themed villain – but for now he’s just a hatchling.
Variously played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry and Anne Hathaway in recent years, Catwoman is one of Batman’s most iconic opponents (the two are also often reluctant allies). In Gotham, Kittengirl (yes, I made that up) is played by Camren Bicondova as a mysterious street kid who may know something about a certain double homicide.
Falcone (played by John Doman) is a Mafia Don with various high-ranking officials in his pockets, but he is nevertheless losing his grip on Gotham – leading him to try and help Gordon as much as possible without damaging his own operations.
An original character for the series played by Jada Pinkett-Smith, Mooney is a low-level crime boss who liaises with Bullock to make both their lives easier – but also plans to take a big chunk of Mafia bigwig Carmine Falcone’s criminal empire.
Edward Nygma/The Riddler
If your idea of hell is a never-ending pub quiz then you’d probably want to stay clear of E Nygma (geddit?). In Gotham he’s played by Cory Michael Smith as a forensic investigator with a love of puzzles – but down the line, he’ll become a villain with more of a taste for question mark-themed clothing than 1980s Doctor Who.
Ivy Pepper/Poison Ivy
In the world of Gotham, before she was a plant-themed seductress Ivy was a scared little girl with a violent father and a love of pot plants. Unlike the other Batman villains of the future, Clare Foley is only signed in a recurring guest role, so it’s likely we’ll be seeing less of her after the first episode.
In a bid to be a bit annoying, Gotham’s creators have promised that Batman’s most iconic villain, clown prince of crime The Joker, will be making an appearance in the series – but that it will be a surprise when he does.
And the speculation can begin already – in tonight’s first episode, an awkward stand-up comedian (played by Jon Beavers) appears briefly in a scene undoubtedly designed to invite curiosity.
Notably, in acclaimed graphic novel The Killing Joke (written by V for Vendetta’s Alan Moore), The Joker remembered his pre-crime life as a failed stand-up comic – so this could be a subtle reference to that.
Alternatively, it could be a red herring fit to boggle the World’s Greatest Detective himself (that’s Batman, not Sherlock, apparently).
Read our general guide to the series here
Gotham begins on Channel Five tonight at 9:00pm