Gotham Recap: “The Balloonman”

October 8, 2014 — Leave a comment

One of the most important things a brand new television series can show is growth. Plots moving forward, characters being developed and the promise of that to continue in the future. Gotham‘s third episode “The Balloonman” took a very positive step in that this week. However that doesn’t mean the episode was perfect or that it didn’t even have a little bit of cringe at times but when it was all over, the episode delivered. Let’s take a look at the good and bad of this week.

The Bad

-Is it just me or is anyone else expecting Fish Mooney to reveal that she actually has a curse placed on her that prevents her from leaving the club? Correct me if I am wrong, but I think through 3 episodes, she has only ever been at the nightclub. Fish Mooney can be a great character, and it seems like Gotham wants her to be central to the show’s narrative arcs. However, we will need to see her do more than purring like Eartha Kitt from a table at her own place.

-A montage of Gordon and Bullock chasing down leads…followed by a walk up some old apartment building stairs…followed by a knock on a suspect’s door followed by said suspect immediately making a run for it as soon as they see the detectives. Am I describing a sequence from “Pilot” or “The Balloonman”? I think you get my drift, which is that both episodes featured the same police procedural cliche. I don’t mind the cliche, but the issue here is that it was an almost beat for beat rehash and just came off as lazy.

-The Barbara Kean/Montoya storyline might ruffle some feathers, but my complain with it is that the show has so much else going on, I’m just not sure it just doesn’t make the show feel a bit too cluttered. The Gordon/Barbara relationship actually makes me think of the relationship between Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) and his wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) in David Fincher’s Se7en. There is drama involved with Tracy, but it never feels out of place with the rest of the film and never comes across as a moment where the viewer can  mentally check out. Right now, these scenes just aren’t as interesting as everything else that is happening, especially when it seems like this plot might take a while to payoff.

The Good

-Alfred and Bruce’s sword fight was a great big breath of fresh air. Their relationship is the longest  of Bruce’s life and in many ways the most important.  How so? Much of the origin of superheroes and villains is how they each react to something awful happening to them. Bruce Wayne, with the loss of his parents and all the money he inherited could easily have wound up as the world’s biggest super-villain but instead turns out to be one of its biggest heroes. Why? Bruce had a nurturing support system with Alfred. The butler may not be Bruce’s father, but he cares for Bruce and much like Jim Gordon, reminds the boy that there are decent people in the world and not all is lost.

-Speaking of the future mustached commissioner, “The Balloonman” was important for Gordon who seems to be understanding what Gotham is. He has seen the crime and corruption, but he finally is seeing Gotham City as “sick”. Even more important than what that means to him, seeing Jim realize that is important for the viewer and eventually for Bruce as we both see the young detective work valiantly to fix the city’s problems.

-The titular character of the episode was a great villain of the week. I’ve seen people call both the physic of his modus operandi into question as well as his very existence as campy. However, killing people by slowly launching them into the sky is sinister and his vigilante motivation plays directly into how broken Gotham City is. Crime and corruption are breeding people like this and creating not just a cycle of violence and crime, but a snowball effect spiraling Gotham into a city that needs a dark knight one day.

-While I could use Oswald Cobblepot stabbing people less (after all, at what point does the surprise element the show creates each time he does wear thin?), I love the march of this penguin so far this season. Robin Lord Taylor is terrific and its fun to see how cunning he can be. As far as we have to go to see Bruce become Batman, we have just as far to see Oswald become a crime kingpin and so far its been really fun to watch.

– “He killed people, it made him a criminal too”. While I don’t want too fast of a development into the larger established Batman mythos, this moment of  Bruce’s reflection of  The Balloonman was pitch-perfect. We see the early stage of Bruce’s moral code and also his experience with vigilantes. As much as he has to one day decide who and what he wants to be he also needs the moments where he realizes who and what he does not want to be as well.

In most courtroom dramas, there is a scene where an attorney begins a line of questioning followed by the judge warning them, “this better be going somewhere!” Viewers of new shows often have the same attitude and “The Balloonman” should have been enough to let things proceed.

What did you think, is there enough positive progress so far or is the show in need of a different direction?

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