This week, Jimmy & The Bulls pursue a supposed vigilante who is attaching well-known members of the Gotham community, who happen to be corrupt, to weather balloons. The idea certainly seems like something lifted out of a comic book, but it also looks quite silly. In the right hands, this idea could play well into the spirit of what a show like Gotham should be striving to be. However, it is still early and the idea does not pan out as strong as it could, given what else takes place in this episode. “The Balloonman” tries to do too much, and while I have remained fairly positive about this series thus far, I cannot overlook how all over the place the tone is in this week’s episode.
To get it out of the way, of course Dan Bakkedahl’s character was The Balloonman. Not that this episode relies on whodunit plotting, but it felt like just one of many predictable aspects of this week’s case to solve. It comes a bit out of being fairly familiar with certain formulas for plotting, but his character shows up at the beginning and is the only possible choice, short of introducing a completely new figure at the very end of the episode. Moving away from the ‘who’ he is and into the ‘what’ he is, though, The Balloonman is pretty silly. While a neat idea on the page, I am sure, the image of a weather balloon dragging someone into the sky looked pretty comical, which was not helped by the return of one of the bodies to the ground.
Gotham seemed to have a level of respect for the menace of the crimes taking place in previous weeks, but this week felt off. I could have sided with the balloon concept more, given the targets and the origins of this series, but playing off an elderly woman getting crushed by a body falling from the sky in a fairly comical manner was pushing things too far in a broad direction. This would all inevitably lead to Gordon, in some way, being dragged into the sky, and while that scene was perhaps more effective than the first instance, it did seem to reflect this episode’s attempt to soar too high, in an effort to build the groundwork of the series.
I say this because Gotham makes us aware of three big things this week, but they do not all work together. The first is that this is a comic book-based show. There are broad ideas at play here, which can only feel serious in some ways. The second is how this show wants to treat Gordon and his ideologies. Ben McKenzie is doing his best, but hearing him lay down his thoughts on the corruption of the city is hard to stack against seeing people raised in the air by weather balloons. The third is how this show really is a tragedy, given that we understand there is no future where Gordon is able to rid Gotham of crime and there will be an eventual vigilante figure taking things into his own hands. I feel this point became clearer than it has been in Gotham so far, which is something that really should be capitalized on.
How much more interesting could this series be if it decided to emphasize how little hope there really is? I could certainly see that happening if this were an FX or AMC series, but as it stands, Gotham is trying its best to be a pulpy police procedural on network television. I have not been faulting the basic logic of this show’s existence as much as some have, but “The Balloonman” is the first episode to make me really feel some of the inherent problems, making me hope this series arrives at its sweet spot soon.
Moving on, the rest of this episode continued to function as strong setup work for the impending crime war that is likely going to be the focus of the second half of this season. Fish Mooney continues to scheme and make it quite clear that she wants to get ahead of Falcone. Salvatore Maroni makes his debut this week as well, with David Zayas doing a fine job of fitting into the ideal tone of the show, as far as the organized crime element in a series based on a comic book is concerned.
This episode also finds Oswald back in Gotham City. I am not sure if we have just dropped the kidnapping plot from last week completely, but given Oswald’s decision to find a new job and find his way under the wing of Maroni, I don’t really know why we would go back to it. I was also happy to see him leave the episode on an exciting note. Having Oswald show up at Gordon’s door both ends my displeasure of more and more weeks of Barbara distrusting her very obviously honest, good man, and also puts a wrinkle into how Gordon plans to proceed, given Oswald’s continued presence and what that could mean for his safety.
Obviously this show is not going to kill Gordon, but I at least like not knowing where things are going to go from here for certain characters. I can say the same about someone like Selina Kyle. What purpose can she serve, after delivering the information she had? How much of Bruce and Alfred on the fringes do we need? Some may feel hampered by these aspects of the series, along with nods to the fact that this show is rooted in comic mythos (which I continue to expect and don’t find much fault in), but that gives me something to work with.
I took issue with the handling of tone for this week’s episode. I am still far from unconvinced that Gotham has no chance at being a much stronger series, but this episode did feel like a step back in solidifying what it is capable of, while still progressing the plot forward. These things happen. It may not help a series that Fox seems to have put a lot of faith into, but I want to know where things are going, let alone continue to see this take on the early lives of many Gothamites. Hopefully the prospect of an episode titled “Arkham” will lead to better things next week.
From Det. Jim Gordon’s Police Files:
- They certainly made a good case for why we shouldn’t care for The Balloonman’s victims… not that that’s okay.
- RIP Lt. Bill Cranston, we hardly knew you.
- So did Selina just leave GCPD after telling Gordon she knew about the Waynes’ last week, only to hang out a few days later to actually spill the beans? What a tease.
- Here’s hoping Montoya and Allen actually become characters I want to see, rather than what they currently are right now, with a little bit of lesbianism thrown in for good measure. #FoxStyle
- The Balloonman’s costume was awfully similar to Dark Man.
- We got our first “Hero Suit Up Scene” with Gordon preparing for the day.
- Oswald Cobblebpot would be more of a breakout character if he didn’t seem so needy.
- I did enjoy seeing a lot more of Captain Essen and I can only hope that relationship with Gordon grows into something as well-handled as some of the comics, albeit in a different manner.
- This week’s Classic Gordon Clip.