In my review of last week’s installment of Gotham: “Selina Kyle”, I discussed my main objection to the series thus far: That the first two episodes seemed overwritten and unmanageably complex.
I’m not arrogant enough to even consider the notion that the Gotham writers heard my complaints and wrote “The Balloonman” specifically to address them, but if I could have asked them to, this is precisely the episode I’d want them to make. It’s streamlined, straightforward, and easy to follow–and if the rest of the season follows The Balloonman’s lead, Gotham has a real shot at being a truly great show.
Fans of truth in advertising will be pleased to note that the title of Episode 3 is actually appropriate to the ep’s story line this time. More than a few fans were annoyed that last week’s “Selina Kyle” seemed only tangentially concerned with the character of the same name. Make no mistake–this installment is The Balloonman’s show. That’s him (Dan Bakkedahl) above in the pig mask–right before he straps absurdly corrupt financier Arnold Danzer (Clark Middleton) to a weather balloon. Danzer was to be indicted for draining the bank accounts of dozens of innocent Gothamites, but The Balloonman preferred he be tried in the court of acrophobia, oxygen deprivation, and eventually gravity.
Until recently he was a harmless, noble, and good-hearted man named Davis Lamond who worked at a youth center trying to do some good for Gotham’s street kids. But after the events of last week’s episode, where the kids he sought to protect were kidnapped by a child-trafficking ring, and then sent upstate to juvenile detention after being rescued, Lamond decided that the law was not enough to protect Gotham from the corrupt and powerful.
The Balloonman was apparently the first vigilante inspired to take the law into his own hands after the murder of the Waynes sent Gotham into a downward spiral of crime, violence, and corruption….almost like a “Beta-test Batman”. Indeed, young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) seems inspired by The Balloonman’s intentions–if not his methods. He tells Alfred (Sean Pertwee) that killing his targets makes The Balloonman just as much a criminal, but you can see the gears whirring in the future Dark Knight’s preteen brain.
Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot is back in town, and more insane than ever. He kills at least three people in this episode. Even Danny DeVito‘s sewer mutant Penguin from Tim Burton‘s Batman Returns wasn’t this brutal and bloodthirsty. It’s like the writers of Gotham are trying their best to disabuse audiences of their image of Penguin as a silly little fat man who likes umbrellas.
Robin Lord Taylor‘s Oswald is a stone killer, and nuttier than a squirrel’s breakfast–and a HELLUVA lot of fun to watch.
Upon his return, Cobblepot gets a gig washing dishes at an Italian eatery controlled by Sal Maroni (David Zayas), Gotham’s #2 Mob kingpin and Falcone’s chief rival. He obtains this position by murdering Maroni’s old dishwasher and stealing his shoes (because one of Maroni’s lieutenants told him he didn’t have the right shoes to work in the kitchen–and as luck would have it, the dishwasher’s were just his size).
Around the same time Oswald waddles back into town, GCPD’s not-so Dynamic Duo: Jim Gordon (Ben MacKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) find themselves saddled with The Balloonman case.
Bullock was happy to chalk Danzer’s death up to karma, but when Mr. B sends a dirty Gotham police lieutenant up to meet his maker, suddenly shit gets real.
Oh, and Logue absolutely KILLS in this ep. His Bullock steals every scene he’s in…and he’s threatening to become a far more interesting and likeable character than Ben MacKenzie’s still rather mild-mannered Gordon. I know the whole “Boy Scout” schtick is Gordon’s thing–but this is GOTHAM: In this town, it’s go big or go home. There’s no room for low-key personalities or milquetoast characters.
Just saying, Gordon’s gonna need to get a bit more colorful if he expects to be taken seriously as the star of this ensemble–he can’t coast on comic book name recognition forever.
Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) steps out of the limelight in this episode (though apparently nobody told her dress this). Many fans have complained about Pinkett-Smith’s over-the-top performance–some claim that she comes off like a caricature of Eartha Kitt.
I disagree: Gotham is an over-the-top setting, all she’s doing is adapting to her environment, so to speak. And as far as imitating Eartha Kitt is concerned–I prefer to view it as an homage.
In any case, she’s just here to rat out Jim Gordon to the professional buzzkillers of the MCU: Detectives Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) and Montoya (Victoria Cartagena). They’re investigating Oswald’s assumed murder, and Fish tells them that Gordon shot him at the behest of Falcone. They try to get Gordon to cop to this–but as it’s not technically true, and all they have is the word of a known criminal, they know they’ve got nothing they can charge him with.
At lest we find out why Montoya seems to have it in for Gordon: She visits Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) to warn him that she believes her new beau to be a murderer, and we receive confirmation of what was previously hinted–Montoya and Barbara used to have a “thing”.
I thought long and hard about how I would negotiate this minefield, and I’ve decided to leave it alone until I see how big a deal Gotham intends to make out of this relationship and its nature.
Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) doesn’t figure very prominently in the tale of The Balloonman. All she does is use Jim Gordon’s attempt to get info out of her about who really shot the Waynes as an opportunity to escape from his dumb ass…
I mean REALLY, who handcuffs a known thief to a railing and leaves her with a free hand? He didn’t even search her for possible lockpicks first 😛
The Balloonman is only Gotham‘s third episode, but it is easily the best so far.
Donal Logue and Robin Lord Taylor are an absolute joy to watch, I could easily see an Emmy nomination in either of their futures. The Balloonman himself is a testament to Gotham‘s ability to create original characters that feel every bit as appropriate to the Batman universe as any of the principals.
After 3 weeks, we now see what Gotham is capable of as a series, and I can’t wait to see if they can keep the momentum going next Monday.