On the D/L – Gotham
Season 1 Episode 3 – “The Balloon Man”
Here we have an episode that fully embraces the comic book silliness inherent in the source material. Gordon and Bullock track down a killer who dispatches his victims by attaching them to balloons.
This episode was a strange one that feels like it’s from a different show to the first two of the season. We do still have the crime infested cesspool that is Gotham City and continuations of the arcs involving Selina Kyle, Oswald Cobblepot and Carmine Falcone but on the other hand we have a filler story involving a crazy guy who kills people using weather balloons.
As a comic book lover I am no stranger to ridiculous villains who have weird gimmicks of some sort so I guessed that something like this would happen sooner or later. The baffling thing is that the episode sort of paints The Balloon Man as being something of a hero, certainly from a media perspective despite the fact that he doesn’t actually protect any one. What he seems to be doing is punishing those he decides to be corrupt and deserving. As villains go he wasn’t especially memorable and his methods bordered on hilarious which just made for an awkward tonal shift in this series.
Thankfully this plot is played appropriately tongue in cheek with some genuinely funny scenes involving Gordon and Bullock where we see more of Bullock’s professional apathy. While this is good to see it doesn’t actually bring anything new to the table. We have more of the contrast in the methods that each of them prefer and we see more of Gordon’s idealism running against Bullock’s detached acceptance of the city and the problems it faces. I hope this isn’t indicative of a formula that’s about to settle in as I do really enjoy these characters together but I think it will become tiresome if there isn’t any form of progression episode to episode. There’s a risk that this series could degenerate into marking time before the appearance of Batman if this keeps up so I hope this is just an anomaly rather than what will become the norm.
Many of the subplots continue to be interesting particularly the coming gang war between Falcone, Fish Mooney and David Zayas’ first time appearing Maroni with Cobblepot on the sidelines of this becoming more Penguinlike as the episodes go on. Cobblepot’s scenes with Maroni were really interesting and I liked the fact that they have had similar backgrounds therefore finding some kind of kinship with one another. I wonder if Cobblepot will be taken under Maroni’s wing so that he can betray his new mentor at a later point.
Barbara’s story is continued here as well but we don’t get much more than a reminder that she has a mysterious past that she keeps hidden from Jim. Erin Richards plays this role very well and I like that she continues to give Gordon the strength he needs to carry on dealing with this morally repugnant city. There’s an undercurrent of things being hidden on both sides here which makes this relationship interesting to watch unfold.
It seems clear that each episode is going to give us a subplot involving Bruce Wayne learning a lesson. In this case he needs to learn to be strong in order to deal with the loss he has suffered. This manifests through Alfred being unable to get him to eat properly since the death of his parents. No matter how much combat training he supplies it’s just not possible to get through to Bruce here. Not to worry though the problem is easily solved when a news reporter on TV actively questions who will protect the city now that The Balloon Man has been stopped which causes Bruce to gain new resolve. Better slow down here or he’ll be Batman before he even leaves school.
I don’t have an awful lot to say about this episode in general as it was just okay. The characters are still really good to watch but when it comes to Bullock and Gordon we don’t get anything from them that wasn’t in the previous two episodes. The Balloon Man was a hilariously silly villain who never seemed like much of a threat and contrasted awkwardly with the established tone of the series so far. We get some progression of the subplot of the upcoming gang war in the city as well as some slight hints at Barbara’s past and another lesson for the young Bruce Wayne but there’s nothing that elevates this episode too far above average.