03 “The Balloonman” (Gotham season 1) [SPOILERS]


The one most remarkable thing about Gotham so far (What, all two episodes? -Ed) is that it feels like its own show, and not simply a Batman prequel.

Which is a pretty stupid thing to say, because it is, of course, a Batman prequel. But it is a decidedly different sort of beast to Batman in a number of ways. Most notably, as a pointed out in last week’s review, it has much more of a “crime/mystery” feel to it than certainly the Batman films have done.

In that way it harks back to the character’s origins as a 1930s detective, who wasn’t shy about killing people. There’s a joke in there somewhere about the Batman Gotham deserves…

This week’s episode centres around a serial killer by name of the Balloon Man, who kills people by handcuffing them to a weather balloon which carries them off into the upper atmosphere. He’s sort of a proto-Batman in that he targets the corrupt, but as someone points out, in Gotham that’s just about everyone. So Jim Gordon must balance hunting down the killer, at the same time as following leads into the Wayne’s murders. And Oswald Cobblepot makes his way back home to the city.

It was a smart move to put a vigilante killer in early on. For one thing, it serves as a reminder that we are watching something in the Batman mythos. For another, it puts Gordon’s morals in stark contrast to the world he is living in and the circles he is forced to move in. For a third — balloons? Okay, that’s pretty cool.

The main thrust of Gordon’s story this episode is the morality aspect. He is the odd one out both in the police department and Gotham as a whole. He is trying to track down the Waynes’ murderer — with Cat-girl’s help — but his own duty to the law won’t let him leave the balloon murders alone, even if, as Bullock believes, it was a public service.

This ties in with Barbara’s story. We’re clearly going to get bit by bit reveals of her history with major crimes detective Renee Montota — she has a key to Barbara’s apartment, apparently. And though Barbara ends the episode convinced of Gordon’s unflinching moral fibre, there is definitely a seed of doubt sown there.

But whilst Gordon is doing the heavy lifting of Gotham, it’s clear already that the wonderful sense of psychotic fun is going to be through Oswald Cobblepot. Arriving back in Gotham, Cobblepot skewers one of Fish Mooney’s men who recognises him, before getting a job in a restaurant kitchen. After, err, filleting nother worker for his shoes. It just so happens that the restaurant is frequented by gangster a rival Don to Falcone, who takes a shine to him.

The origin story here is fascinating. So far in the space of three episodes, Cobblepot has gone from Fish Mooney’s footman, to a left-for-dead snitch, and back on his way up the ladder on the opposite side. There’s something wonderful about the door of Barbara’s apartment opening to, and the look on Gordon’s face when he sees, Cobblepot standing there with that evil little grin of his.

I’m not usually a fan of crime shows, but the holistic sense of the world in which it is set adds — if not a believability, then a sense of interest beyond the basic whodunnit. When you mix up Jim Gordon’s “The city is sick” speech with Penguin’s constant prophetic insistences that chaos is coming, this is clearly part of an evolving world and an unfolding storyline. And there is a lot to enjoy in regards to both.

Closing thoughts:

  • Sorry, but that fall killed Gordon and the Balloon Man. They were pretty high, then just as Bullock shot the balloon the camera angle changed and they were suddenly lower. Nope. Sorry. Dead.
  • The Balloon Man is not based on a Batman villain. I don’t even need to look that up — this bloke would not have taken Batman more than five minutes to figure out and neutralise.
  • I really hope they figure out something more to do with Bruce Wayne and Alfred. I really like Sean Pertwee as the butler, but something more is going to have to happen with them than Bruce being depressed and Alfred trying to impart life lessons. It needs to fit in a bit more with the show, which it sort of hinted at at the end, with Bruce watching sympathetic news footage of the vigilante Balloon Man and starting to eat again.
  • No Edward Nygma this week.

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