Gotham: The Balloonman (1×03)
Synopsis: A vigilante in Gotham City decides to go around tying bad guys – including a dirty cop – to weather balloons. Meanwhile word of Jim’s supposed murder of Oswald Cobblepott has gotten around and Montoya and Allen start to come down on him and his hard. But Cobblepott isn’t dead – he’s back in Gotham with plans bigger than anyone could have imagined.
This was an excellent example of what Gotham can and should be going forward. The case of the week was interesting, we checked in with key figuress Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle just enough without getting bogged down by too many other cameo characters, and Oswald Cobblepott’s rise to power remains one of the most compelling parts of the series. Meanwhile Jim starts to feel the pressure of the mounting challenges presented by Gotham on both his professional and personal life. Where the first episode felt like Gotham was going to try too hard and the second episode felt like it was still trying to find it’s footing this third episode – hilariously named Balloonman – is our first real glimpse as the kind of show this could be.
The titular Balloonman is – as far as I know – a character designed for the show and not taken out of the comics though his trademark style would work just as well on the page. The guy goes around finding bad people in Gotham and quickly manages to latch them on to a weather balloon that then launches them into the atmosphere only for them to crash back down to Earth some time later (occasionally on innocent, unsuspecting bystanders). Jim and Bullock are put on the case which – when it was just a corrupt businessman – wasn’t a high priority. But then the next victim is a cop and the third one is a priest.
In the midst of all this, Jim is working on his own investigation into the the Waynes’ murder. He springs Selina Kyle from juvie for a bit so she can prove to him what she saw and where she was that night. But in true Selina fashion she gets one over on him and takes off back into the streets again. Interestingly enough, the Selina scenes – though brief – tie into the main storyline. Jim finds his name on something one of the victims has and realizes that the killer is none other than the social worker that dropped off Selina.
Crazy, right? The guy sure is. But you can’t blame the guy for getting fed up with what’s going on in Gotham. He explains to Jim that it doesn’t matter who he goes after – so many people in Gotham are corrupt that he has an unending number of possible victims to his vigilante justice. (Unfortunately he was limited to just four stolen weather balloons.)
The people and the news stations actually rallied around the Balloonman because at least he was doing something. And while his name and methods seem ridiculous, the show tells us that he may have had a bigger impact on the history of Gotham than anyone could have dreamed. Because Bruce Wayne at the very least takes away one important lesson from the Balloonman: he killed people and that made him no better than any other criminal.
I wasn’t expecting that connection but I loved it. Batman’s refusal to kill has been a major part of his character for a long time. Balloonman might just have been the start of that.
I mean, I guess it’s good Bruce is getting his inspiration some place. Most of his scenes this episode were him brooding, Alfred trying to get him to eat instead of refusing food, and then him trying to defend looking over his parents’ murder scene photos. The only moment of levity he gets is Alfred coercing him into a sword fight and even that he does his best to try and make it seem like he hates. It was nice to see just Bruce and Alfred. I mean, poor Alfred is in a really weird position because he’s halfway between father and staff right now. And neither of them seem to get it.
The only person who seems to get Gotham at all is Cobblepott. Sure we see a bit of Fish and Falcone. Fish orders a hit on Falcone’s pretty arm candy lady and disfigures her in retaliation for her boy toy getting beaten last episode. Of course, then she has him taken out, too, because he’s so meek after that. But when it comes to the criminal underground the real star of this show is Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepott. Returning to Gotham against Jim’s direct orders, he murders to keep his return secret and then murders again to get himself a spot washing dishes in a mob restaurant. This kid knows how to put himself in the right place to meet the right people and he is definitely in the right place. In just days he gets on the good side of Marconi. Things are only looking up for him.
Not so much Jim, though. During all his investigating he gets confronted by Montoya and Allen who now know that word on the street is that Jim killed Cobblepott. Jim brushes them off but Montoya goes to Barbara again. Except this time he creepily uses her old key to get into the apartment and then they awkwardly talk about how Montoya seriously screwed Barbara over, lied to her, and I guess got her into drugs or something for a while. (Basically it was awkward.) Barbara has faith in Jim which is nice to see. They have a really emotional (if short) heart-t0-heart and it almost looks like Ben McKenzie is going to cry before, you know, Cobblepott knows on the door and ruins everything.
Way to cock block a guy, Penguin.
You know, weirdly enough, though I was hella skeptical about this show in the beginning it’s kind of become one of my favorite series on television right now. I can’t wait for next episode in particular. It looks so intense. Though, to be fair, the trailers for each new episode always make me think that. They really know how to get you pumped up.