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'Gotham' Review (S1E3): The 'Balloonman' Cometh

Juggling multiple storylines while incorporating a central investigation is no easy feat and Gotham's 'Balloonman' mostly succeeds where last week's 'Selina Kyle' faltered a bit. With a vigilante on the loose Detectives Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock have to get along long enough to keep him from sending another (deserving?) victim off on a weather balloon. Yes, I said weather balloon. 

Verging on the campiness of the 1960's Adam West show, Gotham introduced its first crusader of justice who ties his victims to a balloon for crimes against society. A wealthy bilker of people's savings, a corrupt cop, a "diddling priest" were just the beginning. This served as its 'Crime of the Week' while all the other players in the underworld began to make their moves.

Oswald Cobblepot makes his way back to the crime ridden streets of Gotham and doesn't waste much time before getting stabby with someone who recognizes him. It’s become his M.O. because later it’s assumed his killing spree continues while procuring some work-appropriate shoes. Cobblepot aka The Penguin is a psychopath hell bent on revenge and making his mark on the underworld but hopefully he’ll find more clever ways to get ahead than just killing everybody. 

Robin Lord Taylor has been a breakout star with his portrayal of Cobblepot but let’s hope the writers allow him to continue becoming more dynamic that just a thoughtless killer. He gets the attention of mob boss Sal Maroni (David Zayas) and it seems Penguin has placed himself in a good position to battle Carmine Falcone and Fish Mooney.

Mooney apparently never leaves her club and like, Taylor, Jada Pinkett Smith shines with smoldering calm but she too could benefit with broader development. She has grown weary during this passive-aggressive spat with Falcone and she orders her boy toy to be disposed of as well as Falcone’s girlfriend be paid a visit. Again, the best reasons to watch the show has been the villains, primarily Mooney and Penguin, but if they become caricatures then they’ll be less convincing.

Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor young Bruce and Alfred have some laughs fencing around. The levity is a welcomed sight in a mostly super serious sometimes overwrought drama. Although, the chemistry between them isn’t quite there yet it’s good to see Alfred playing surrogate father to the young boy. Bruce is still in mourning but he keeps an eye on the turmoil going on in the city his family helped build. The Balloonman is of particular interest as the vigilante has garnered more public support. 

Detectives Allen and Montoya suspect Jim Gordon was involved in the Penguin’s alleged murder (although they’ve failed to produce any evidence to back that assertion). Who needs evidence when you’re still obsessed with your ex-girlfriend who also happens to be Gordon’s fiancé. Barbara also never leaves her confines so that makes confronting her easy for Montoya. This time though Babs is fresh from the shower partaking of the weed which prompts Montoya to bring up their drug addled past. It's an interesting revelation that deserves some more screen time in a flashback or some further discussion. It's being parsed for time but producers could do the characters justice by exploring their past.

Ultimately, the Balloonman is brought to justice, and yes the premise is kind of silly but the execution was well done and shot beautifully. The direction actually gave the episode some more heft and legitimacy despite things like Gordon and Bullock realizing through a suspect that what goes up must come down somewhere. You know, like a person strapped to a balloon. 

Yet the lingering theme is that the city is getting worse. So much so that cops pick and choose which crimes they'll investigate rather than just profit from. A place where the gangsters have more of code than the people sworn to protect and uphold the law. It is the point of the pre-Batman Gotham that it is at its darkest and in need of a protector. The Balloonman for all intents and purposes is the first manifestation of the public's outcry for justice. It is something that the young Wayne takes notice of and no doubt helps shape his outlook. The thing is it's going to get far worse in Gotham. Maybe the arrival of Harvey Dent will help but we all know in the end the city will need saving. 

Check out scenes from next week's episode, "Arkham." 


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