TV REVIEW: Gotham 1.03 “The Balloonman”

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It was bound to happen sooner or later; the first dud of the season for Gotham. That’s the best possible way one could describe episode three, “The Balloonman”, an episode that flips the shows central conceit for the worse. Episode two finds the show admirably straying from the supervillian-of-the-week formula set with the first two episodes, opting instead to chronicle the tale of Gotham’s first vigilante. Yes, father, I shall become a BALLOON. I promise I will try to make this quick. I don’t want to think about it any more than you do.

The episode opens with Cobblepot and his ridiculous double popped collars, stepping off the bus back into his beloved Gotham. Director Dermott Downs and writer, Gilmore Girls alum, John Stephens set the tone of the episode right off the bat and that tone is absolutely banana pants. Apparently during any morning in Gotham there are four felonies happening simultaneously, while a beat cop shakes down a hot dog vendor and jauntily going about his day. Cobblepot breathes deep the acrid air of the city and wistfully sighs, “Home”, right before he has to kill a random hood who instantly recognizes him, despite his adorable chunky sweater. Obviously, that’s a lot to parse if you haven’t seen it and are just reading about it, but even that paltry paragraph isn’t enough to cover just how crazy this opening sequence is. And it never lets up.

The rest of the cold open is dedicated to the titular Balloonman as he stalks a recent Madoff like fatcat who recently escaped jail time. If you guessed that he stalks his prey disguised like a children’s balloon salesman, congratulations, and prepare for your No-Prize. You just wrote an episode of Gotham. However ludicrous this episode’s heavy is, and it IS really nutty, it does allow the production designers two choice bits of fan service. In his introduction, he is wearing a mask that looks eerily similar to Professor Pyg’s and later in the episode, as he claims another victim, he is dressed almost exactly like pulp hero, The Shadow. If “The Balloonman” was some sort of dry run for the writers introducing the Grey Ghost in Gotham, then this episode would have been worth it, but until then, it is still rubbish.

While the script for “The Balloonman” is a mish-mash of tone deaf speechifying and more than a few unintentional laughs, the cast still seems game, which is good to see. Robin Lord Taylor is really growing on me as his Cobblepot scratches and claws his way back into Gotham looking and acting like a demented chess nerd. Donal Logue is also charming me still despite the writers intention of making Bullock an unrepentant garbage person. The Bullock that I know and love wouldn’t punch a woman after she surrendered, even if she did kick his ass for a solid five minutes before hand. He would, however, make puns after sending someone soaring into the sky with a weather balloon. I really hoping against hope that the writers pull up from that skid with his characters before the season ends, because I can’t take a Bullock that is just so awful all the time, instead of the disgraced hero that I’ve known for years. Ben McKenzie is also committing to his grimace and hurriedness throughout. He even gets a suit up scene and a cute bit with Selina, so at least there is that. Newcomer David Zayas, formerly of Dexter, also seems ready to join in the scenery chewing as he grins and preens as Sal Maroni. As I said last week, Gotham’s strength will always be in its casting and I am a sucker for great character actors.

My affinity for character actors, however, couldn’t distract from the troublesome stuff that the show has Barbara doing throughout this episode. She only appears in three scenes in “The Balloonman” and in two of them she isn’t wearing any pants. The third doesn’t count becuase she is wearing a quite nice dress, so I will let that slide, but scenes one and two, she wearing a very short and slouchy sleep shirt and a hooded bathrobe, which is also way to short that it couldn’t possibly keep you dry at all. I get it, Erin Richards is an very attractive woman, but you hired her for more than just a cheesecake show every week. This does though lead to one of the more interesting bits in the episode; another confrontation between Montoya and Barbara. From the very start, I knew that Victoria Cartagena’s Montoya would be the most interesting part of the show, no matter how goofily bad things got, and like clockwork, every time she is on screen, I pay attention. While I could use a bit less jilted lover junk from the character’s arc, I still love that Gotham’s Montoya seems to keep in line with the Montoya I love from the comics. I just wish Barbara would buy some pants.

Honestly, I could go on about how adorable Sean Pertwee is in this episode or how we see yet ANOTHER rousting montage of Bullock and Gordon shaking down informants OR how goofy it is that Bruce Wayne, as a child, can just procure crime scene photos of his own parent’s murder, but I’ve already devoted enough words to this truly bad episode. While “The Balloonman” is way too early in the season to declare Gotham sunk, it is a huge down turn from the quality of the pilot and the manic nature of episode two. But enough about what I think. We are three weeks into Gotham and we want to know what you think? What do you think the strengths and weaknesses of the show so far and is there anything that you have notice that we may have missed in these write ups? Drop us an e-mail or hit up either our Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr to join in the conversation.

Coming next week, The Gordon and Cobblepot Connection!

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