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REVIEW: Gotham 1×03 “The Balloonman”

Gotham is now moving forward, becoming more engaging than the previous episodes. Though…at the same time it seems to be moving backwards.

Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) and Bullock (played by Donal Logue) investigate the murders of two (corrupt) high profile men, while Montoya and Allen investigate Gordon’s (alleged) murder of the Penguin. Meanwhile the not-dead Penguin continues to murder people until he gets a job working for Salvatore “The Boss” Maroni (played by David Zayas, a.k.a. Sergeant Batista from Dexter), and Fish Mooney continues to take up valuable screen time.

I don’t have anything against Jada Pinkett Smith’s presence in Gotham; her performance has been great throughout all three episodes. I just don’t care that much about the subplot that has been going on between her character and Falcone. I am far more interested in Gordon and Bullock, as well as Cobblepot.

Robin Lord Taylor’s Cobblepot has been consistently fun to watch, even though some scenes (that happen to involve him) have been lacking. The scenes in which he murders people (and there are quite a bit of them already) seem too cartoony. Every time he kills someone the audio seems to really play up the fact that it is a dramatic act. The scenes would be much more powerful if they used less of those sound effects, thereby not treating the action as super-dramatic and allowing it to feel real.

One of the better parts of the episode was the introduction of Sal Maroni. Though he has not done much yet he has already made an impact. There is a calmness and coolness to him that nicely contrasts against the hot-tempered nature of Fish Mooney. Though, undoubtedly, I am excited to see him because of his role on Dexter.

This episode has succeeded in providing one thing that the previous installments have lacked, which is heart. Barbara Kean, played by Erin Richards, has her first memorable scene in this episode. She knows that Gotham city is corrupt (but not to the extent that it is) and has been having doubts about her husband ever since Montoya, played by Victoria Cartagena, told her that he was a murderer. The heart of the scene works two ways: Barbara finally decides to put her trust into James, instead of Montoya, only when Gordon tells her that he is not sure how a city like Gotham can be cleaned up when it’s own citizens were rooting for the vigilante killer since they believed that the cops were too corrupt to do their jobs. It is a nice scene that shows just how much faith Barbara has in him, while showing how much he cares about his duty. It is also nice to see the point of view of the citizens of Gotham throughout the episode instead of simply being told about them. It makes it seem like an actual city.

I think that having Gordon, a character with a strong moral code, feels refreshing. The opposite used to be the issue, that heroes greatly outnumbered antiheroes, but it seems that over time those switched places. I wonder if anyone will (wrongly) critique Gordon as two-dimensional by believing that his strong values make him less of a character. The way he forces Harvey to choose between doing things his way and doing them “by the book” was a good moment for their characters. I wish the show focused a little more on James.

The killer, the Balloonman (played by Dan Bakkedahl), is a vigilante that kills corrupt public figures (so pretty much anyone in Gotham) by handcuffing them to hot air balloons. This comes off as cartoony when contrasted against the gritty city that the show presents. Also, a balloon of that size would not be able to lift a full grown man. I know that Gordon and Bullock are just detectives but it seems way too silly that they don’t understand that balloons eventually pop. Attaching people to balloons to kill them is just impractical. Later in the episode the Balloonman holds Harvey hostage at gunpoint. As in with a gun. As in a weapon that can kill much more easily than hot air balloons. I guess it could be argued that he was using the hot air balloons as a means of making a name for himself, but the same could be said if he just chose to shoot his victims instead.

The main problem that the series faces so far is that it doesn’t seem to know what it is just yet. The tone often changes from scene to scene. The city is presented as gritty and corrupt, yet often scenes comes off as goofy. Gotham will likely keep a large audience, but the show would improve if it were to embrace it’s darker elements.

FINAL GRADE: B-

How do you feel about the tone of the show so far? Do you feel that the one-shot villains have been too goofy? What would you do you change the show, or do you enjoy it as is? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Nick Doblovosky