Gotham: 103 “The Balloonman” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
Gotham’s third episode picks up right where its predecessor left off with the events of last week having profound yet indirect effect on proceedings this time out. Once again the show adopts a story of the week approach whilst still advancing the stories of each of the characters and even manages to add some exciting new faces to the mix.
The case this week is that of the “The Balloonman”, a vigilante killer who attacks his victims in a rather unique manner which shows that not even the sky is the limit when it comes to creative ways to kill people on this show. Of the three victims we see, the first is presented as a rather unlikable man who actually makes you hate him despite having mere moments of screen time. The second is a character within the Gotham Police Department, whilst this works quite well and was necessary to prompt the police’s involvement in the case; I can’t help but feel they missed out here. Introducing a character for the purposes of killing them off later within the same episode does work, but it could have worked a lot better had the character been introduced in a previous episode. We have been presented with a very dangerous and corrupt city, yet so far none of the characters who have featured in several episodes have come to any real harm. Had they introduced said character in the opener they could have established a sense of threat and uncertainty which is still mostly absent.
The third and finale victim is also somewhat disappointing as we aren’t even introduced to the character and only learn about events through a television broadcast. Given that the first victim was handled so well I find this to be slightly lazy writing although I appreciate it may have been due to time constraints. In which case, what was the need for a third victim as it didn’t actually add anything to the story. Events transpire to a situation which put Bullock and Gordon in a tense standoff with the killer who reveals his motivations for his actions to be the events of last week, this adds a much needed sense of consistency to the universe.
Undoubtedly the highlight form the main strand is the impact it has on Bruce Wayne, we all know his future is that as the vigilante Batman, so one can’t help but wonder if events here contribute to inspiring that. We are also treated to some expansion to the relationship between Alfred and Bruce and I am now a lot more convinced by its dynamic than I was based on the first two episodes. You can almost see at this stage how both characters are going to develop. Hopefully the writers are able to surprise us in this regard.
There is some expansion on Gordon’s character too this week, mostly seen through his interactions with other. With Cat we see that he is willing to help those who need it, but is yet unsure of the world he finds himself in, so naturally doesn’t trust anyone. With Barbara we see a softer side to his character who exposes his vulnerabilities, something that the corrupt nature of the police force doesn’t allow the character to show there. Finally we see how he deals with the corruptions the lies he tells and how he covers himself, it’s obvious that he has changed from the man who we met two weeks ago, but crucially his moral code remains uncompromised (for now).
The mob storyline takes a back seat this week as very little actually happens on screen other than confrontations between the characters. The impacts of some of these conversations are touched upon and it is foreshadowed that there will be consequences. The Penguin features heavily again and once more he steals the show, the unhinged nature to his characters makes him so unpredictable that every scene starring him becomes incredibly tense. Late in the episode he has a chance meeting with a new character that is quickly established as a rival to Falcone. The mob storyline is really shaping up to be fascinating, so I really hope they can deliver in that respect.
Whilst the narrative takes us both sky high and down to the sewers, the episode finds itself somewhere in the middle. As with previous weeks it is highly entertaining and I find I’m highly invested in certain characters already. However it pains me to say that at the moment it is nothing special, it’s almost as if the writers are afraid to shift into top gear just yet. Whilst this is fine for the start, the danger is that viewers will become disinterested and switch off from the series. Thankfully the episode ends on a strong cliff hanger which will undoubtedly bring the audience back for more. Let’s hope it’s a good one!