“The Balloonman” is an interesting episode, even if it doesn’t feature the action-packed punches I expected from the previews. The opening shot is beautiful. It features stunning cinematography that carries over throughout the episode. Director Dermott Downs and DP Tom Yatsko’s composition exposes the beauty Gotham while highlighting the crime and decay of the city.
Downs and Yatsko treat us to a mesmerizing establishing shot that’s eerily reminiscent of New York; it stands in direct contrast to the Chicago-like feeling I got in the first episode. The shot then cuts to a bus stop, and finally rests on a close-up on a bus door. They open, and none other than Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) himself walks off. It was a refreshing change not opening with “the crime of the week” in this episode. It shook up our expectations and created something of a change of pace, even if we did eventually get our set-up scene shortly thereafter.
Cobblepot’s return to Gotham didn’t have the gravitas I expected. He’s keeping his head down for now, making calculated moves as he quietly networks with all the right people. It’s clear Cobblepot is gearing up for something big. I’m not sure what this is just yet, but I’m certainly waiting with heated anticipation.
This week’s episode, “The Balloonman,” solidified Gotham‘s standing as one of the best new shows on TV this fall. The episode was smartly written and stunning to watch. However, the strength of “The Balloonman” really comes from its innovative foreshadowing. Heller is a master at smoothly navigating multiple story lines within a single episode. He presents with a lot of information about its characters, and yet the show never feels overwhelming.
Newcomer Balloonman (Dan Bakkedahl) is a vigilante who sets up more familiar aspects of the Batman myhtos. First, his presence gives young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) a glimpse at what a vigilante might achieve, as well as the potential they have to change Gotham. Second, it establishes Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) less-than-positive feelings toward people who take the law in their own hands. It’s a great example of how Heller’s smaller plots feature into a bigger picture. The simple introduction of a new character was enough to really push forward Bruce and Gordon’s evolution as characters.
In the beginning, Gordon’s partnership with Bullock (Donal Logue) appeared to be a major source of conflict. With Gordon’s steadfast moral compass and Bullock’s willingness to bend the law, the detectives seemed doomed to never get along. In “The Balloonman,” we can already see Jim rubbing off on Bullock.
While he’s not an entirely new man, it is evident that Gordon’s influence is shaping Bullock into a better person. It also gives us a good source of humor. Jim’s face whenever Bullock does something ethically questionable is always hysterical.
The admiration I once felt for Fish Mooney in previous episode is dwindling after the “The Ballonman.” What first appeared to be a cool, new and original villain is crumbling under its own weight; Pinkett-Smith’s acting is verging on overdone as she indulges cliché.
Mooney is starting to feel more predictable than the wildcard to whom we were first introduced. I’m hoping she returns to her older more mysterious ways soon. If this keeps up, I think Gotham could function perfectly fine without her – and might it be better for it.
Mediocre performances aside, the writing for Gotham remains clever and tight. The show features origin stories woven in with the procedural plotlines, a unique combination we haven’t really seen before. With each episode, it becomes clearer how Gotham‘s overarching narrative is going to shake out. I commend creator, executive producer and writer Bruno Heller for trying something new.
Gotham‘s strength is in its endings. As mentioned in my last review, cliffhangers can be a great way to guarantee viewership for the following week. Still, over reliance on this technique can feel lazy and exhausting. There is an inevitability that Gotham – sprawling as it is – will never tie up its storylines completely in just one episode. But I hope Heller and Co. offer more closure soon, or else their show may lose steam.
Judging from the previews, next week’s “Arkham” looks pretty action-packed. Of course, I thought the same of “The Balloonman,” and that absolutely wasn’t the case. This suggests the editing of the previews does not accurately represent the show. Nevertheless, after rumblings and murmurs about Arkham from the characters we’ve met so far, I’m excited see Heller’s imagining of such a classic comic book setting.