TV Review | Gotham 1.03 ‘Balloonman’

1.03Original UK air date: 27th October 2014

**Spoilers Contained Below**

This week on Gotham…

Gordon and Bullock investigate a spate of vigilante murders. Named ‘The Balloonman’ by the media, the murderer targets those they deem to be corrupt citizens abusing their positions of power. Balloonman kills by strapping them to weather balloons and letting nature do the rest.

Elsewhere…

 – Fish arranges for Carmine Falcone’s comare Natalia to have an ‘accident’ in revenge for him having her lover Laszlo beaten the previous week.

 – Fish also manipulates Montoya and Allen into investigating Gordon for Cobblepot’s disappearance.

 – Montoya visits Barbara (who happens to be her ex-lover) to warn her about Gordon.

 – Cobblepot arrives back in Gotham and gets a job in a restaurant owned by crime lord Sal Maroni – a direct rival to Carmine Falcone.

The Verdict…

Things got a little better this week, with the pacing and overall flow on the episode improved upon. The ‘villain-of-the-week’ still didn’t get much time to develop, but the handling of his story meant that at least you knew he was the focus of the episode.

Dan Bakkedahl plays antagonist David Lamond, a child services support worker tasked with overseeing the homeless children featured in ‘Selina Kyle’. As we already know, Mayor Aubrey James has decided that those that aren’t easy to be re-homed will be sent ‘upstate’ (effectively, prison). Appalled at this, Lamond snaps and goes on a mission to rid the streets of Gotham of all corrupt prominent citizens (good luck with that!). While most of his appearances in the episode are restricted to his crimes, Lamond does have a nice (albeit brief) crazed speech in the final confrontation with Gordon and Bullock.

Speaking of Bullock, I wish the producers would make up their mind on his character traits/personality. Even if we ignore the changes from the comic, they can’t seem to decide exactly how bent he is. In episode one, he was more than prepared to murder Gordon if he had to. Come episode three, whilst grumpy towards Gordon, the two definitely have more of a rapport. It could simply be that the producers are indeed trying to (ever so) slowly soften him. If that’s the case, fair enough – but they could certainly go about it in more subtle ways. He did get a fun montage where he bribes prostitutes and roughs up a low end drug dealer when looking for information, before getting a free sandwich from a vendor – it very much felt like this was ‘a day in the lift of Harvey Bullock’, and helped to build a little character.

Also getting a little extra time were our Major Crimes Unit duo, particularly Montoya. After interviewing Fish Mooney, they are directed to visit Gordon. Confronting Gordon so swiftly about Cobblepot (and in such a blustery way) seemed quite a rash move – if Gordon was guilty then they’ve just tipped him off that they are on to him. However, it was nice that they crossed paths, hopefully setting into play a more interesting story strand as they try and find dirt on him.

What was less impressive was the decision by the writers to have Montoya be an ex of Barbara’s – it seemed forced, and there was little chemistry between the two of them. Incredulity towards this aside, it was nice to see Barbara not only defend Gordon but, in a scene with him later, help him reinforce his belief in himself. I’m not yet sold on Erin Richards, but at least she is getting a bit of time to try and flesh out the Barbara character.

One character that is getting fleshed out plenty is our old favourite, Oswald Cobblepot. Unable to stay away from the city he loves (the gleeful response he has to witnessing the collage of crimes happening as he alights the bus is brilliant), he returns and seeks employment in a local restaurant (by murdering one of the employees of course!). It turns out he has ended up in a place run by mob boss Sal Maroni – a direct rival to Carmine Faclone and Fish Mooney. Maroni (Dexter’s David Zayas) is introduced briefly, and already seems to have great potential. Oswald may be spending the next few episodes under Maroni’s wing, working his way up within the empire; more scenes with Lord and Zayas can only be a good thing! The final surprise of the of Oswald appearing on Gordon’s doorstep as the credits hit was also a nice touch, and will no doubt will be where episode four picks up.

Whereas Cobbleplot is fast becoming the star of the show, little is being done to alleviate the fear that Alfred and Bruce are being shoehorned in to the show, simply because of who they are. Aside from a short stick fighting sequence that allows Alfred to show some genuine affection for the boy, the scenes they inhabit do tend to plod along. We get a scene where Bruce sees a news reporter asking who will clean up the city now that the Balloonman has been taken down – an obvious nod to his future. The thing is, whilst it makes sense to show the various events that influence Bruce over the years into him making his decision to don the cowl, they may be doing too much, too fast. Batman doesn’t appear for years, so it makes you wonder whether having another event highlighted so soon after his parents’ death could be overkill.

Overall, Gotham remains a flawed but fun show that has the potential to become something more. Oswald is still the star, and Bruce and Alfred are still a bit of a drag, but things are looking up. I’m not quite prepared to improve the show’s score, but we’re getting close – hopefully the upcoming Arkham centric arc will help elevate the show to the next level.

3/5

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