Monday, October 6, 2014

REVIEW: 'Gotham' - A Vigilante Strikes, Jim Is Questioned by Allen & Montaya and Penguin Gets a New Job in 'The Balloonman'

FOX's Gotham - Episode 1.03 "The Balloonman"

Detectives Gordon and Bullock track down a vigilante who is killing corrupt Gotham citizens by attaching them to weather balloons. Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot returns to Gotham and gets a new job close to an influential figure in the underworld.

"The Balloonman" showcases a form of vigilante justice being served on the streets of Gotham without said vigilante being Batman. And yet, all the emotional and character traits of the caped crusader are apparent throughout the hour. The only difference is that Dan Bakkedahl's Balloonman actually kills the corrupt city officials destroying the city. It's a very simple story - and an entertaining one too as we watch the Balloonman snag three victims before Gordon and Bullock catch him. But it's also a story that is very much of the ideals of the Batman universe. Jim is slowly coming to realize just how corrupt everyone who holds power in this city actually is. Meanwhile, young Bruce follows along with this story but he astutely notes that "killing criminals made him one too." It's a very effective hour for the future landscape all of these characters will one day find themselves in. But it also works incredibly well as the third episode of their shared origin story.

Harvey is completely supportive of this vigilante justice until it involves a corrupt cop as the latest victim. He never did care for the guy. But after his death, the police department is willing to take this vigilante seriously. That's where he differs from Jim. All along Jim has been pursuing this case undeterred by the fact that the Balloonman is taking out bad guys. He is killing people and that act needs to be punished. It's that plain and simple for Jim while the city around him needed some motivation after the fact in order to fall into that mindset as well.

The corrupt landscape of Gotham is changing though. The criminals have grown more erratic and daring following the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Penguin was able to see this sizable shift coming. And now, he's positioning himself for the upheaval to come. He gets a job working as a dishwasher at the restaurant owned by Italian crime boss Maroni - played by Dexter alum David Zayas - and ends the episode playing a visit to Jim and Barbara. That's very perilous waters he is swimming in. He's a very capable criminal. He's able to kill a member of Fish's crew before he could turn him over to her. Then he just walks across the street and gets a tuna sandwich. It's all very dangerous for him and yet he has a very cool head on his shoulders. That's interesting especially when it comes to thinking about what he could possibly be up to next.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Gotham" was written by John Stephens and directed by Dermott Downs.
  • Fish and Falcone continue to have a great dynamic where they are allies and yet both are aware that the other is lying to their face. Moreover, she got Lazlo and Falcone's girl killed to forge ahead with her plan to take over as the boss of organized crime in Gotham.
  • Barbara and Montoya both used to be drug addicts. Their past history still doesn't quite interest me. I would much rather see Barbara and her relationship with Jim.
  • I also didn't really care for the "Bruce decides to stop eating" subplot. It didn't seem completely necessary other than the final reveal that he'll need strength if he ever wants to make a difference in this world.
  • Jim still doesn't know who killed the Waynes despite last week's cliffhanger with Selina telling him she knows who did it. It's a way to stretch out this plot for sure. And yet, it makes the next interaction between those two characters more anticipated - which I guess is a good way to keep Selina a vital part of this narrative.
  • I also appreciate the episode connective-ness. The Balloonman acts because of the way the Mayor treating the homeless children in the last episode. That means there's at least some thought going into the ongoing narrative - and things aren't just episodic plots.
  • But did Jim and Harvey really not known that the weather balloons will pop eventually? That just seems like common sense.