Gotham Season 1 Review “The Balloonman”

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In the latest episode of “Gotham,” things took a turn for the decidedly surreal in the first episode to embrace some of the more cartoonish elements of the Batman universe, in “The Balloonman.” The episode revolved around the titular character, a villain with a penchant for cuffing people he saw as crooked to a massive weather balloon and then proceeding to launch them into the sky. Later on, the balloons would collapse sending the victims plummeting to earth- and sometimes into other people! Needless to say, it was all a little cray-cray, but then we are talking about a fictional land inhabited by the likes of the Penguin, Joker and Catwoman and so on.

Still, before now, the show had bypassed the wackiness of the original Batman series from the 60’s, in favor of a much more gritty tone in keeping with Christopher Nolan’s take on the Bat-verse. Not that this was truly cartoonish exactly- after all, at one point, they had to literally shovel some remains of the Balloon Man’s victims off the street: “ I didn’t know they made shovels that big,” mused Bullock- but come on, there were people being carried off by ginormous balloons. That’s pretty silly no matter what your standards are for such things.

That said, I didn’t really mind it that much. If anything, the show could stand a little more humor, and this certainly lent itself to it, without completely throwing the show’s tone into full disarray. People were still being killed, and there was some undeniably nasty stuff going on, i.e. Lt. Cranston’s using a gift statue he dubbed “O’Brian” to pummel suspects in the interrogation room, or Penguin killing people left and right, for no good reason, really.

Yet there was an undeniable dark humor to these things, too, i.e. Cranston (James Colby) barely walking in the room with a perp before using said statue as screams rang out, or Penguin killing a dishwasher for his shoes- and a job. Oh, it’s sick humor, to be sure, but its humor nonetheless. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does keep the show from being unremittingly dark, so there’s that.

Other touches are also welcome, such as jealous ex-lover Renee Montoya- and fellow former drug abuser- trying to turn Barbara against Gordon. Granted, she got some compromised info from Fish that could have been true, but she should still know better, and sneaking into someone’s house, even an ex- hell, especially an ex- isn’t exactly admirable behavior for a cop, least of all one trying to come on all high and mighty.

Seems to me it was Barbara who did the right thing distancing herself from Renee, not the other way around. Renee is a total creeper, but she’s a fascinating one, and it definitely makes you want to know more about her and Barbara’s former relationship. (It was also gutsy for the show to have Barbara smoking weed in an early prime time slot- although, granted, this is FOX we’re talking about.)

I also liked that Barbara was savvy enough not to take the bait and doubt Gordon, choosing instead to think the best of him, as well she should, given that he’s one of the few non-corrupt people in Gotham, and that certainly includes most of the people in positions of authority in the city.

Indeed, that was the Balloonman’s raison d’être, as it were. When Gordon asked him who his next intended target was if they hadn’t caught him, he said it didn’t really matter, because nearly everyone in Gotham is compromised in some way, save the children, the abduction of which last week was what set him off in the first place. That’s pretty sad- and not untrue, if what we’ve seen is any indication.

It does indeed seems as if nearly every adult in Gotham is into something dirty, whether it be Mob-related, gambling, hooking, taking bribes, etc. It’s definitely not the ideal place to live, that’s for sure. You could practically see the wheels turning behind young Bruce Wayne’s eyes as that reporter mused how long it would be before another vigilante arose to take the Balloonman’s place.

All in all, this was probably the episode that came closest to being ridiculous on the whole, but somehow managed not to completely cross that line, either- no mean feat when your main villain’s weapon of choice is a freaking balloon. But that borderline silliness is part of the Bat-verse, too, so I can deal with that, so long as it doesn’t venture into Schumacher territory, a la the “Batman & Robin” movie. If I see any bat-codpieces, I’m so out. Or hear any puns on the level of Ah-nuld’s Mr. Freeze, for that matter. So far, “Gotham” has resisted the urge to go there, and bless them for it. So far, so good, guys- keep up the good work.

What did you think of “Gotham” this week? Did you find the Balloonman silly, too- or not silly enough? Did his method of execution take you out of things, or did it feel right to you? How about the overall tone of the show: too dark, or not dark enough? What villain are you most looking forward to? (Myself, I think it’s high time we had a Harley Quinn in the onscreen Bat-verse.) Which one do you hope they steer clear of? (I could do without the Egghead, personally- no offense to Vincent Price, who I normally love.) Do you like the direction the show has taken with things so far? Is there something they’re not doing that you wish they were? Sound off below and see you next week!