Gotham Review: Episode 3, “The Balloonman”

Holy weather balloon, Batman! That was a good television episode!

In the tonal struggle between grittiness and camp on the new series on Fox it appears the camp side is winning out, to the benefit of all involved. The Balloonman gave us bigger performances, a more absurd storyline, and sharper and more saturated design. The sun even came out!

Somehow, the light of day even made the show’s drive make sure we are absolutely aware that Gotham is a crime-ridden and corrupt city more palatable. A cop who takes a bribe in a dark alleyway is cliché, but a cop who takes a bribe openly on a street corner at mid-day is telling.

Looks like it only took one whole episode for the Penguin to return “home.” Finally showing some real smarts, he’s attempting to cozy up to Falcone’s greatest rival, Sal Maroni, played by David Zayas. Something tells me this guy might factor into a major comic plot situation later this season. I don’t know. Call it a hunch. We also hear more rumblings about the plans for Arkam Asylum. I wonder how far off we are from getting a Scarecrow?

The late, but not lamented, Lazlo is definitely not Professor Pyg, but his costume made a cameo in the guise of the episode baddie, The Baloonman. This guy likes to play dress up, imitating The Shadow in his second attack. The fact that the victim’s name was Cranston was a nice easter egg for old school fans. This show knows how to reference well. Gotham’s denizens are finding it hard to hate a bad guy who goes after embezzlers, crooked cops, and kiddie diddlers, but as Gordon points out, vigilantism isn’t the way to solve the city’s problems. Wait…

It’s okay, though. Donal Logue’s Bullock gets a chance to show off some of his gritty, witty charm while trying to get intel from the street, and with it Gotham finally found its sense of humor. Logue’s style is a perfect model, and one I hope they continue to follow in the future. That, and the excellent use of the local news station for local color. Research tells me they snuck another reference in there to the animated Dark Knight Returns film. I’m still gonna be on the lookout for crooked landlord Harold.

The casting coups continue, beyond Zayas, with the “I know who that is, and his part I too small here, so he must be the bad guy” early appearance by Dan Bakkedahl, and genre character actor Clark Middleton in a small role as the weather balloon salesman. If they could only do the same with their stunt people

There are so many questions that this still new series will answer in the weeks to come that I will leave with only one for today. If all the balloons were going to fall, where did Danzer and the priest end up?

…Oh yeah! Bruce Wayne appeared too, and seems to have had a short term eating disorder to go with the cutting and death metal music. Can velvet coats and/or fringe be far behind for the soon-to-be caped crusader, or has he found his calling already? (okay two questions)

Joker Watch: (possible candidates updated each week)

  • Butch Gilzean
  • Crispus Allan (What a twist!)
  • Fish Mooney
  • Harold the landlord (why not?)*
  • Not yet seen

*That stand-up comic is looking less and less likely to be a recurring character, but with all these hints and references dropping, maybe this landlord guy should be in the mix. What do you think?

**Post script: I’ve heard a short summary Gotham panel at NYCC, and I’ll cover some of it next week after I see the video

***Post-post script: But seriously, listen to The Shadow at the link in the review. They hold up pretty well.

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