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Gotham: The Balloonman – Episode 3

Jim Gordon’s Gotham gets its first taste of vigilante justice. A man goes around killing crooked businessmen and cops using a very circus-y method: flying them into the sky using giant balloons.

Recap

When the episode begins a man wearing a pig mask confronts a corrupt financier. He handcuffs the guy to a balloon and lets it carry the man off into the sky. Predictably, Gordon wants to go after the guy and Bullock considers that the guy got what he deserved. While the two bicker about it, another officer brings Selina Kyle back to Gordon so he can ask her questions about the Wayne murder. At the end of the last episode Selina told Gordon that she knew who killed the Waynes. They revisit the scene of the crime and Selina proves that she was there to see the killer. Unfortunately for Gordon, she also tricks him into going into a sewer so that she can escape and avoid going back into the juvenile care system.

Fish has also continued to escalate her war against Falcone. In the last episode Falcone beat down her boy toy Lazlo to send her a message. During this episode, it’s her turn to answer back. She starts off by leaking, or “suggesting”, to Montoya and Allen that Gordon was the one who killed Penguin. She goes even further and tells them that Falcone was the one who ordered Gordon to take Penguin out for snitching. Gordon’s already on the detective’s bad side and they waste no time in going to confront him to try to get some proof to corroborate Fish’s claims. Montoya also goes back to see Barbara to give her more bad news about her boyfriend. They have another awkward encounter referencing their former relationship before Montoya tries to kiss Barbara and she tells her to leave.

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Gordon dismisses the accusations out of hand to the detectives and to Barbara. The issue gets pushed under the rug when the vigilante, being called the Balloonman, kills a crooked cop. That gets the GCPD to actually take some interest in the case and Bullock gets to work. After tearing through some unseemly behavior, Bullock leads Gordon to a firm lead on the Balloonman by trying to track down the guy who stole the weather balloons that he’s using. There’s a montage of scenes of Bullock gathering information in unseemly ways before they end up at the suspects apartment. Arresting him isn’t easy as Bullock has to also go through the guy’s Amazonian girlfriend. They get the girl and Bullock caps off the adventure by showing that he’s not above hitting a woman (I’m a little amazed that they put this scene in).

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It’s pointed out to the two detectives that weather balloons don’t just disappear. Eventually, they pop and fall back to earth. At the same time, the earlier victims start to fall back to earth with one killing a random woman. The last victim is also found to be a corrupt priest. Gordon and Bullock do eventually get to the Balloonman after he’s released his 3rd victim. The vigilante recognizes Gordon as the same guy who broke up the child trafficking ring. He appeals to Gordon on the grounds that the people he punished would’ve never been punished by the corrupt system in Gotham. Gordon doesn’t go for it and he and Bullock are able to take the guy down without killing him. When he’s being taken away the Balloonman tells Gordon that there will be others coming who feel the need to fix things just like he did.

At Wayne Manor, Alfred is still trying to find a way to get through to Bruce. The method of the day seems to be a sword fight with canes. The swashbuckling breaks the ice enough for Alfred to find out what’s hand the boy so distracted. He sees that Bruce has gotten the police files about the murder of his parents. Bruce isn’t convinced that Gordon will be able to find the man that killed his parents and wants to try to take matters into his own hands. In Alfred’s words, he’s becoming a detective. Alfred urges him to let Gordon handle it and, later, Bruce sees that Gordon did end up apprehending the vigilante. Still, his parents’ murder is still a long way from being solved.

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Falcone pays another visit to Fish. Other than pointing the detectives toward Gordon, she also had a lover of Falcone’s targeted (and her own disposed of). The exchange between them is short but Falcone lets her know that the people responsible for the attack will pay. They also talk about Arkham asylum, which is mentioned a few times during the episode. It seems like Falcone has some kind of plan that involves the reopening of the asylum. Meanwhile, Penguin has returned to Gotham. After a montage of shots that remind us that Gotham is a terrible place we see him start to try to re-establish a place in the city. He ends up killing a guy who recognizes him as Fish’s old servant and using his money to get along. After that he gets a job at a restaurant. Of course, before he can get the job he has to kill (or at least rob) a current employee so he can take his shoes. It turns out that the Penguin’s new place of employment is another mob hangout. He overhears some mobsters talking about Falcone and Arkham but keeps his head down and pretends that he didn’t hear anything. At the end of the episode, he shows up at Barbara and Gordon’s apartment wearing a suit, much to Gordon’s surprise.

Commentary

This episode feels like it’s sole purpose is to set up the canvas for a Gotham city run by vigilantes. Hopefully, that means that there will be more of them as the show continues. I say “hopefully” because if there aren’t then this is just more setting up for a Batman that we’re just not gonna see on this show (unless it runs for a decade or so). I do understand what they were going for. It’s showing lots of first reactions to vigilante justice. The show lets us know that Gordon doesn’t approve of it, but that he views the existence and acceptance of vigilantes as a sign that Gotham is rotting and in danger. Bruce sees the same vigilante and determines that his actions were good, but that killing still makes him a criminal. Of course, that’s a completely arbitrary distinction since being a vigilante, by definition, makes you a criminal anyway. Still, I suppose I shouldn’t expect solid logic from a pre-teen Batman.

Overall, I’m afraid the show is trying to do too many things. Already it’s established these plot lines:

  1. The rise of the Penguin
  2. The hunt for the Wayne family killer
  3. Bruce Wayne’s recovery and development
  4. The mob war between Fish and Falcone
  5. Gordon’s family ties to Falcone
  6. Barbara and Montoya’s relationship
  7. Arkham Asylum

All of that combined with highlighting the corruption of Gotham, continuing to drop comic book references and Easter eggs, and dealing with whatever actual criminal Gordon and Bullock are hunting down each week makes for a really full plate. The show’s only 40-something minutes long and that’s a lot to try to cram in an episode. Still, it doesn’t seem like it’ll stop them from trying. To this point, the Penguin has been the most promising looking story arc followed by Gordon’s week to week crimes. Fish and Falcone feel like they’re getting in the way more than anything at this point. I’m just hoping that some of these things can be left out week to week so that the show can focus on one or two of them at a time.

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