One of the things I mentioned in my review of the previous episode of Gotham, “Selina Kyle”, is the rampant corruption present in every single inch of Gotham city. I also mentioned how Gordon’s mission to clean the city of corruption was a pipe dream; even more impossible than attempting to clean a cow pen with a toothbrush and a shot glass of water, especially considering he’s seemingly on his own. Luckily for Gordon he’s not the only one who can’t stand to let the city slowly eat itself from the inside. Not so lucky, however, that this new vigilante is taking it upon himself to kill off the crooked by attaching them to weather balloons instead of handing them over to the law. Over the course of this episode, Gordon finds himself questioning his own beliefs. Is he doing the right thing? Is he right in trying to stop the Balloonman? Is the law system really just?
This inner conflict made for quite the interesting episode. Before Gordon can do anything to help Gotham, he needs to decide just whose side he is on. He might seem like he’s on the side of the people, fighting for justice and fairness yet if that’s the case, why is he trying to arrest the Balloonman? The villain/vigilante himself is nothing special really. He isn’t a mastermind. Just an ordinary citizen taking the law into his own hands. But that’s what makes him such a good antagonist for Jim. Like Gordon, he is tired of the crooked deeds committed by the authorities and wants to do something about it. Unlike Jim, he’s completely fine with getting his hands dirty to do so and is the closest thing the people have to a hero… well, at least until Batman. I was surprised by just how intriguing he proved to be despite being such a simple character. I guess that’s a testament to the steadily-improving writing these episodes have.
Gordon’s beliefs and morals are not the only ones brought into question however. His experienced partner, Harvey Bullock has what Jim perceives as skewed morals and makes a point of pointing it out, to the audience as much as Bullock. When he hears about the Balloonman’s first kill, a filthy, corrupt politician caught trying to escape the city, Harvey is praising him like a hero. Yet when his next target, an equally corrupt and nasty lieutenant in the police force is sent sky high, Bullock wants the Balloonman’s head on a pike. It’s a great example of how someone’s place and status in society can alter our view of others, another aspect of this episode I enjoyed.
The secondary story of this episode focused on my favourite current and future villain in this series currently, Penguin or Oswald Cobblepot. We see him returning to Gotham after a short absence to manically kill a few more people, one of them for their shoes so he can get a job in a restaurant. Now that I think of it, why was Penguin so far from Gotham anyway? The river he was pushed into by Jim; deciding to spare his life in the first episode couldn’t have been so far from Gotham he would need to hitchhike back. Anyway, back to the third episode. We see him receive money from one of the smaller gang leaders in Gotham and seemingly impressing him. Maybe we’ll see him get into another gang and try to take it over in the future. Finally, at the end of the episode, we see him visit Gordon and his girlfriend, Barbara-who hasn’t had too large a part yet-and greet him as a friend leaving us on a neat and tense cliffhanger for the episode. Again, Gordon’s morals are brought into question. At least three people have died at the hands of Penguin after Jim chose to spare him. That’s some blood on Gordon’s hands that he’ll never wash off. I do wish the Penguin had taken a little longer to get to Gotham though as I felt it developed a little fast and came off as a little bit rushed.
Thankfully, David Mazouz, the actor of young Bruce seems to be improving as I hoped. He and Alfred, who I somehow neglected to mention in the previous two episodes only had a few brief scenes that showed some interesting development. Bruce seems to have got past his mercifully short ‘metal’ stage. I have no desire to talk about it anymore than I did in the previous episodes’ review. The biggest snippet we get shows us Bruce learning the art of sword fighting(with sticks instead of swords) with his ever-faithful butler Alfred. He eventually gets frustrated at Alfred’s toying with him and screams at him to stop like an emotional child… which is great! Finally David is starting to show some emotion instead of making me want to fall asleep! I only hope this continues in later episodes. We also see Bruce starving himself and then, by the end deciding to eat; probably to start developing the Batman side of him just like with the sword fighting. I’m happy to see the superhero side start to develop in Bruce as although he has been put to to the wayside purposefully to give other characters in the Batman world some development, I’d still like to see his slow ascent into the just, badass superhero we know and look up to.
Overall, the Balloonman is a strong episode with such a large amount of development, it could rival Gotham’s corruption. Although it didn’t really add much to the main plot of the story, it was an enjoyable and entertaining watch nonetheless. My only complaint is that I want to see more of the villains that were teased in the first episode and have barely done anything since, mainly Ed Nygma/The Riddler. He has just as much potential to be an unhinging, strangely intriguing to watch villain as Penguin has been since the start of the series. Maybe they have a plan for him later on. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see.