Episode 103 “Balloonman”
I feel just a little bit disappointed after seeing the season promo, giving us all sorts of fun little hints about upcoming stories and characters we’ll see in this first season of Gotham. And the idea that they would even think about including Professor Pyg in this crime noir… well, I had my hopes up. Especially after learning that Fish’s boy toy is named Lazlo. I mean, come on!
Sadly, ’tis not to be. At least, not the way you might think. And I have a theory, but that’s for later. Undoubtedly, I’m overthinking it, too. So! Onward!
There’s a new player in town — a man wearing a mask. A vigilante who decides to take the law into his own hands and do something about the corruption and vile villainy of Gotham City. This vigilante, who becomes known as the Balloonman, uses stolen weather balloons to kill his victims — a corrupt financier, a crooked cop, a dirty priest… and it’s a race for Gordon and Bullock to find him before he kills again.
That’s the bare bones look at the main plot of the episode, and there is quite a bit more to the hour. Bruno Heller packs a lot into this hour, and we’ll unpack it here a piece at a time, starting with Oswald Cobblepot, who gets back into town after his failure to extract ransom money last week (and we don’t know the fate of the “little scamp” as of yet). Knowing that he’s got to lay low — especially after he gets recognized by someone who would gladly turn him in to Fish — he takes a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant that belongs to Boss Maroni. Oswald, of course, sees this as an opportunity to start planning and scheming in ways he hadn’t considered before. You can see the wheels start to turn, and Robin Taylor continues to deliver a solid performance as the Penguin.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the balloon murder investigation, we pick up a thread from last week’s episode: Selina taking Gordon to the scene of the Wayne murder and telling him she saw the killer before he put on the mask. What’s it worth? Gordon isn’t even sure she was there, but she’s got proof — the wallet she tossed after the botched pickpocket job. Of course, it’s in the sewer. While Gordon’s looking for (and finding) the wallet, Selina is proving her deftness at picking locks. Gone girl. (Sorry. Had to.)
Our weekly dose of Bruce and Alfred have them sparring in the den with canes for swords. “A nice sword fight gets the blood up, eh?” Alfred says, just before finding that Bruce has obtained a copy of his parents’ case file. This is disturbing on several levels. Not only does it paint Bruce in a darker light, but it also plays up the corruption of the police department even further.
The search for the Balloonman intersects with the Selina thread, as Gordon figures out the killer’s identity. The fact that it’s Selina’s case worker just happens to be almost too pat, but it’s not quite contrived enough to be “Hand of the Writer”. At least, it’s organic to the story, and it makes sense that an advocate for children would take up a cause to protect the innocent. It’s a definite foreshadowing of the future of Gotham, as citizens respond to vigilante justice. And even though Gordon tells Barbara that vigilantes aren’t acceptable, he’s got to know that Gotham is a petri dish for this kind of thing, just waiting for the right catalyst to come along.
Speaking of Barbara, make a note. So far the colors she’s been wearing have been variations on black, grey, blue, and purple. Batgirl colors. It’s subtle, but it’s there; I think just to remind us of things to come in Gordon’s future. Maybe this Barbara ends up being more of an influence on that Barbara somewhere down the line.
And lest we forget, Jada Pinkett Smith is channeling Eartha Kitt. This is noir Eartha, but she’s there, and Smith is chewing the scenery with relish as she plots the demise of Carmine Falcone. Which will be much more complicated once she finds out her Penguin is actually alive and back in town. She’s not going to be too terribly happy with one Detective James Gordon, who was supposed to be “with the program” now. And it also won’t make things easy for Montoya and Allen, either, once they learn that Cobblepot is still alive. Because then they won’t be able to pin anything on Gordon. Of course, this could very well start them on the path to being allies.
Time will tell. Overall, another grade-A episode with just the right touch of Hammett.
Now, my theory: since we didn’t get Professor Pyg this episode, but we did get a pig mask, and since Lazlo is young enough to still be around by the time Bruce is an adult, I’m going to toss out the theory that maybe somewhere down the line Fish’s boy toy Lazlo gets a pig mask of his own and decides to take matters into his own hands, inspired by a certain vigilante from his youth…