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"The Balloonman" Proves Gotham Can Tell Its Own Stories

Mike Hoffman | 7 Oct 2014 15:30
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Gordon is starting to realize just how much danger he is in. He may have successfully convinced Bullock that he killed Cobblepot, but Gordon's partner is still willing to remind him that the new detective could be next to be executed. The rest of the department doesn't exactly trust Gordon either, whether they think he's a "boy scout" or a thug.

Detectives Montoya and Allen, from the Major Crimes Unit, try to put some pressure on Gordon after Fish Mooney points them his way. Gordon doesn't crack, but there's a Shakespearean frustration to watching these cops clash. They all want the same thing, and if they could just communicate it would all work out, but then we wouldn't have a series.

We also wouldn't have the electric scene in which Montoya tries to warn Gordon's fiancé that her beau might be a cold-blooded killer. The past between Renee Montoya and Barbara Kean has been hinted at before, but now Barbara's history with drug abuse and the nature of their relationship has been revealed to viewers. It doesn't seem that Gordon knows Barbara was romantically involved with Montoya, and it seems like some of those feelings remain between the two.

Fans of Montoya in the comics are likely happy that Gotham's Montoya remains true to the source material in regard to her orientation. After the changes to John Constantine for NBC's upcoming series, it's a bit of a relief that Fox didn't make the same call.

Why did Mooney send MCU after Gordon? Because at the same time she's able to namedrop her boss, Carmine Falcone. Mooney is making moves to take over Falcone's operation, and including having his lover attacked in retribution for the crime boss having her romantic partner beaten. It's not about the love interests, of course. Mooney casually orders for the execution of her lover at the same time. All these moves and plays are just about hurting each other.

Falcone doesn't need the grief, though. Thinking he had "Arkham locked down", he reveals to Mooney that his biggest opponent, Salvatore Maroni, is making plays to take over the deal. Classic Batman Maroni is introduced this week, and the up-and-coming crime lord takes notice of a new dishwasher in a restaurant he frequents -- Oswald Cobblepot.

Cobblepot, after his failed ransom (what happened to the victim?), returns to the city that is his "destiny" with a couple bodies in his wake. After getting a job to kill for (sorry), he places himself in the restaurant and catches Maroni's eye as someone smart enough to know what's up, and wise enough to shut up. Being at Maroni's side is probably the best place for Cobblepot as he plans on taking advantage of the war only he can see coming.

The show smartly cuts Bruce Wayne entirely out of the main story. Up at Wayne Manor he watches the happenings in Gotham City on the news while obsessing over his parents' murder. Alfred does better as a parent-figure, encouraging Bruce to eat and even engaging in a little play sword-fighting (the music during this sequence is a great call-out to the adventure movies that inspired the Batman character). Bruce establishes his "No Killing" rule in this episode, in reaction to the Balloonman, but at this point I have to wonder if this trend of building Batman every episode will continue. If it continues at this pace, we might see a young Bruce sneaking out and traversing the rooftops of Gotham before the end of the season.

The episode still has its issues with a poor script, but the delivery of almost every line is fantastic. Still, while the plot holes before have been fairly minor, the show takes a cheap shortcut that is just terrible in this episode. Gordon and Bullock do all this work to hunt down the Balloonman, but it's literally reduced to Gordon recognizing a piece of paper he signed found on one of the victims.

He immediately knows that the vigilante is the social services worker that accompanied Selina Kyle early in the episode. While believable and plausible, there is no reason for the audience to remember the character or think of him as anything important. Overall, this is forgivable compared to the how improved this episode is over the past two, but it is frustrating nonetheless.

Bottom Line: This is the first episode of Gotham that tells me this show could have some staying power. It's exciting enough to be its own story and ties in the longer story arcs without feeling forced.

Recommendation: The show still has its problems, but now that Gotham has proven it can tell its own stories, this is something to worth watching each week.

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