Gotham returned with its third episode, "The Ballonman." In this episode, the city and Det. Jim Gordon are confronted with a criminal enacting their own form of justice against corrupt police on the force. This is the city's introduction to vigilante crime. Meanwhile an informal investigation has begun on Gordon for the death of Oswald Cobblepot.
This episode loses some of the focused tone that the series exhibited in the early going. The episode begins with Cobblepot returning to Gotham and witnessing all the daily crimes of the city, such as pickpockets, prostitution and corrupt cops being paid off. Cobblepot simply comments, "Home." And it does feel like Gotham is a real, breathing city full of real world problems. The tone of the episode is firmly stated, but then it changes...
Showrunner Bruno Heller and his writers are choosing to give the audience a lot to digest quickly. The pilot did a lot to establish the gritty realism of Gotham City. However, it may not do the show a service to throw so many elements of the Batman mythos in all at once. The introduction of vigilantism is an inevitable plot point, because it lays the foundation for why a Batman will become necessary. However the writers give the vigilante such a far-fetched and cartoony method, that it works against the tone they established. The criminal is handcuffing cops to weather balloons which lifts them to their death. The brutal realism of Selina Kyle literally scratching a man's eyes out to escape in the previous episode, is replaced by a character dubbed the Ballonman.
Meanwhile the "good cops," Montoya and Allen, have been clued into the rumored assassination of the Penguin by Jim Gordon. There is tension building for Gordon throughout the episode because he is in a no-win situation. The mob and Mooney think they have leverage over him, while Montoya has a personal vendetta against Gordon that is later revealed. What is interesting about this early part of the show is that the viewer is the only one with the knowledge that Gordon is inherently good. Once the Penguin resurfaces, it will be like the mask will be pulled off of Gordon and he will be standing in firm opposition to organized crime and most of the police force. A stance that would seem logical, but he will be an anomaly in this city which has rotted to it's core. This is perhaps the strongest part of the show so far. If they had kept the focus here, it would have significantly strengthened the storytelling.
The past relationship between Det. Montoya and Gordon's fiancee are discovered as well. Montoya believes him to be a murderer and she is apparently intensely jealous of his current relationship with her past love. (Which Gordon is totally unaware of.) This is an interesting sub-plot which is actually loosely adapted from a comic storyline. It is clear that at some point during the season, Gordon will truly feel that he has no where to turn, when these secrets are uncovered.
The writers should be wary of including too much young Bruce Wayne, whose modus operandi may begin to feel a little stale or trite early on. Simply put, the character does not need appear in every episode. We get it. He is brooding in his pre-Batcave and he will one day be the answer the city needs. However, it feels disjointed from the rest of the show. Complete with sepia lighting that harshly contrasts the blue hue which dominates the series. Alfred discovers that young Wayne has gotten his hands on his parent's murder-scene police file and is looking for clues on his own. However this is problematic to the tone of the show. Gordon is dealing with the heart of crime and corruption in the city, there is no time to watch a little boy cope on the sidelines. Not to say that Wayne is unnecessary in the series, he certainly needs to be used occasionally within the flow of the story, because his development will eventually prove to be fascinating. However it feels completely disconnected from the rest of the show this early on. It is clear that his eventual involvement with Selina Kyle will make it more organic, but presently, it is a distraction to watch all his pre-Batman antics that are not connected to the overall plot. It would not hurt the show if young Wayne only showed up every few episodes.
The writers are doing a great job of taking a slow-burn approach to rise of Oswald Cobblepot. His chance encounter with Sal Maroni, the second largest kingpin in town, will prove to be his chance to take action. Clearly there is a gang war brewing between the Maroni and Falcone clans and the Penguin looks to be getting in position to make a power grab. We are watching him refine his approach and he looks to be the dynamic force that will cause violent confrontations, between various factions of the city. His duplicitous nature was exemplified once again when he shows up at Gordon's front door announcing his return to the city. This development will more than likely ignite the gang war that Cobblepot has been warning everyone about.
The level of menace was undoubtedly lower in this offering. In this episode, various characters talked about the level of danger and violence lurking in the city. However, in the first two episodes the menace was shown by actions and intent, which is part of the reason many were immediately compelled by the show. For a lack of better wording, the show felt a little bit phoney. Perhaps this is because it is largely a filler episode, that is simply moving the chess pieces into position for future drama. It is just a little jarring when that episode comes so early in a the season. Hopefully they are able to reign in the tone more next week with the introduction of Arkham Asylum, which could theoretically lead to some dark stories.
Gotham has put the bar relatively high and this episode failed to clear that same mark. Not a complete disaster, but it does signal some red flags that should be avoided from here on out. It also is a sign that Heller should take his time introducing the more fantastic elements of Gotham, because the police vs mob storyline is proving to be the strongest part of the show currently. When the time is right, it is clear that they should make creative adaptations of the villains. Hopefully they can come up with realistic and plausible interpretations, much like Nolan was able to do. Things don't have to get really cartoony until Batman comes to town, hopefully Gotham gives itself the time to be a living, breathing city.
Source: Point of Geeks