Gotham, Season 1 Episode 3: 'The Balloon Man' Review

10/07/2014 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments


I started to do a full spoiler recap of this episode, but it proved to be too tedious.  With the 5+ shows that I plan to cover each week, there's no way I'll be able to do multiple posts per each one, so my review format will be altered somewhat.

That being said, there may be mild spoilers for Gotham in the review below.

Episode 3 of Gotham doesn't suffer from some of the issues of the first two episodes, but the show still needs to find its legs.  The Balloon Man is a story that starts to introduce vigilante anti-heroes into the equation.

The good news, is the show is way less packed with the character references and overstuffed feeling of the first two episodes.  It felt very much like Gotham was trying to hook users based off of popular name recognition, and that is definitely a much smaller issue with the third episode.

The bad news, is the dialogue and plot are still terrible.  Most of the dialogue is not in fact dialogue, but thinly veiled exposition.  Characters will exchange plot details that aren't really relevant to the conversation.  When there is any dialogue that isn't exposition, it's in the form of heavy handed character building, such as when Bullock suddenly yells "If you don't tell me, I'll beat it out of you!" during an interrogation where the captive is being 100% cooperative.

The characters are often problematic as well.  Fish Mooney is nearly intolerable.  All her lines are delivered like she belongs alongside the villains in the Adam West Batman of years past.  The character is just altogether over the top, which wouldn't be a huge deal if she wasn't acting in an environment that doesn't match.

Bullock is also very unlike Bullock, and his motivations don't make sense.  He doesn't want to investigate the Balloon Man killings until he starts killing cops, but by that point, he had already started sniffing leads.  That could be chalked up to an editing issue, but either way, it's a problem.

Gordon also doesn't make much sense.  He keeps saying things about upholding the law and respecting justice, but he's constantly shying away from opportunities to fight corruption.  I'm sure they are stunting his growth so they can develop his character, but everything seems controlled by an inflexible and unnatural script.

No one is doing any detective work, either.  The closest we get is a montage of Bullock (that should be set to Yakety Sax) where he's talking to people and buying hotdogs, but other than that, clues literally fall from the sky into Jim's lap, or are presented to him by someone else, such as Selina.

The world of Gotham, which was one of the biggest positives from the start, is slowly fading into a contrived facade.  There's a scene where Oswald Cobblepot arrives back in Gotham, and is accompanied by about four people getting their wallets or purses swiped, and prostitutes walking up to stopped cars.  It looked like the script says "various criminal acts occur."

The Bruce Wayne story is also gratingly bad.  His entire plotline centers around shaping him into a little Batman, which would be cool if that was what the show was supposed to be about.  That same comment goes for most of the show.  There are too many characters and too big a story to tell.  Focusing on Gordon, Cobblepot, Bruce, or Selina would be interesting, but instead, they put them all in, leaving no time for proper development, and forcing all the dialogue to be clumsy exposition.

The real crux of the issue with Gotham, though, is that the show exists because of Batman.  The question the show is supposed to answer is "what does it take for a city to need Batman?"  Yet the show is establishing a world that will likely be overrun by super-villains long before Batman comes out of the shadows.  The future of this version of Gotham is not the same Gotham that justified the creation of the show.

The story is finally interesting, despite all the other issues.  I'm hoping the show only improves through the remainder of the season, but it's frustrating to see so much potential on a show concept that isn't likely to get a reboot as frequently as Batman does.

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