Arts & Culture Editor
Long before Batman became the Dark Knight of Gotham City, another masked vigilante tried to take justice into his own hand, but without Batman’s moral code: The Balloonman.
The third episode of Fox’s “Gotham,” “The Balloonman,” opens with Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) returning to Gotham City, hungry for revenge against his former boss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). In an attempt to keep an eye on Fish, who continues to set her sights on overthrowing Carmine Falcone (John Doman), Oswald goes undercover and takes up a kitchen job for mob boss Salvatore Maroni (“Dexter” alum David Zayas).
Meanwhile, Detectives Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) track down a vigilante who is killing corrupt Gotham citizens by attaching them to weather balloons. Jim’s superiors and his fiancée Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) also start to question his morally when they learn that Jim was the one who apparently pulled the trigger on Oswald Cobblepot, who is still believed to be dead at this point.
While Jim and Harvey do manage to catch the Balloonman, outsmarting him and giving him a taste of his own medicine, Jim is still left cynical over the hopeless state of Gotham. After all, a man tried to take the law into his own hands, and turned to murderous measures to do it. In the ending scene with Barbara, he even tells her, “If people take the law into their own hands, there is no law.” The episode then ends on a cliffhanger when Oswald comes knocking on Jim and Barbara’s door, greeting Jim like an old friend.
While the second episode laid the foundation for future “Gotham” episodes, this episode not only continued it, but also took it to another level. This episode continued to bring both crime show realism and comic book fantasy. Sure, a vigilante who kills corrupt cops and citizens by having them float into the stratosphere may be ridiculous, especially for a crime show, but since this crime show is set in a comic book world, it works. In the end, the Balloonman turned out to be a sympathetic antagonist, a man who only did what he did because he believed he was protecting Gotham. However, as Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) stated after the climax, “He killed people. That made him a criminal, too.” Considering Batman’s moral code of not killing people, believing that it would only make him as bad as the criminal underworld he’s trying to fight, that was definitely foreshadowing.
This episode also brought development to characters that were original hiding behind bigger foreground characters in the show. While Doman plays Falcone as the old world mob boss whom Fish has accused of becoming “soft,” Zayas as Maroni seems like the younger, more charismatic and flamboyant mob boss, which means he might also be the more violent and ruthless one, and therefore a bigger threat to the Gotham City Police Department. Mazouz has proven to be an intense Bruce Wayne and an impressive young actor. Even Richards as Barbara proves that she’s not just a pretty face. Even when Jim’s morals and trustworthiness were being questioned and people were telling her that she deserved better, she still stood faithfully and loyally by her man’s side.
In terms of story and character development, “Gotham” gets better every week. Overall, “The Balloonman” was an entertaining and intense episode of “Gotham.”