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Gotham: A Review of Episode 3: Balloonman

We’re continuing our post series where we review the television show Gotham, but with our nerdy little twist. Us Nerds on Earth writers will often banter back and forth via email, giving our first thoughts about the latest comic TV show we’re watching. It’s our version of Mystery Science Theater and our hope amidst our back-and-forth is that you end up getting a good review of the episode, even if the style is slightly off center.

Warning, spoilers.


Let’s talk Gotham! The show is now 3 episodes in, so we should expect to be led deeper into the rabbit hole. I’m excited and typing with multiple points of exclamation!!!

I like to distill my feelings on an episode into just a few keywords. For the pilot episode, the word I’d use is dark. From the opening scene the writer’s reminded us that Gotham City is a dark, corrupt, ruthless place.

For the second episode, Selina Kyle, I’d distill the episode down to the word ‘weird.’ From the creepy doll kidnappers, to the eccentric Penguin character (and his even more eccentric mother), Gotham City is a weird place filled with weird people. Normally, weird has a negative connotation, but darned if it isn’t spot on for this particular comic book show. Weird is good.

I think the 3rd episode pushes both these words. The opening scene shows Penguin basking in the despicable, vile, corruptness of Gotham, declaring it ‘home.’ Meanwhile, the balloon killer is just weird. Death by weather ballon? Yeah, weird.

I’m curious if you’ve felt the same way thus far and if there is a word you’d use to sum up episode 3.

I would say my thought on a word to describe it is “Imbalance.”

That opening seen with the Penguin summed up the imbalance facing Gotham: everyone is bad.

That idea is of course echoed in the work of the weather balloon killer, as everyone from a priest to a business man to a cop goes down for being dirty.

And, of course, that imbalance is coming to a head with the coming gang war.

And, I know I am harping on this, but it is being played out in the relationship between Gordon and Harvey. At different moments, they are each pushing the other hard one way or another.

And the killer’s ominous promise that there would be more of him, vigilante style killers is setting up for an interesting dynamic. Who are the real heroes going to be?

Also, Bruce Wayne a VC of good causes could be interesting.

What do you think the Penguin’s meeting with Gordon will bring? And are we headed for a Scarecrow sighting in time for a Halloween episode?

Oooo. Imbalance. That’s good.gotham.oswald.knife_

I like that, particularly because Gotham absolutely lacks any sort of subtlety. Plus, there are some wild swings of tone.

Jada Pickett Smith’s character is like a mobster out of the old school Batman television show. Penguin is straight Tim Burton inspired. Gordon plays like he’s on a CBS Law and Order clone. Harvey plays out of something Frank Miller would’ve written. It’s a weird show. Imbalanced. But not in a way that strikes me as a show trying to find balance; imbalance works because it’s what the show is going for.

Characters are played big, acting is over done, and on top of that, the dialogue can read like something inspired by a comic book. Wait, that’s great! It is inspired by a comic book!

I saw some criticisms on Twitter about the show; said parts of Gotham weren’t “believable.” The Twitter comments were so interesting to me that I wrote a companion piece, specifically about that. You can read it here.

Seriously, read that. I’ll wait.gotham103italianrestaurant3375hires2jpg-9074ec_960w

You didn’t read it, did you? Listen, if you aren’t going to put in the work from the syllabus…never mind, let’s move on.

I’m curious about what you thought of the one-and-done nature of the episode. The villain was introduced and caught during the same episode. I know that comics have a strong decompressed story-telling technique that plays well for modern day trades, but I thought the Balloonman episode was refreshing in that it felt like an old Silver Age throw-back where one comic contained the whole story.

I LOVED the one and done nature of the episode.  It reminded me a bit of some old school Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a villain of the week and an overarching story arch.  In a world where most comics are being written at least in some part for the trades, it is a bit refreshing to start, middle and end a story that still moves the whole story forward.

And you are right, the unique nature of the characters seems like someone threw them all in a blender but I think it is slowly but surely going to even out, hopefully in a good way.

This week also moved the bar forward on the Barbara-Detective-Gordon love triangle.  That is a most interesting mix.  And with the revelation that Barbara had (has?) an addiction, it could be something that comes back to hurt Gordon in the end.

And was I the only one to hold his breath a bit when Barbara went to answer the door?  It is nearly impossible for me to not think that they scripted that a little bit for us comic nerds, who know The Killing Joke as one of our holy books.

Onward and upward next week.  Do they let Selina “I can see in the dark” Kyle take a few episodes off?  And when are she and Bruce going to meet? And let’s please not make that weird.

And I have to believe that Scarecrow is coming.  Who else would use you in a season one Halloween episode?

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