So after last week’s more cartoony villains, we get a generic vigilante who has a bone to pick with Gotham’s power players. But more than that, this individual gives people in Gotham someone to look up to. The episode is a bit too heavy handed with spelling out things about this universe that we already know, but at the same time, characters like Bullock, Gordon and Cobblepot make them more entertaining.
The episode begins with Oswald Cobblepot exiting a bus and returning to the corrupt, thieving land that is Gotham City. Home at last.
We then get word that Arnold Danzer, who bilked investors out of billions in a Ponzi scheme, is now out on bail and awaiting trial. We then meet Danzer himself, played by Clark Middleton, as he talks with his lawyer about paying off the judge, jury and anyone necessary to keep him out of jail. As he heads out, a man in a pig mask hands out balloons and cuffs Danzer to one of them. People can only watch as Danzer floats higher and higher until he’s out of sight.
Gordon and Bullock later arrive on the scene, though Bullock is less interested in helping solve the case of a man that he sees as a parasite on society. Whoever got rid of Danzer just did the city a public service.
At the police department, we’re introduced to Lieutenant Bill Cranston, played by James Colby, as he meets up with the boy scout known as James Gordon. Cranston introduces Gordon to a friend of his: O’Brien- a statue he received from the Gotham Chamber of Commerce for his service. This, he says, is the best interrogator on the force.
While Gordon is still invested in the case, Bullock doesn’t see the point. Sure, Danzer wasn’t a murderer, but two people did kill themselves after Danzer swindled them out of their life savings. To Bullock, justice was served.
Social worker David Lamond, played by Dan Bakkedahl, shows up with Selina Kyle in tow. Gordon signs over custody, but Selina will soon be sent upstate.
So Selina and Gordon head to the spot where Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered. The problem is Selina doesn’t tell Gordon anything that other people would already know. She swears she was there that night because she stole a man’s wallet and dumped it in a sewer. Why she did that, I don’t know. Selina’s timing does put her at the scene, but just to be sure, Gordon cuffs her to a pole. Against his better judgment, Gordon enters the poo gas sewer and does retrieve the stolen wallet. But this revelation doesn’t last long, as Selina escaped her cuffs using a pen she swiped from Bullock. She flees, leaving Gordon to reek of poo gas.
Fish gets a visit from Allen and Montoya. They ask if she’s seen Oswald, but word on the street is still that Gordon killed him. The detectives want to know why. Was it to keep him quiet? And better yet, who gave the order? Montoya figures it was Falcone, who is rumored to have ordered the beating of Lazlo. You know, it’s not really a rumor when Lazlo is right there with bruises on his face and the officers already knowing Fish and Falcone don’t always see eye to eye. Fish just wants justice, not revenge.
To celebrate his return, Oswald kills a guy looking to earn some ransom money. After that, he gets himself a tuna sandwich. The guy’s gotta eat, after all.
At Wayne Manor, Alfred and Bruce cross wooden swords to a tune that sounds similar to the main theme of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. When the session ends, Alfred finds that Bruce has been reading over police files, specifically the one regarding his parents’ death. Alfred fears this will give Bruce nightmares, but no worry- he already has them. What Bruce needs is a clue, but he doesn’t have one yet and he isn’t about to wait for Gordon to make a move, either.
Because they need something to do, Allen and Montoya visit Gordon at the department and question whether Falcone paid him to kill Oswald Cobblepot. Gordon denies it, but he ends the conversation when asked to account for his whereabouts on the night of September 17th.
Following a brief scene with Oswald trying to get a job at a restaurant, Bullock tells Gordon not to worry about Allen and Montoya looking into Cobblepot’s death. After all, if they came straight to him, it must mean they have no proof. Bullock then tells Gordon that he tracked down the owner of a weather balloon factory. Bullock still isn’t all that invested in following this since Danzer was a horrible person. Same with Mario Pepper. Gordon needs to just let it go.
Oswald then meets one of the restaurant employees and inquires about his shoe size. I wonder if that will be important later.
Bullock and Gordon talk with the weather balloon owner, who recognized the balloon when it appeared on the news. This prompted him to call the police. Turns out it was stolen by a former employee, Carl Smikers, who never once mentioned Danzer. The owner still needs the other three balloons, which apparently cost $1,000 apiece.
Later that night, Lieutenant Cranston beats a perp and a nearby hot dog vendor, but as the lieutenant steals the vendor’s items, he finds a slip of paper and immediately stops. In a flash, the vendor cuffs Cranston to the second balloon and he heads skyward.
The next morning, Alfred finds Bruce ignoring his breakfast in favor of reading about the now dubbed “Balloonman.” In times like these, Alfred reminds Bruce, a person should keep their strength up, but Bruce just isn’t hungry.
Gordon discusses the Balloonman case with Barbara. There is now support to go after the criminal now that an officer has wound up dead. Gordon doesn’t feel that’s right. Everyone should matter- not just a select few. Even more than that, if the people of Gotham lose faith, then vigilantes will take the law into their own hands. Barbara believes Gordon is an exception to that rule. After all, he caught the Waynes’ killer, so he now gives people faith.
Captain Essen is not pleased; she rarely is, about Cranston’s death. Sure, he was crooked, but still an officer. Gordon and Bullock are still on the hunt, but Smikers hasn’t been home yet. The two arrive at the connection: Cranston and Danzer were well-known public figures. However, killing a cop turns this into a job safety issue in Bullock’s eyes. Luckily, he knows how to find out who did this, so we get to go on a road trip.
First, Bullock talks to some prostitutes,
Then he beats the crap out of this guy,
Then he gets some food from a vendor. He didn’t get anything from him, either. He was just hungry.
Now that Oswald has some shoes, he’s hard at work at the restaurant, which gets a visit from Sal Maroni, played by David Zayas.
In one of the funnier moments of the episode, Bullock leads Gordon through an apartment complex. They find Smikers with a woman and a fight breaks out with Bullock and Gordon getting the best of them. No, that’s wrong. They eventually get the best of them.
Lazlo expresses his concern for Fish. Poor, dumb kid. When Fish sends him off, she tells Butch that Falcone’s squeeze, Nadia, will have an accident. Oh, and get rid of Lazlo, too.
A toked-up Barbara exits the shower and finds Montoya entered on her own because she still has a key. Luckily, pot is the only thing Barbara is doing. Montoya tells Barbara that Gordon killed Cobblepot on Falcone’s order, but given their troubled history, Barbara has a hard time buying Montoya’s story. Montoya, however, can’t stand the sight of Barbara with Gordon and tells her to ask him where he as the night Cobblepot vanished.
In interrogation, Smikers admits that he stole the balloons, but didn’t set them loose. He owed some loan sharks, so he sold them. He still remembers the drop-off point. Bullock figures Smikers for a mastermind criminal. After all, the murder weapon and bodies are high up in the sky. Smikers reminds the two officers that the higher up weather balloons go, they get cold, brittle, the helium expands and they eventually pop.
And wouldn’t you know it? Following this, we see an unfortunate old lady get crushed by Cranston’s falling body. At least the dog survived. Bullock finds the form in Cranston’s pocket- it has Gordon’s name on it. Through a brain blast, Gordon knows where the Balloonman is based. Next victim is Cardinal Quinn.
Back at the restaurant, Maroni is not at all worried about Falcone. Let the people believe that he’s in charge. Oswald, going under the name of Paolo, overhears Maroni’s talk, but shuts up after Maroni slips him some cash.
Cardinal Quinn meets the sky while Gordon tells Bullock that the Balloonman is Davis Lamond. He wonders what would cause him to snap, though, considering his coworkers said he was a thoughtful man. The two arrive at the old juvenile center and find the gate ajar.
When they head in, they find a van and the final balloon. The two split up, but Lamond uses this opportunity to overpower Bullock. Lamond believes Gordon is just like him. He began looking up to Gordon after he found the child snatchers. The law, in Lamond’s eyes, is no good if people like Cranston and Danzar are allowed to walk the streets. Lamond just wanted to make a difference and send a message to Gotham’s elite. But after the mayor had the kids shipped off, that was the final straw.
A fight breaks out with Bullock managing to secure Lamond to the final balloon. Instead of doing the logical thing and shooting the balloon down, Gordon grabs onto Lamond as they both float higher. Bullock eventually shoots it down.
Carmine Falcone pays Fish a visit and lets her know that his main squeeze was recently mugged. How tragic, but Falcone is not deterred. Whoever did this will pay.
Before the paramedics can take Lamond away, Gordon talks to him in private. Lamond lets him know that more like him will come. The Gotham police had their chance to get things right, but in Lamond’s eyes, they failed. Gordon asks Lamond who the final victim would have been.
Bruce and Alfred watch the report about the Balloonman, but Bruce can’t help but get transfixed when the reporter asks who will defend the people of Gotham.
Gordon is sick of the corruption in Gotham, and lets Barbara know as such. According to Lamond, the last victim didn’t matter since anyone in power is guilty. In Gordon’s mind, Lamond speaks for a lot of citizens in Gotham: the authorities let them down. But if the law ended up in the hands of the people, there would be no law. Barbara doesn’t figure him for one of the bad cops. After all, she knows him and concludes that he would never do something as bad as murder.
And she gets proof of that when a fresh, new and improved Oswald Cobblepot shows up at the door.
What does it say when the people of Gotham City readily throw their support behind a man who murders those who he feels had it coming? The citizens look to a man who works outside of the law and takes matter into his own hands. Sure, we want to have someone who inspires good when law and order fail, but this someone should be everlasting and hopefully push people to do good, not just commit vigilante violence. I think about what Bruce told Alfred in Batman Begins: as a symbol, he can be everlasting. The Balloonman is a guy who doesn’t like how Gotham is run. He’s not the first and won’t be the last.
My point is these are things about Gotham City that we’re already aware of and this vigilante, in my opinion, wasn’t all that compelling. The city as a whole is corrupt and the writing feels like it must remind us of that, even though it’s obvious. The show is in its infancy, but showing more of Gotham’s criminal side goes a longer way than just telling us that the citizens don’t like the higher-ups of the city.
Also, I feel that giving us a vigilante came a bit too soon. We’re only three episodes in and the status quo is already changing now that people will try and take matters into their own hands. The idea that one man can make a difference should be brought in after the city and characters have been well-established. We get some of that with this episode’s opening, and though that’s done for comedic effect, it shows how complacent citizens are when it comes to crime and how the authorities will look the other way. Not to mention that this seems to be Bruce’s first interest in vigilantism. If this was to be any less subtle, he would have started sketching a bat.
With a few exceptions, Gotham Police Department is corrupt. Bullock is symbolic of that, which makes him a perfect opposite for Gordon. Bullock is willing to ignore Danzer’s death because he feels justice was served, but is ready to investigate once one of his fellow officers is killed, no matter how bad. He jokes about the giant shovels used to pick up the old woman and Cranston like it didn’t matter all that much. He’s a product of the environment and getting by the best way that he knows how. The only bright spots in the department would be Essen and Gordon. To cops like Bullock, however, the vigilante did them a favor. That tune will clearly change once a certain Dark Knight enters the scene.
Maroni told Cobblepot that Gotham is a city of opportunity, and it is, provided you know the right people and have proper connections. Otherwise, you get stuck in an endless cycle of violence and corruption. If you’re someone like Oswald, however, you fight out of that cycle and work your way up the ladder. Speaking of, Robin Lord Taylor’s performance continues to be the highlight of episodes as Cobblepot grows more murderous, but he keeps his head down when necessary and tries not to provoke more punishment than he’s already had.
Montoya and Allen always appear to be one step behind. They’re just here to provide some pathos for Gordon and Barbara, while also trying to prove that they are good cops while every other officer in Gotham is corrupt.
The idea of the Balloonman tying people to balloons and letting them float higher and higher did have some creepy elements to it, but it also felt a bit campy. I hope I’m not the only one who thought about the Joker’s balloons in the 1989 Batman film.
Gordon continues to grapple with maintaining the image he’s established with everyone believing he killed Cobblepot, but he doesn’t turn a blind eye to Lamond’s talk of other vigilantes taking the law into their hands because they feel the authorities let them down. Gordon wants justice done by the book, but the law isn’t always on his side and he struggles to do the right thing when there’s so much wrong around him.
That said, he and Bullock seem to just breeze through this case a bit too easily. Selina Kyle’s lead did nothing. In fact, she was only here just to get away. Everything else, the two seemed to just figure out. And I have to question why neither of them thought to shoot down Lamond’s balloon first instead of Gordon jumping after it.
Overall, “The Balloonman” was a decent episode. Nothing bad, but not great. It fell into the trap of telling us too much too soon. And with a show that delves into a universe with as much backstory as Batman, you shouldn’t feel the need to spell out what viewers already know. It had its moments such as Bullock and Gordon’s fight with Smikers and his friend, Falcone warning Fish and Maroni discussing Gotham City to Oswald. Not to mention, Cobblepot’s return is sure to cause a stir.