Last week, I got some grief for writing about why I was done with Gotham. So naturally, I not only tuned in for Episode 3, “The Balloonman,” I live-tweeted it as well. The fact that this episode had nothing to do with the B-side to Prince’s “Batdance” was already strike number one for me.
I won’t go into all of the problems I have with the show’s premise — since I already did that. A couple times. I will say that I realize that the reason I’m so bitter about this show is because I always wanted a Gotham Central series, and that Fox’s attempt is just a half-assed one. Because Gotham Central is the non-Batman police procedural series we deserve, just not the one we’re getting right now, apparently.
The cold open starts with the murder of a corrupt Bernie Madoff-type. Seems like Gotham has a vigilante on its hands that likes to kill bad guys in as ridiculous a way as possible: tying them to weather balloons. We first see the perp in a creepy pig mask because the writers wanted to tease a future Batman rogue (because there aren’t enough of those on the show) before pulling the bait-and-switch.
Instead, this episode’s freak-of-the-week is the eponymous “Balloonman,” proving that Gotham’s vigilantes must always start with the letter B.
After killing the banker, Balloonman targets newly introduced corrupt cop on the GCPD, Lt. Cranston and once again, I’m reminded of what an awesome show Gotham Central could’ve been if they had cast Bryan Cranston as Commissioner Gordon.
For some reason, Gotham has also decided it’s going to be a full-on Penguin origin story. And while Robin Lord Taylor is actually a really compelling actor, we’ve already seen Penguin as weirdo freak before in Batman Returns. I was hoping to finally see the sophisticated “gentleman of crime” from the comics. Instead, we get more scenes of Cobblepot being a murderous psychopath — and eating a tuna sandwich in the process.
The rest of the characters continue to have similarly odd characterizations and motivations: Fish Mooney is still channeling Eartha Kitt without the purring, Montoya and Barbara are still trapped in a melodramatic nighttime soap, and Alfred is still being a hardass Asian parent — mocking Bruce for being a not very good detective.
Of course, Gordon and Bullock eventually apprehend the Balloonman before he strikes again. Turns out Gordon really can’t stand vigilantes. Especially if they aren’t wearing a cape and cowl. The ordinary citizens, on the other hand, love the guy because he’s rooting out the corruption in the city. Even after the guy is arrested, the public is asking who will stand up to defend the people of Gotham as Bruce watches on intently. And a giant bat-shaped hammer flies out of the screen and hits you on the head.
Because not only are Batman’s villains already fully formed on the show, so is his schtick. Because Bruce isn’t the city’s first hero — he’s actually just replacing the guy from the A.C. Repair School Annex on Community.