Gotham ‘The Balloonman’ Recap – Episode 01.03

Gotham
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Gordon investigates the murders of a vigilante who handcuffs corrupt officials to weather balloons to be carried off into the air only to eventually come crashing to the ground. Meanwhile, Cobblepot ruthlessly reestablishes himself in Gotham at the same time that Gordon comes under suspicion for his death.

The Case

A corrupt financier named Gerrick comes under suspicion for swindling some of his clients. As he leaves his apartment he is accosted by journalists reporting on the scandal. He is approached by a balloon salesman in the street, and when he tries to brush him off, the balloon salesman handcuffs him to a weather balloon which carries him away.

When Gordon comes to investigate there is obviously no body, but they are acting under the assumption that Gerrick is dead. Bullock is of the opinion that the Balloonman did Gotham a favor by getting rid of the crook, but Gordon knows his job and tells Bullock to check into local thefts of weather balloons. Bullock ignores this, but is contacted by a local business owner who had four weather balloons stolen from his shop. They now know they can expect three more murders unless they stop the killer.

The next victim is a corrupt and brutal cop named Lt. Bill Cranston, who puts up a fight when the Balloonman, disguised as a hot dog vender, tries to attach him to a balloon. Cranston is eventually handcuffed and flies away with the balloon, but not before grabbing an important piece of paperwork from the Balloonman’s pocket.

While Gordon and Bullock find and interrogate the ex-employee who stole the weather balloons and sold them to some guy in a mask, the Balloonman claims his third victim – a pedophile priest. The ex-employee informs Gordon and Bullock that the balloons will eventually expand and pop, sending the bodies plummeting to the ground. This is how Gordon and Bullock recover Cranston’s body and discover a piece of paperwork with Gordon’s name on it. Gordon realizes that the murderer is a man from child services, Davis Lamond, who signed Selina Kyle into Gordon’s custody earlier in the episode. They track him down and he tells them that the hopelessness of his job and his desire to help people finally made him take matters into his own hands. Bullock handcuffs him to the last weather balloon in a struggle. Bullock would let him fly away, but Gordon grabs onto Lamond’s legs to save him and Bullock has no choice but to shoot down the balloon to save Gordon.

There is something of the fantastical about these balloon murders that really fit in with the tone of the DC comic book universe. If there was one thing that these supervillains and vigilantes were good at it was inventing unique ways of killing people. It’s already pretty ridiculous to see these people just go flying off attached to a huge balloon, but director Dermott Downs takes an extra few seconds to linger on the receding figure of the victim as they rise higher in the sky before cutting to commercial. It’s extremely effective, darkly funny, and incredulously absurd.

Gordon

Meanwhile, Gordon interviews Selina about what she saw the night of the Waynes’ murder. He signs her out of child services and takes her to the scene, where she describes what she saw. Gordon is skeptical, telling her that she could have read any of what she told him in the newspaper. She tells him that she stole a guy’s wallet nearby around the same time, which is confirmed by a police report, and that she dropped the wallet in the sewer just down the street from the scene of the crime. Gordon checks it out and finds the wallet, but Selina escapes in the meantime, leaving Gordon with nothing to go on until he finds Selina again.

Gordon is starting to feel pretty hopeless about the sickness and corruption of the city. He keeps a lot from Barbara, which makes her suspicious when Montoya tells her that Gordon killed Cobblepot. She refuses to really believe it, and when Gordon comes home after the case and tells her about the Balloonman, the impending future of Gotham vigilantism, and the city’s rampant corruption, she knows that he could never have killed Cobblepot. And if that didn’t convince her, then Cobblepot knocking on their door a moment later would have proved it.

Barbara and Montoya

Montoya seems to be a good cop with an obsession against corrupt cops. She assumes from the very beginning that Gordon is corrupt and needs only rumors to prove her suspicions. At the same time, she and Barbara seem to have a romantic history together, which makes Montoya all the more eager to see Gordon put behind bars. Montoya and Allen find out from Fish Mooney that Gordon apparently killed Cobblepot. Montoya goes to see Barbara to warn her about Gordon and what she thinks he’s done. Barbara refuses to believe her. Montoya says she still cares about Barbara and tries to kiss her. Barbara tells her to leave, but it’s clear that she’s feeling doubts about Gordon by the time the visit is over.

While the details are vague, Barbara and Montoya seem to have been a couple some years back – or at the very least, Montoya may feel an unrequited love for Barbara – and they were both serious drug addicts. They obviously have strong feelings about each other – still care about each other – but there seems to be a lot of resentment and mistrust on both sides. It should be interesting to see how the back story comes together. Gordon doesn’t seem to know anything about Barbara’s past relationship with Montoya – at least not that he’s let on. He may very well know about her past with drugs and about a relationship with a nameless woman, but there is no indication yet about what he actually knows about Barbara and her past.

Cobblepot

Cobblepot arrives back in Gotham and makes pretty quick work of reestablishing himself. First he starts panhandling, which he is pretty bad at. When an old associate recognizes him and tries to turn him in to Mooney for a reward, Cobblepot kills him and takes what’s in his wallet, then simply walks across the street and buys a tuna sandwich from a street vender. Later, he tries to get a job at a mob affiliated restaurant but is turned away. The boss says he doesn’t even have the right shoes. Cobblepot picks someone out from the kitchen that seems to have his shoe size and then later kills that guy for his shoes. Next thing you know, he’s working as a dishwasher at the restaurant because the other guy didn’t turn up and Cobblepot has the right shoes. Cobblepot gets noticed by the mob boss in charge, Sal Maroni, who take a shine to him and gives him some cash. Cobblepot, while fostering advantageous relationships, is also gathering inside information. At the end of the episode, Cobblepot turns up on Gordon’s doorstep for a reason that is yet to be revealed.

Usually the Penguin isn’t a super popular or interesting character in the Batman universe, at least not to me. It is an interesting choice to make Cobblepot the main up and coming villain of the series, and they do it exceptionally well. Robin Lord Taylor does an amazing job as the slimy, ruthless, sniveling Oswald Cobblepot, and make up and wardrobe do the rest. The character from the comics really comes to life in a whole new way under Bruno Heller’s unique adaptation. It’s really striking how this little runt of a guy can brutally murder someone one minute and be calmly ordering a tuna sandwich the next. He has three switches – rage, smug arrogance, and sniveling – but the turns and intensity between the three are whiplash fast and forceful. I really can’t wait to see what Cobblepot will do next.

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About the Author

Bethany Lewis
My cinema education started when, at three years old, Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" became my earliest memory of cinema. Since then, I've been obsessed with film and television, learning more about it, analyzing it, researching it, and experiencing different kinds of it. After getting my BA in Theater, I went on to get my MFA in Film Studies. I now spend my free time watching and writing about movies.
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