Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Balloon-Man knows! Heheheh…

While this week’s Gotham isn’t the awaited breakthrough episode, its best moments represent improvement.

Title: “The Balloonman”

Directed by Bruno Heller
Written by John Stephens

Ben McKenzie as Detective James Gordon
Donal Logue as Detective Harvey Bullock
Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle
David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne
Robin Taylor as Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot
Zabryna Guevara as Captain Sarah Essen
Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth
Erin Richards as Barbara Kean
Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney
John Doman as Carmine Falcone
David Zayas as Sal Maroni
Dan Bakkedahl as Davis Lamond
James Colby as Bill Cranston
Victoria Cartagena as Renee Montoya
Andrew Stewart-Jones as Crispus Allen
Michel Angelo Milano as Lazlo

Full cast and crew information may be found at the imdb

Premise

Someone, acting in the shadows, is murdering prominent corrupt officials in Gotham by carrying them into the stratosphere on weather-balloons. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle escapes (and we learn she can see in the dark), Cobblepot steps up his game, a mob war develops, and the audience gets reminded of Gotham’s corruption and Bruce Wayne’s destiny roughly once every five minutes.

High Points

Once again, Robin Taylor as a disturbed and determined Oswald Cobblepot and fifteen-year-old Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle act circles around much of the cast.

I enjoyed the comic-book macabre of the week’s central crime. I suspect Charles Addams would have approved. I even liked the unnecessary Easter Egg references to the Shadow, and the absurdity of Batman’s predecessor being… The Balloonman!

Of course, the show has other plots.

Low Point

I recognize the show has established a certain soap-opera/comic-book format, but I think they need to tweak it a bit. The best story-arced shows establish a sense of coherence in tone, look, and direction for each episode. Gotham hasn’t found that yet. Individual portions work, but they never cohere into anything greater. Each episode should spend a little more time on fewer arcs.

Unless I say otherwise, can we just assume that Jada Pinkett Smith’s weekly appearances as Fish Mooney will be a Low Point for me?

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 A Balloon-man, later known as the Balloonatic, has turned up sporadically in the DC ‘verse, but he’s a very different villain than the one we see in this episode. I don’t know of any other show or comic that has delivered death in this particular grotesque, darkly funny manner.

Effects: 5/6

Acting: 4/6 I’ve addressed some of the acting Highs and Lows elsewhere. The anticipated revelation that Gordon’s future bride and Renee Montoya had a relationship was handled awkwardly. I’m happy to see LGBTQ characters on television, but they need convincing interaction, not inept titillation. These actresses have the chemistry of inert gas.

Story: 4/6 Story has been addressed elsewhere. I did wonder about one element, however: would Boy Scout Gordon chain a young teen girl to a post in the middle of a lawless town while he popped down to the sewer to find a wallet? No, I didn’t think so.

Emotional Response: 4/6 It’s about time Harvey Bullock got his butt handed to him. The show played it largely for twisted laughs, and without going overboard.

Production: 6/6 The visuals look great.

Overall: 4/6 Conventional comic-books have license to mix all kinds of character types, tropes, and tones, but that blend is a harder sell in a more serious television show. This episode has interesting foreshadowing of Bruce’s future, but no subtlety. And the blend of serious despair over the state of Gotham with the macabre humour of the week’s major crime does not entirely work. Gotham still hasn’t found its beat.

In total, “Balloonman” receives 30/42