So here we are again, watching another episode of The Adventures of Not Batman. Now last episode DID have a bit more going for it than the pilot, so maybe that trend will continue with this episode. Will the show one day be good enough to be called “Okay?” There’s only one way to find out and that’s to keep on reading!!
The episode begins with Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) returning to Gotham by bus and landing smack dab on the corner of Crime Street and Prostitution Lane. It’s amazing that in this one block, he’s able to witness about a dozen crimes being performed in broad daylight. Why the hell are the streets so crowded if everyone there gets ripped off!? The scene is saved however by Oswald appearing nostalgic to be back where he belongs.
We segue from this to a Bernie Madoff analog who’s been accused of ripping off A LOT of people. He’s trying to dodge the press, but runs head first into some guy with a rickety ass balloon cart.
For some reason, the Not Bernie Madoff doesn’t think to run as far away from this creepy dude as humanly possible, which gives the balloon guy an opportunity to get close and put some handcuffs on him. The balloon guy immediately releases and inflates a weather balloon, lifting up the corporate crook into the air to eventually fall and die. WHAT!?!?
This. Is. AWESOME!!! Okay, we all know that a weather balloon cannot lift a human being, and that inflating it is not an instantaneous process, but the gimmick here is pretty damn solid. Some guy uses balloons to send his victims into the stratosphere before eventually landing back down to Earth with a messy thud. The way this episode starts (Cobblepot on crime street) as well as this new villain leads me to think (or at least hope) that Gotham is finally figuring out what tone to give this show. If it continues to be a gritty comedy, then I can get behind it! Naturally Gordon and Bullock make it to the scene to start investigating. At this point, the show helpfully informs us which is the RIGHT opinion, and which is the WRONG one. Bullock says “The killer did good by getting rid of a scumbag.” Gordon says, “He was never tried, and even if he was guilty, the law shouldn’t be taken into someone’s hands.” Thanks for letting us know right away how to feel about it by having literal good cop and bad cop explain the two sides. Once the two of them get back to the police station, we meet this episode’s police corruption effigy who’s planning to beat the shit out of some perp.
Huh. Already starting to turn against this episode. I can go with our weekly antagonists being off the wall and goofy, but this continued denigration and bastardization of every fucking cop in this city is making it hard for the wacky villains to stand out as being wacky and villainous. So after yet another fruitless conversation with Bullock, someone from Child Services arrives to hand Selina over for the day so she can prove she was at the crime scene which means that she really does have information about the Wayne murders. Once Gordon and Selina get to the crime scene, she explains that she stole someone’s wallet and threw it in the sewer. If Gordon can find the wallet, then that’ll prove she was in deed there and that her information is worth something, though I doubt he’d actually put her back on the streets. I actually really like this scene because the actress playing Selina (Camren Bicondova) is STILL one of the best players in this damn show. So much so that her presence alone as someone to bounce off of actually brings up Block of Wood Gordon’s performance to something resembling decent. Him as a no nonsense stern good guy is actually a fitting counterbalance to Selina’s tough as nails street urchin. He handcuffs her to a railing while he goes digging through shit and eventually finds the wallet. Unfortunately, Gordon is an idiot and didn’t expect the girl who’s spent her whole life committing petty theft on the streets of one of the most crime infested cities to ever exist, MIGHT JUST BE ABLE TO ESCAPE FROM HANDCUFFS!
We cut to Fish Mooney who’s… doing what she always does I guess. Seriously, she does two things; Vomit exposition so the audience is reminded she wants to be the big mob boss, and provide breadcrumbs for whoever walks through the door so the plot can move along. The primary purpose of this scene is the latter because Allan and Montoya (two super cops or something) come in looking for answers about what happened to Oswald. Hold on, I thought they KNEW the guy was dead in the last episode! Whatever, Fish points the finger squarely at Gordon (who was SUPPOSED To kill him) so now Montoya has even MORE reason to creepily stalk her ex-girlfriend who’s dating Gordon. Beautiful. We go from there to a MUCH more interesting villain as we see Oswald trying to scrounge up enough money for a hoagie. However, he gets recognized by some crook who works for Fish and the guy starts dragging his sorry ass through an alley to deliver him to her. Again, we see the strength of Oswald’s characterization in this because he’s clearly no match for the big guy (or anyone else really). He’s not a tough guy; he’s just good in desperate situations and is presumably a criminal mastermind. Oswald had a knife up his sleeve in case of such a situation, so he slashes the chump’s leg, stabs him to death, and then uses the guy’s money to buy that tuna salad sandwich. Good for you Oswald!!
From there we cut to Bruce and Alfred having a fake swordfight with canes. For the first time, we get a moment of Alfred engaging with Bruce instead of reprimanding him for being emo and self-destructive. I still don’t think that having Bruce so prominently in the show is a good thing, but for once I don’t mind his appearance here because there’s some development for both Bruce and Alfred. Alfred is trying to give Bruce something to focus on instead of his parents, and Bruce is getting a bit of a taste for his inevitable “bad ass” training later on. At some point, Alfred finds out that Bruce has been looking over the police files of his parents’ murder, which ends up souring the good mood that both of them were in. Alfred tries to discourage Bruce from obsessing over the case, and assures him that Gordon will find the killers because he’s a great detective. We cut from there to Gordon scraping shit off his shoes while informing Child Services that he lost their kid.
Honestly Alfred? You might wanna leave the boy alone for a little bit. Not sure how much this guy has his shit together. There really doesn’t seem to be much of a consequence for losing a damn child other than a stern lecturing over the phone. Let’s just blame Gotham city for it. After his phone call, he gets a visit from Allan and Montoya who explicitly start accusing him of murdering Oswald. This seems completely rational considering their info came from a criminal. I mean, who wouldn’t trust the word of a power hungry and manipulative mob underboss!? They have no fucking proof (obviously) so Gordon just blows the dumb asses off. Just to further this point, we cut to the very much alive Oswald who seems REALLY fucking intent on becoming a bus boy in this restaurant. There’s probably a dozen fucking convenience stores within a five block radius that want someone to watch the night shift, so why the hell is he so set on this place? We don’t get an answer, but we DO see him eyeball the current bus boy so we can probably guess what’s going to happen with that. Back at the Police Department, Gordon let’s Bullock know that Allan and Montoya are on to him and then proceeds to act high and mighty about everything. Seriously dude? We all know you didn’t actually kill the guy, but maybe you should at least PRETEND like you did? Maybe not take the high horse about everything when Bullock is supposed to think you’re feeling completely guilt ridden? Bullock informs us that a weather balloon manufacturer has come to the station to make a statement, so Gordon and Bullock go to talk to them. We cut back to Oswald who’s outside the restaurant for the bus boy to get off his shift. Hold on, we only cut back to the Police Station so we can hear Gordon act high and mighty? We couldn’t even get the interview before going back to this storyline? Whatever, I’m not a big fan of this quick little scene anyway because we don’t actually SEE Oswald take care of the guy, probably because we’d never believe it considering the bus boy is clearly well built.
It’d probably be easier to get a job somewhere else. Just saying. We cut back to the interview with the weather balloon guy who informs our heroes that one of his ex-employees stole four weather balloons from him, which implies there are still three more victims for our bad guy. We cut to someone who is most assuredly going to be one of them, which is that asshole cop at the beginning who beats people up with his award statue. Remember that jerk? Well it turns out he’s beating up a drug dealer for not making enough money. Really? There’s no fucking way you can tone it down a bit? He employs drug dealers!? Anyway, he ends up running into the killer who tries to handcuff him. The cop actually gets a few licks in at the guy (we still can’t see his face), and finds some sort of incriminating evidence (a piece of paper) in the guy’s jacket. The killer takes advantage of the guy’s distraction and handcuffs him to a balloon.
Okay, so the cop has some sheet of paper that can identify the killer, but he can’t really share it with anyone until his body comes hurtling towards the streets of Gotham. I’d figure that the killer would take this opportunity to GTFO, but I’m guessing that considering we’re only halfway through the episode that he’s not going to do that. After that, we go to Bruce reading a paper which is declaring this guy a vigilante (Balloon Man) who’s killing off protected crooks (dirty cops and Wall Street bandits). Right… who wants to bet they’re going to undercut the idea of a vigilante only three episodes into a prequel about a vigilante? Anyway, we cut to Gordon who’s getting ready for work at his fucking mansion of an apartment (IT HAS TWO FLOORS!!!) where his girlfriend is dutifully nearby to hand him coffee while wearing no pants.
Yeah, she’s still the worst thing in this show (followed closely by Montoya who’ll be showing up soon enough). She’s just a freaking robot who gives the show sex appeal and keeps reminding Gordon how awesome he is. Yuck, give her SOMETHING to do or just get rid of her, and for fuck’s sake DON’T MAKE HER A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS ONCE YOU RUN OUT OF IDEAS FOR THIS SHOW!! At the office, Gordon and Bullock are getting chewed out be the Captain once again because Balloon Man is becoming a hero to the city. The only lead they have is the guy who stole balloons from the manufacturer, but they haven’t found him yet. Bullock is ready to finger him for the deaths (naturally because it’s the easiest option) but Gordon thinks otherwise which means that the kid can’t possibly be the killer. Gordon and Bullock go out on the streets to find the kid, but Bullock decides to take the lead which means he chats up a bunch of prostitutes and beats up random people. I wouldn’t mind so much except for two things. First of all, this would have been a good chance to give Bullock a redeeming quality (he can get stuff done), but instead the search is fruitless. He really hasn’t done anything worth a damn since the pilot where he tried (and failed) to rescue Gordon, so I was kind of hoping he’d do SOMETHING to make him not so one dimensional and possibly give us a reason to like him. Second, the whole scene is a montage which means that we don’t get context for any of his actions. This only further cements him as a clichéd dirty cop instead of someone who we MIGHT be able to sympathize with if we knew WHO he was beating up and WHY. After the pointless search, we cut back to Oswald who’s now working as the bus boy in the Italian restaurant. This scene is ALSO a wasted opportunity to show some more of Oswald’s conniving and intellect. It turns out that the restaurant is a popular place for one of the lower tier mob bosses in the city. Wouldn’t it be great if Oswald knew this and THAT was why he wanted to be a god damn bus boy? Instead, he had no fucking clue so this ends up feeling like a completely unbelievable coincidence that a guy trying to get back into the crime world JUST SO HAPPENS to be working at a restaurant frequented by a mid-range mobster.
Back at the investigation, it seems that one of Bullock’s random beatings eventually panned out. It’s too bad we didn’t actually SEE it, so we just have to take their word for it. They capture the kid who stole the balloons (in a fight scene where Bullock gets his ass handed to him) and the two of them drag the punk down to the police station. NO WAIT!! We have to cut to Fish Mooney now because we can’t have two scenes back to back with the same characters! So what’s the point of this scene with Fish? Nothing. No point. MOVING ON!! We cut to ANOTHER useless character! Barbara is just getting out of the shower (naturally) and finds Montoya waiting for her in the living room. For fuck’s sake! Aren’t you supposed to be one of Gotham’s good cops!? What the hell are you doing breaking into other people’s houses like this? Oh, it’s to throw even more baseless accusations against Gordon right into her face. Wonderful. I’m so glad she’s in this show. Oh, and it also turns out that Montoya is a recovering drug addict who got Barbara hooked when they were dating. Oh for fuck’s sake! As far as I can tell, this is WHOLY a creation of this series and I can’t even fathom why they decided to do it. Once again, Barbara completely ignores Montoya and even reveals that their relationship was boarder line abusive. THANKS GOTHAM!! YOU WANNA MAKE HER A CHILD MOLESTOR TOO!?!? Thankfully we finally get to see the interrogation of the kid that Gordon and Bullock picked up. Unfortunately, this scene just shows us how god damn stupid our main characters are. The kid says he sold the balloons to some guy who’s face he never as a way to pay off some loan sharks. Then he hits the two cops with a stunning revelation. The bodies are gonna come back down to Earth. No seriously, it appears that our heroes didn’t know that balloons popped.
You’re telling me that these guys are investigating a series of murders done with weather balloons, yet didn’t bother to find out how they work? Scratch that, HOW DO THEY NOT KNOW HOW BALLOONS WORK IN THE FIRST PLACE!? Oh it gets better. Apparently the editor was watching this scene and thought “now that our heroes know how balloons work, it’s only natural to have one of the bodies fall to the ground IMMEDIATELY after this scene!” Sure enough, the bad cop ends up landing on (and killing) an old lady.
Gordon and Bullock arrive at the scene and are quickly informed that another one of the balloons has just been used on some pedo priest. Wait, hold on. Why are you TELLING us about this instead of showing us someone else getting carried off by a ball of helium!? Those were the best parts of this episode! One of the cops finds that SUPER REVEALING document that the dirty cop pulled off Balloon Man before his ascension into the sky. What’s on it? Why, it has Gordon’s name on it!! What could this mean? Well it means that Gordon now knows who the killer is! Who is it? Well the show has another fifteen minute left so we have enough time to squeeze in a bit more subplot before they tell us. Hey, at least they’re cutting to something I can actually enjoy this time. We cut back to Oswald who’s trying to eavesdrop on the mob boss who’s visiting the restaurant. Wait, is that David Zayas!?
Huh. Didn’t expect to see Cuban actor David Zayas playing an Italian. Eh, whatever. For some reason he takes a shine to Oswald kind of like the way Jack Nicolson did to young Matt Damon in The Departed. This of course brings up a perfectly reasonable question; WHY anyone would ever trust this guy who looks just as much like a weasel or a rat as he does a penguin? On the TV in the background, we can see a news report about the Priest getting pulled into the sky.
Oh hey! They did show it to us! We cut to the police station where we find out who the killer is. It’s… the Child Services guy who dropped off Selina. Huh. That’s it?
Did we really need to stick that scene with Oswald to stall this revelation? Sure, its’ nice to see David Zayas again, but I don’t think this “so called” twist really needed the wait. So the document that they found on the dirty cop was a copy of the paper that Gordon signed when was given custody over Selina for the day she was at the police station. I don’t know why the killer had to keep that form on him when he went out to murder the cop, but it doesn’t matter too much. The guy has been a no show at work for over a day now and no one knows where he is. Gordon gets the idea that the guy might be using an old “juvey building” (is that an orphanage?) that has long since been abandoned as his base of operations. Gordon and Bullock go to investigate (alone I might add) and ends up finding him and arresting him on the spot. No wait, we have ten more minutes. He ends up taking Bullock hostage.
Alright, I’ve talked A LOT of shit about this episode, but the actor playing the Balloon Man is really great in this scene as he explains his motivations. He’s a public servant who’s spent his whole life trying to make the world a better place for the children of Gotham, and he’s accomplished nothing. They actually reference what happened in the previous episode by saying he was inspired when Gordon saved all those kids and ended up snapping when he found out the shitty policy that the mayor had enacted in the previous episode (locking up kids without a trial). Here’s the problem though. We can tell he’s well meaning, but we also know that what he’s doing is ultimately wrong when there are still people like Gordon who are doing what they can within the bounds of the law. HOW IS ANY OF THIS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT BY THE TIME BATMAN COMES AROUND!? Hell, by that point Gordon will have even more power to change things in the city because he’ll be on his way to becoming the commissioner! Oh, what’s that? Batman doesn’t kill? Well then, I guess that’s all alright then! Just cripple them instead of murdering them! SO MUCH BETTER!!!
The Balloon Man tries to shoot Gordon and misses, which gives Bullock an opportunity to handcuff the guy to a balloon… instead of arresting him. Gordon jumps on the guy as he starts floating up which forces Bullock to shoot the balloon before it gets too high, sparing Balloon Man from having the same fate as his victims. After Gordon promises to do his best to clean up the city as the Balloon Man is carted off by an ambulance, we cut to Bruce watching a news story about the incident. He tells Alfred that by killing people, the Balloon Man became a criminal just like those he tried to stop. Hold on… I’m getting a message from the future. It says… “The Batman is calling the kettle black.” Fuck you kid, I know what you’re going to do in about fifteen years and there are serious crimes OTHER than murder that you will definitely be a party to! We get another scene with Fish (Don’t care! NEXT!!!) before we cut to Gordon at home trying to reassure himself (and his girlfriend) that Gotham has a chance to get better without having to resort to vigilantism. Their moment together is interrupted when there’s a knock at the door and the episode ends with Oswald showing up at the Gordon’s place for what can only be nefarious reasons.
This episode was a huge disappointment considering how amazing the premise was. I love the idea of Balloon Man even though his methods would never work in the real world, and by the end of the episode we got a complex character who truly wants to do the right thing in a world gone mad. The problem is that this well done character has to exist in such a bland universe where our heroes are either cartoonishly corrupt or boringly incorruptible. Side characters like Oswald and Selina stand out, but they had no interaction with our villain in this episode, so they only end up drawing focus away from the Balloon Man story that could have been fleshed out a bit. Maybe the show is trying to do too much for any of it to really stand out. Gordon fighting for and with the cops is a show on its own, but then they throw in Oswald’s rise to power, Fish Mooney’s power plays against the current ruling family, Bruce sitting in his giant fucking mansion feeling sorry for himself, and whatever the hell they decide to do with Selina. Oh no wait, we also have to throw in the bastardized version of Montoya who keeps trying to drive her ex-girlfriend away from Gordon and tries to rationalize it with flimsy evidence handed to her by criminals. Yeah, can we drop that shit as soon as possible? PLEASE!? I don’t know, maybe the show just isn’t all that good. Do I need to come up with reasons why it doesn’t work? Gordon is boring, everyone is an idiot (BALLOONS EVENTUALLY POP!!) and everything feels fake and done with only surface level effort. I’m hoping that The Penguin becomes a fascinating character who can truly steal this show and make it worth watching every week. He’s not quite there yet, but he’s one of the few people keeping my interest, and I’m hoping that the next episode lives up to the potential of what the ending of this one teases.