Episode 3 of “Gotham” has the literal title of “The Balloonman,” and the character who gains that moniker serves up what could be Gotham City’s first flirtation with vigilantism.
While it may be easy enough to look at the opening teaser segment and laugh at the sight of a corrupt banker being carried into the clouds by a weather balloon, this episode has it where it counts: it’s a satisfying early look at the state of graft and corruption that the city is plagued with, and it also gave us a satisfying first look at Carmine Falcone’s chief rival for the crown of the Gotham underworld: Sal Maroni (played by “Dexter’s” David Zayas). It was really interesting seeing how Maroni’s operation in the city worked in the years preceding Bruce Wayne’s adulthood, as most comic book fans are aware that Maroni is generally one of the last remaining vestiges of family-centric criminality in the city before it’s overrun by “the freaks” (like the Joker and the Riddler), as well as by Batman. Fans of The Dark Knight should also recognize the Maroni name, as he was the major crime boss in the city for the duration of that film.
Still, though, some of the best parts of this episode were again provided by David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee as Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth, respectively. It seems that the Balloonman may have served a larger purpose in the scheme of the “Gotham” iteration of the world of Batman, since Bruce demonstrates a key understanding between justice and murder due to the vigilante’s actions. While we’re still a long way off from Bruce actively deciding to wage a holy war on crime, a subtle implantation of the idea at this early stage of his orphaned life seems very in-step with the man he will eventually become, and may end up being a key moment in the philosophy Bruce will take forward in his life.
One aspect of this show I’m not very satisfied with, though, is the characterization of Major Crimes detective Renee Montoya. “Gotham’s” cast already seems like it’s pretty large anyways, and the inclusion of Montoya and her partner Crispus Allen, two established characters from the source material, seems like it may be a little too much. This is especially true considering the warped characterizations of both, but as Montoya is the more prominent DC Comics character, the violations against her seem a little more pronounced. In the comics, Montoya is very level-headed and committed to justice largely due to the tutelage of Commissioner Jim Gordon, who promoted her to the position of homicide detective and served as a mentor to her when she came up in the ranks. She could also likely be described as being a member of the “Gordon class” of GCPD officer, since it was Gordon’s promotion to Commissioner that saw a GCPD truly begin to cast away its former shackles of corruption. Since he was able to bring his own people in from the top down, it started becoming much more effective as a law enforcement institution.
In this series, though, almost all of her actions are motivated by a jealousy of her former girlfriend’s new-found happiness with Gordon. Outwardly this would be interesting in and of itself, but it does kind of make one wonder about why they chose to adapt a character from the comics instead of simply creating a new one. Viewers curious about the character and writers on the show should consider reading writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark’s “Half a Life,” the incredible 5-issue story arc from the Gotham Central comics title, where all of her beliefs are put to the test when she is outed as a homosexual by a very unsuspecting person in the city. That story won the Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story in 2004, the Harvey Award for Best Single Issue or Story the same year, in addition to a nomination for a GLAAD-award.
Still, this episode of “Gotham” has proven to be my favorite of the season thus far. It’s not perfect, but it is getting better, and it’s nice to be able to see that as we keep moving forward from week-to-week. 8/10
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