Tales from the Topher Nurton World
Various people have criticized the first episode of Gotham for using too many nods to future characters from the Batman Universe as a cheap device to spark curiosity. I have to admit that many of the hints were definitely too obvious and with all those pseudo Easter eggs the pilot felt crammed. The complaints are understandable but despite all obvious flaws, they couldn’t conceal the fact that this new depiction of Gotham appeared vibrant, surreal and dangerous.
With three episodes into the season the show still feels fresh and interesting and although I could care less about any particular character’s fate, I’m still curiously looking forward to what’s to come.
The 3rd episode called “The Balloonman” emphasized my notion that the world of Gotham could be described as a hybrid of Christopher Nolan’s and Tim Burton’s Batman. All those quirky aspects like the crowded GCPD with prison cells right next to the detectives’ desks, a killer who attaches his victims to weather balloons and the unforeseen strength of a giant black woman who throws Bullock around the room and almost smashes his head with a TV would fit perfectly into a Tim Burton movie. Especially the macabre death of an old woman who’s killed by a falling body reminded me of the director’s morbid sense of humor. On the other hand we have a lot of foreshadowing, in particular during scenes with young Bruce Wayne where the traits and importance of Batman are often implied. Sometimes the show gets really dark and thrilling but tries not to integrate any fantastic elements to sustain its tension. This tendency to keep a certain level of realism as well as the aforementioned prospects on the future and the addition of symbolism are stylistic devices that can also be found in the Nolanverse. The emotive and often over the top dialogue is a mixture of typical television drama and Nolan’s “Batman Myth” creation.
As I mentioned at the beginning I don’t really care about any of the characters but really like Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon. Oswald Cobblepot is the only one who stands out, although his dangerousness results only from his unpredictability.
“The Balloonman” was a decent episode: Nothing of real importance happened but we learned a bit more about Rene Montoya’s past with Gordon’s future wife Barbara and were given the opportunity to follow the Penguin on his killing spree, who seems to be laying the groundwork for his ascension.
The Balloonman himself was a shallow and gimmicky villain but worked anyway. Especially his Professor Pyg mask and The Shadow costume were nice nods to the comic books. (My first thoughts were Darkman, The Shadow and The Grey Ghost and I couldn’t decide who they were satirizing. Later I read that they even used The Shadow’s real television and radio name in form of two characters’ surnames: Lamont and Cranston. I also noticed the infamous laughter when Balloonman flees the crime scene.)
The episode could have been even better if they had left off all scenes with young Bruce Wayne and included them in another episode that’s solely focused on his development. Last episode’s cliffhanger had little to no impact on the plot but worked as a good introduction.