Yes Father, I Shall Become… A Weather Balloon! Gotham: “The Balloonman”

This week’s Gotham brought some much-needed lightness to the series, showing us that despite all its corruption, there are still some good intentions floating through the air of Gotham City, and it’s infectious. More importantly, the episode introduced us to fan-favorite Batman character, Balloonman. What, you guys don’t remember Balloonman? He fought Bane that one time? Wait no that was…huh. That’s weird…

The Rising Action…

Picking up from last week’s startling cliffhanger about the true identity of the Waynes’ killer… apparently Gordon and Selina Kyle never finished having that conversation. Fortunately, Officer Lamond from Child Protective Services brings her back to the police station to talk to Gordon, who signs the paperwork to give her a stay from being shipped upstate with the rest of the homeless kids. Gordon and Kyle take a walk over to Crime Alley, where she uses the wallet that she stole in the pilot episode moments before the mugging to prove that she was there. Then she gives Gordon the slip without offering any other useful information, other than teasing that she caught a glimpse of the killer without his mask on. D’oh.

Gotham The Balloonman

More importantly, a vigilante has taken to the streets of Gotham, using stolen weather balloons to literally lift criminals off the street, starting with Ronald Danzer, an investor and con artist currently on bail for Ponzi scheming. Naturally, Gordon and Bullock are assigned to the case, even though Bullock thinks that Danzer got what he deserved for screwing half of Gotham out of all their savings and driving several marks to suicide. But Gordon’s a good cop, and since Danzer never received a rightful trial, it still counts as murder to him. Even though there isn’t a body, because he went flying along with a weather balloon.

Montoya and Allen are still on the case of the missing Oswald Cobblepot, so they pay a visit to Fish Mooney. They’re not as willing to dance with her as the other cops we’ve seen, despite her attempts at seduction. But she does confirm for them that Cobblepot is dead—by the hand of Jim Gordon, under orders from Carmine Falcone. Uh-oh.

The good cops make their move and corner Gordon at the police station, accusing him of Cobblepot’s murder—which of course, he denies, but not for the reasons they think (also, probably not the kind of conversation you should be having in the middle of the stationhouse?). Once Montoya and Allen give up on getting their desired answer out of Gordon, he goes to Bullock, and the two of them have a nice moment of camaraderie. Bullock urges Jim to let go of his guilt over Cobblepot’s murder—because Cobblepot, like Ronald Danzer, and Mario Pepper from the pilot episode, deserved to die.

Of course, we know that Cobblepot isn’t really dead. In fact, he’s already made it back to Gotham. He’s spotted on the street by one of Mooney’s eager thugs, but Cobblepot makes short work of the man’s ankles with a knife. After a few more scenes of sociopathy and an obligatory comment about the way he walks, Cobblepot lands a job at an Italian restaurant frequented by Maroni, the rival crimeboss to Falcone. This is the first time we see Maroni, and Cobblepot uses his flightless aquatic charms to endear himself to the big bad mobster.

And then the Balloonman strikes again! This time he takes out Police Lieutenant Cranston, a famously corrupt cop (but like more famously corrupt than the rest of them). Now the investigation is serious business—Bullock (along with Commissioner Essen) was willing to let it slide when it just a conman, but no one kills a cop and gets away with it. Gordon, however, finds this distinction to be dubious at best, and fears that the shifting priorities of GCPD could lead to vigilantism, which would only make things worse. Meanwhile, the citizens of Gotham are ecstatic to find that someone is standing up for them by taking out the dirty crooks that Gotham’s cops won’t handle, and they’re excited to see which corrupt public figure the Balloonman takes out next. WHOOPS.

A manufacturer from Deus Ex Weather Balloons shows up at the station to report the theft of four of his balloons by a former employee. Cue montage of Harvey Bullock showing Jim Gordon how it’s done, now that he’s finally actually doing his job. Gordon does, however, get the opportunity to save Bullock’s life, much like Bullock saved Gordon from Mario Pepper.

Gotham The Balloonman

Together they apprehend and interrogate the ex-employee when—oh snap. Or, splat, as it were. What goes up must come down, and if Danzer and Cranston hadn’t already died from oxygen loss or starvation, they definitely did when they fell back to the ground, crushing innocent people beneath them. But a bag of protection money found among Cranston’s splattered guts also contains a key piece of evidence—the slip that Gordon had signed earlier to keep Selina Kyle out of juvie, leading them back to CPS Officer Lamond.

Meanwhile, Officer Montoya pays another visit to the future Mrs. Gordon, who gets out of the shower to find that her police officer ex-girlfriend used her spare key to let herself into the apartment. Montoya snitches on Gordon again, and tries to convince Barbara that he’s corrupt and evil and dirty and that she should totally dump him and then the two of them can get back together. It seems that substance abuse and dishonesty had a hand in the end of their relationship. Either way, Montoya still thinks that Barbara deserves better than Jim Gordon—and now she’s planted the seed of doubt. Before she leaves, Montoya tries to kiss Barbara, but Babs turns away at the last moment.

Bullock and Gordon track Lamond to Gotham’s abandoned former juvenile detention facilities, but not before he sends a pedophilic priest up into the sky. With just one weather balloon left in his arsenal, Lamond is forced into a showdown, holding Bullock and explaining his compulsion for cleaning up Gotham’s streets by himself: he dedicated his life to the lost children of Gotham because he thought he could make a difference, but the justice system won’t let him, so he’s taken the law into his own hands. Bullock escapes and ties Lamond to the final weather balloon, launching it off into the sky. But Gordon refuses to let anyone else die, so he grabs hold of Lamond and follows him up, up, up, until Bullock puts a bullet through the balloon to bring it back down to the ground.

Gotham The Balloonman

As Lamond is carted away, he warns Gordon that more vigilantes will be coming. “Not if we do our job,” Gordon says, then probably spends the rest of the way home coming up with better one-liners. But before he goes, he asks who the fourth weather balloon target was, to which Lamond responds: does it matter? There were plenty more corrupt targets for him to choose from.

Young Bruce watches the news reports at home about the Balloonman case, and the whole idea of vigilantism starts to get his adolescent gears turning, even as he concludes that Balloonman was still a criminal because he killed people. Bruce and Alfred have also been spending some quality sword fighting time together—and apparently Bruce has done some sleuthing of his own by uncovering crime scene photos of his murdered parents, intent on solving the crime himself.

Gordon arrives back at Barbara’s apartment at the end of the day, physically and emotionally exhausted from the Balloonman ordeal. Barbara tries to pry, inspired by Montoya’s manipulations, and Jim confesses that the city is sick in ways he never realized. He tells her that everyone’s guilty, everyone’s corrupt, to the point that the people were cheering for a vigilante who calls himself Balloonman. If the people start taking the law into their hands, he explains, then there is no law at all…

Which is right about the time that Oswald Cobblepot shows up at Barbara Neal’s front door.

Gotham The Balloonman

Oh, also there’s some scenes at Fish Mooney’s joint where she checks up on her boytoy and then has him taken out and also talks with Falcone for a while about Maroni and allegiances and Arkham because apparently we need to take the idea of an ensemble really, really seriously and fit every single person into every single episode.

The Hot Air

Ya know what? I really enjoyed this episode. Don’t get me wrong, the weather balloon thing was ridiculous, but I appreciated the willingness to just own it and say, yeah, this show is gonna be campy, and you’re gonna like it! I also liked that they resisted the overwhelming urge to tie everything into Batman’s mythology, and I hope that’s the direction they continue to follow. (That being said, I was more than a little disappointed not to see my beloved Professor Pyg)

After two episodes of “LOOK HOW CORRUPT EVERYTHING IN GOTHAM IS,” I also appreciated the opportunity to see more complicated permutations of morality. There were even a few moments where I genuinely felt myself on Harvey Bullock’s side of the argument! Now that we’ve established him as corrupt and lazy, it’s high time we got to see him do some serious detective work, and actually care about justice for once, even if his motivations were frustrating. But then, I didn’t mind his initial attitude towards the death of Ronald Danzer, either—even dirty cops draw the line at exploitative businessmen. Obviously I’m also intrigued by the notion of pre-Batman vigilantes in Gotham City, as well as Gordon’s potential journey towards working outside of the law (within reason).

Gotham The Balloonman

I am, however, already getting a little annoyed incessant need to overstuff the episodes by touching in with every lingering subplot. I can’t be the only one who felt like everything with Mooney’s loverboy Laszlo was extraneous, and I would have rather seen more of the Balloonman investigation and the teamwork / budding friendship between Gordon and Bullock. As far as police procedurals are concerned, I’m often impressed with the myriad plot complications that fill up your standard episode of, say, Law & Order: SVU. But this investigation plot was literally: initial discovery, deliberation / laziness, informant conveniently appears in their laps and tells them where to go, they go there, then random chance delivers the last bit of info which they immediately solve, and then it’s straight to the showdown. Detective stories are often built on reversals and misdirections, but so far, these mysteries have been pretty straight forward, and it feels like all the extraneous subplots are there to make up for the lack of clever plotting.

On a related note, the show is still relying a bit too heavily on exposition instead of action. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the function of Barbara Kean, who, for the second week in a row, has explained a mid-episode plot complication with the Gotham PD, before we get to see it in action (if we ever do at all). This could be another symptom of the underplotting / overstuffed sub-plotting—there’s so much nothing going on that there’s not enough time to show it happening, so we have to rely on people telling us about it instead. Hopefully this will fix itself as the series continues.

Gotham The Balloonman

Stray Balloons Up in The Atmosphere

  • “Balloonman”? Seriously?
  • I’m pretty sure that Lt. Cranston’s “Chamber of Commerce” trophy was just an Oscar with a police hat.
  • No more Bruce Wayne self-harm! Woohoo! (although I’d like to thank last week’s commenters for getting me more on board with that than I previously was)
  • Robin Lord Taylor is so amazingly creepy and sociopathic. I’ve never been this excited about the Penguin. Hell, I can’t wait to just watch him gain weight!
  • It only took us three episodes to almost get a same-sex kiss on-screen (I think it was close enough to count, and only interrupted for dramatic reasons, but someone might rightfully disagree). How much longer will it take for the word “bisexual” to be said on-screen?
  • I really, really, really hope the writers can find some better function for Barbara Kean. Her entire purpose right now is to dress sexy and function as a transit hub for exposition. Hell, I’m pretty sure we’ve only seen her leave the house once so far.
  • On that note, where does Jim Gordon live? The pilot episode made it a point to explain that they weren’t living together out of wedlock, but he only ever goes to her apartment.
  • …that being said, it is a pretty swank pad.
  • WHERE WAS PROFESSOR PYG?!
  • “Balloonman”? Seriously?
  • No seriously can we get a Balloonman ongoing series written by Scott Snyder like, ASAP?

Obligatory Joker Sighting:

Um. Uh. Crap. I, uh…I didn’t notice anything. Unless…maybe it was Balloonman’s initial appearance as someone selling balloons on the street? I guess that’s a thing that clowns do sometimes? Although the pig mask kind of ruins that. If anyone has any better ideas, please let me know!


Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. Thom enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey and robots). He is a graduate of Clarion Writer’s Workshop at UCSD, and he firmly believes that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is the single worst atrocity committed against mankind. Find out more at thomdunn.net.

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