Wednesday, 8 October 2014

GOTHAM, 1.3 – 'The Balloonman' • up, up, and away!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


There was a Gotham City vigilante who predated The Batman? Yes: The Balloonman! He ties corrupt citizens to weather balloons, dragging them skyward to their deaths. (Alas, he doesn't have a Balloonmobile, or use an array of blow-up gadgets.) The Balloonman's modus operandi allowed for fun visuals of people floating up above skyscrapers, that helps set GOTHAM apart from most other cop shows, but beyond that this was another hour that didn't thrill me. I'm close to giving up on Gotham in terms of weekly reviews, unless it finds a more exciting form later in the season.

What I like about Gotham is the grungy look and feel of the titular city—like a warped vision of early-1980s New York. I also find merit in the basic idea of doing a cop show with a strange comic-book style, with an actor like Ben McKenzie playing the hero. But I'm not enjoying almost everything else…

Oswald Cobblepott (Robin Lord Taylor) seems to kill every other nondescript person he encounters, just to provide a quick jolt. Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) is the clichéd fiancé who hangs around looking sexy in her lover's shirt. Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is a crooked scumbag who's meant to be the show's second lead! Alfred (Sean Pertwee) is now teaching orphan Bruce (David Mazouz) sword-fighting kills that foreshadow him becoming a crime-fighting ninja. I have placed a wager Bruce will get a bat-costume in a future Halloween-themed episode, and the odds were favourable.

And why bother with scenes where Bruce watches TV news reports about vigilantes, as if we're supposed to get excited that's where his life's headed? He won't become Batman for a good decade or so, and perhaps not ever on this show itself. Certainly not while Ben Affleck is playing Batman at the multiplex, right?

There's just too much about Gotham I don't like, or have faith in, and a lot of that's down to how cynical the project feels. It exists because Batman's popular and The CW's Arrow has been a surprise hit, but isn't enough of its own thing to go more than five minutes without an embryonic Bat-villain appearing, or the few original characters mentioning things like Arkham Asylum. And who cast a clean-shaven David Zayas (Dexter) as gangster Maroni?

written by John Stephens • directed by Dermott Downs • 6 October 2014 • Fox