Gotham’s “The Balloonman” takes a much different tone than prior episodes— You can almost see the visible growing pains as it flexes, to find its footing within the market of genres. It is almost as-if the bloat of Gotham is weighing heavily upon the FOX’s executives’ and producers’ shoulders. It is solidly placed, but they are still beginning to show signs of television fatigue. That careful balance between cop show and comic book show still hasn’t been fleshed out properly by Gotham, but it stretches to get closer still with “The Balloonman.”
“The Balloonman” is the first episode to hit home on the episodic nature that Gotham needs to get into. Like I’ve mentioned before, Gotham is struggling to appease comic book fans and television goers and—for granted—Batman is a force to reckoned with. The iconic Caped Crusader has spawned countless successful media properties over the course of several decades and comic book-wise it continues to reach the top of the charts in terms of sales and accolades. However, how do you make a series about Batman not be about Batman, and still keep fans coming back for more each and every week? You make it a cop show centered-around the GCPD.
Gotham begins to hit its cop show stride with “The Balloonman.” It begins to break away—albeit just for a moment—from the disjointed campiness of past installments, “The Balloonman” tries to shake its identity crisis by picking a formula and sticking to it. Focusing on a criminal that is (you guessed it) attaching balloons to ‘legitimate’ criminals and sending them sky high to their deaths is more-interesting than past villains, merely because Jada Pinkett Smith’s overacted portrayal of Fish Mooney isn’t involved…anything without her is better.
However, even with the inclusion of a minor criminal that draw the attention of GCPD for just a moment is better than before, but it is still…well…Balloonman. The episode tries to embrace a cop drama, but it is still executed rather poorly. I praise the effort, but for Gotham to survive it needs to take a creative cue from similar supernatural cop dramas such as ABC’s Forever. Forever takes a cliche premise, but back it up with a clever slant and an episodic quality that draws audience members for an hour-long, twisty and clever journey through the investigative process.
This is what Gotham needs to be.
The writing for “The Balloonman” is fairly straight-forward and there isn’t even an attempt at providing a feint or a ‘food for thought’ moment for the audience The writing belittles fans in its simplicity, and if you are up to date on your actors and their respective appearances it will be quite easy for you to immediately spot the non sequitur…and thus the Balloonman.
Even though the writing is lackluster, I do appreciate the angle that they are trying to take, more-so than a superhero epic that is forced to exclude Batman due to the premise. In my opinion, for Gotham to survive and be a multiple spanning series it desperately needs to become a ‘cop show.’ It needs to invest in providing in depth investigations with surprises and unusualness, all the while focusing on the character growth and camaraderie of Detective James Gordon and Harvey Bullock.
Unfortunately, at this juncture, television shows such as Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are doing it better. If you’re inclined to catch a superhero show to fill in the time between the films, check out the aforementioned shows, because Gotham isn’t cutting it…yet.