Dating back to Chris Nolan’s fabulous ‘Batman Begins,’ we’ve been constantly reminded how corrupt and disease-riddled the city of Gotham has become. Three episodes in, the new series has continually reminded the audience of this but no better than in this week’s episode, “The Balloon Man”.
Our first street’s-eye view is from the hobbled Oswald Cobblepot as he makes his way back into the city. Ignoring Gordon’s warning not to return, Fish Mooney’s former trooper is called to the blood and grime of his fair city. Not only that, but his blood-thirsty behavior is on full display, killing two people in what amounts to maybe five minutes of screen time. Not only that but he just so happens to get a job at Dom Maroni’s restaurant, a choice that may bloom great opportunity.
Let’s get off of Cobblepot for the moment and focus on the episode-titled vigilante. Using a most unique method of getting back at the criminal scum exploiting their positions of power, the Balloon Man attaches oversized weather balloons to those he deems unworthy and watches as they are carried off into the sky, their punishment for taking advantage of those who look to them for protection.The first on the list is Ronald Danser, the Bernie Madoff of Gotham. He’s swindled people out of millions with his Ponzi schemes and looks to skirt justice with high priced lawyers and plea deals. When Bullock hears of Danser’s fate, he’s not too keen on making an effort to find the perpetrator. Gordon’s not deterred and wants Bullock to keep following leads while he takes Selina Kyle back to the scene of the Wayne murder. He doesn’t believe she was there, nor her admission that she saw the Waynes’ killer’s face momentarily. At her behest, Gordon enters the sewers, finding the wallet she’d stolen that night. It proves she was there; of course, before he can ask her any more questions, she skips out on him to be lost in the hustle and bustle of the city.
Speaking of questions, Major Crimes all-stars Montoya and Allen visit Fish Mooney to gather more intel on Cobblepot’s presumed fate. At first Mooney points the finger at Gordon but then her endgame becomes clear when she implies Falcone was the one who gave the order. “I just want justice for little Oswald,” she feigns but no one is buying her lines. But her info puts Gordon back into the crosshairs of the duo though he’s done with entertaining their accusations. Sometime after her run in with Gordon, Montoya visits Barbara, Gordon’s fiancée and Montoya’s ex. The detective still harbors strong feelings for Barbara, and her belief that Gordon’s just as dirty as the other cops puts her into protective mood. For her part, Barbara seems to share some residual feelings but is committed to Gordon, believing in his goodness.
When Lt. Bill Cranston, a detective and just as corrupt as any street thug meets the balloon fate, the Captain directs Gordon and Bullock to turn the heat up. It’s something Gordon knew would happen and he confides it to Barbara, before her chat with Montoya. “Everyone has to matter or nobody matters,” he tells her, adding that “people lose faith and that’s when you get vigilantes.” She tries consoling him with his success in capturing the Waynes’ killer but he knows the farce of that particular truth.
Using some of Bullock’s less than savory connections, they find Carl Smikers, former employee to the city’s resident balloon expert. He’s not the mastermind behind the killings, though he did sell four balloons to an unknown party. When Cranston’s body is recovered after falling back to earth, Gordon realizes the identity of the balloon man. It’s Davis Lamond, the Juvenile Services officer that dropped Selina Kyle off to Gordon. Using a bit of ingenuity, Gordon surmises that Lamond is hiding out at the old Juvenile Services building. The vigilante gets the drop on Bullock and tries convincing the two detectives that what he’s doing needs to be done. He wants to teach those who believe they are above the law that “there are consequences”. After a struggle in which Bullock cuffs Lamond to his own balloon, Gordon forces Bullock to shoot the balloon lest both he and Lamond float up and away.Cobblepot is the last person Gordon expects to see at his doorstep
Case closed, Gordon returns home and confesses to Barbara that things in Gotham are even worse than he realized. He knows that there will be others like Lamond that will take justice into their own hands, a sentiment which Gordon may understand but will fight against for all he’s worth. “I know you, Jim Gordon,” Barbara tells him after confirming he would never stoop to such means of retribution, “and I love you.” It is the support he needs, especially after she opens the door to one Oswald Cobblepot, smirk firmly in place, waiting to speak to the detective.
• Though only mentioned in passing, Arkham’s name comes up. Falcone has some irons in the fire in regards to the Asylum for the criminally insane, despite it being closed for the last 15 years. Does he have a few experiments going on there or will he be the reason the home to many of Gotham’s criminals reopens its infamous doors?
• Speaking of Falcone, the sly game between him and Fish continues. Though he does not show it, there’s no doubt he knows Fish had something to do with the ‘accident’ that befalls his newest lady. The subtle power play between the two remains in the background but it’s only a matter of time before it explodes into something a bit more heavy-handed. And if it does, be sure that the other baddies—Cobblepot and Maroni, just to name two—will take full advantage of it. It lends credence to Cobblepot’s words in the premiere when he stated that the streets will be red with blood. Red indeed, Mr. Cobblepot, red indeed.
• Relegated to the background, we do get a couple more scenes of Bruce Wayne as he’s traveling led down the path that will ultimately transform him into the Caped Crusader. The two biggest examples are his focus on discovering any sort of clues that will help in tracking down his parents’ killer and the strength in his code of what is right. As he and Alfred watch the news on the Balloon Man’s capture, young Bruce remarks that the vigilante killing people “makes him a criminal, too.” As interesting as these Easter eggs into Bruce Wayne’s development may be, it would be best if we not see a seed of his Batman visage growing every episode.