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"The Balloonman" (Aired October 5, 2014)

Samantha Wessel

Guys, I think I may be officially hooked on “Gotham.” Three episodes in, and I’m already invested in the characters, particularly Jim Gordon and Oswald Cobblepot. I do wish they’d do a bit more with Selina Kyle, but we’re only a very short way into the season, so there’s more time for that to develop. But I’d just like to say that Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot is freaking amazing. He plays the character so wonderfully – twisted and yet somehow I have the most invested in his character. Not that I want Oswald to succeed, but I’m invested in him the same way I was in Walter White’s story and Don Draper’s. Keep it up “Gotham” writers, cause so far, so great.


This episode also brings up some interesting questions about the Bullock and Jim. (I know there may be some question as to why I’m using Jim Gordon’s first name and Harvey Bullock’s last. This is in anticipation of the arrival of Harvey Dent. I don’t know that he’ll appear on the show, but just in case, I don’t want there to be confusion over which Harvey I am referring to). Though the pilot set up the Jim/Bullock relationship to kind of be good cop versus dirty cop, the more we find out about Bullock, we see that he does want what is best for Gotham. But Bullock’s version of justice and Jim’s are two different things. They have the same long-term goals, but their methods for achieving them are different. This episode also brings up the issue of vigilante justice, the main theme in the Batman stories. Again, Bullock and Jim represent two different sides of the argument.


The episode opens with Oswald returning to Gotham. He observes all the corruption and crime happening around him and looks upon it lovingly, calling it “home.” We see a TV behind Oswald reporting on Ronald Danzier, a Ponzi scheme conspirator who has become a beacon of hatred for the citizens of Gotham. After leaving his apartment, he’s attacked by a man in a pig mask. The man, the titular “Balloonman,” ties a weather balloon to Danzier, and he’s off floating away.


At the crime scene, Bullock thinks Danzier deserved what happened to him. Jim, even though he doesn’t approve of Danzier’s actions, believes that he they should still investigate his murder. Back at the Gotham Police Station, Jim meets Lieutenant Bill Cranston. Cranston hears that Jim is too soft on criminals, and Cranston proves to be the type of cop that Jim wants to stop: abusing accused criminals while questioning them.


After his interaction with Cranston, Jim meets with a man from Juvenile Services. He receives custody of Selina Kyle/Cat for the afternoon. She takes him to the scene of the Waynes’ murder. She tells Jim that the night of the murder she dropped the wallet she stole down a sewer. Jim, not fully ready to believe Cat, handcuffs her to a stairwell while he goes down in the sewer to check for the wallet. While he’s searching, Cat uses the pen she stole from Bullock’s desk to free herself. Jim finds the wallet as promised, and Cat throws the handcuffs back to Jim. Now he believes her and that she has the information she says, but now she’s gone. So really, this whole interaction was pointless. Awesome.


Montoya and Allen of the Major Crimes Unit stop by to see Fish to check on Oswald’s whereabouts. Fish tells the MCU officers that Oswald is dead, and that the rumor is that Jim Gordon killed him. Montoya is able to deduce that even if Jim killed Oswald, he did so by orders from Falcone. Allen, knowing that Falcone beat up Fish’s lover Lazlo, asks if Fish is trying to seek revenge. Fish denies this motive, and the MCU team leaves with this new information.


Meanwhile, Oswald is roaming the streets of Gotham. One of Fish’s henchmen spots him and tries to drag him back to Fish. However, Oswald fights back and kills the henchman. He then calmly and collectedly walks across the street and orders a sandwich with the money he stole from the henchmen. He’s entering full Penguin mode: killing with no question and no remorse. This is seen further when Oswald kills the dishwasher at an Italian restaurant owned by Don Maroni, Falcone’s biggest threat. Oswald kills the dishwasher to get the job so he can weasel his way into Maroni’s good graces, as Oswald believes Maroni may be the heir to Falcone’s rule.



At Wayne Manor, Alfred and Bruce practice Bruce’s fencing skills. During their sparring, some folders get knocked off the desk. It turns out Bruce has the file of his parent’s case. He is looking for a clue. Alfred reminds Bruce that Jim is trying to find the murderer. Alfred assures Bruce that Jim is going to try.


After Montoya and Allen confront Jim about him killing Oswald, Montoya pays a visit to Barbara. Montoya tells Barbara that Jim killed Oswald. We also get confirmation that Montoya and Barbara were previously in a relationship, along with a hint that Barbara may be a former drug addict. Montoya leaves after telling Barbara she still has feelings for her and that Barbara deserves better than Jim.


After a conversation with a weather balloon maker, Jim and Bullock learn the identity of a former employee who stole four weather balloons. We then see the Balloonman approach Cranston. Cranston, fresh from beating up one of his drug dealers, has an altercation with the Balloonman. He then goes through the Balloonman’s pockets, finds something intriguing to him, but in this moment, the Balloonman attaches the weather balloon to Cranston, and he’s being dragged away.


The death of Cranston creates a fear of panic throughout Gotham over the vigilante justice. This sets up the opportunity for Jim to establish his opposition to such vigilante justice.


Through his connections in the seedy underbelly of Gotham, Bullock is able to track down the disgruntled weather balloon employee, Carl Smikers While questioning him, Smikers tells Bullock and Jim that he sold the balloons to loan sharks as part of a debt, but that he has nothing to do with Balloonman’s actions. Smikers also tells Jim and Bullock that eventually the balloons burst and the bodies will come back down to Earth.


Sure enough, Cranston’s body falls back, and in the process, takes out another person. At the scene, Jim informs Bullock that the third victim, a Cardinal Quinn, has been taken away by weather balloon. Apparently Cardinal Quinn was a bit of a pedophile. As they go through Cranston’s body, they find a piece of paper with Jim’s name on it. It turns out, Balloonman is David Lamond, the Juvenile Services worker who dropped Cat off with Jim the day before.


Proving that he is definitely the smartest cop in town, Jim is able to quickly deduce Lamond’s hide out. As he and Bullock move in to inspect, Lamond takes Bullock by gunpoint. We get a further explanation of Jim’s stance against vigilante justice. Jim tells Lamond that the law will take care of those who are bad, Lamond argues saying the law has done nothing to protect anyone. Bullock is able to breakaway from Lamond’s grasp, and ties Lamond to the weather balloon, vigilante justice Bullock’s way. Jim, in his effort to ensure the law wins, clings on to Lamond, forcing Bullock to shoot the balloon down. When the ambulance arrives to take Lamond away after his fall, Jim asks whom he intended the last balloon for.


At home that night, Jim tells Barbara that the whole city is sick. He tells her that Lamond told her it didn’t matter who his fourth victim was going to be because it wouldn’t solve the problem. Jim believes that if people take the law into their own hands, then there is no law and everything breaks down. He tells Barbara there are cops who act the same way, in a vigilante sense. When she asks if he would ever, he asks her if she thinks he could. She looks incredibly relieved because she doesn’t have to directly ask Jim about Oswald. Right then, there’s a knock on the door. It turns out it is Oswald, dressed in his first Penguin suit, there to see his old buddy Jim. You guys, they made him the Penguin in Episode 3. That’s insane!!!!


At Fish’s place, Lazlo expresses concern for Fish after her MCU’s visit. Fish reassures Lazlo that she’s ok. However, she spots weakness in Lazlo and orders one of her other lackeys to take care of him. She also tells her lackey to create an accident for Natalia, Falcone’s newest girl.


Later, Falcone comes by Fish’s club and tells Fish that his girl Natalia had been mugged. Fish says that ever since the Wayne murders, people have been going crazy in the city. Falcone assures her that the person who mugged Natalia, and anyone who helped him will pay for it. He thinks Maroni may have had something to do with it. He also confirms that people in Gotham are going crazy, and that’s bad for business. Fish knows he’s talking about Arkham.


At Wayne Manor, Bruce is watching the news report concerning the capture of the Balloonman. When Alfred makes a comment about the criminals of Gotham resting peacefully, Bruce responds saying that the Balloonman killed people making him a criminal as well. The news report says now that the Balloonman is gone, who will defend the people of Gotham.  Bruce absorbs this and finally takes a bite to eat after days of not eating. It is fascinating to see the information that young Bruce absorbs, and what lessons he learns that will eventually result in his becoming Batman.