There’s a great episode of Batman: The Animated Series where the caped crusader teams up with his childhood idol and vigilante inspiration, the Gray Ghost. Adam West was brilliantly cast as the Gray Ghost, playing upon his role as the 1960s Batman. Things can easily go wrong showing what inspired the Dark Knight, but this episode nailed it. Gotham decided to explore Batman’s vigilante roots with a cautionary tale. It broke my brain.
Gotham started with a decent enough pilot. I had my concerns about its goofier elements, but it was filmed well enough to warrant further viewing. Maybe they would do their own thing, develop their own tone. Well, they’ve gone ahead and developed their tone, and it’s even goofier than my initial fears.
The second episode was ok. The villainous duo at its core and their homeless children kidnapping plot was a little weird, but it wasn’t a bad weird. Casting Lilli Taylor (you might know her best as Lisa from Six Feet Under) helped. She can pull off the quirky menace that the makers of Gotham are looking for.
That brings us back to this week and our new vigilante/villain of the week. As mentioned above, the idea of an inspiration or cautionary tale to young Bruce Wayne is not necessarily a bad one. There’s a number of ways to skin that cat. But instead of the Gray Ghost, Gotham gave us Balloonman.
Chew on that for a second. Balloonman is exactly what you think he is. He is a vigilante who takes out crooked public figures by handcuffing them to weather balloons. Yeesh. That is some silver age shit. Did I mention that he uses a variety of food trucks and disguises to accomplish this? I wish he had done a dramatic reveal just before strapping these men to his weather balloons of doom, ala Gene Parmesan. “Just getting a hot dog ready, and oh look, it’s me, the BALLOONMAN.”
The cheese doesn’t stop there. Gotham insists on telling Oswald Cobblepot’s story. Robin Lord Taylor’s sniveling preppy Penguin Begins tale is exhausting. He’s supposed to be a delightful sociopath, but he’s simply unbearable. He’s a main player, so if you’re sticking with Gotham, then you’re sticking with the fat bird rises.
Gotham’s portrayal of Renee Montoya is unfortunately still piss poor. She’s a lovelorn idiot, taking the word of every criminal at face value so she can nail James Gordon to the wall and reclaim her lost lover and her swanky apartment. Montoya and Allen are very upset with Gordon. They think he’s taking orders from the mafia, despite his boy scout reputation and constant undermining of the comically lazy Harvey Bullock.
Gotham could gone gritty with a little camp, but instead they’ve gone campy with a gritty Instagram filter. Maybe my expectations are misplaced. The 1960s Batman show holds a place in my heart, and it’s the campiest thing ever filmed. But that show has a certain breed of crazy. It commits. If Gotham wants to do Balloonman, he should have a big balloon head, or fly off in a hot air balloon while laughing maniacally. Is balloon even a real word? I’ve typed it far too much. I’m going to go get a hot dog. Hopefully I don’t float off to my doom.