Appropriately dark but unforgivably derivative, Fox's most surprising disaster, Gotham, continues to walk that rapidly shrinking line between watchable and atrocious. The show's incredible potential can be likened to a diamond buried deep in cow patties, its brilliance tarnished, and its dim glow barely visible beneath the stinking heap it's drowning in. Gotham stands as a perfect example of what could be - but isn't; losing its initial appeal and squandering its assets in the most frustrating ways it can. The latest episode, The Balloonman, refuses to break the show's infuriating tradition of sucking, and instead falling victim to the tropes that made its two predecessors such appalling exercises in incompetence. The titular villain does manage to stand out as a refreshing example of the show's vanishing originality, but he receives neither the screen time nor the justice to save the episode from its own destruction.
When the mysterious “Balloonman” strikes Gotham's corrupt with terrifying purpose, James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) struggles to bring justice to this murderer amidst a department that just doesn't care. Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) returns to Gotham with a vengeance; killing those who inconvenience him as he continues on his path to becoming the monstrous Penguin (although he'd kill you too if you called him that).
Ben McKenzie and Robin Lord Taylor remain the only real reasons to watch this show. Both bring honesty and vigour to an otherwise lifeless cast, which is both refreshing and annoying. Jada Pinkett Smith continues to bore with each successive appearance, turning in performances that will likely make viewers loathe her acting just as much as they do her vicious character. She brings nothing to a show that so desperately needs more of everything else and less of the bullshit we've been fed so far. The rest of the cast will continue to go unmentioned until they can get their act together, and finally contribute to such a rich yet poorly-executed idea.
As its third episode opens, Gotham still finds itself caught between identifying itself as a '70s-era cop drama (with cell phones) and an early season of some shitty soap opera no one cares about. A show so unsure of its setting is a show that needs new writers and new direction, because the choices the showrunners are currently making are more of a detriment than an advantage.
The dialogue, like the rest of the show, remains awkward and forced, begging the question, “How the hell did a first draft make it onto TV screens?” A handful of lines prove to be nothing more than groan-inducing utterances that a five-year-old probably snuck in there just before the script was turned in to the big guys at Fox.
To its credit, though, The Balloonman packs a punch in its closing minutes, shining a ray of hope on a show that teeters on the brink of condemnation from us here at STARBURST. The final scene essentially forces viewers to tune in next week, regardless of where they stand on the show's overall quality.
It's not much, but it's certainly a start.