The insufferable quality of Gotham is such that it necesitates the return of our infamous “He Said/She Said” segment. It’s time for the gloves to come off.
Let’s bitch it out…
Well TVAngie, it’s hard to talk about just how much of a disappointment Gotham is. I think you’ve done a really admirable job over the past few weeks (here and here) analyzing the different components of the show that simply aren’t working. Let’s chat about whether ‘The Balloonman’ fits the bill.
Two Tone Mismatch: First off, let’s talk about how ridiculously silly the entire premise of the titular killer is. I mean we’re talking about a man who attaches people to a freakin’ weather balloon so they get dragged up into the sky. It would be hilarious if it weren’t treated so earnestly. Gotham is still trying to juggle its neo-noir meets cartoon tone but they are not gelling. Add to this the fact that Gotham refuses to stand on its own – the show can’t stop making callbacks to its source material (it’s as though the writers believe that without the foreshadowing and call-outs to DC Comics lore the entire show would deflate like one of the killer’s balloons).
Take the Balloonman: the masked man enacting vigilante justice might as well scream “it’s Batman without Batman!” (right down to the killer’s threat that there will be others who take up his mantle. Gosh, who could he be referring to?). Thus far Gotham has been unable to resist any opportunity to make what its writers consider coy references to its source material (meanwhile the audience is left groaning at the ham-fisted attempts). Unfortunately that propensity to go not just campy, but completely over the top defines the series. Take the portrayal of the city when Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) arrives back in Gotham: it’s not just a city overridden by crime, it’s a city so overridden with crime that it is literally occurring on EVERY. SINGLE. CORNER (with prostitutes in the intersection to boot). It’s enough to make to make you scream.
Gotham Drinking Game: Take a swig every time a villain makes a reference to their future alter ego. In ‘The Balloonman’ that’s two drinks:
- Camren Bicondova’s Cat (insisting she saw the Wayne murderer): “I can see in the dark.”
- Oswald (ordering food at the food truck): “Can I have a tuna sandwich, please?”
Gotham would be far more entertaining with “woh woh” sound effects each time it occurs. Just sayin’.
Histrionics Anonymous: As if Gotham‘s inability to marry its two tones isn’t enough of an unsettling viewing experience, every actor seems to think that they’re on a different show. As a result we end up with Pinkett Smith’s Eartha Kitt impression (rapidly losing its appeal), Logue’s propensity to YELL every line and McKenzie’s doe-eyed caught-in-the-headlights reaction. It’s like a bad game of Hollywood charades…only with millions of dollars of backing.
Bad Bullock: What is up with the “rock out” montage of Bullock busting heads in an effort to track down their perp? Does Gotham think that this kind of violence anthem gets audiences pumped up? Naturally just in case we didn’t know Bullock was a bad guy, he punches an unarmed woman who Jim is already holding at gunpoint. At this point I would rather watch a series about that chick than Bullock.
Questionable Sexuality: The “whaaa” lesbian subplot works slightly better here than it did in the pilot. There it felt awkwardly shoehorned solely to ensure A led to B, but the bitter jealous ex who plants the seed of discontent angle is still tired. Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) may be a lesbian in the comics, but right now her sexuality is little more than another annoying aspect of a one dimensional character.
Finally…My meta reading of this episode = the woman walking her dog who is taken out by a falling body is actually an audience surrogate. Watching this show occasionally makes me feel like my brains might end up seeping out of my head.
TVAngie what’s your take? Whose performance is most grating? Are you getting frustrated with the series’ inability to stop referencing the comics? Is the introduction of Dexter‘s David Zayas (as a rival crime boss) intriguing? Are the references to Arkham and the wayward youth of Gotham building to something more substantial? And what the hell is with all of the focus on shoes – is footwear in Gotham a marker of health and status?!
Well I’m glad that calvary came in to help me bitch and moan about how truly terrible this show is. It’s only been three lousy episodes and I’m already at my breaking point. There’s nothing redeemable about this show. Whose performance is the most grating? I think a better question to ask is which character doesn’t make you want to jump out the closest window. For me, that’s currently Alfred (Sean Pertwee) but that’s likely because I’m biased and he hasn’t had enough screen time to hang himself. The scenes he shared with Bruce (David Mazouz) surprisingly show a good amount of on-screen chemistry.
Didn’t you love the amateur science lesson we got when petty thug X explained the basic physics of a weather balloon to the baffoons that we we’re calling our protagonists? Did they really think that the bodies would float away to the magical kingdom in the sky, never to return? It’s beyond laughable.
I keep wanting the show to be this pool of campy goodness, perhaps even returning to the the glory of Batman’s first appearance on television – ala Adam West and (as you mentioned) Eartha Kitt. Too bad Pinkett-Smith doesn’t have the acting chops to single-handedly guide this train wreck of a show to anything close to resembling intelligence.
My favorite moment of the night would have to be the ‘interrogation’ scene between McKenzie, Logue and character actor Clark Middleton as the owner of the aforementioned weather balloons. The whole thing plays out like an over-the-top Jimmy Cagney vignette – I’m surprised all the characters didn’t have cigars sticking out the sides of their mouths.
But the problem is that everyone seems to be taking themselves so seriously – as if they truly believing that this show is decent. There isn’t enough snickering during a scene like this to suggest any kind of self-awareness. And that’s what brings on the pity. It’s hard to laugh at a show when it seems like its participants are adamantly patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
Can we also talk about the completely offensive stereotypes that popped up during the news story cutaways? From the Apu-lookalike praising the vigliante to the completely over-the-top Jersey Shore grandmother bitching about her landlord, you have to wonder what the casting call looked like for those extras. “Batman show seeks extras to embody the ignorance of the 1950s.”
As for the shoe horned-in, totally out of place, lesbian subplot – I can only roll my eyes. Can’t you picture the dimwits in the writer’s room thinking this was a good idea and that they’d actually be praised for “pushing the boundaries” of mainstream narratives? Too bad that there’s a distinct cut away when the two women kiss – but hey, a half-step forward is better than no step, right?
I just can’t believe this show has a place on the roster when television is in such a ‘golden age’ of sophisticated character development and narrative complexity. What troubles me even more is that it will likely get a second season as fans of the source material/franchise will desperately tune-in week after week in the vain hope that things will get better. Trust me – you’re wasting your time.
What do you think viewers? Is Gotham worth your time? Have we overlooked something redeeming in these first three episodes? Does anyone want us to continue reviewing this train wreck? Sound off below in the comments.
Gotham airs Mondays at 8pm EST on FOX