Episode recap: Gotham S.1, Ep. 3 — The Balloonman


balloonmanGotham’s “The Balloonman” takes a much different tone than prior episodes—  You can almost see the visible growing pains as it flexes, to find its footing within the market of genres.  It is almost as-if the bloat of Gotham is weighing heavily upon the FOX’s executives’ and producers’ shoulders.  It is solidly placed, but they are still beginning to show signs of television fatigue.  That careful balance between cop show and comic book show still hasn’t been fleshed out properly by Gotham, but it stretches to get closer still with “The Balloonman.”

“The Balloonman” is the first episode to hit home on the episodic nature that Gotham needs to get into.  Like I’ve mentioned before, Gotham is struggling to appease comic book fans and television goers and—for granted—Batman is a force to reckoned with.  The iconic Caped Crusader has spawned countless successful media properties over the course of several decades and comic book-wise it continues to reach the top of the charts in terms of sales and accolades.  However, how do you make a series about Batman not be about Batman, and still keep fans coming back for more each and every week?  You make it a cop show centered-around the GCPD.

Gotham begins to hit its cop show stride with “The Balloonman.”  It begins to break away—albeit just for a moment—from the disjointed campiness of past installments, “The Balloonman” tries to shake its identity crisis by picking a formula and sticking to it.  Focusing on a criminal that is (you guessed it) attaching balloons to ‘legitimate’ criminals and sending them sky high to their deaths is more-interesting than past villains, merely because Jada Pinkett Smith’s overacted portrayal of Fish Mooney isn’t involved…anything without her is better.

However, even with the inclusion of a minor criminal that draw the attention of GCPD for just a moment is better than before, but it is still…well…Balloonman.  The episode tries to embrace a cop drama, but it is still executed rather poorly.  I praise the effort, but for Gotham to survive it needs to take a creative cue from similar supernatural cop dramas such as ABC’s ForeverForever takes a cliche premise, but back it up with a clever slant and an episodic quality that draws audience members for an hour-long, twisty and clever journey through the investigative process.

This is what Gotham needs to be.

The writing for “The Balloonman” is fairly straight-forward and there isn’t even an attempt at providing a feint or a ‘food for thought’ moment for the audience  The writing belittles fans in its simplicity, and if you are up to date on your actors and their respective appearances it will be quite easy for you to immediately spot the non sequitur…and thus the Balloonman.

Even though the writing is lackluster, I do appreciate the angle that they are trying to take, more-so than a superhero epic that is forced to exclude Batman due to the premise.  In my opinion, for Gotham to survive and be a multiple spanning series it desperately needs to become a ‘cop show.’  It needs to invest in providing in depth investigations with surprises and unusualness, all the while focusing on the character growth and camaraderie of Detective James Gordon and Harvey Bullock.

Unfortunately, at this juncture, television shows such as Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are doing it better.  If you’re inclined to catch a superhero show to fill in the time between the films, check out the aforementioned shows, because Gotham isn’t cutting it…yet.

(SOURCE: Episode recap: Gotham S.1, Ep. 3 — The Balloonman)

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Episode recap: The Flash S.1, Ep. 1 — The Pilot


The Flash - PilotI have never been so excited to watch the pilot of a television series.  And, to be fair I don’t usually get caught up easily in the hype of television.  Network marketing campaigns try to pander to universality, but even with this in mind I never have been so anticipatory for a ‘fresh-out-the-gate,’ new series.

I am a comic book nerd, and like all hobbies…I have my favorites.  As much as I love the CW’s Arrow, I was a neophyte to the topic.  Till recently, I had not read many Green Arrow graphic novels.  He just wasn’t a character that I was interested in at first.

However, the Flash (specifically Barry Allen) has always been one of my favorite comic book characters.  I love the lore and I have read nearly every Flash comic since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, so when the CW announced a television series based on the Scarlett Speedster I was ecstatic beyond belief.  Once the mid-season finale of Arrow/Barry Allen crossover aired to audiences last December, the idea of a quality Flash series was proven and solidified…and I was hooked.

The Flash pilot begins with a brief introductory scene showing Barry Allen as a boy and the traumatic event that goes onto to shape the rest of his life (think Bruce Wayne expect more-hopeful in the end).  From there, the narrative springboards to the present— Starting before the conclusion of last season’s Arrow crossover.

Barry Allen has just returned to Central City and he is getting back into the groove of being back.  In stereotypical Allen form, he is late to an investigation as the acting crime scene investigator but one of the cops at the scene (and adoptive father played by the talented Jesse L. Martin) covers for him.  With only a set of tire treads and manure, Allen inevitably discovers the whereabouts of the criminals via his laboratory—  The very place in which he gets struck by lightning and doused in chemicals.

Essentially, the beginning serves as an introduction to Barry Allen, the supporting cast, and the overall aesthetic of Central City, just as any good pilot should.  The casting and writing are excellent.  Grant Gustin play a believable, young Barry Allen.  He portrays all of the little nuances of the character—  He’s clumsy, he’s perpetually late, but he has a good heart.  He tries to do good, even when he doesn’t always have the means.

The cast is rounded out by Law and Order alum, Jesse L. Martin, as Barry’s adoptive father and Central City Detective.  Tom Cavanagh plays Harrison Wells, the brilliant (but mysterious) scientist, mentor, and ultimate creator of metahumans within Central City.  The rest of the cast are primarily unknowns, but unlike FOX’s Gotham all parts are played with a sense of realization and believability.  This is especially impressive considering the nature of the show.

The writing is just as well-constructed as the casting.  It is surprising how much is packed into the pilot; the writing team took great lengths to respect the history of the character.

The pilot segues to the Flash’s origin and roughly depicts the same events that were shown at the end of the Arrow episode, Three Ghosts.  It then passes nine-months (throughout the term of his coma).  This is where the show gets interesting.  It is the first series to show metahumans— People with powers.  This is momentous for television, because in times past when they have tried to depict superheroes with powers it has come off incredibly cheesy and quite often bombed with audiences.  With the exception of Smallville, which carefully skirted Superman’s power set for years, television series’ have not dived headlong into CGI and in essence true superhero shows till CW’s The Flash.

The Flash has no qualms showing Barry running at high speeds, and the show pulls no punches by showcasing one of his primary villains right out of the gate—  An individual who also has fantastical powers.  The show does a wonderful job of introducing audiences to one of DC Comic’s greatest characters.  It holds true to the lore with only a little bit of a shake-up in terms of arrangement for television purposes, but nothing so far off the mark that it contradicts its origins.  The CGI and representation of the metahumans is superb.  Considering what the budget must-be and the risk it is to shoot a television series with a heavy reliance of individuals with superpowers the risk-reward nature is successful.

There are a ton of little Flash easter eggs and references to the Flash comics, so check out last Tuesday’s pilot episode and see if you can spot them.  Countless upon countless articles and posts could be written about all of the little facets and feats that The Flash pulled off last night, and as time permits, I will most-definitely be covering them throughout The Flash’s first season.

And, if you glean anything from this review…watch The Flash Tuesdays at 8/7c.