On the D/L – Gotham
Season 1 Episode 8 – “The Mask”
The opening minutes of this Gotham episode filled me with a little trepidation. After the impressive outing last week I was concerned that the “case of the week” formula would reassert itself but thankfully the streak of being on point seems to continue.
As I said, the opening minutes seemed somewhat typical with the murder of someone we’ve never met happening somewhere in the city. I did enjoy it on an aesthetic level with a masked figure killing someone in an interesting office based location using items that are nearby. It was very unique if nothing else.
Ultimately it turns out that Gotham is dusting off the old first season story of having some kind of Fight Club inspired episode. This one particularly so with the mundane office imagery becoming something a lot more violent. These episodes tend to be sloppily executed but it was handled really well here as it felt like something of a background element to the larger story.
It wasn’t especially interesting as cases go but it did raise some interesting points about how Gotham City has changed since the Wayne’s were murdered. According to Gordon it’s likely that the side of Gotham that involves these theatrically inspired killers has always been there and has suddenly been pushed to the surface. This was a really bad example of that given that Sionis (Todd Stashwick) had been at this for years so it’s not as if it has been brought out in him by this one event.
As a villain Sionis was a bit too cartoonish for me. It was pretty obvious from minute 1 that he was the one behind this. None of his excuses seemed in any way believable and his obsession with masks and warriors all amounted to what might as well have been a neon sign that said “villain” pointing at him. I do like that Gordon didn’t fall for it as it shows there’s not an intelligence deficit for the functions of plot. It is a good job that the episode wasn’t carried by this villain otherwise it would have significantly suffered.
If Gotham is planning to carry on by flipping the story roles in the previous episodes and having the case take a back seat to the upcoming gang war then it will be to the benefit of the show in general. The wheels of deceit turning between Fish Mooney, Falcone and Maroni are by far the most interesting aspect of the show so seeing this get more attention is great.
There are some interesting consequences to the loyalty shifting from last week. Gordon has become something of a pariah among his colleagues who don’t seem to care if he lives or dies. When he finds himself in trouble it only seems to be Bullock and Essen interested in saving him. I really like this idea and I hope the internal fracturing of the Gotham City Police Department continues to build into a more defined two camp system. In order to accomplish this there will probably need to be a vocal representative for the opposing side which currently doesn’t exist. Plenty of time to set that up though. It’s good that what happened last week hasn’t been forgotten and I’m interested to see where that goes next.
Gordon’s lack of trust for his coworkers is interesting as well. I like that he’s not even trying to hide it as well as the resentment he clearly feels for them. I’m somewhat reminded of The Dark Knight where that version of James Gordon knew that his officers were untrustworthy but simply had to make do with what he had. I wonder if this version will come to a similar conclusion.
As always, Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin is a scene stealer whenever he appears. In particular the exchange between Cobblepot and Fish was dripping with subtext, it was clear that there was complete dishonesty in everything that was said in that conversation. Fish clearly still wants to manipulate Cobblepot in some way as well as not tip her hand that she’s after Falcone’s position in the criminal underworld and Cobblepot has similar designs on getting them both out of the picture for his own interests. Naturally these fake pleasantries can’t go on forever but for now it signifies a holding pattern that will likely kick off before too long.
I was a little confused by what Liza was allegedly up to in the episode. Her clandestine meetings with Fish constantly suggested that her objectives would be dangerous, most notably drugging Falcone came with that warning. The strangest thing is we see none of this happen which suggests to me that Liza didn’t really do it. If so then that throws up the possibility that she’s actually working for Falcone to bring down Fish or that she has her own agenda. It’s also possible that these scenes were cut for time, it’ll be a little while before we really know.
For a change I didn’t feel that the Bruce/Alfred scenes were a waste of time. In a move that possibly should have happened a couple of episodes ago Bruce goes back to school and interacts with kids his own age. This doesn’t go so well as he constantly gets made fun of for his parents being murdered. Seriously, what is wrong with these kids? Surely there would be some sympathy from someone. I did like that Bruce didn’t quite know how to speak to people his own age and the sense of awkwardness these scenes brought to the episode. Bruce seems like an outcast from his peers and that’s an interesting way to go with him.
Something I really enjoyed was the change in the familiar dynamic between these two characters by having Alfred be the one who encourages his violent streak early on. I was genuinely surprised that Alfred drives him to the house of the kid who insulted his mother and gave Bruce his father’s watch to use as a knuckle duster. His lesson to Bruce that this beating was deserved and Pertwee’s delivery of the “You remember that I let him try” line was just priceless. Of course, at this rate we could end up having a Batboy in the show before he becomes Batman but I was really impressed by the use of these characters here.
Beyond the villain being silly the episode had other problems. Bullock and Essen’s decision to support Gordon might have carried more weight had Gordon actually needed the help but by the time they got there the problem had been dealt with. It would make more sense if there was a sense that Gordon needs all the support he can get but instead it came across as a missed opportunity.
I’ve entirely lost interest in the Barbara/Jim relationship subplot that keeps seesawing week to week. Fair enough Barbara is suffering from some form of PTSD following her kidnapping but seeing her unravel and leave Gordon for the second time in a matter of episodes really didn’t work for me. If this is all they can think of to keep this character around then I’d rather see her gone.
Not as good an episode as the last one but still a promising entry to the series. The switch in focus to the machinations of the various mob leaders is proving to be an interesting move and this story is building naturally.
Fish Mooney and Oswald Cobblepot continue to be the most interesting characters in the show and the scenes they share are a joy to watch. I like the subtext to their conversations and the ill concealed hatred between the two of them.
Thankfully the “case of the week” took a back seat to the other aspects of the plot as this was the weakest part of the episode. The villain was overly cartoonish and his guilt was entirely obvious from pretty much his first appearance.
Gordon’s rebellion against the mob in the previous episode has some great consequences here which has him treated as something of a pariah by his colleagues. Not to mention the resentment he harbours for them given their apathy for the criminal element in Gotham City. Seeing this rift form in the police force is interesting.
Bruce Wayne and Alfred were used really well in this episode with a massive step forward for the young Bruce Wayne’s development into everyone’s favourite detective vigilante in the years ahead. In some ways the development is a little quick but it’s still interesting to watch.