Gotham, Ep. 1.08, “The Mask” transitions the season with a new arc

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Gotham, Season 1, Episode 8: ‘The Mask’
Written by John Stephens
Directed by Paul Edwards
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX

The season enters a new arc on Gotham as the fallout of last week’s episode, “Penguin’s Umbrella”, begins to take effect. Gordon tried to take down Falcone and failed, but managed to set an example of what a good cop is capable of and also shed a light on how inactive the Gotham City Police Department is, as none of his colleagues came to aid Gordon against Victor Zsasz. This brings out some interesting development between Gordon and Captain Sarah Essen, who regrets not braving the storm with him. The example that he has set has also affected Bullock, who’s now on Team Gordon, which is a highlight of the episode, in particular when Bullock gives a rallying speech to the GCPD.

The threat of Falcone has also affected Barbara in a plotline that starts off strong but then becomes rushed and unsatisfying. Barbara rattled and aiming a gun at Gordon makes for a good scene that shows her state of mind, but then the next day she’s sober again and acting like everything is fine. It’s weird and off-putting and the end result of her leaving just doesn’t make sense for the character who had been saying only an episode prior, “I’m staying here with you” when Gordon pleaded for her to leave. This does nothing but unnecessarily and unconvincingly draw out their drama.

What works best in this episode is the conflict between Gordon and the GCPD, as he continues to try and make the system work with him, while becoming more and more aware that the department is not on his side. Gordon is reminded by the villain of the week that the GCPD will not be able to help him and Gordon responds, “I don’t need them,” a sign of his new sense of abandonment, which is only going to get worst now that Barbara is gone too. Gordon’s new arc will be to regain his faith in the department and Cpt. Essen may be the way down that path, which could also lead to some other interesting developments.

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Character Study

In this episode, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is reinstated into the school system after having been on detective duty for the first part of the season.  Although it’s been interesting to see how Bruce has been dealing with his parents’ death by taking an interest in their business with Arkham Asylum and their company, it doesn’t really give him much exciting conflict. We get that Bruce is supposed to be obsessed with his parents’ murder, but this doesn’t really give him more to do, other than to look over paperwork inquisitively. This new arc of having Bruce back in school has potential for more interactions and maybe Bruce will develop new relationships that will give Mazouz more to play. This episode is a good example of this character’s development, as it shows Bruce not being a very good fighter and therefore wanting to learn how to fight. This also gives Bruce a chance to develop his relationship with Alfred, who will be training him. This should be interesting.

It appears that peace-time between the Falcone and Maroni families is just as bloody as wartime. The relationship between Penguin and Fish Mooney is one of the most interesting on the series. The scene where they sit across from each other is one that has been anticipated since Fish Mooney found out that he was alive. It is really great to see them together again, playing out their dynamic: Fish’s viciousness and Penguin’s calm and calculated demeanor. Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish continues to bring gravitas as she plays cruel against the Penguin, who plays kind, in order to manipulate Liza. There is a creepiness that is inherent in Robert Lord Taylor’s performance of the Penguin that really sells the character without turning the performance into a cheesy impression; he has really made the role his own.

The relationship of Gordon and Bullock experiences the most change of any in this episode, as a direct result of last week’s episode. Bullock now has respect for Gordon and is making a go of it with his police duties. This is a vast improvement, as it turns him into a more active character instead of another obstacle for Gordon. This new dynamic even livens up Donal Logue by giving him a new beat to play, that of a passionate underdog, something he excels at. Unfortunately, the turn of events at the end of the episode is prone to reset their relationship back to one of conflict, as Gordon tells Bullock that he intends to take down all the dirty cops and elements in the police department, and hints in no uncertain terms that Bullock falls in line with the bad. This could be going somewhere interesting, but for now it is just nice to have Bullock all riled up on the side of Gordon and calling him partner.

Black mask

The Case File: Businessman fight club

The case of the week deals with a fighting ring for businessmen that pits two or more businessmen against each other to win a higher position or a monetary bonus, for the entertainment of the wealthy elite. The ring is led by Richard Sionis (Todd Stashwick), who wears a black mask. The name Sionis has some significance in the Batman mythos, as there is a villain from the comic books known as the Black Mask. It appears that Gotham may have Richard as a precursor to Roman Sionis, who is the identity of the man behind the Black Mask in the comic books. The Black Mask was also the leader of the False Face Society, which were an assembly of petty criminals who donned wooden masks. There is a moment in this episode that shows a room of wealthy spectators that very well may be members of Gotham’s version of the False Face Society. Although the impact of the case isn’t that integral to the main plot and the whole “fight club” angle isn’t really all that interesting, the portrayal of Richard Sionis by Todd Stashwick is fairly good and he has some strong interplay with Gordon.

This episode is written by John Stephens, whose last contribution was “The Balloonman,” which suffered from overstating its themes. There is a similar issue with here, as in the scene where Cpt. Essen and Gordon talk about the current state of Gotham and the significance of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murder as its catalyst. The dialogue basically recaps the first part of the season. The direction by Paul Edwards is fair, with nothing really standing out as overly creative. It’s a very dark looking episode with the flickering of fluorescent lighting that, although it does fall in line with the atmosphere of Gotham, is mostly generic and uninteresting. “The Mask” is a fair enough episode that does its job, instituting a new status quo after Falcone spared Gordon’s life in “Penguin’s Umbrella.”

Detective’s Notes

  • “I’d give you a good cop routine, but it’s not in my toolkit.” – Harvey Bullock
  • Bruce pulls out a great ‘Bat Slap!’ on his bully Tommy.
  • Tommy may be Dr. Thomas “Tommy” Elliott, who goes by Hush in his adult years as another foe of Batman.
  • What is Selina Kyle up to now? “A girl’s got to shop!”
  • So Edward Nygma likes playing in the morgue like some creepy child.
  • The song the woman sings in Fish Mooney’s club is “It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, originally recorded by Blind Willie Johnson.
  • When Alfred gave Bruce the watch, who knew that he was going to use it as brass knuckles to beat on Tommy?
  • Next week is “Harvey Dent”. Will he be an ally to Gordon or just another antagonist? You can flip a coin- it’s anybody’s guess.

-JP




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