Gotham: The Mask

After the brilliant 'Penguin's Umbrella', we're back to another pretty common proto-origin Gotham police story.

I will freely admit, writing the back catalogue of Gotham has been somewhat of a chore for me. This explains why it's taken so, so long - I always seem to put it off until later.

This isn't to say that I do not want to write it. I do want the shining, full list of episode reviews to be on the show page. Perhaps I want it a bit too much, in the sense that I want the reviews to be shining. And therein lies the problem.

I've put a lot of energy into my Gotham reviews. Maybe you've noticed, maybe not, but I've tried to shed a different light on each installment than what any other reviewer does. That's because I'm a fan, and unlike most television reviewers, I am actually knowledgeable both about this show and its underlying mythos. So I try to write the very best reviews of each episode.

The issue I run into, then, is that while season one of this show has some real standouts, it's also got more than its fair share of snoozers, and I have to fight my way through the dreck to get to the good parts. It's really hard to write interesting reviews about snoozers. It's actually much easier when an episode absolutely sucks. At least you can give it a proper and well-deserved flame. It doesn't help that the material is something you first watched years ago either - the "first reaction" of the moment is gone.

'The Mask' is one of these episodes... one where even if it's inoffensive and competently executed, it's rather dull and nothing much really happens. It tells the story of the father of Black Mask, i.e. Richard Sionis. Black Mask is one of the more noteworthy Batman villains so one might've hoped for a good outing, but the son doesn't even appear, and his father is just a CEO hiring people by making them fight to the death for their positions. He's unceremoniously defeated and thrown into prison at the end of the installment.

I won't bother with symbolism because I can't notice any. The climactic fight scene is well-choreographed yet utterly void of suspense. This is a by-the-numbers police story and besides a few over-the-top moments it would've been right at home with any uninspired cop show.

There are two noteworthy moments in this episode. The first is that Harvey Bullock stands up against the other corrupt cops as Jim's life is in danger, firmly throwing his hat in the "good guy" camp. This is a defining moment for him and he will never truly revert to his old, "lackadaisical" self again.

The second is the side plot with Bruce coming back to school and being bullied by some kids lead by a boy named Tommy Elliot. Yeah, I can only assume it's that Tommy Elliot. It's one of the first of many episodes where Bruce is given something to do that looks really forgettable on paper but ends up the highlight of the episode. After having his dead parents insulted and being beat up, he returns to Alfred. In an unconventional twist on parenting, his butler decides to hand him his father's pocket watch, which Bruce then uses as a makeshift brass knuckles to bust up his tormentor's face. This ends with the arc-defining question: "Alfred, can you teach me how to fight?"

That's the single most important plot development. In fact, this incident lays the very first brick of the Batman persona - to confront injustice with violence.

It's also the only really important plot development. Thus, there isn't more to say about it.

In summary I've learnt a lesson on how to deal with this fare. Don't overthink it.

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