Gotham: They Who Hide Behind Masks

"Bruce Wayne, billionaire brat."

Did I perhaps enjoy this episode way more than I should have?

Diving into this one... There's no sugarcoating it. The execution is a bloody mess. Apparently viewing impatience as a virtue, it seems Gotham has dispensed of the very notion of a "build-up".

Thus, in keeping with the bad tradition of the second episode, we get an episode where Things Happen™.

Bruce buys a really expensive knife. Jim gets a new girlfriend. The Riddler's unfrozen and apparently brain-damaged. Ra's gets a simple backstory revealing him to be a two-thousand-year-old zombie. Barbara, the most useless hand-to-hand combatant on the show - who somehow even managed to lose a fistfight to Lee Thompkins back in season one - is revealed to be a ninja. I guess that's the gist of it?

Still, like I said, somehow I really liked it. So unlike last review, this one gets custom pictures. Lots of pictures.


Sorting events by increasing order of relevance, let's start by discussing Eddie. Eddie's unthawed by a crazy fangirl and Ozzie lets out an anguished cry of horror learning he escaped - that's probably the worst case of intentional overacting I've ever seen by Robin Lord Taylor. Said fangirl attempts to make small talk only to find out there's apparently some glue in Eddie's head department. Ed gets violent and she ends up dead at the hands of Victor Zsasz at the end of the episode. I think.


In essence, this is just show-speech for "we'll revive Eddie and give him a character arc." It's pretty damn uninspiring narration, with a Deus ex Machina character only employed for one specific purpose and then immediately whacked, but at least this could give Cory some quality acting material down the line. Time will tell.


Oswald spends this episode alternately raging about losing Ed, making fun of Barbara and preparing and holding his "black market auction." What's most notable, though, is how the quality of his screen partners' game has evolved to match his own virtuosity - first with Victor and Barbara, then with Bruce. That alone would've been unthinkable in the first year of the show.


Moving on to Barbara and Selina - Tabitha's nowhere to be found in this episode - Barbara's predictably revealed as a henchman (and lover) of Ra's, who resurrected her off-screen following last season's finale, and Selina's eager to get in her good graces. This involves trying and failing to steal an Important Plot Device† for her - it's unclear if Bruce's involvement as Toy Batman actually helps or hurts - and then begging her old boyfriend to give it to her at the end of the episode, leading to a heated argument.


On screen both fights - on the docks, at the mansion - play out rather less dramatic than I'd thought, and if this is indeed meant as the end of their friendship, the show failed to impress me with the gravity of the situation. However, at least the motivation for the fight makes sense, even if Bruce's hostility towards Selina feels a bit off after their last encounter - I can't imagine Bruce wanting to help Selina get closer to an insane murderess like Barbara, least of all at the expense of losing a two million dollar mythical weapon.

Still crying bitter shipper tears, though. Sorry...

Anyway, that leads us to our advertised main characters.


Now, if we discount the rather "rushed pace" of proceedings - "girl meets her beloved brother's killer, kisses him out of the blue and follows him back to Gotham"? Really, show?! - there's a supreme sense of irony to Jim's story in this episode.


Last episode, Jim decides to seek out Falcone for help against the Penguin. Here he meets him and his daughter - Sofia Falcone, played by Crystal Reed, who's really quite stunning. Excusing himself by revealing he's dying, Carmine declines to help, and instead Jim is left with Sofia.

I didn't quite get Jim wanting to reject her offer to help at the end of the episode - as she correctly points out, "you came looking for a gangster, that's exactly what you found". Still, I guess it can be explained by Jim wanting the help of Carmine, who's retired and unlikely to pose a threat to the order, rather than a young, ambitious crime lord with designs on the city.


Things truly have come full circle here, demonstrating exactly how broken he is as the moral center of the show - and maybe that's the point? In the first season, Jim set out to fight the exact same thing he's doing in this episode - cops making deals with the mob. He can no longer be viewed as the protagonist of the story. In essence, he isn't even its lead character. He just has way too much screen time.


The "lead character"? That would be Bruce. And speaking of Bruce, Gotham really has to thank their lucky stars for David Mazouz. Down the stretch of last season, he was given increasingly thankless material, spending several episodes as little more than a zombie. Even in his shining moments, Bruce mostly comes across a brooding, restrained and unhappy presence.

In 'They Who Hide Behind Masks', though - which is an excellent title for this episode - he demonstrates a surprising talent for comedy, letting a bit more of his own personality bleed through his performance. This is a rare quality in an actor - he seems equally adept at subtlety and playing for the back row. The scene of him at the auction, talking to Oswald and bidding against Barbara for the knife, appearing drunk with power if nothing else, is probably the funniest one of the whole show.


And that's really the main takeaway of this evening: David has found and nailed Bruce's "playboy persona", and it's amazing - flippant, loud, gleeful and almost menacing. Throughout this scene, his face quite literally looks like a mask - an evil clown mask with a smile that is positively devilish.

Applause, roll credits.

The Important Plot Device, of course, is the knife, which was passed on to Ra's Al Ghul by the man who chose him as his heir back in 185 AD, and which he presumably now wants for Bruce, though that's only revealed in the closing moments. In other words, Ra's couldn't be more happy.

1 comment:

Trey Pharr said...

Yeah, I enjoyed this episode a lot, but I do hope they begin to consolidate plotlines. We still have Grundy, Lee, Pyg, etc to deal with in the coming episodes.