In last week’s episode of Gotham, we got to see some really big things happen. There were lots of plot-threads running through the episode that found their genesis in the show’s premier, and it brought things to a nice conclusion, for now. The game board was changed in a major way and the cliffhanger promised more chaos in the future episodes. I loved it. It was the best episode on the show, by far, and I loved that the writers were dedicated to providing game-changing twists. The show has had a somewhat troubled beginning, but it is now settling, and I expect greater things from it.
Which is where this week’s episode, “The Mask” comes in. After the status quo changed last week, this week’s episode is more of a “setting the scene” episode. It goes back to the villain-of-the-week format, but it also moves the story forward and addresses some of the elephants in the room, such as the fact that Fish knows Penguin is now working for Maroni and that the entire precinct abandoned Gordon when Zsasz came for him. The villain this week didn’t do much for me, so my satisfaction this week came from the threads carried over from last week, and seeing how many of the relationships on the show have now changed.
The villain this week is Richard Sionis who hosts a deadly fight club where the reward is a cushy job within his company. Sionis doesn’t exactly strike me as a compelling villain, especially since he himself doesn’t do much in the episode at all. Where his importance comes in however, is in Captain Essen’s comments to Gordon about where Gotham City is headed. There’s some rumination between the two of them about how the city has changed since the death of the Waynes and how freaks have started popping up everywhere with clockwork regularity, one after the other.
And I love this. The writer uses this to then switch to a conversation between these two characters about what happened last week with Zsasz. Captain Essen is someone who understands the city’s power structure. She doesn’t interfere with what the big dons do, she’s more concerned with keeping the peace and taking out the small fry. She said as much to Gordon at the start of the episode last week when he came to her about arresting the Mayor and Carmine Falcone and the other elements of corruption within the city. And when Zsasz came into the precinct to take Gordon away and ordered all the cops to leave, which they all did, she was the only one to show even a modicum of support to him. She didn’t leave until Gordon forced her to, and the guilt of abandoning him has stayed with her. This was a great angle to explore and deepen Captain Essen as a character. She’s been a rather straight-up cop so far, doing her duty and little else, much like Harvey, but I think that she is starting to come around to Gordon’s way of thinking, same as Harvey, again.
A good portion of the episode deals with this conversation expanded into the macrocosm of the rest of the GCPD. The cops who abandoned Gordon have been giving him the shoulder, as if he was the coward last week and not them. And we see the psychological strain it is having on him. And that Harvey can see his pain and his frustration. Since the start, Harvey has been an element of rationality on the show, being the bridge between White Knight Gordon and Black Castle Gotham. He mediates the dark side of the city with Gotham’s optimism, and he is a catalyst once again, giving a great speech in the pre-climax that really gets things going.
Then there’s the whole subplot involving Bruce going back to school. It is quite a big moment for him, since he has stayed back at the Wayne Manor since his parents’ death, focused on finding out who their killers were. But as Alfred says, he needs to be around people his own age. Of course, I expected things to go south very quick on that front, and they do. Tommy Elliot, formerly one of Bruce’s friends, is enamoured with the death of his friends’ parents, finding some deep humour in it and thereby insulting Bruce and his family. In a great scene that involves Bruce giving Tommy some payback, we see how the relationship between these two former friends will develop.
In the comics, Tommy goes on to become the villain Hush, one of Batman’s greatest adversaries, and it is interesting to see him make his debut on the show. Still very early days for him of course, but I am excited.
And then there’s the whole complex subplot involving Fish Mooney, Oswald and Lyza. Lyza is Fish’s secret weapon against Falcone, her tool to slowly strip her boss of his powers so that she can one day step into his shoes. Oswald knows that Fish has an agenda against Falcone, and he told as much to the Don back in the premiere, as we saw in last week’s flashback, and though he works for Maroni, he is indeed Falcone’s man. So there is a lot of deception going on here and the gold moment of this episode is a meeting between Fish and Oswald, as representatives of Falcone and Maroni respectively. Lots of threats being made and Fish definitely comes out on top, though Oswald ends up with having the last word anyway.
The dynamic between these three characters is getting more and more interesting as the show goes on. The actors excel in their respective roles and the characters keep getting better each week. I love how Oswald is finally beginning to step up into the major leagues in a really big way. He has been playing everyone against each other, and that is not going to stop anytime soon, and the way that he tries to play Fish is quite admirable indeed.
But as well know, she isn’t above some manipulation of her own, which is where Lyza comes in. Interesting things happening everywhere.
The final thing here is the relationship between Barbara and Gordon, which is on the rocks again by the end of the episode. I don’t like how these two keep flip-flopping around each other. The universe really hates these two I think, given all that they’ve been and all that they are going through, and all that they are undoubtedly going to go through. Maybe the writers can let up a little bit? Just a little bit?
Good. Bring on the next episode!