I’ve come to expect a particular quirk from shows like this–it happened quite a bit back when I was reviewing Hannibal for this site and its lovely fans: An excellent episode is ALWAYS followed by a mediocre at best episode. That being said, Gotham‘s eighth ep is no “Penguin’s Umbrella”–but for a back to business as usual-type episode–it’s not terrible. So let’s take a peek behind “The Mask”–AKA “The Apprentice Meets Thunderdome”:
That’s obnoxious, cutthroat financier Richard Sionis (Todd Stashwick). IMDb credits him as “Richard Sionis/The Mask”, but at no point in the show is he called this. He collects swords and other various armaments, and likens his business to warfare.
When Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) find themselves investigating the death of a man apparently murdered by a killer who shops for weapons at OfficeMax, they uncover the secret behind Sionis’ “unorthodox” hiring practices: The 3 best candidates for an opening are given ski masks, and let loose in an abandoned office building, where they may use any discarded supplies they like to aid them in taking out the “competition”. The candidate left standing wins.
It’s a relatively amusing concept for a “bad guy du jour” (or KOTW–Killer of the Week, as I called such characters in my Hannibal reviews), but a rather weak premise for an entire episode.
Fortunately, “The Mask” is chock full of side plots that, when taken as a whole, add up to a relatively satisfying episode. Some are minor diversions–like Edward Nygma’s (Cory Michael Smith) apparent penchant for pretending he’s the Medical Examiner and–well, examining corpses in the GCPD morgue, which apparently annoys the actual ME to no end.
Barbara (Erin Richards) is a tad jumpy since the events of the last episode. She keeps imagining that Falcone triggerman Victor Zsasz is waiting for her around every corner. Gordon is now telling her the truth about all his coppish goings-on, but now she has to deal with knowing the truth about what dwells in Gotham.
Which reminds me, I was gratified to see a conversation between Gordon and Chief Essen (Zabryna Guevara) that addressed something I talked about last week: The fact that the death of the Wayne’s apparently moved the rock and allowed the most freaktastic of felons to pour into Gotham….This isn’t really important to tonight’s show, I just like to know the writers and I are on the same page.
The best of these “B-Plots” involves young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). Bruce returns to school like a normal kid….well, a normal scion of a billionaire legacy, at least. Immediately, he starts getting picked on by a bigger, meaner rich kid named Tommy Elliott (Cole Vallis) I know–I was hoping it’d be a young Oliver Queen or something–no such luck. If this Tommy Elliott has a role in the Batverse, it’s beyond my fandom pay-grade.
UPDATE: Thanks to a helpful reader, Tommy Elliott has been revealed as the future Dr. Thomas Elliott: AKA “Hush”–one of Batman’s oldest foes, seen below as he appears in the Arkham City video game:
(Btw, Cole Vallis has a great deal of presence, and I really hope they develop his character–especially knowing now who he is. He remind’s me a lot of a younger version of Mad Men‘s Vincent Kartheiser.)
When Alfred finds out that Bruce is getting bullied–and that said bully was disparaging Master Wayne’s late mother–his reaction is to drive Bruce to Tommy’s home, and watch calmly as Bruce opens up a can of Junior Whoopass on the disrespectful Master Elliott.
Then Bruce and Alfred went for pizza.
I’m a little confused by this whole situation: I have a feeling this is not a method of conflict resolution Bruce’s parents would have supported….but I’m just too pleased to get to see this much of Bruce and Alfred, who have become almost side characters as of late. Pertwee and Mazouz are two of the show’s best actors. They do exactly what actors on a show like Gotham should do: Make the roles their own while simultaneously being unmistakably Alfred Pennyworth and Bruce Wayne.
Back at the GCPD, Gordon is still sore at his fellow officers for leaving him high and dry last week when Zsasz came to kill him–fortunately, with Bullock as an unlikely mediator, an armistice of sorts is established between Jim Gordon and the GCPD.
Then everybody hugs (no….not really)
Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) kinda takes a step back in this week’s show….and that’s a good thing: He’s the best character and actor on the show, but the last thing they need is for him to become a crutch–or worse, for fans to start to get sick of him. Still, he gets in some choice scenes with his mother (Carol Kane–my official FAVORITE Gotham guest star) and Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith)–who obviously has no intention of letting bygones be bygones, despite Falcone’s (John Doman) orders.
Oh, and that plot of Mooney’s, use that Liza girl (Makenzie Leigh) to manipulate then kill Falcone, is continuing–apparently.
I cannot stress this enough: I think this part of the storyline was a HUGE mistake. This Liza is an utterly forgettable character–I swear I have to remind myself who the hell she is each week, she has all the personality of a damp sponge. Furthermore, Mooney’s plot to use her as a weapon against Falcone is tired and uninteresting, and serves no purpose except to provide me with a few minutes I can use to grab a smoke or use the bathroom.
STILL, I stand by my statement at the beginning: “The Mask” is a sort of stew made from leftover pieces of plot. The villain may make for a rather thin broth–but there’s some good meat floating around in there…. Next week Gotham meets an eager, helpful young man named Harvey Dent–I’m sure that story will give us something to sink our teeth into.
(Note to self: Don’t write reviews hungry) Anyway, see you next week, kiddies.