Gotham’s “The Mask” Isn’t Ssssssmokin’


Another Batman villain makes a low-impact entrance on the directionless Gotham.

I’m still not sure what Gotham is trying to do. The show plays with some neat elements, but doesn’t really seem to have any focus in how it uses them. The people behind this show are basically taking all these interesting colors of Play-Doh, and instead of handling it responsibly, they just squish it all together, ruining all of them, and then hold up this ugly ball like a six-year-old, proud of their creation.

“Look mom, this is a man-vs-society theme! See, it’s right there, mixed up with the emotionless/emotional girlfriend and the freaky villains!”

Gordon and Bullock have a new dynamic that’s interesting to watch, with Bullock trying to be a decent cop (which he still needs to work at) while being supportive of Gordon. Unfortunately, these sequences are soured by an angst-ridden Gordon, still salty over his fellow officers abandoning him last week. Gordon’s poor attitude starts to have repercussions in his relationship with Barbara, who is wildly different in attitude and motivations from one scene to the next.

Hey, Gotham writers: more supportive Bullock and driven Gordon, less Barbara. Actually, no Barbara would be fine. After all, you could start cooking up that Sarah Essen story any time now (Batman comic readers know what I’m talking about).

Bruce Wayne is played differently every episode as well. This week, Bruce is stuck up and too smart and mature for his own good, getting wrapped up in his anger. But at least Alfred is there to show him how to handle those feelings in healthy ways, like violence.

“The Mask” introduces another one of Batman’s villains, but rather than capturing the character from the source material, he’s more like Councilman Jamm from Parks and Recreation. You never really know why he does what he does, other than the fact that it causes trouble for the protagonists, and his obsession with Asian culture is both racist and ill-informed. At least Jamm isn’t boring.

Spoilers ahead, but if you want to watch the episode first, it’s available on Fox’s website and Hulu.

Gordon’s Manpain, Barbara’s Uselessness

Gordon’s anger that none of his fellow cops supported him last week when Zsasz walked in the police station would be understandable, if this wasn’t Gotham. We’ve spent seven episodes establishing these people are crap, so how could he be surprised that they don’t interfere with the vicious killer hired by the mob boss of the city?

Fulfilling the manpain trope, Gordon gets over his frustration by beating the crap (and maybe the life?) out of some random thugs trying to kill him, but not before being “emotionally distant” with his fiancée, Barbara. And by “emotionally distant”, I mean he hung up without saying “I love you” once. This is apparently enough to convince Barbara to leave him, even though they just reconciled earlier that morning.

Barbara has bounced back and forth on motivations and goals more than I can keep track of. She adds nothing to the plot that doesn’t have to be hammered in to fit, and there is zero emotional investment in her relationship with Gordon.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the “complicated female characters are terribad cause they aren’t men” thing you hear so often. I defended Skylar White and The Walking Dead’s Andrea. Sansa Stark might be my favorite character on Game of Thrones. But Barbara Kean is just a boring, pointless character that adds nothing compelling to this show. I cheered to see her walk out the door.

So of course she’ll be back.

At least Gordon’s emotional pain served to give Bullock a chance to be the supportive-yet-rough cop we love from the comics. This is the Bullock we’ve been looking forward to, and he’s finally starting to show up.

Alfred: Father Figure of the Year

As I’ve said before, I love the stories where it’s revealed that Alfred wasn’t the best influence on Bruce and in fact blames himself in part for Bruce’s holy war on crime. This week, Alfred responds to Bruce’s whining and getting bullied by supplying the means for beating the crap out of another adolescent.

It’s a horrible thing to do, but that very minor subplot was the most compelling part of the episode. Alfred agreeing to teach Bruce how to fight just adds to that, but knowing that we’ll never see “The Batman”, none of these moments carry the weight Gotham would hope for. Still, this was the best part of the episode.

Penguin, Mooney, Crime

Cobblepot is now “at the table”, effectively an equal to Mooney, but on Maroni’s side. It’s fun to watch them jab at each other in their unique ways, but you have to wonder how important Mooney’s position is if Cobblepot is her equal after three weeks with Maroni.

Black Mask

Initially I was worried this episode might be about Batman’s mask, while distantly hopeful the episode shared a connection to the Jim Carrey movie with the same name. But hey, it’s Roman Richard Sionis, who organizes fight club style scenarios in busted up offices in order to test out new hires for his investment firm. Because being a warrior means you can be a businessman, apparently?

Sionis has an obsession with combat and Asian culture, and wears a black kabuki style mask rather than the one that looks like a skull. There’s nothing wrong with changes from the source material, but Sionis just comes off as sleazy and boring. The opening sequence of two white-collar dorks beating each other to death was enough of a “What the hell?” moment to get the episode going, bud sadly it falls flat pretty much immediately.

Bottom line: Another disappointing episode, especially considering the opportunity for a fresh(ish) start after last week’s clean-up episode.

Recommendation: The only redeeming parts of this episode are Alfred and Bullock, and that’s maybe 50 seconds worth of content. Skip this.


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