Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gotham: Season 1, Episode 8

Episode Title: “The Mask”
Channel: Fox
Director: Paul Edwards
Writer: John Stephens
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Runtime: 42 min
Rated: TV-14
Original Air Date: November 10, 2014

This week's episode of Gotham “The Mask” could serve as a microcosm of what works and what doesn't work on the show up to this point. There are examples of both extremes packed into these 42 minutes, which left the episode feeling somewhat odd. The parts that work, they work really well. The parts that don't work stand out as those irritating for frustrating moments during which you actually hope for a cut and a commercial break; if only to get back to the things you were enjoying.

Lets start with this bad this week, that way we can end things on a high note. Gordon and Bullock's case this week was ridiculous. The villain even more so, a financial executive determines who to hire from a pool of candidates by having them fight it out in an abandoned office. Apparently he adopts an Ivan Drago mentality concerning the losers of these fights (“If he dies, he dies”) with what we must assume is very little regard for evidence left behind. There is no way that he was operating something like this for years without getting caught.

Barbara, oh Barbara. One week after leaving Gotham, then coming back because she wanted half of Jim's life, she's freaking out again; now drinking and handling loaded firearms. It seems like the writers have done very little to instill the least bit of likability in this character. After he's: accused of being a murder, shot in the line of duty, ostracized from the police community and she's kidnapped by Mr. Zsasz what does it take to push her away? Gordon hung up before saying “I love you” at the end of a phone call, and out the door she goes with luggage in hand. The telling part, in regards to the direction of her character so far, is that I was glad of her reaction. It was just one more overreaction from a character that hasn't seemed to do the sensible thing once. Maybe after a break from the character the writers can figure out what they want her to be, because at this point she's just been a drag on the show and a liability to Gordon.

On to the positives. Gordon's relationship with his fellow cops feels like it has grown organically through their actions in the previous episodes. Gordon has been abandoned by that brotherhood, and uses that abandonment to fuel his desire to antagonize them further. He is their constant reminder of how far from the ideal they are, while at least part of Gordon's problem is that he believes himself to be better than the rest of them. His journey to overcome that belief in his own superiority will end in him finally succeeding in fighting back against the police force's corruption. Gordon's relationship with Bullock is just as interesting. They are polar opposites now, but from the flashback we saw into Bullock's early career it hasn't always been that way. I think Harvey realizes that Gordon is at the same tipping point that he was all those years ago, and while Harvey chose to fall into the corruption; if he can prop Gordon up long enough he might help Gordon go the other way, maybe even pulling himself out of the muck in the process.

Alfred, as he's portrayed in Gotham, has been a contentious point among viewers. Some feel that the character is too coarse when compared to his admittedly more refined counterparts in other media. I think the Alfred that we see in Gotham, and especially in “The Mask” is a refreshing change to the character. The audience has little information about his history, but it's clear that he's not the butler, son of a butler, that we've seen in the past. I imagine that he's led a rough and tumble life, a life that perhaps he was saved from as a young man by the Waynes. Now he's been thrust into a father/mentor role for a child he was unprepared for, and is doing things the only way he knows how. The scenes with Bruce and Alfred actually seemed to fit in this episode, for the first time in quite a while. Young Bruce voicing the fact that he's always angry, and then finding an outlet for his anger, were scenes that will be important to his development going forward. Alfred's vow to teach Bruce how to fight was a fun comic book moment.

Conclusion: “The Mask” exhibited all the things that I've liked and disliked about Gotham up to this point. The relationships between Jim and his coworkers, and Bruce and Alfred outweighed the episode's weak points. The Mob's workings in the background go relatively unnoticed as the various relationships are explored.

Rating: 7.25/10

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