Last night's episode of Gotham was sort of ho-hum. A lot of the stuff that had started working on this show stopped working again. But the episode still won us over, mostly because of the incredibly bloody scenes of violence it managed in prime-time. Plus it introduced two more classic Batman villains. Spoilers...
Seriously, there's plenty of violence on prime-time television, but the amount of blood and mayhem in this episode was impressive. Particularly great was the paper-cutter rampage early in the episode, which set a nice tone. (Not to be confused with toner, of which there was also plenty.)
So in "The Mask," we meet Richard Sionis, aka Black Mask, who's another one of Batman's villains. (In the comics, he's Roman Sionis.) He's a corporate CEO who believes that business is war, because the Invisible Hand is a fist, and you can't get a job at his MegaKillKill Inc. business unless you're willing to fight other applicants to the death. These death matches take place in a disused office, while a bunch of rich people watch, via fuzzy black-and-white video feed. (They're not that rich.)
In the scene above, James Gordon has tracked them down, and gotten himself captured, and Sionis sics a few of his wannabe yuppies on Gordon, promising them a job and a million-dollar signing bonus if they kill the Only Honest Cop In Gotham (Apart From Allen And Montoya.)
One thing I've noticed about Gotham: This show does not waste a lot of time on trying to fake you out, or throw red herrings at you. Pretty much in the first act, you know whodunnit, and by the third act, you know he or she is going down. That's partly because this show isn't much of a detective show, but also a function of the fact that the show has a billion subplots that all have to be kept spinning in every episode, leaving little time for detecting.
In any case, the plot about Gordon tracking down Black Mask is sort of used to explore the notion that Gordon is addicted to fighting, and that's why he won't stop smacking down the bad guys. Sionis brings up this idea, and so do a few other people in the episode — like, Gordon is a war veteran, and maybe he just misses killing people and stuff. But then at the end of the episode Gordon says nope, he doesn't love violence — he just sees it as a tool to clean up Gotham. Which makes perfect sense, and Gordon could have just said that at the start of the episode, the first time someone asked him if he loves violence.
But meanwhile, we're dealing with the fallout from last week's episode where Victor Zsasz showed up at the police precinct and 50 cops walked out, abandoning Jim Gordon. The cops all feel like shit about this, and Gordon's continuing self-righteous attitude doesn't help matters. It takes Bullock to stand up for Gordon and announce that all of those assholes aren't going to let Gordon down a second time, to turn things around when Gordon has been captured by Black Mask.
The best line of the night? "I'd give you a 'good cop' routine, but it's not in my toolkit." — Harvey Bullock
Meanwhile, Barbara Kean, who got herself captured by Victor Zsasz, is now blaming Gordon somehow. And she's fully swung back to "most annoying character on the show." She and Katrina from Sleepy Hollow should take a long boat cruise together, far away from our screens. Although it is funny when Barbara mentions being terrified of "that monster, Zsasz," and it sounds like "that monster's ass." She gets mad after she calls Gordon at work and he can't drop everything and talk to her right that second, so she leaves him a note and takes her improbably tiny wheely bag, and leaves him.
The episode's "B" plot is also about loving violence too much. And it also introduces yet another Bat villain-to-be: Thomas Elliott, aka Hush. He's not identified by that name until towards the end of the episode, after Bruce has already beaten him to a pulp, and you can see why he might one day put on bandages and a trenchcoat and go out and screw with Batman.
Bruce Wayne goes back to his snooty prep school, where the main activity seems to be hassling the newly orphaned kid, in kind of a weirdly obnoxious fashion. This show does not do subtle — that's its main charm — but I was kind of surprised by Elliott and the other rich kids being like "Was there blood? Did you see guts?" This turns into an altercation, and they beat Bruce up, so he looks like a chimney sweep. Later, Alfred drives Bruce to the main bully's house so Bruce can use Thomas Wayne's watch to beat Elliott bloody while Alfred watches and practically cheers. The look on Alfred's face, watching Bruce smash another kid's, is kind of amazing:
I guess in this version of the Batman mythos, Alfred is not so reluctant to see Bruce go out and smash heads? Also, Alfred agrees to teach Bruce to fight. Dirty, I'm guessing.
We'll get to the episode's "C" plot in a minute, but first it's worth mentioning that Catgirl is shoe-horned into the episode, stealing some furs or something, in a way that feels kind of pointless — but then it sort of pays off at the end of the episode, when she's arrested and asks for Gordon. Which means maybe she'll finally tell him what she saw of the Wayne murders, back in the pilot. (Side note: Can this show actually solve the Wayne murders?)
Speaking of which, one of the best scenes in the episode is between Gordon and Essen, when she marvels at the fact that they're dealing with a new bizarre supervillain every week now, and what the heck is that about. And Gordon answers that the Wayne murders changed things somehow, because an old vision of Gotham died with them, and now something darker is being born instead.
So the "C" plot has to do with the ongoing mob war, and the Penguin vs. Fish Mooney. They have a nice summit, at which the Penguin presents Fish with a brooch he stole, which she uses to stab him in the hand — so he takes it back and gives it to his mom. And then both Fish and the Penguin make their moves: Fish gets her opera-singing baby-faced seductress to drug Carmine Falcone and steal the last two pages of Falcone's ledger, so she can siphon off his power before she disposes of him. And Penguin captures Fish's new henchweasel and intimidates him into revealing that Fish has someone close to Falcone.
The main surprise in all this is that Fish (who is chewing the scenery at never-before-seen levels) apparently keeps her mom around, so she can croon the same line of a gospel song over and over in the background. Fish tells baby-faced opera singer girl (who's having second thoughts) that her mom was a sex worker who was killed by a dissatisfied client. And then the gospel-singing lady reveals that she's actually Fish's mom, surprising nobody. I guess the moral of this is that it's better to sing gospel than opera, because you'll live longer.