[This is a review of Gotham season 1, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
Black Mask invades Gotham and shows Gordon (Ben McKenzie) what else lies beneath the surface of the city, which puts too much of a strain on his relationship with Barbara (Erin Richards), forcing her hand towards hidden desires. Perhaps it’s time for Gordon to recognize the prices those around him are paying for him to deliver justice.
In this week’s episode, “The Mask”, written by executive producer John Stephens, Gordon and Bullock (Donal Logue) investigate a mysterious murder which leads them to the wealthy Richard Sionis (Todd Stashwick), head of investment firm Sionis Investments. As the case reveals the existence of an underground, murderous sport, Gordon finds himself caught in the middle of the deadly game, while Bullock seeks help from his unwilling co-workers. Elsewhere, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) returns to school and attempts to hush one of his classmates, to no avail. Fortunately, Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) is ready to give Master Bruce a second go after a bit of training.
Fight Club gone Gotham is a generally harmless tale which feels as if it exists to simply stand next to the over-arching narratives, and in that respect it’s successful. Fortunately, Stashwick is one of television’s best, and it’s because of his ability to create complex characters in roles of all sizes that help the Sionis/Black Mask story maintain the momentum that the series as a whole has been gaining over the weeks. At some point, however, perhaps towards the middle of season 3, there will be a time when the series will need to rely heavily on episodic format. Hopefully, if all is ideal, producers will have invested the time in perfecting a necessary evil of a network television existence by then.
In the Gotham City Police Department, Bullock continues to be the man who maintains the realism of this world, while Gordon continues to stick out as the (perhaps) overly altruistic sheriff whose believes their own ideals are always more important than those around him. More so, Gordon continues to carelessly disregard what those around him are sacrificing in order for him continue on his path. There is still an edge on James Gordon; the character needs a moment to breath at some point, hopefully soon. Gordon needs to be put in a position where he is required to reflect upon his position in relationships, and not just revel in all the “good” that he’s doing for the city.
And then there’s Barbara “eventually” Gordon, whose character bends at the need of each and every episode. The guiding light; the dark soul; the furtive lover; the broken bride – all which were established in her 10 minutes of screen time over all 8 episodes. Her character, above all else, is feeling the results of a new series still trying to find itself, and yet this episode does give hope for what might come in the future. By having her leave, upset, with a note, it provides the opportunity for the writers to push the reset button on the soon-to-be Mrs. Gordon and use her various plot devices – note contents, final destination – to better reestablish the character, or at least get her out of the apartment.
Elsewhere, Cobblepot (Robin Lloyd Taylor) and Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) are helping to maintain the tension of world on the brink of destruction, and they continue to be two of the strongest elements in this criminal underworld. Cobblepot has previously proven that he can steal most scenes he’s in. As an opposing force, however, nobody brings out the best of Penguin more than Mooney, who forces the instinctual mastermind to control his actions and continue to take abuse abuse which clearly still affects him. Bruce Wayne and Alfred, too, continues to perfectly service their stories, slowing introducing the many elements which combine into the Dark Knight. Not anytime soon, though.
Even so, there will always be Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), who is turning out to be the series’ least-serviced character and, more importantly, a continuous reminder that, while the series continues to gain momentum, it can only go so far while there are still extremely identifiable figures who serve zero purpose. Like Barbara Gordon, Edward, too, could use a proverbial reset – and the one exciting thing is that it takes but a single episode with him as the focus to completely turn the character around. Or destroy him completely, which is part of the gamble.
Now, at 8 episodes in, Gotham is continuing to refine itself and its strengths while still juggling the requirements of an episodic, referential series set in such a familiar world. Even though James Gordon may not be the strong core everyone imagined his character to be, the world around him, and characters like Bullock, Cobblepot and Selina Kyle (Carmen Bicondova), have grown to help support such weight, as recent episode have proven. The question now: how will this series look 14 episodes from now, in the Gotham season 1 finale?
Gotham returns next week with “Harvey Dent” @8pm on Fox. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below: