Gotham (2013) season 1, episode 8
WRITER: JOHN STEPHENS
DIRECTOR: PAUL A. EDWARDS
AIR DATE: November 10 2014
‘The Mask’ delves deeper into the murky underworld of Gotham, advancing storylines while introducing not one, but two villains into the streets of Gotham City. One is a man, familiar to the readers of the Dark Knight. The other is a boy, one who is well known to be a future adversary of Batman.
Gordon (Ben Mckenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) pick up a peculiar case involving the body of a man who looks like he was in the finance sector. What they don’t know at first, and what we as the audience are privy to, is that there’s a fight club in Gotham City, one that has rather unusual stakes for the players. It also has a somewhat familiar face behind it, albeit one with a different name.
Richard Sionis (Todd Stashwick) is a variation on Roman Sionis from the comics, better known as Black Mask, the ruthless criminal leader. He doesn’t use the name, but he certainly uses a mask, and he embodies the ruthlessness of the character. Instead of being a criminal mastermind though, we meet him as a corporate titan with a sadistic hobby. He auditions new employees by having them bludgeon each other. Stashwick brings across the sense of the sociopath we would expect out of the character in his performance.
The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) is settling in nicely in his new role in the Maroni organization, all while playing his own game. We’ve seen his other loyalties, his secret role as a mole for Falcone, and yet Oswald’s really showing his devious self. He plays things entirely calm in an encounter with his former boss Fish (Jada Pinkett Smith), while she is outraged and infuriated by him. Taylor’s really coming along well as the character, ever watchful for opportunities, gathering intelligence, setting the board for his own game. He gleans an important piece of information this time out, something that’s going to give him considerable ammunition down the line.
While Fish is letting her anger drive her (and that’s a careless thing to do), she shows different aspects to her character this time out. Her use of Liza (Makenzie Leigh), who has infiltrated Falcone’s household, is explained to Liza in a way that defines why she bears a grudge against the man she works for... and yet it’s a lie. It’s quite a strong twist for the character, and Pinkett Smith does a good job of conveying the lie.
Bruce Wayne confronts Tommy Elliot
The subplot this time out has Bruce (David Mazouz) returning to school for the first time since the deaths of his parents. He doesn’t want to go, but Alfred (Sean Pertwee) points out that he has to, and it’s there that he has an unpleasant encounter with Tommy Elliot (Cole Vallis), who comics readers will know one day grows up to become the villain called Hush. The unpleasantness leads to a rather cathartic moment for Bruce, backed up by Alfred... and perhaps a hint of the Dark Knight yet to come.
The shifting dynamics in the homicide unit stands out in the episode. When the series started, it was clear that most of the police in Gotham were on the payroll of the mob, and an honest cop was unwelcome. Gordon knew this when he spared the life of the Penguin, and with that deceit exposed by Oswald himself, he found himself once again isolated from those around him. Captain Essen expresses regret early on that she didn’t stand by him in the last episode when Victor Zsasz turned up in the precinct, but most of his colleagues are once again treating him with derision. It’s Bullock, strangely, who shames his colleagues into acting like cops when his partner is in trouble. It’s a good character moment for Bullock, a sign of progress for the man, and Logue delivers it with authority.