Gotham (2013) season 2, episode 14
"This Ball of Mud and Meanness"
WRITER: JORDAN HARPER
DIRECTOR: JOHN BEHRING
AIR DATE: March 14 2016
"This Ball of Mud and Meanness" moves things in new directions for Gotham. While for the most part in this series, the police have been hip deep in the primary plot of an episode, this time they play more of a supporting role and secondary storylines. This time, Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is front and center for the episode in terms of his own quest.
There are a few subplots playing out against the main story - Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is starting to look into the disappearance of Kristen Kringle, which is unsettling towards Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), edging closer to ultimately becoming the Riddler. And Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), stuck in Arkham, continues to be the subject of nefarious experimentation by Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong) and his assistant, Ethel Peabody (Tonya Pinkins). What they’re putting the Penguin through makes you actually feel sorry for the character.
Bruce has had a rough go of it - his near death at the hands of Galavan, the missed chance to find out who killed his parents - and finds himself with a name - Patrick “Matches” Malone. It’s a familiar name to readers of the comics, since Bruce himself used the name as an alias during the occasional need to get answers in the streets of Gotham. Finding Malone takes him and Alfred (Sean Pertwee) on a bit of a journey. That means fisticuffs for Alfred to get information; it’s fun to watch Alfred fight- and teach Bruce some fundamental lessons about fighting. Even if the butler seems physically outmatched, his technique ends up being successful.
Bruce’s road goes alone - first to a nightclub, where a musician, Jeri (Lori Petty) has some answers. There’s a lot visually during the sequence here- the underground growth of what appears to be a Joker fandom. After the proto-Joker Jerome Valeska of earlier in the season, the influence remains, and it shows itself in the visuals of the club. It also shows itself in Jeri herself, who wears makeup resembling the Joker, and has a bit of an off kilter personality. A lot of that is Petty herself, who as an actress has always seemed eccentric.
There’s another face to face for Bruce, with Matches himself. The actor Michael Bowen plays the character, and he’s done a lot of character roles in television and film. Malone’s a hit man, having had spent his life killing people for hire- and yet there are things he won’t do, hinting at something of a conscience. That conscience also reflects itself in his behaviour- he comes across as philosophical and just waiting for the day when his crimes come to revisit him. Whether or not he actually killed Bruce’s parents is left up in the air - there’s just enough ambiguity in what he says to leave room for doubt.
There are a couple of aspects of the conversation between them that struck me - first, either Bowen is rather short, or David Zazouz has had a growth spurt since the series started. Second, while Bruce has had the intention to kill Malone and avenge his parents, he comes out of the encounter with a stronger resolve, one pointing the road ahead for the Dark Knight: a respect that life is sacred, even for the criminal element.
Jim and Bruce