After Oswalt Cobblepot took center stage in last week’s “The Penguin’s Umbrella,” this week’s “The Mask” continues to impress with Black Mask being our villain of the week. Black Mask is another one of those ideal Gotham City villains that exist just on the right side of supernatural themed bad guys that operate through fear, force and numbers. While Black Mask does get a sizable amount of attention in this episode, the comic book lore spills over several different scenes in the episode that excite us for future events.
“The Mask” starts out with a Fight Club meets Hunger Games office brawl – and why shouldn’t it? If you’ve worked for a corporation, then you know that this is just another day in the life of somebody looking for a promotion. The scene is extremely brutal, and the crime scene that it results in demonstrates that quite well. It’s not every day you find a dismembered thumb in some dead guy’s mouth. There isn’t a lot of detective work that goes into finding the person responsible for the office brawls. I mean – black ink, ski-masks, SUSPENDERS?? It had to be Black Mask. The mystery surrounding Richard Sionis is enough to make the episode engaging. Obsessed with the warrior spirit and encouraging his employees to literally kill each other for promotions, this is as much social commentary as it is good writing; none of these selfish a-holes are forced to into “applying” for this high risk job.
The elements of this episode that we really enjoyed were the side stories. When judging the success of the show, it all comes down to show & tell. Gotham is doing an exponentially better job of showing the growth of James Gordon, Harvey Bullock and the eventually come-around of the GCPD. Harvey’s speech early on in the episode to Essex about how ashamed the rest of the police department is of Gordon’s heroics really resonated with us, and humanized the police department that we had been resenting this whole season. Harvey Bullock is a much more lovable person when he’s the jerk that’s on the right side of the argument.
Fish Mooney, on the other hand, continues to become the worst part of the show, and I am counting down the days before Penguin pushes her off the end of the pier. Her plan to put an impressionable sheep of a mole in bed with Falcone is completely dumb, and will undoubtedly backfire right in her face. And what was up with that old lady on stage? And why is nobody ever at Fish Mooney’s club? Fish isn’t the only annoying character in this episode. After quite possibly the worst attempt at “saving” her man (which led to her being kidnapped and ruining any leverage Gordon had on Falcone), Barbara has finally decided that Jim not answering his phone was the final straw. Barbara’s character could have been so much more, but was really reduced to a bi-sexual token and pretty face. We’ll see how this plays out – if she’s gone for good, or just long enough for Gordon to find another love interest.
Speaking of love interest, thank goodness we get to dive deeper into the infinitely creepy relationship between Oswalt and his mother. It could be the most disturbing element of Gotham, and that’s saying a lot if guys like Victor Zsasz are carving tally marks into their arm for each kill. Mommy issues aside, Penguin is shaping up to be quite the crime boss. His precise strikes and power moves are very clever, and it’s only a matter of time before he arises from the rubble of the Falcone-Maroni feud in control of the underworld.
The outliers were have in Gotham so far are Edward Nygma and Bruce Wayne (weird, huh?). Nygma is struggling to find himself a meaningful member of the Crime Scene Unit, and although his methods are grating, he has proven time again that he is the smartest person in the room, especially when the other people in the room are corpses. Word to GCPD, they better give him something more productive to do before he decides to entertain himself. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, is trying to move on after the murder of his parents, but is having issues with cruel kids picking on him for it. Alfred handles the situation like any parent figure would; he will teach Bruce to beat the snot out of everybody, which is strongly reminiscent of Batman: Earth One. Who is Bruce’s first victim? Tommy Elliott, none other than Bruce’s close childhood friend turned arch nemesis Hush. Yes! HUSH! We don’t know if Tommy will show up again or become friends with Bruce after Bruce tried to “kill” him (wuss), but it’s anybody’s guess.
A couple of subtle things I’ve noticed:
- While the black mask that Black Mask wears is definitely more of a skeleton in the comics, the one the show uses is decidedly more Japanese-influenced. In fact, it looks a lot like the Mask of Tengu from Knightfall that Bruce Wayne used while training with Lady Shiva.
- Bruce was quoted as saying to Alfred things like “I enjoyed hurting him” and “I’m so angry all the time.” It looks like this might be a recurring theme for somebody destined to beat the crap out of bad guys for years to come.
Hush Comics gives “The Mask” a B+ for finally giving us the portrayal of Gotham City that we wanted. We’re finally on the police’s side, and while we know they are still a bunch of cowards, at least they know it, too. The Bruce Wayne story is continuing to build from what began as a weak attempt to draw in familiarity. And while Fish Mooney continues to disappoint, there are no hard laughs made at her expense like there were at the beginning of the season. It looks like Gotham has been realigned itself with our original expectations. All it needed was a swashbuckling session with a paper cutter.
All pictures belong to FOX and DC Entertainment. They are credited to Jessica Miglio.