Episode Title: This Ball of Mud and Meanness
Original Airdate: 3-14-16
Finally starting to catch back up with this season of Gotham here on the site, which is weird because this season really has caught on with me as one of the best shows out there right alongside the Flash. I think it’s just a product of my mood lately where the Flash is still much more of an upbeat show while Gotham is much darker and not exactly the type of show that you just throw on with a whim. When I last checked in with Gotham, David Mazouz was well on his way to catching up with his parents’ killer, and Penguin was going through an odd series of treatments with Hugo Strange. One of these things I enjoyed, while the other I’m still not so sure of. And just a quick note, I’m taking the events in the episode at face value, I have not cheated and looked ahead at what may have happened in the previous episodes that I’ve yet to catch up with.
First off, I’ll get into what I liked the most about this episode, which is the story arc of young Bruce Wayne. While it may still be a little bit too early compared to other iterations of this character to have Bruce confront the killer of his parents at this age, he handled it as well as a future Batman could have been expected to. The entire hunt brought about several great moments, from Alfred’s fight with the big Black brute named Cupcake as well as the entire conversation preceding it and Alfred’s constant “lessons” directed at Bruce during the fight. Alfred is still one of my favorite characters on this show, if not my overall favorite and I hope that the events at the end of this episode don’t mean that he will have a reduced presence for the foreseeable future.
Another highlight of the episode was Lori Petty’s turn as a Jerome/Joker inspired singer at a club. While I still don’t entirely care for his death causing the proliferation of his ideals, I really enjoyed her portrayal of this slightly unhinged character that sympathizes with Bruce to a certain extent, enough to push him on his path of vengeance, and her interactions with Gordon reminded me of some of the best parts of Tank Girl. When Bruce finally makes his way to Matches Malone, the essentially retired hitman, it’s a great conversation and Michael Bowen gives a great performance with his slight twitches that end with his eventual suicide once Bruce finally declares that he realizes that Malone is not a monster, but just a man. And the episode ends with his first real step towards becoming Batman without having to spell it out entirely. He decides to live on the streets to know to a certain extent how it feels to live with nothing withing the midst of criminals, both those who do it for the sheer thrill of it, as well as those who do it because they think they have no other course of action.
As for the lesser parts of the episode, we get updates on a couple different plotlines. One that has been hanging around for quite a while was the death of Kristin Kringle and the creeping paranoia of Edward Nygma. I did find it a little strange that they took this long to come back around to that thread, and in fact Nygma has been at the sidelines for quite a while now. But this brings him into a perceived battle of wits with Jim Gordon who doesn’t entirely suspect Nygma at this point in time, but Nygma has gotten it into his head that Gordon has it all figured out and is just waiting for Nygma to make a wrong move that will give him the proof he needs. After having his character get a big confidence boost from his villainy, it feels like a big step back for his character to start overthinking himself like this, especially with his talking to himself right in the middle of the GCPD floor. I do hope that this ends up with him getting out it with a brilliant plan rather than having him botch things up like he did with Kringle in the first place.
Meanwhile, Penguin gets “cured” by Hugo Strange through a specific type of aversion therapy involving what appears to be a modified version of an Oculus Rift. And again, like with the Riddler, it’s a little too early to tell exactly how this will play out. There didn’t seem to be any hints that Penguin was trying to play Strange for a fool by acting out the behaviors that Strange was looking for. And as much as I’m enjoying B.D. Wong’s performance, I just don’t see the end game of this arc at the moment which feels a little bit annoying. But at this point, I’m willing to at least give it a little bit of time to flesh itself out, hopefully in an interesting and unexpected way. Just so long as it’s not a spoon in the eye level of unexpected.