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Episode 108 “The Mask”
[Photos: Jessica Miglio/FOX]
It’s Fight Club, Gotham City style. Where the next job interview could be your last.
When a dapper-looking young man turns up dead on the docks, the Only Two Working Detectives in Gotham — Bullock and Gordon — start investigating a finance company with an interesting job application process.
(Seriously, what does Alvarez do all day?)
The establishing scenes give us the nuts and bolts: young guy, dressed for finance (is that a particular style from Macy’s?), found dead with a thumb in his mouth and a business card on his person. Nygma is all over it, asking if Gordon wants him to run “all” of the fingerprints. The thumb, obviously, must belong to the killer. And the business card, obviously, must be a clue. It’s a little too neat, but OK.
It’s a pretty straightforward episode that mainly serves to re-establish the relationship between Gordon and Bullock, while also severing the relationship between Gordon and Barbara. Bullock, reminding Jim of his more recent loyalty, tries to get the boy scout to ease up on his fellow cops. Gordon is still steamed that everyone walked out on him when it mattered. And he’s not about to let go of any slight. That, Bullock tells him, could get him left stranded when things blow up in his face.
The big villain of the week: The Mask, maybe a prototype of a more effective Black Mask later? In either case, Richard Sionis (Roman’s father?) is a terrible Black Mask. But this episode (like last week’s Arrow) only serves as a framework around which we have our real story — James Gordon’s war on crime from all quarters. In the course of the investigation, Bullock and Gordon figure that Sionis is the guy running the fight club, mainly because there are a lot of people in the office with bruises and other contusions. But then there’s the guy with the missing thumb, who just happens to come out of a bathroom stall when Gordon just happens to be looking around.
But the confrontation between our Heroes and Sionis does give us the best line of the night, from Bullock: “I’d give you my good cop routine, but it’s not in my toolkit.”
Bullock gets to shine a bit this week, finally having his fill of being the pariah simply because his partner is the Boy Scout Who Won’t Play Ball. From week to week, we can see how Harvey is starting to crack under the pressure to do right. And while he’s still one of the good guys who has learned to keep his head down and avoid any undue attention, he’s also wrestling with a conscience that seems to be waking up in response to James Gordon’s dedication to doing the right thing. It’s an obvious first step in what will one day be a professional relationship that sees Bullock working for Commissioner James Gordon in much the same way — reluctant, but eventually doing what needs to be done.
Bullock’s mini-arc runs parallel to Captain Essen’s mini-arc, where she goes from guilt about leaving Gordon as the “last man standing” to confusion over why the city is going crazy to resolve in standing up for what’s right and helping Bullock investigate the various Sionis locations to find Gordon when he goes missing. And while some may complain that her appearance takes away from the redemption of the GCPD, it does serve to help strengthen the connection between Gordon and Essen, something that’s likely to come into play down the road. The cops are going to take a little longer.
In the meantime, the more solid writing is still with the mob, as Fish and Oswald finally have a little parley in the club. He attempts to give her a broach (stolen from a Gotham socialite), but she uses the pin to stab him in the hand, letting him know just what she thinks about the current state of affairs between the Falcone and Maroni gangs. Oswald, feeling his oats after surviving so much (and being Falcone’s inside man in the Maroni organization), later shakes down Fish’s new umbrella man. Timothy does not survive the encounter.
Oswald and Fish both get plot time involving their mothers. Oswald’s mother gets the broach Fish refused, and she tells him stories of when she was younger and would have to do things to get ahead in the dance company. Some of her competition did more unsavory things, and she hopes Oswald isn’t getting in over his head.
Fish, meanwhile, tells Liza the story of her mother, the prostitute, being killed by one of Falcone’s men. Fish is making sure that Liza understands what’s at stake after the girl starts to get cold feet. She’s taken a big risk drugging Falcone to copy the last few pages of his secret ledger. But it’s worth noting that there’s at least a suggestion that the woman on stage singing the blues could actually be Fish’s mother (or grandmother?). There’s a clear familial relationship there.
We even get a little Mom time for Bruce, as he lashes out at Tommy Elliot for speaking ill of the dead. Tommy is one of the school bullies, apparently, with a keen interest in things gory and violent. His macabre curiosity is part of what Bruce was dreading about going back to school, and it proves to be even more of a problem when Young Master Bruce gets his butt kicked. Of course, not every rich kid in Gotham has a retired British paramilitary superspy whatsis as a butler. It’s a strangely dark bonding moment for the two of them, something that started when Alfred sat down to help Bruce look through the Arkham files. Not only is Alfred starting to find ways to connect with Bruce, but it also plays into the boy’s growth into someone who can look out for himself, whether he becomes a masked vigilante or not.
And Barbara. Poor Barbara. Still a weak link in the story chain. Still serving no real purpose. It’s like the writers had to resolve the Barbara-Montoya thing to get Gordon moving on to bigger fights, and now they have no idea what to do with her.
Tommy Elliot — eventually to be Dr. Thomas Elliot, also known as “Hush” in the comics. First appearing in Batman #609, Hush is one very mixed up guy. Attempting to murder his parents so he could inherit their wealth, he’s jealous of Bruce Wayne, eventually teaming up with the Riddler in an attempt to kill Bruce and destroy Batman.
Black Mask — Roman Sionis, the first Black Mask, was another Gotham heir to wealthy socialites putting up the pretense of getting along with the Waynes to maintain their social status. His frustration with their “masks” and the forced “friendship” with Bruce Wayne led to Sionis murdering his parents. Black Mask was born when a humiliated Sionis, fresh from the failure of the family company, was struck by lightning near his parents’ graves. Fashioning a mask from his father’s casket, he saw himself “reborn” as Black Mask and organized the criminal element of Gotham into the False Face Society.
And yes, Barbara, the monsters are real.