Gotham Episode 8 Review: “The Mask”
***As always, this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned.***
Last week’s Gotham shocked everyone when it was revealed that The Penguin has been controlling nearly every event that has happened since the pilot episode. This week’s episode provides plenty of Penguin moments, but it does suffer a bit from trying to juggle too many characters. I love each and every cast member, but do we really need to have them all crammed into a single episode? Things seem much more structured when the focus remains on a handful of plot lines, rather than attempting to squeeze almost two dozen characters into an hour’s worth of television. With that being said, everyone makes the most of the screen time that they’re given.
This episode introduces us to Richard Sionis, a businessman who forces potential employees to compete in a deadly fight club. Sionis also has a rather odd fascination with masks, which comic book fans will recognize as a reference to Richard’s son. Roman Sionis may not be mentioned in this episode, but it certainly sets the stage for a possible Black Mask appearance in the future. There isn’t too much time spent developing Sionis’ character, but it does lead to an epic fight sequence between Gordon and a trio of men attempting to fight their way into a new job.
Previous episodes have portrayed Gordon as the “good cop,” but it’s clear that Gotham City is starting to take a toll on our beloved detective. Ben McKenzie does an excellent job as the newly hardened Gordon and really helps make this episode seem more cohesive. Also, who knew Jim Gordon could handle a katana? I’ve said it before, but McKenzie is definitely the glue that helps hold Gotham together. With so many kooky characters floating about, someone has to stay grounded. It’s also nice to see that Gordon and Bullock’s relationship has developed so much in only eight, short episodes. Donal Logue continues to impress as Gordon’s disgruntled partner and the two have a chemistry that always seems so natural.
The same can be said for David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee, who play Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth. I never expected to see so much Bruce Wayne action on this show, but it’s always a welcomed treat. This episode gives us a look at Bruce’s very first fight and explains why Alfred has always seemed so cool with working for a masked vigilante. Before now, Alfred has always seemed like the voice of reason, but Bruce obviously requires some very special parenting techniques. Basically, Alfred sits there and watches while Master Wayne knocks on a school bully’s door and proceeds to punch the shit out of him. It proves to be a surprisingly heartwarming scene between the child/butler duo, which just goes to show how well the writers handle Bruce’s origin story on the show. This may just end up being the most in depth look at Bruce Wayne we’ve ever seen onscreen.
Of course, Robin Lord Taylor continues to steal scenes as Oswald Cobblepot, whether he’s eating an apple in the most sinister way possible or being impaled by Fish Mooney. He can do no wrong. However, this only makes things much more difficult for the other young villains on the show, who mostly pale in comparison. Cory Michael Smith definitely has all of the mannerisms and flair to pull off The Riddler, but still hasn’t really had a chance to reach his full potential. He could easily be on the same level as Taylor if he wasn’t so severely underutilized. Camren Bicondova has done a great job as Selina Kyle in the past, but her obscure cameo in this episode seemed unnecessary. Luckily, it looks like we’ll be seeing more of her in next week’s episode.
While this episode still manages to deliver all of the edge-of-your-seat action and drama we’ve come to expect from Gotham, I can’t help but think that it was just too overcrowded. With so many characters fighting for screen time, someone is always bound to get shafted. I’d much rather see a small handful of properly thought out characters than a haphazard attempt to squeeze them all into a single hour. Don’t get me wrong, this problem is minuscule when you consider how impressive the rest of this season has been. Let’s just hope that next week’s episode will cool it with the cameos.