Gotham 2:14 – This Ball of Mud and Meanness
For fairly obvious reasons, there is perhaps no character on this show more important than Bruce Wayne himself. Since we may never actually see him don the cape and cowl to become the Bat, his story, while vitally important, often simmers in the background of other stories. Bruce Wayne’s development from a rather spoiled rich kid to a young man who might become a vigilante is really a slow burn. Often, episodes will use Bruce for one or two scenes, and that’s it. In one scenario he might observe something deplorable, and in another, he might have to actually do something that he wouldn’t have imagined himself doing the day before. The talented young actor David Mazouz has brought so much to a role that would be difficult for a seasoned actor to play, yet how much more difficult is it for Mazouz to be able to pull it off amid the madness that is Gotham. Whenever Mazouz is onscreen, he reigns in the show as the audience connects with him at an almost primal level: we know who he is and we even know generally where he’s headed, and no matter how much we want to yell at him from the outside to not make certain choices, we see him confronting those choices in scenario after scenario, and we are aware that, often, thanks to his youth and his stubbornness, we watch helpless as he makes the wrong ones. Mazouz’s characterization is brilliant: he wants to be seen as a tough and smart kid, but we see him as more delicate. This season alone, his attempts to outsmart Alfred have usually failed. What’s more, he most certainly lacks the street smarts and even the physical strength of Selena Kyle. As the latest episode ends with Bruce Wayne choosing to leave the mansion to be on his own to study the criminal fraternity (much like the character did in Batman Begins, only here, he’s getting a much earlier start, and he’s staying right in the city) we are glad that the Selena is there to watch his back.
Yet, for much of this episode, Selena is not there to protect him, and she’s not there to advise him on what to do or not do as he ventures deep into the underworld of Gotham to track down the man who killed his parents. Often, when asked by the relative low-lifes that rule the underworld who he is and what he’s doing, Bruce will, in the most naive fashion, just come right out say who he is. He likes the direct approach, despite how dangerous that can be. All he cares abut is finding Matches Malone and killing him. He might look like a kid, but he is very much the tormented man that will eventually become the Bat.
With Alfred finally obtaining the files of Matches Malone, the name of the man who killed his parents, in a recent episode, Bruce meets Selena in an alley, and she gives him a gun. They have a discussion about the gun. Such a weapon is only used for one thing: to kill. We agree with Selena: this kid is definitely not ready to take that step. We almost wish she would go with him on this one.
She doesn’t. Alfred does, however, and the two follow a trail that leads them to some nasty criminals. In order to get any information from the gang leader, named Cupcake, Alfred must, uh, kick his ass in a fight, which he does by using Rocky Balboa’s strategy: just keep getting punched, and that alone will war the opponent down. Upon Alfred’s slim victory, Cupcake tells them that the Jeri, the manager and performer at underground club,knows the whereabouts of Matches Malone. It’s about here that Bruce goes on his own, as the fight with Cupcake has landed Alfred in the hospital. Bruce confronts Jeri (who happens to be played by genre actress Lori Petti) in this strange heavy metal club after being led through the cavernous backstage area which is essentially the adult world of sex, drugs and dark psychedelic music that Bruce has never seen before. Bruce is not street smart enough to ask the right questions that will get the information from Jeri; he only asks the most obvious ones, and she knows exactly what he intends to do even before he admits it. Or so we gather. She kind of senses that the dangerous journey this kid is now one will make him an adult indeed, so she actually tells him what he wants to know: she tells him where to find Malone.
And it is when Bruce meets Malone that things get a bit muddy. This guy is a contract killer, he’s done it many times. Killing the Waynes wasn’t a job that stuck out for him, and he can’t quite remember who it was that hired him. We see how this torments Bruce: sure he could kill the man who killed his parents, but without knowing more about why they were killed and who hired Malone, he really has nothing. There’s also this outside chance that this guy is not the right guy, we are never quite sure, but we are pretty sure. Despite the chances are that Bruce has found the right guy, that doesn’t make this any easier.
I like how we first see Malone’s shoes when he opens the door to his apartment. It’s a great callback to the pilot episode.
Throughout the series, Bruce has been thinking a little bit too logically about this. To him, everything can be neatly catalogued, delineated. If he just works hard enough, he can eventually see that everything makes sense. Yet, in speaking with Malone, he realizes that things just don’t make sense. If Malone did kill his parents, he was completely indifferent to it. It was just a job. Bruce is after retribution: which is more than “just a job.” So much more. That leads to his decision to abandon the mansion at the end of the episode.
There’s more to this episode than just Bruce’s search for Matches Malone. Hugo Strange has put the finishing touches on the Penguin’s treatment at Arkham, and releases him. He even gave him a certificate declaring him sane. Obviously, by releasing this man back to the world, Hugo Strange knows he’s also letting a few cats out of the bag.
It seems, early on, that the episode’s main story might concern the search from Kristen Kringle, as Gordon is finally informed that the GCPD employee has gone missing. When he asks Nygma what he might know, he simply shrugs it off, but then we see the madness return. He comes closest to being the classic Riddler here, as he draws that signature green question mark over a newspaper clipping of Gordon. Their next confrontation might not go over all that well. For much of the story, however, Gordon is just behind Bruce and Bruce goes deeper into Gotham’s underworld to find Matches. Yet Gordon is never able to save Bruce from the the truths that he learns at the conclusion of this episode.
My rating: 4.7/5 Enough of a reason to keep the Hulu account active, anyway. It was also just announced that Gotham will continue on to season 3.