Gotham S1.08 The Mask Review

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That was the best episode of The Apprentice in ages… Oh hang on.

Gotham attempts a satire on the evils of corporate greed that’s about as subtle as scripted “off-the-cuff” witticisms of Alan Sugar (and, for that matter, US Apprentice boss Donald Trump). The show’s lack of conviction in its central idea of a company boss (Richard Sionis, aka The Black Mask) whose recruitment regime includes getting the candidates to fight each other to the death (if necessary), is evidenced by the fact that the plot runs out of steam after 18 minutes.

Featuring a megamix of “TV Crime’s Favourite Obvious Clues Ever” (a business card left in a victim’s pocket, black ink, a trail of blood, a missing finger) it’s amazing it takes Gordon and Bullock even that long to work out what’s going on. But they’ve pretty much nailed Sionis by halfway through the episode, and what’s left is a massive Hunger-Games-With-Office-Equipment fight (which is competent but not exactly gripping) and lots of cutaways to the B and C plots to pad things out.

To be fair, the episode is more interested in exploring Sionis’s use of a mask, and what that suggests about Batman’s use of one in the future. So, sure, yeah, good points to make. But that’s about 5% of the episode. It’s no excuse to make the rest of the main plot so lame.

Elsewhere there’s more to like about the episode. Bruce finally goes back to school, where he’s instantly bullied by a seriously odd kid who actually calls Bruce a weirdo, thus proving all those claims about bullies being bullies to cover up their own insecurities. Alfred seems almost orgasmic at the situation (he delivers a lovely aside in which he practically relishes the fact that he’s not going to inform the school), as it gives him a chance to give Bruce lessons in Vigilante 101: basically, hit back hard, with your dead dad’s watch strapped around your fist. Quite whether daddy Wayne – such a pillar of the establishment by all accounts – would approve of his son using an heirloom to indulge in the kind of activities all the other criminal dregs of Gotham indulge in is not made clear.

Family Resemblance

Like mother, like son. Penguin’s mum shopped someone to the secret police. Evil in Gotham seems to be a case of nurture rather than nature.

Meanwhile, Gordon’s attempts to win over his police colleagues and hopefully make them start having some pride in their work seem to be paying off. It’s refreshing to see Essen back up Bullock, and the other cops following suit. Ironically, though, Gordon himself climbs off his high horse in a big way this episode. It seems that he’s not a slave to the letter of the law, and is happy to come on all Gene Hunt if he’s unilaterally decided that someone’s guilty. Though it’s quite possible that the writers haven’t even seen the irony in this, because one of the tenets of US TV crime show scripting is: if the audience knows the bad guy is the bad guy, then anything that’s done to him is morally justifiable.

There’s also a great scene for Ed Nygma. This guy is so great as a creepy crime scene investigator it’s a shame he’ll have to turn bad one day, and his illicit post mortem is a little gem. Fish’s long game with Falcone and Liza continues to intrigue, and the Penguin is compellingly repulsive to watch as ever. Does anyone else swear they can actually smell him?

Gotham airs on Monday nights on Channel 5 in the UK, and on Fox in the US.

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WriterJohn Stephens
DirectorPaul A Edwards
The one whereA crooked business tycoon recruits new staff by making them fight each other.
Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.