Monday, November 10, 2014

REVIEW: 'Gotham' - Gordon and Harvey Investigate a Financial Fight Club While Oswald Negotiates with Fish in 'The Mask'

FOX's Gotham - Episode 1.08 "The Mask"

Gordon and Bullock investigate a Gothamite who runs a deadly fight club for candidates applying for a job at his financial firm. Meanwhile, Bruce returns to school and gets a visit from a new friend.

After a solid episode last week, Gotham returns to its tonal whiplash and mix-matched storytelling roots in "The Mask." Last week's episode worked so well because there was urgency and all of the various pieces felt of the same show. The complications that come out of Falcone letting Jim and Harvey live offered up the hope of things getting more interesting. And yet, it doesn't feel like much has changed. Jim and Harvey made an attempt to take down the corrupt system because they didn't have anything else to lose. Meanwhile, Oswald was revealed to be a double mole and working with Falcone this whole time to deal with both Moroni and Fish.

Those two events don't really have much consequences in the immediate aftermath. "The Mask" instead focuses on how the system is so corrupt that no one in the police station would stand by Jim when Victor Zsasz came for him. That's a potentially fertile storyline. Gotham will become so corrupt that one day a man in a mask will take down the various criminals and bring order back to this city. By showing no one protecting Jim, it doesn't seem like the system could get any more corrupt than it is right now. That's a major problem if Gotham is the story about a city's descent into the kind of chaos that needs vigilante justice. It can't start this bad.

The show also has to give our heroes a number of victories so it doesn't always read as Jim and Harvey fighting a losing battle. What kind of a difference can Jim Gordon make if it's just him standing up for justice in this city? He's one man and his antics will more than likely get him killed. Falcone spared him for a reason and Jim is still operating in the same manner. He's a lone wolf who doesn't care how his actions effects his fellow officers.

This one-man crusade leads him into the episode's big action set piece - a fight to the death just to join a financial firm. The case of the week is all kinds of ridiculous. We know that Jim is a fighter. Do we really need a thematically relevant story of the week in order to remind us of that core characterization? Not at all. Jim was a solid character in the previous episode. And now, he returns to the Jim of before who largely feels like a plot point. And yet, his fellow detectives are willing to help him after a rousing speech by Harvey and an overwhelming feeling of guilt by the Captain. That's progress?

Elsewhere, peace was established between the two major organized crime families over Oswald. And yet, the reveal that Oswald is still alive can add a lot of fuel to the dynamics he has with several other characters. But the show is largely just moving past that. Fish has a right to be angry at him. Him still being alive has the potential to uproot everything she has planned so hard to do. Her ally within the organization was killed last week and it makes no impact whatsoever. She has a meeting with Oswald and all she does is stab him once. More and more, Fish is becoming an annoyingly one-note character. She's not as fun as she once was. She's manipulative and trying to take Falcone out so she can take over. And yet, it feels more like a plot the show is doing than being fueled by any kind of consistent character emotion.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Mask" was written by John Stephens and directed by Paul Edwards.
  • Bruce Wayne returns to school. This story was horrible. Jim came to him saying that he may not be able to stop the corruption and find his parents' real killer. Jim surviving has no impact on Bruce at all. He returns to school and his biggest problem is some bullying. Alfred will teach him how to fight but this entire story was unnecessary unless the school dynamics will become a major focus for the series.
  • Selina pops up for a second. Just enough time to get arrested. Haven't we been in this exact same predicament with her and Jim before? If the show is going to put them back together, they need to showcase how exactly the two have grown since their last encounter. Since then, we've barely spent any time with Selina - and for good reason too.
  • The show has been horrible with its female characters. Their only purpose is to interact with Jim. All of them are best defined through their relationships with him. The Captain's issues here are a decent character arc in the hopes of developing her further. But they are also a character arc without a strong character. And all of Barbara's actions this week make no sense at all.
  • Also are we suppose to care that Liza wants to get out of her arrangement with Fish? Seriously, what is driving her as a character?