By now, we all know what it looks like when Bruce Wayne became Batman; we’ve watched a hundred times as he realized his tactical mask would be more effective with tiny, pointy ears, observed him sanding town perfectly good ninja stars until they look vaguely like bats, witnessed his parents’ murder so many times we’re all technically responsible on a moral level by this point. But “They Who Hide Behind Masks”—an incredibly serious title for an incredibly silly episode of Gotham—marked a rare time that we got to watch Bruce Wayne become “Bruce Wayne” for the first time.
No, I don’t mean the kindly orphan thrash metal fan who just wants to do right by his city. I mean Bruce “fuck you I’m rich I rode here on a giraffe” Wayne, the Dark Knight’s very necessary, very flamboyant public persona, the one that keeps the citizens of Gotham from noticing the only human alive who could afford to be Batman is probably, in fact, Batman. And what a delight it is to watch David Mazouz settle into the role; because Gotham’s Bruce Wayne is still barely a teenager, it’s nearly impossible to tell how much of it is a calculated performance, and how much is a 15-year-old realizing, for the first time in years, that being a billionaire is hella fun whether your parents were murdered in an alleyway or not.
Of course, it’s all in service of winning an ancient, priceless embalming dagger in an auction held by Oswald Cobblepot. R’as al Ghul—played by Alexander Siddig, who already has heavy experience with daggers thanks to Game of Thrones (see: being murdered by one)—has his eye on the knife. It’s an heirloom of sorts, given to him in 125 AD by a mysterious man wearing Kevin Sorbo’s goatee from the Hercules TV series, who raises R’as from the dead and tasks him with finding a successor. Which is just…the shittiest job, no? Ra’s al Ghul translates to “The Demon’s Head,” which we now know translates to “an internship that lasts for eternity, where all you do is look at your replacements’ resumes.”
Either way, dead people popping up all over Gotham right now. There’s Barbara, of course, who seems to have entered into a sex-for-karate lessons exchange program with Ra’s that appears quite reasonable. And, now, Edward Nygma—who was not technically “dead,” but was frozen in a solid block of ice without access to food or air for five months—freed by his former high school classmate and most aggressive fan-fiction writer, Myrtle Jenkins.
Not that Ilana Becker doesn’t make for an enjoyable supervillain superfan, but this entire subplot, much like Jim’s 20-second water slide into madness last week, felt a lot like a show rocketing to where it wants to go, and not caring how it gets there. Who is Myrtle Jenkins, exactly? Doesn’t matter! She’s dead by episode’s end, leaving behind roughly 10 minutes of screentime, consisting of sexually suggestive tomato soup cooking and “outwitting” Oswald Cobblepot by crouching a little bit and tip-toeing across an entirely empty Iceberg Lounge.
Of course, as they say, forget it, Vin, it’s Gotham. This show does subtle storytelling like the GCPD does detective work that doesn’t result in massive loss of innocent lives. The show needed Nygma out, and now he’s out, and I can’t deny that it’s a pleasure to have Cory Michael Smith’s unhinged performance unfrozen and back where it belongs. “Bring me a riddle that is worthy of my name” is such a great line from episode writers Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, a declaration I look forward to shouting at terrified Seamless delivery people for the rest of my life.
Meanwhile, as Gotham City continues its descent into outright lawlessness with a hint of mystical manipulation, Jim Gordon goes on the Best. Vacation. Ever. Shockingly not bursting into flame immediately upon crossing the Gotham City boundaries, Jim heads to Miami, to hold court with Carmine Falcone. Jim, you may recall, murdered Falcone’s only son on his honeymoon because his son injected an insane Alice in Wonderland character’s monster-blood into his bloodstream. Which was, like, the fourth weirdest thing that happened in Gotham that day. But, Jim needs a favor, from a criminal with some class, because the GCPD has given up the good fight. “Are you sure this just isn’t about you, Jim?” Carmine asks.
“This is bigger than me,” Jim replies, lying terribly.
Nevertheless! Carmine is dying—he suggests either from “karma” or “old age,” I suggest he gets way better doctors—and can’t help. But his daughter, Sofia—who totally does not have strikingly similar features to Lee Thompkins, who even asked—is very willing to help. She seduces Jim, mostly by telling him he has a sense of humor, which is a sentence he has never heard from the lips of another human being.
Unfortunately for Jim, crime boss’ daughters gonna’ crime boss’ daughter. Sofia arrives in Gotham not as a willing partner, but as someone looking to take her rightful place atop the most corrupt city in the world’s criminal empire. “You came looking for a gangster,” she tells Jim, whose face literally falls as he realizes the thing about his sense of humor might not be true, among other things. “That’s exactly what you got.”
Rating: ★★★ Good