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ComiConverse Contributor, Leonard Marciano, provides an episode review for Gotham, “This Ball of Mud and Meanness.”
This past week saw the release of the third episode of the second half of Gotham season two. The previous two introduced new villains, Mr. Freeze and Professor Strange. This episode however revolved primarily around one character: young Bruce Wayne.
Almost the entire episode revolved around Bruce and Alfred tracking the whereabouts of the suspected murderer of his parents, Patrick “Matches” Malone. For those unfamiliar with the name it is actually an alias Bruce uses in the comics when he has to infiltrate the criminal underground. He has created a Keyser Soze type character in the comics that nobody has ever met, but everyone fears or has heard about. The shroud of mystery is what makes Matches more legend than man.
Overall the episode was filled with references, and the writers did a great job in that respect. Everything from Cupcakes’ crew “the Mutants,” a nod to Frank Millers the Dark Knight series. The character Jeri foreshadows Harley Quinn, and Jerome/Joker’s spirit further leaves its mark. There is also a vivid image of a Neo Gotham to come with Joker’s gang on the loose a la Batman Beyond.
Bruce and Alfred began their investigation tracking down a former associate of Matches, Cupcake. Listening closely during the first two fighting, a female combatant can be heard calling out Solomon Grundy’s name. Prior to arriving, Alfred explicitly told Bruce not to talk, but Bruce talked and got Alfred to agree to (reluctantly) fight Cupcake for the whereabouts of Matches. After taking some shots Alfred defeats a fatigued Cupcake. This foreshadowed where Bruce gets a lot of his grit and fighting strategy. Cupcake then told Alfred and Bruce that a known associate of Matches named Jeri would know where to find Matches, and gave them her location. Alfred had to be taken to a hospital, but Bruce used the opportunity to slip away and find Jeri on his own.
In the episode’s other stories, Eddie was questioned by Gordon in order to ask about the whereabouts of Ms. Kringle. Eddie was saved by Bruce and Alfred’s antics, but we saw more of his serial killer persona come out. We also saw more of Penguin’s therapy with Professor Strange, or as he prefers to be called, Hugo. The Penguin’s mother also made an appearance, which is always enjoyable.
Bruce enters a night club to find Jeri. In the club the writers pay tribute to the Maniacs (the group of criminals Theo Galavan puts together), with videos of them playing in the background. The whole club screamed of the Joker with the little details like the signature “HAHAHA” written all over the walls.
Jeri meanwhile played the role of the devil, tempting Bruce with the prospect of being able to get revenge on his parent’s killer. She also had very Harley Quinn like attributes like the way she analyzed Bruce’s motive to want to kill Matches, along with giving him an extra push, telling Bruce that killing Matches would be the right thing to do. This scene was reminiscent of Joker’s speech to Harvey in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Gordon soon arrived to stop Bruce, but Jeri created a distraction so Bruce could escape. The interrogation scene with Gordon at the precinct also paid homage to the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
Finally Bruce confronted his parents’ killer, Matches Malone, and as with the traditional Batman origin story, it is unclear if Malone really did kill the Waynes. Bruce had the opportunity to get revenge on his parents’ killer, but saw that the wrong kind of action would not fix the problem. Bruce left the gun with Matches and walked out, but Gordon’s arrival coincides with the sound of a single gunshot: Matches had killed himself. It’s in small moments like these that we truly see Bruce become Batman in the decisions he makes.
This season has seen Gotham become a character in the story, as Batman comic book writers Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison describe. We see the city as it changes and how it is like a chess board with disparate moving pieces. This season has shown us that Bruce will become the hero he is meant to be because he is taking the best attributes of his friends and enemies and making them his own. At the end of the episode we saw Bruce leave Alfred a letter telling him that he would be leaving to learn about the real Gotham and how to fix it by living with Selena on the streets. This approach to Bruce learning his methods by starting off locally rather than globetrotting is effective. It shows the journey Bruce is embarking on while also introducing his city and its people, which are changing alongside him.
Overall this was a solid good episode with a lot of Batverse references. BD Wong is also doing a great job at portraying Hugo Strange and his cerebral qualities, while also showing that his narcissism may be his downfall. The Penguin and Nygma stories were great as well, but this episode was all about Bruce.