Gotham‘s “The Mask” highlights yet again the strength of the show in terms of the ensemble cast and the overall character and story arcs. “The Mask” also managed to illuminate something for me in terms of the plans for the show. This isn’t some small, short-lived single-story arc (or at least, those involved have not created it to be so), kids. This is the creation of a universe.
Before, we could only see one or two villains per film, and time was limited, which meant backstory was left out. I do believe Gotham is more true to the comics in tone, style, and intent than any other Batman story we’ve seen to date, and this structure is the reason why. This artistic medium of video-audio storytelling has given us the chance to see a Batman universe that is deeper and darker than we have ever seen.
To be able to spend years in the same universe and watch these characters evolve into the people we know they become is a gift. Instead of having to cobble together stories from various series and movies, we are presented with an entire universe wherein these characters are housed, and we, the outside viewers, will in a sense become participants in the evolution of Gotham.
I think what this information means is that we didn’t get just a pilot episode that set the ground rules. This entire first season is one enormous pilot, introducing a gigantic ensemble cast that will step in and out of the picture as the seasons go on, tying them all together in this first story arc with the mystery of the Wayne murders.
This view of the show makes sense when considering the dozen or so villains or soon-to-be villains that have been introduced over the first half of the season. “The Mask” gave us even more introductions, from the future Black Mask, Richard Sionis to the beginnings of Hush, who is right now a classmate of Bruce’s named Tommy Elliott. Although interpreted differently in some ways by the show, these and the other villains are waiting in the wings for their chance to seal Gotham’s fate. It’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.
The details of “The Mask” focus on Fish Mooney’s plan to eradicate Falcone from the Gotham equation, taking his place for herself with the help of a girl named Lyza; Gotham PD’s conflicting thoughts and feelings about Detective Jim Gordon; and Bruce’s difficulties in school, especially when a bully zeroes in on him.
I think the Gotham PD storyline is solid, particularly because of the scene where Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock reminds the policemen of the people they should be, and then leads them to rescue Jim Gordon. I appreciate even more, however, that the other two storylines focus on children. If Gotham is to have a future of any kind, it rests in the hands of its youngest citizens.
We have already begun to see the ways in which Bruce will be unlike most superheroes. He is grief-stricken, angry, and mature for his age. He does not make friends easily, he is small and often picked on, and he has a strong will and determination. His encounter with Tommy Elliott and the subsequent fight with Alfred at his back make me worry for this small hero.
Bruce has a lot of rough edges, and living with Alfred isn’t helping. Despite the fact that Alfred is supportive of Bruce, I think his support will come back to haunt him as Bruce gets older. Batman is not a happy, well-adjusted individual. Bruce did not get the help he needed in order to become that person, but he got help that allowed him to get back up and keep fighting.
With Tommy Elliott, I feel as if we’ve just scratched the surface. What is he hiding? Selina Kyle also re-appears this week, much to the chagrin of Detective Gordon, who must corral her and keep her from continuing her thieving ways. Where has she been? Does she still know something she isn’t telling Gordon about the Wayne Murders?
The Penguin and Lyza, meanwhile, are dealing with Fish Mooney, who is becoming more and more dangerous as the episodes continue. Penguin learns firsthand that Mooney is not to be taunted, and Lyza is unable to extricate herself from Mooney’s plans regarding Don Falcone. We know Penguin’s mother is still in the picture, but where is his father? Where did he get his tenacity, charisma, and ruthlessness from? And where did Lyza come from? Who will she become after tangling with the likes of Fish Mooney?
“The Mask” really brought into focus the effects of Gotham on its young. There may be crazy people like Richard Sionis on the loose, and there may be people in the background who feel lonely and ignored (poor Nygma) that may eventually lash out against a cruel world, but the majority of Gotham’s issues will become evident when the next generation moves into places of power.
Unfortunately, we already see them all traversing a dark and winding road. The people who have been given the task of caring for these children have also been corrupted by Gotham (even Gordon), and their caretakers’ legacies will not be those of healthy, productive citizens. Which begs the question: where did it all begin?
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