Title: Gotham “This Ball of Mud and Meanness”
Air Date: March 14th, 2016
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
Despite this week’s episode having an incredibly silly name, “This Ball of Mud and Meanness” proved to be quite a worthwhile and important episode in Season 2. One of the biggest problems the show has had is the audience knowing what Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) will turn out to be, even though Gotham seems to be pushing teenage Batman fairly hard. His choices matter more than any other character because these decisions will shape him into the superhero we all know and love. With this week’s episode finally having the confrontation between Bruce Wayne and his parent’s murder, I couldn’t help but wonder how such an emotional scene would be handled. Tag that along with some fantastic scenes between Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong) and Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and some actual follow up to Nygma’s (Cory Michael Smith) murder of Kristin Kringle (Chelsea Spack.)
Looking back throughout the season, it wasn’t exactly clear if Gotham was actually going to name the person who gunned down Bruce’s parents. While the show has clearly had no issues going off of the canon, bigger events such as this have normally been pretty true to their source material. Normally this could be seen as a bad idea, given the audience will always have more knowledge of the future than the characters. Yet, the entire quest of Bruce finally catching up to one Matches Malone (Guest star Michael Bowen) was done quite masterfully. Regardless of the obvious outcome, Bruce’s journey into Gotham City’s underbelly yielded one of the strongest, if not the strongest episodes for the character so far. This was only helped by the fantastic on screen chemistry between both Mazouz and Bowen, whose energy was palpable on screen. Even though Matches could have easily disarmed Bruce, the fact that he let him choose which path to follow only drove home such an emotional moment. Bruce became the physical embodiment of justice for not just himself but all the others Matches had killed. (Which is apparently a lot!) One only has to wonder where to go from here now that his parent’s killer is finally dead, as that was pretty much all of his motivation for about 90% of this show.
I would be remised not to mention the amazing performance by Gotham’s other guest star Lori Petty. Her scene at the underground rock show was a joy to watch as Petty dominated every scene she was in as basically a punk rock version of Joker named Jeri. The footage of Jerome in the background was a nice throwback to his character and the damage he had irreparably caused…or allegedly caused. Truthfully the big ramifications of Jerome’s attacks on Gotham really were never explored any further until this week’s episode. It’s nice to see that the world is still reacting and in a way mimicking the carnage that he left behind. Jeri as a character seemed to serve as the sense of anarchy that Gotham City has always had, the tipping point for the people wanting to let the city burn and reduce to rubble. Though her screen time was fairly limited, the carefree nature and actual contribution to the story at hand served this episode nicely. A Joker homage would have been easy to shoehorn in, which Gotham is guilty of in the past, but this felt right at home with Bruce’s solo “adventure.”
Speaking of, it’s always a joy to see Alfred (Sean Pertwee) lay the smack down on some people. Granted the fight was really only there to serve as a reason why Alfred wouldn’t be at Bruce’s side during all this, but it was entertaining none the less. Pertwee and Mazouz have always played beautifully off each other, even if Bruce’s nagging and self-righteousness can be a bit overwhelming. I mentioned last week that Alfred willing to kill for Bruce felt like a betrayal to his character and honestly it still does with “This Ball of Mud and Meanness” not changing his stance on it one bit.
On the opposite spectrum of violence, Strange’s treatment with Penguin had finally come to an end at Arkham Asylum. Though I am skeptical if Penguin is willing to go along with all of Hugo’s tests and therapy was a ploy for him to leave, part of me felt genuine remorse for the character. By having Penguin stripped away to his rawest, most vulnerable state it was a side of the character we rarely get to see. Gotham has had a way of making you empathize with a person you really shouldn’t. Penguin has killed dozens upon dozens of people, yet I couldn’t help but feel sorry for what he has become. Though Wong turned it down a bit on the hamminess of Strange’s personality, I still wish his character received some genuine development or even an ounce of backstory. We know so little about this character and while that makes him more mysterious, he never seems to show any sense of emotion outside of dark giddiness. Him releasing Penguin into the world is clearly an awful idea, yet despite the slightly over the top acting by Wong, I cannot help but be invested in it all. I’m curious just how much control Strange has over Cobblepot and what the end game of this entire experiment really is.
Nygma was the final the story arc this week and arguably still one of the weakest. Don’t get me wrong it’s always awesome to see the cracks in Edward’s mask, but he just always seems shoved aside for other matters. Right when you think Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is going to spend his time investigating Kringle’s murder, the man runs off to go chase after Bruce the first chance he gets. It makes Nygma feel like an afterthought for the writers, a character that they know needs to develop but don’t have the time too. This makes his entire small narrative arc come off as awkward, borderline forced into the story now. Edward Nygma has been in the show since the first episode and given how far he has come, the man has deserved a more developed story beyond “We need to remind you he’s crazy now, but can’t be bothered to develop it further.” Also, it didn’t help that Nygma delivers his angry, confessing monolog to murdering Kringle in the MIDDLE OF THE GCPD! Come on man, probably a dozen cops heard you rant about how Gordon will never catch you.
Thankfully the well-developed conclusion to Bruce finding his parent’s killer and some great, almost heart-wrenching moments with Penguin saved the day. Honestly, this show has come so far since the first season and it’s great to see how much time they spend developing and probing into the various characters…Unless you’re Edward Nygma of course. “This Ball of Mud and Meanness” was a fine edition to the second season and hopefully serves as a bigger jumping off point for both Bruce and Nygma in the future.
- Characters: This week showed off some fantastic development for both Penguin and Bruce Wayne, that gave us some pretty powerful emotional moments. Though Nygma once more got pushed to the side it was newcomer Jeri that really stole the show.
- Cinematography: Special note is made to the club scene, with both how it looked and was filmed. The scenes felt frantic, chaotic, and dangerous which clearly embodied the newsreel footage of Jerome in the background.
- Story: Arguably the best Bruce story to date as his confrontation with Matches Malone felt both real and heavy. You could feel the weight on his shoulders as he knocked on that door only to be confronted by the murderer. Penguin’s rehabilitation was another high point, yet Gotham just can’t seem to stick the landing with any story involving Edward lately.
- Acting: Mazouz, Bowen, Taylor, and Petty churn out some fantastic and memorable performances that truly stood out among the rest this week.
- Bruce/Malone Confrontation
- Great Guest Performances
- Penguin's Vulnerability
- Nygma Feels Like An Afterthought
- Strange Could Use Some More Development