Wednesday, October 11, 2017

'Gotham' Recap: "They Who Hide Behind Masks" (4x03)

This week, Gotham returns to answer an important question: if Bruce Wayne is too young to be a billionaire playboy, what's the next logical step down? A billionaire brat. Spoilers ahead, and a warning for minor violence.

The episode begins with a flashback to war-torn Arabia, where a mysterious man picks a dead soldier, Ra's al Ghul, off a battlefield and revives him using the Lazarus Pit before handing him a special knife. The man explains that Ra's has been chosen as his heir. This scene makes me wonder if Gotham might be borrowing a bit of mythos from Arrow, where Ra's al Ghul is an inherited title passed down to each leader of the League.

Next, we fast forward to present-day, as Bruce watches a shipment of weapons coming in for Penguin's auction while talking with Alfred over comms. When a masked thief shows up, Bruce decides (against Alfred's warning) to intervene because it's an obvious trap that could end in a murder. He manages to distract and  take down some pretty fierce gunmen while the thief hides in the truck. However, he manages to still get hurt and leaves shortly after. The thief, who turns out to be Selina, leaves empty-handed. 

Back on Miami Vice—sorry, that's what I think every time Gordon wears sunglasses—Gordon shows up at Carmine Falcone's summer home to ask for help fighting Penguin. There he meets the lovely Sofia Falcone, Carmine's other child besides Mario. (A word of advice: if you want to get a good picture of how badass Sofia is in the comics, read Batman: The Long Halloween and its sequel, Dark Victory. She's someone you don't want to mess with.)

Carmine allows Sofia to listen to his conversation with Gordon. Gordon explains that he needs Carmine's help to take back Gotham City, but Carmine's out. Why? Apparently, he's dying of some disease that the doctors haven't been able to diagnose. (I kind of hope that's a lie on his part because it kind of feels like lazy writing to me. Wouldn't it be more realistic to have Carmine refuse to help Jim because of what happened to Mario?) Sofia offers to go in his stead, but he shuts her down and Jim leaves.

Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred stitches up Bruce's hand (wonder how he's going to cover that up in the daytime) and berates him for making a rash decision. Bruce concedes, but wonders what the thief was after. He decides to go down to the docks to check the ship's manifesto, but Alfred points out that he can't just go out in the middle of the day dressed as a vigilante, so they'll need a different disguise.

Over at the Iceberg Lounge, Victor Zsasz fills Penguin in on the foiled robbery. Penguin, in turn, decides to double down on security for the auction items. After the two of them leave, a mysterious chick with a blowtorch slinks into the lounge and begins to work on thawing out the Riddler. 

Cut to Penguin's horrified reaction when he sees that his frozen pal is gone. Zsasz, as usual, has the best response: "I don't know. Kind of opens up the room." Penguin insists that the culprit be found and executed.

And who's the culprit?

. . . This chick. Myrtle Jenkins, who apparently met Ed in elementary school and became obsessed with him when he made his public debut as the Riddler. She's got a whole Riddler shrine, complete with mannequins dressed to look like him. Like, this is Batman Forever levels of stalking. Ed is creeped out, but he can't leave or even move because his muscles have atrophied from being on ice, so he's stuck with her. It makes since that they'd have to introduce a new character to help Ed, since he has zero friends or allies at this point.

Over at the docks, Bruce shows up in what he thinks is a suitable disguise—a newsies cap and a Brooklyn accent. (Am I thinking too hard, or is this a Christian Bale reference?) He claims to be looking for his uncle, who works at the shipyard and didn't come home last night. However, he gets caught searching the ship's ledger, and Alfred has to step in and pretend to be his uncle before knocking out the workers so they can get away. Alfred points out that Bruce's disguises need work, as does his improvisation. However, the two manage to find out which item the thief was looking for: an embalming knife.

Meanwhile, Barbara asks Penguin if she can buy the knife off of him before the auction. He calls her out for sending someone to steal it beforehand but suggests that he might be willing to sell it to her early if she reveals who's been funding her business. Barbara elects to remain silent and try her luck at the auction.

But why's the knife important? Well, according to Bruce's research, it's an ancient Sumerian embalming knife. In the text Bruce reads, there's a picture of a man floating over a pool of water, with the knife above his head. The man looks eerily similar to Ra's al Ghul.

Over in Florida (or wherever it is that Falcone's retired to), Jim looks out over the beach. And who should show up but Sofia Falcone. She explains that she and Carmine were never close until he began to die; as a child, she was raised outside of Gotham so that she wouldn't be in harm's way. Her closest friend was Mario, but while she's still grieving his death, she thinks Jim made the right call, given the nature of the virus. Sofia might be showing a bit of vulnerability in this scene, but there's still a ruthless edge to her. 

While Gordon's getting cozy with Sofia and Penguin's freaking out over trying to find out who thawed Ed (since it was probably an inside job), Myrtle shows off a dress printed with question marks and dubs herself "the Riddlette." Ed scoffs at her lack of originality but appeases her by admitting that it was impressive she managed to break him out. Myrtle says he probably could've done a better job of it, and he agrees . . . but can't seem to think of a plan. She realizes that his brain must've also been damaged by the ice and tries to stimulate it with riddles. Ed, however, comes up with the worst possible responses.

When she shows him that she's been reading from a book of riddles for kids, he gets fed up and reveals that he regained movement of his arms before knocking her out with the text and making his escape.

While that's going on, Sofia and Gordon walk barefoot along the beach and discuss why he doesn't just leave Gotham. (The predictable answer? It's "in his blood.") But he admits that he's becoming exhausted trying to clean up the city, which leads to one of his most poignant lines: "I can't remember the last time I just stood still."

She ends up kissing him, and while I'm not over the moon about Gordon getting a new love interest, this has the potential to be something more than just a romantic subplot. I think Sofia's manipulating him big-time. When she meets him at her father's house, she wears conservative riding gear. When she follows him to the beach, however, she's dressed in a white dress so low cut it rivals Tabitha's wardrobe. Pretty sure that was a strategic move to distract Gordon from the fact that she's trying to figure him out.

However, while Sofia might be using sexual appeal to her advantage, other characters don't have that option. Since Bruce is only about fifteen or sixteen, he can't really be a billionaire playboy. So when Alfred suggests he put on another mask at for the weapons auction, they settle on the next best thing: a billionaire brat.

And boy, does Bruce go for it. He's every bit as loud and obnoxious as you'd expect a teenage billionaire to be. He bids on several items, tries to high-five Alfred, and even greets Oswald as his friend. Bruce even admits that he enjoys playing the part, though Alfred suggests it's a bit over the top. 

When it comes time to bid on the knife, Barbara and Bruce find themselves in a bidding war. Bruce  keeps raising her bids by single dollar amounts (and even one cent) until she snaps.

Penguin happily sells the knife to Bruce before Barbara can make another bid. Later, Selina sneaks into Wayne Manor, only to find Bruce sitting in his father's study in the dark. She asks if he can give her the knife because she needs to get it to Barbara in order to be made a full partner of the weapons business. He refuses, and she leaves.

Gordon returns to the GCPD just a little too happy for someone who didn't get the ally he was looking for. (I'm not saying he and Sofia probably hooked up, but they probably hooked up.) Bullock introduces him to a new lady cop, Detective Harper. But before Gordon can get properly acquainted with Harper, he sees Sofia Falcone. (And I know she's the heir to a crime empire, but seriously—do they just let anyone walk into that precinct?)

He calls her out for "sizing him up" when they were on the beach, but she points out that he needs her help to take back the city.

Meanwhile, Penguin confronts Myrtle and questions her about Ed before ordering Zsasz to kill her. Zsasz, who continues to be the comedy gold of this show, compliments her dress before shooting her.

And over at Barbara's new hideout, Ra's appears and the two fight before he compliments her for staying in practice. Ra's turns out to be Barbara's benefactor and the buyer for the knife, as well as the person who brought her back to life using the Lazarus Pit. When she tells him Bruce has it, however, he's pleasantly surprised. And then what happens? She kisses him.

So that wraps up "They Who Hide Behind Masks." Honestly, this episode was a really pleasant surprise for me, mainly because of all the character moments I didn't expect. I didn't expect Myrtle Jenkins, the hilarious one-off character, Bruce the billionaire brat, or Sofia "Gangster" Falcone. 

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts. What'd you think about the new characters in this episode? What's the big deal about that knife? 

Episode 4x04 will be "The Demon's Head," which was actually written by Ben McKenzie (aka Jim Gordon), according to Den of Geek. The promo promises that Gordon will be asking Bruce a lot of questions about what's going on with the knife and Ra's al Ghul, and I honestly can't wait.

Until then, have a good week and beware of ancient embalming knives.


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