NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Gotham” are present in this review
Gotham took a break from the fresh new menace of Scarecrow this week, to instead explore the growing vigilante persona of Bruce Wayne in greater detail, while also forging a huge new connection for Gordon. “They Who Hide Behind Masks” was a sly, sophisticated and generally entertaining episode of Gotham, one that didn’t need Scarecrow to succeed, especially in how well the series continues to move forward the shadowy agenda of Ra’s Al Ghul, while also nicely tying it in with several of the other characters.
This episode also saw the surprise return of Edward Nygma, who was thawed out from his icy prison by a devoted super-fan that he’s apparently known since grade school. Myrtle Jenkins is another original love interest for Nygma who doesn’t exist in DC Comics lore, though regardless, Nygma isn’t too interested in this one. The only reason why he’s forced to endure her desires to become his criminal sidekick is because his muscles have atrophied from the ice, as has his brain, which has left him severely intellectually crippled, and seemingly unable to do riddles.
The idea of a Riddler who can’t do riddles is kind of intriguing, even if it seems inevitable that Nygma will eventually find his way back to riddle-slinging criminal prominence. Still, I really wish that Gotham had found a better excuse to bring Nygma back than some random woman who has somehow had a crush on him for probably twenty years, and inexplicably followed his rise to becoming The Riddler, while also being obsessed enough to get a job at the Iceberg Lounge for the sole purpose of rescuing him. I mean, even considering the frequently weird subject matter from Batman lore that Gotham has started to proudly dive into, the Myrtle Jenkins character in general makes no sense at all, and it’s easy to get the impression that the writers simply wrote themselves into a corner when it came to thawing out Nygma. It’s really no big loss when Zsasz just shoots Myrtle dead at the end of the episode, fortunately indicating that this bizarre plot turn won’t be dragged out past this week.
On the bright side, Nygma’s shaky revival was relegated to a subplot, with this episode instead being anchored by two strong main storylines between Gordon and Bruce. This is even true while Gordon doesn’t really spend any time in Gotham City proper this week, instead taking a trip to Miami to go see a retired Carmine Falcone. It’s here that we get introduced to Falcone’s daughter, Sofia, portrayed in a key role this season by Crystal Reed. Sofia has an interesting history in DC Comics lore, being a key antagonist in graphic novel, Batman: Dark Victory, where she was wheelchair-bound, and operated as a serial killer called ‘The Hangman’. In the Gotham universe however, Sofia seems to be in perfect health, and doesn’t appear to have any connection her Hangman identity from Batman: Dark Victory. That could eventually change, but for now, it doesn’t seem like the show is going that route.
Instead, Sofia entertains Gordon while he hangs around Miami, telling stories about her past, and even going as far as to quickly forgive Gordon for having to kill her brother, Mario during the events of last season, despite how close she and Mario apparently were as children. Sofia is clearly a business-minded and highly ambitious woman, one who clearly takes after her father, and when she follows Gordon back to Gotham City, intent on picking up her father’s work, you know that something big is probably going to come from this later. Carmine Falcone being quickly hand-waved away as ‘dying’ by some conveniently unspecified means might initially seem underwhelming, but Sofia reviving the Falcone family crime connections is bound to create some big trouble for Penguin later, who is already getting his hands full between the newly-revived Nygma, and the ever-undermining actions of Barbara.
Speaking of Barbara, she quickly came into conflict with Bruce this week, after Bruce starts trying to figure out what Penguin is smuggling into Gotham City. Once Bruce learns that Selina was hired by Barbara to steal Penguin’s mystery item, he begins to realize that Barbara is somehow in league with Ra’s Al Ghul. Turns out my prediction from last week was exactly correct, as Ra’s Al Ghul is not only responsible for Barbara’s resurrection after her ‘death’ in the Season Three finale, but is also her benefactor, and even her lover! Ra’s is having Barbara track down a knife from the First Century, which is somehow related to his initial resurrection through the Lazarus Pit in 195 A.D. (wouldn’t that be the Second Century?), after dying on the battlefield. Boy, a lot of people are coming back to life on Gotham lately, aren’t they? No wonder the show keeps cracking jokes about it!
Where this storyline really starts excelling however is in utilizing the opportunity for Alfred to start teaching Bruce to be more than a black-and-white vigilante. Alfred giving Bruce a crash course in theatrics was great, not only utilizing Alfred’s skill in theatrics and performance from DC Comics lore, but also giving Bruce a smart excuse to start forging a new public identity as a spoiled billionaire playboy. Bruce’s outwardly spoiled ‘rich boy’ disposition is a huge part of how he hides his secret identity as Batman in the future, so seeing Gotham find a way to start pioneering that, while also smartly pitting Bruce in a bidding war against Barbara for Ra’s Al Ghul’s knife (which Bruce wins), made for some of the strongest story material in this episode. Most importantly, it also allowed Alfred and Bruce to work together and not against each other, which helps to further solidify their partnership for when Bruce one day dons the mantle of Batman, which certainly appears to be happening sooner rather than later now!
“They Who Hide Behind Masks” made up for some of last week’s story stumbles very nicely, once again giving Gotham some rich and intelligent character work for two of its pivotal leads to utilize. The weaker subplot with Nygma’s revival was a bit annoying, but fortunately, a nerfed Nygma stumbling around Gotham City at least presents some good potential for later. It was Bruce and Gordon that really stole the show this week though, as Gordon has to make his latest deal with the devil, while Bruce starts developing more layers to his budding vigilante persona. Scarecrow also appears to be fading into the background for now, as Ra’s Al Ghul takes center stage as the main threat to Gotham City, but that’s fine. Frankly, Jonathan Crane has more than enough time to formulate a worthy plan for the city, especially when Bruce and Gordon are finding plenty of interesting obstacles to occupy themselves with in the meantime.
- Gordon befriending Sofia Falcone, and bringing her back to Gotham City
- Bruce smartly developing more layers to his future Batman persona
- Ra's Al Ghul confirmed as the force behind Barbara
- The ridiculous means through which Nygma is revived