Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my review of the previous Gotham episode here.
Gotham being a mixed bag is not news. So it should come as no surprise that “This Ball of Mud and Meanness”, despite one standout scene, is a mixed bag.
The standout scene in particular is Bruce’s confrontation with Matches Malone, his parents’ killer. The mystery of who killed the Waynes hit a major checkpoint this week, as did Bruce’s characterization. It was a tense scene, and having Matches actually want to die was a welcome twist. We all knew Bruce wouldn’t do it, of course, but it was good to watch him get there.
Other than that, I say this every week but Gotham has serious tonal inconsistency issues. The aforementioned scene with Bruce was dark and dramatic. Every scene involving Gordon is played as this gritty crime drama. And yet, nearly every other aspect of this show is campy as heck. And those tones clash horribly. Nothing exemplified that clash this week more than the sight of the uber-serious Gordon being made to crowdsurf at a Maniax-inspired rock concert. Gotham, everyone!
Elsewhere, Hugo Strange continued his experiments rehabilitating Penguin. I’ve made it clear in earlier reviews that I found Hugo Strange to be a great addition to the show, and I still hold that belief. That being said, is Penguin’s rehabilitation really the best way to go? Obviously it won’t last long, but it seems a shame to rob Gotham strongest character of much of what makes him so great, even if it’s for a little while.
Plus, as far as the aforementioned campiness goes, Arkham takes the cake. As much as I’ve enjoyed Strange so far, seeing him and Ms. Peabody scheming and “mwahaha”-ing together in such a cartoony way is starting to get tiresome. Especially in an episode that’s supposed to be as dramatic as this one.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of campiness in a comic book show. It’s fun. But Gotham just pushes it too far, and then tries to pass itself off as dark and serious and violent. Drawing too much influence from too many places. And it just gets tiresome after a while.
Riddler’s character growth has been great this year, and this episode added a welcome wrench in the gears, as Nygma’s paranoid mind pitted him against Gordon. It was a strong development that’ll likely see Riddler emerge as a larger threat. But even this minor subplot has its annoyances. Like Ed talking to himself out loud in a crowded police station without anyone noticing. Or having him draw a green question mark on a photo of Gordon, even though it makes no sense for him to be doing so. Except to hit fans over the head yet again with familiar Riddler visuals. This is a perfect example of Gotham yet again being unsubtle in its Easter eggs and foreshadowing.
Not to complain too much though. Bruce’s storyline dominated the episode and it was, for the most part, really compelling. Even though I’m not a fan of the last scene, in which Bruce left home to live “on the streets” with Selina. That bit was oh so Gotham. But overall, it was a decent episode with the usual downs but a notably strong up.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
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