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Gotham - They Who Hide Behind Masks/The Demon's Head - Review

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A ceremonial knife tied to Ra’s al Ghul is the centerpiece of these two episodes of “Gotham.” Of the two, I found “They Who Hide Behind Masks” much sharper than “The Demon’s Head.”

It all kicks off with Bruce, in his new proto-Batman suit, investigating a big shipment being brought into Gotham by the Penguin. When he spots a thief (who he doesn’t realize is Selina in a mask of her own) trying to make off with a particular crate, Bruce theorizes that its contents must be important if someone is willing to steal it from Penguin and that this is his chance to “investigate a real crime, stop it before it becomes something bigger.” But when he fails to get his hands on the item the vigilante way, Alfred advises that there are “other kinds of masks” he can wear. So first, Bruce poses as a street kid to get onto the freighter and check the manifest. And then, he plays the part of “billionaire brat” at Oswald’s black market auction and buys the knife out from under a fuming Barbara. It was cool watching Bruce start to develop the “actor’s toolkit” that will be vital to his career as Batman and David Mazouz was clearly having a lot of fun with it.

A few quick notes on Selina and Barbara. After Babs scolds her for failing to procure the knife, Selina worries that her place in the new organization is in jeopardy (Tabitha, by the way, is conveniently off-screen the entire episode). So after Bruce buys the knife, Selina – in her most proto-Catwoman getup yet – slips into Wayne Manor to either steal it or talk Bruce into giving it to her, but instead, Bruce draws another line in the sand between them. Also, as we all either guessed or knew from spoilers, Barbara’s benefactor is indeed Ra’s al Ghul and it was he who ordered her to get the knife.

Having worked out for himself that the knife is connected to Ghul, “The Demon’s Head” begins with Bruce bringing it to an accomplished historian in hopes of getting more answers. Alfred is concerned Bruce is putting innocent people in harm’s way, and he’s proven right when Ra’s shows up at the museum and snaps the man’s neck. The historian’s grandson Alex manages to make off with the knife, though, so Bruce – and Gordon, who gets looped in via the GCPD’s investigation into the murder – spends the rest of the episode trying to protect him from Ra’s and his gothic goons. But when the moment comes where he has to hand over the knife to save Alex’s life, Bruce hesitates, worried about the greater consequences of giving Ra’s this powerful item. Ghul is pleased that Bruce is starting to “see things clearly” and, to his horror, slits the boy’s throat.

Honestly, this storyline didn’t really grab me. I thought David Mazouz did a great job playing Bruce’s guilt and regret about his decision, but...we’d just met this kid (whose acting was...not the best) so it mostly felt like a contrivance to give Bruce a sad. And something’s off for me about the portrayal of and Alexander Siddig’s performance as Ra’s al Ghul. He’s reminding me too much of Theo Galavan, which is not a complimentary comparison given what a classic Batfoe Ghul is. Anyway, the episode ends with Ra’s being sent to Blackgate Penitentiary, which, given his smirk, seems to be exactly where Ghul wants to be.

So what was Gordon up to during “They Who Hide Behind Masks?” Well, he was “down south” swaggering unannounced into Carmine Falcone’s compound to ask him to start a mob war to unseat the Penguin (and sidebar – the episode seems to go out of its way not to identify where this is. The episode description says Miami, but it read more like Cuba to me. In any case, I did think the scenic photography during these outdoor scenes was cool). After amusingly asking if this request is more about Gordon’s personal loss of power, Carmine demurs, revealing that he’s dying from contrivance-itis, a disease that prevents him from returning to Gotham. He doesn’t, like I might, note that he’s not going to go out of his way to help the man who killed his son.

Enter Sofia Falcone, played by “Teen Wolf” alum Crystal Reed. Carmine’s daughter, she offers to go in his stead, but Carmine hushes her, saying she’s not ready for Gotham. Undeterred, she catches up with Gordon after he leaves and they spend the day drinking on the beach and bonding over their family legacies in Gotham (she also kisses him, even after admitting that she was close with Mario, boo). At the end of the episode, Sofia shows up at the GCPD, announcing that she doesn’t need his or her father’s permission to take on the Penguin. And naturally, Gordon is furious that she showed up to do exactly what he wanted Carmine to do. Shut up, Jim.

Smartly, when she’s summoned to meet with the Penguin, Sofia changes her whole dress and manner to support her claim that she’s just in town to help with various Falcone charitable organizations. It’s actually a nice piece of business from Crystal Reed. Oswald, though, is concerned that Falcone loyalists ( could any be left after the constant upheavals in the criminal underworld, but...okay) will rally behind her and ends up using Sofia to lure them out of hiding and eliminate them. But this seems to have been Sofia’s plan all along, to get Penguin to trust her/not view her as a threat. Later, Gordon shows up at Sofia’s house to yell at her for, again, doing exactly what he wanted Carmine to do and she blasts him for his hypocrisy. Doesn’t stop them from sinking down onto the couch to Do It, though.

Sofia isn’t the Penguin’s only problem in these episodes. He’s furious to return to the Iceberg Lounge at one point to find that his Ed-cicle is missing the Ed. The mastermind behind this? A dippy blonde named Myrtle Jenkins, who explains to a disoriented and unamused Nygma that they were classmates in elementary school and that she’s his #1 fan. It’s a fitting turn of events given his obsession with Ms. Kringle and Ilana Becker (“Odd Mom Out”), who plays Myrtle, is a hoot, especially when she comes bouncing out in a homemade dress covered in question marks and calls herself the Riddlette! While Ed’s body starts to bounce back, it quickly becomes clear that his time in the ice has messed with his brain, though he does have enough smarts to escape from Myrtle.

At first, Oswald wants Mr. Freeze to refreeze Ed (and there’s a funny bit where he has to explain to a confused Zsasz that he’s talking about the other Victor). But after getting several terrible riddles from Ed trying to lead him into a trap, he realizes just how off his game his old foe is. So he decides that a better revenge is letting him live as a shadow of his former self. Curious to see how the Riddler gets his groove back in the weeks to come. And it was nice to see Nathan Darrow as Freeze, if ever so briefly.

That’s all I’ve got on the last two weeks of “Gotham.” Which episode did you end up preferring, “They Who Hide Behind Masks” or “The Demon’s Head?” Let everyone know in the comments section.

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