TV Review: Gotham - Season 2 Episode 14 "This Ball of Mud and Meanness"
Episode 14: "This Ball of Mud and Meanness"
Synopsis: Alfred (Sean Pertwee) and Selina (Camren Bicondova) help Bruce (David Mazouz) on his quest to find his parents’ killer, Matches Malone (guest star Michael Bowen). Meanwhile, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) follows up with Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) on Kristen Kringle’s whereabouts and Hugo Strange (guest star BD Wong) continues his treatment of Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor).
Recap: The Joker returned to Gotham tonight! Well, sort of. You see, the death of Jerome earlier this season came with the tease that his evil was some sort of virus that infected the city, creating many more imitations of the clown prince. While none of these have been the Joker we are accustomed to, his lingering presence has been seen in graffiti and background hints all year. Tonight, we get a glimpse at one of the Joker's infected in the form of Jeri (Lori Petty). The punk rock singer wears make-up similar to Jerome's death grin and sings in a band that plays in front of footage of the Maniax rampage through Gotham. She is also key to Bruce Wayne's journey in this episode.
Focused primarily on Bruce Wayne, this hour tracks the beginning of Bruce and Alfred's search for Matches Malone, the man they believe killed Thomas and Martha Wayne. The two head to Gotham and find an aquaintance of Matches named Cupcake. Alfred tries to get information from him, but Bruce steps in, resulting in Cupcake asking for money and a fight with Alfred. Alfred obliges and takes a beating but eventually defeats Cupcake while teaching Bruce about fighting a larger opponent. Cupcake gives them the name Jeri, someone who can lead to Matches. Bruce writes Cupcake a check and takes Alfred to the hospital after he passes out. Bullock and Gordon are called by Alfred after Bruce goes after Jeri himself.
Jeri, which appears to be a stage name derived from her inspiration Jerome, knows who Bruce Wayne is and plays some mental games with him before giving him the location of Matches Malone. As he leaves the club, Bruce runs into Jim Gordon who tries to take him out of there, but Jeri calls out that a cop is in the club, giving Bruce enough time to escape. Gordon takes Jeri to the station where she teases him very much in the way Jerome used to. Eventually, she reveals the location of Matches. At the apartment, Bruce pretends to be there to hire Matches before pulling his gun, given to him by Selina, and revealing who he is. Matches does not recall killing the Waynes but plays along as he wants to die. He explains to Bruce that he is tired of being bad but never being held accountable before saying that he made Bruce in the same way Gotham made Matches, and Gotham was made by people like the Waynes. Bruce declines to kill Matches, saying he is just a man. Matches then kills himself, seemingly closing the case for good.
When Alfred returns to Wayne Manor, he finds that Bruce is gone and has left a note. Bruce tells Alfred not to worry or to follow him and that he has decided to live on the streets with Selina to learn about the evil that men do. He promises that one day he will become someone to save his city but he must do this first. We then see Bruce and Selina walk into Gotham alone. Whether this means we will see a different arc for Bruce Wayne over the rest of this season is unknown, but I would bank it is time for the young Wayne to start his path towards becoming Batman. In other side stories, Lee informs Gordon that Kristen Kringle has not been heard from since leaving town nor has she collected her final paychecks. Gordon agrees to check it out and approaches Ed Nygma. What could have been a passing question becomes much more in Nygma's mind and he begins to think Gordon suspects him.
While there are no appearances from Mr. Freeze this week, we do get a lot of time with Hugo Strange and the Penguin. We see the escalated therapy on Oswald Cobblepot that involves hallucinations of his dead mother. The so called Ice Cream experiment involves Penguin being beaten by another inmate but he shows no reaction. Strange eventually determines that Penguin is sane and releases him from Arkham. While I could not tell if Penguin was pretending to be sane or if Strange's therapy worked, the doctor does proclaim that the Cobblepot experiment is ongoing. I would fully expect to see him switch back to his old self in the near future as Gotham seems to be heading towards a massive explosion of villains on the city.
This was a really strong episode of Gotham which is quite the feat considering it was Bruce Wayne-centric. The Wayne stories have been fairly hit or miss but this one was very dark and truly examined the germination of the Batman within Bruce's psychology. I could honestly see how confronting Matches Malone began to change Bruce from boy into man and, eventually, into Batman. It also afforded another look at the Joker virus through Gotham City and how it may eventually lead to the classic version of the supervillain. I also am excited to see that The Riddler will be arriving sooner than later, but I am not sure how everyone will fail to figure out that the riddle-spewing Ed Nygma is the guy they are looking for.
Episode Final Verdict:
Next Episode: "Mad Grey Dawn" airs March 20th: Gordon and Bullock (Donal Logue) investigate a trail of clues left in a museum robbery, which, unbeknownst to them, were left by Nygma in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Gordon’s past comes back to haunt him when an anonymous person threatens to expose his hand in Galavan’s murder. Meanwhile, Penguin’s visit to some old friends leads him to meet his father, Elijah Van Dahl (guest star Paul Reubens) and Bruce practices his street smarts