Whenever there is a cataclysmic event, you have to deal with the aftermath. In last week’s episode of Gotham, Gordon tried to arrest the mayor and the biggest crime boss in the entire city with only a gun-toting Harvey Bullock in tow. The plan backfired. Now, Gordon is completely ostracized by a police force, yet he continues his one-man crusade against crime in Gotham.
But ultimately, “The Mask” is a return to what’s familiar. Gordon and Barbara have their love drama, Cobblepot and Mooney continue feeding their hate for each other, and Bruce Wayne still tiptoes the line between normal child and a creepy antisocial billionaire. Aftermath episodes usually add much-needed reprieve from the pulse-thumping action of previous episodes and try to harness that narrative momentum. Unfortunately, “The Mask” funnels whatever energy Gotham was building into another predictable plot with the expected beginning, middle, and end. Wedged in between these telegraphed moments are scenes both great and awkward, but neither can overshadow a mediocre episode that once again feels like something already seen.
Gotham loves three things: allusions to Batman, murders, and thinly-veiled commentary about wealth and class. “The Mask” delivers on all three. The episode opens with two suspendered gentlemen completely beating the s— out of each other in an office after hours. The eventual victor of the fight (the other guy gets a paper cutter straight to the face) salutes to an unknown video voyeur, who watches the fight kind of like Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget—without the menacing cat.
The death match’s loser is later discovered the next day near the docks out in the open, which seems like a terrible hiding spot. The dead body’s attire tips off to Gordon and Bullock that the recently deceased was a banker, or at the very least in finance. As soon as Gordon speaks some of his first few words, you can already tell that he’s annoyed. This time not with Bullock’s flagrant disregard for protocol, but rather the entire police force. It’s not too hard to imagine why since last week, psycho killer Victor Zsasz waltzed into the GCPD and almost killed Gordon without a single cop putting up a fight. Now, Gordon has a general distrust of detectives and cops alike, and in turn, they also avoid him out of guilt.
Setting aside the semi-unrealistic notion that an entire police precinct would get bullied out of their own station, Gordon’s lingering resentment is one of the better side effects to spiral out of last week’s episode. It’s one of the more tangible pieces of evidence that Gordon is inspiring the policemen he works with, much like Batman will inspire him years later. It’s been pretty well established since the first episode that Gordon is Gotham’s interim Dark Knight until Bruce Wayne eventually assumes the mantle, and seeing him in a similar inspirational role helps create the familiar hero archetype.
NEXT: They’re coming for you, Barbara