Gotham recap: Wrath of the Villains: This Ball of Mud and Meanness
Monday night’s episode of Gotham, “This Ball of Mud and Meanness,” focuses on change. Oswald continues his “treatment” with Hugo, which is clearly leading to all kinds of change within our former “King” of the Gotham City underworld. Bruce finally learns the gravity of what it means to kill a man. And Ed’s transformation into the Riddler is getting deliciously close to complete.
We start the episode with our poor Penguin as his treatment, courtesy of Hugo Strange and Mr. Peabody, is taking our ex-criminal down some very dark paths. We see Penguin imagining a sequence in which he is tied up from mouth to waist to his old chair at home as his mother lovingly lectures him about eating his food. Another Penguin comes up behind her with a bat and beats her while the first Penguin watches and screams in horror. We emerge from the dream sequence to find Penguin back in his torture chamber with Hugo and Peabody watching his treatment and remarking on how the positive results show Penguin slowly losing his violent side.
Hugo suggests the “ice cream” test as a way to discover just how docile Penguin is now. The two insane docs put a scoop of ice cream on Penguin’s food plate, and as he sits down next to a fellow inmate, the inmate freaks out over Penguin getting ice cream while he has none. Instead of erupting like the inmate and attempting to defend himself, Penguin curls up into fetal position, proving that he may no longer be the dangerous criminal we remember. But unfortunately for Penguin, Hugo tells him he has just a few more sessions left before he is completely cured.
We quickly turn to Bruce walking down a dark Gotham alley to meet Selina, and she gives him a gun. Bruce looks much too nervous to be taking this thing into his possession, but as Selina tells him that guns are only for one thing, Bruce’s confidence slowly seems to build. It seems pretty clear that he’s made up his mind about what to do with Matches Malone, but poor Alfred is still out of the loop especially, as he begins their journey to find Malone with the help of one of his ex-partners whom he helped send to prison: Cupcake.
Bruce and Alfred find Cupcake at a makeshift fight club, and the scene starts out civil enough as Alfred tries to find out Matches’ whereabouts…until Bruce steps in, reveals his identity, and offers Cupcake money to find Matches. Cupcake, of course, asks for way too much, and upon realizing he’s not going to get what he wants, he tells the pair that Alfred must fight Cupcake and pay him $50,000 for the answer they seek. Alfred has no choice but to oblige because Bruce just doesn’t know how to pick his battles, and thankfully, the old geezer wins — barely. Cupcake tells them to find Jeri down at Celestial Gardens to get Matches’ whereabouts, and Alfred promptly passes out from the fight.
Meanwhile, Lee finds Gordon in the station, not to rehash their argument over last week’s events, but to let him know her worries about Kristen Kringle because there’s been no word from her since she “ran off” with Tom. Gordon assures her he will look into her disappearance and immediately goes to Ed first. Gordon attempts to play off the gravity of the situation so as not to worry him, but as Gordon leaves, Ed’s dark side comes out and believes that Gordon is just trying to trick him into revealing the truth about Kristen. Ed’s paranoia will surely turn him against Gordon as he continues to poke around Kristen’s disappearance. This doesn’t bode well for their relationship.
Back to Bruce as he takes his butler/mentor to the hospital, where Alfred attempts to make him promise not to go after Jeri and Matches alone. Unfortunately he passes out once more before the promise is made. Of course Bruce is going after Jeri, and of course Jeri is the one and only Lori Petty. This is Gotham, and it just makes sense.
Alfred wakes up to find that Bruce has gone and immediately calls Bullock and Gordon to finally let them in on his plan. While Bullock makes a few quips about not revealing murder plans to the police, Gordon knows it’s his responsibility to find and stop Bruce. Alfred tells them where to find Jeri.
Bruce meets Jeri at Celestial Gardens, which turns out to be a frightening club that features angsty music set to a background of video clips of the Maniax as they committed their heinous acts around the city, led by Jerome. Many people in the club, including Jeri, are wearing Joker-style grins across their faces, proving that Jerome’s effect in Gotham certainly has not died down. If anything, it has had the opposite effect. That little psychopath is bound to live forever in the city.
NEXT: Bruce searches for his new identity
Jeri knows that Bruce is looking for her dear friend and asks if he’s got a good reason for find him. After a few attempts at persuading her to give up the information he so desperately desires, he finally tells her he has a gun. She retorts that his answer is a good enough reason and tells him what he wants to know. Bruce asks her why she gave up the information, to which Jeri replies, “Matches is gonna be happy to see you. You, my boy, are the childish hand of fate. Well that makes me God in a way, doesn’t it? And who doesn’t like to play God?”
On his way out of the club, Bruce spots Gordon, who tells Bruce that he’ll take over the investigation from here, but Bruce says that doesn’t reassure him. As all hope seems lost for Bruce, Jeri gets the crowd to rush Gordon, allowing Bruce a chance to escape.
Bruce makes his way to the address given to him by Jeri and finds Matches in his apartment. Bruce attempts to trick the man into believing he is hiring him for a hit by offering him a wad of money. Bruce then discovers Matches’ price for killing men, $10,000;, double that price for women; and triple the price for children. But he just will not kill babies. What superb morals.
As Bruce talks with his parents’ killer about his murderous ways, Gordon has taken Jeri into custody to find out where she sent Bruce. Jeri tells him that he’s got a reputation for his anger and attempts to make him angry to find out just what he’s capable of, but Gordon doesn’t give in. She finally reveals where Bruce has gone, saying that Gordon will get there just in time for the clean up.
Bruce reminds Matches of their last encounter and asks who hired him, but he won’t give in thanks to the “killer’s code.” So there’s nothing left to do but kill the man. Matches takes his coming death with a toast and a smile, saying, “A man gets tired, doing wrong and going unpunished. Nothing happens. You start to wonder if there is a God.” Bruce tries but just can’t pull the trigger, even as Matches tries to goad him into doing it. He sets the gun on the table and leaves, but as Gordon finds him, it’s too late to arrest Matches: He’s killed himself.
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We end with Penguin being tossed into the torture chamber, only to discover the man who beat him up over the ice cream is still tied to the chair with knives on the table next to him as Hugo and Peabody watch from their creepy observation room next door. The two men exchange a conversation with Penguin seemingly getting ready to take his bloody revenge, but at the last minute, Penguin instead cuts the man loose and allows him to drink water. Penguin has passed his final test, and Hugo tells him he is now a sane man, which means he is free to leave the facility.
Peabody asks Hugo if he’s sure about his decision, to which Hugo replies he is not because Penguin is an experiment for the doctor. Peabody continues to express her concern over Penguin’s release, and Hugo shuts her down, stating that he has other reasons for letting the ex-criminal back into the free world. So what are these deeper plans? (Readers/commenters, your input is key!)
Gordon tells Bullock the next step in the Wayne case is to find out who would’ve hired Matches to kill Bruce’s parents, a feat made 930,840,598 times harder now that the killer is dead and Bullock is no longer interested in the case. Gordon says hello to Ed, who asks him if he’s made any headway into the Kristen Kringle case, to which Gordon says he’s been a little preoccupied. But Ed’s not buying it. He believes Gordon is trying to lure him into a false sense of security, all while attempting to find enough evidence to put Ed behind bars. He addresses Gordon while actually talking to himself, saying that he might have his plans but Ed can make plans of his own.
Alfred searches for Bruce and finds a note upon his arrival. It turns out Bruce has gone to live on the streets with Selina as he has learned a few things since Malone’s death. “You can’t kill murder. You can’t get revenge on evil. You can only begin to fight such things by not doing them. And you can only fight them where they live — not just at Wayne Enterprises — in the streets, the slums, in the bad parts of town. So that’s where I’m going.”
But we end the hour with Ed making those plans of his, which at the moment seem to entail only Gordon and a green question mark. Riddlerville, we’re on our way!