After a very solid start, Gotham continued its run of consistently good and intriguing episodes with “This Ball of Mud and Meanness”. As it took a step back from certain storylines in order to get some movement on others in big ways. And it worked.
I’ll start with the smaller stories first. Nygma is now heading in full Riddler direction. And it was done in a way that works for who the character is. Leslie asking Jim to help look into Ms. Kringle’s “disappearance” then him (out of respect) going to Nygma, which set him off unbeknownst to Jim, was perfect. While the “talking out loud” bit was a little hokey, as there were people all around him when he did that, it did set up the narcissism very well. The “?” on the paper at the end was just icing on the cake.
Meanwhile, Huge Strange’s “therapy” of Penguin continued, and it too yielded an unexpected result. As Penguin was dubbed “sane” after some powerful procedures. Natural, him getting released felt weird, however, Hugo’s explanation for why he let Penguin go (without letting anyone else know) showed that he has a long game in the works. What is it? We don’t know. But it’s going to be fun to find out I bet.
But of course, the big part of this episode was Bruce meeting Matches Malone. Several parts of this worked. From the getting of information, which taught Bruce some valuable lessons, and proved just how epic Alfred is. To Selina getting him a gun, only for him to hesitate, then note, “you only get them for one thing.” And the interesting Joker style club (inspired by Jerome, his Maniax footage playing in the back) where he met Jerry, all were good. Yes, it could be considered a bit weird in certain contexts. But remember, this is Gotham. This is meant to be a dark and twisted city.
Truly though, the best part of the episode was meeting Matches Malone. Now, true Batman mythos fans know that it was Joe Chill who killed the Waynes, and Matches Malone was a criminal who’s identity Batman assumed to get information from the underworld. Here though, it appears Malone did indeed kill Thomas and Martha Wayne. Now, given the show’s desire to create its own Batman path, it’s possible a Joe Chill may be working at Wayne Industries, but it’s too soon to tell.
Back to the scene itself, the energy, as dark as it was, between Bruce and Matches was great. Both actors did amazing here. With Bruce trying to understand why Matches did what he did, and Matches trying to remember how he “met” Bruce. Having Matches be a tired soul who honestly wanted death was a very nice touch. Even nicer was that his life was so dark and depressing that he didn’t even remember killing the two most powerful people in Gotham!
His revelation about his life clearly affected Bruce, as it led to him not killing Malone himself. As he so poetically said, “I wish you were a monster, but you’re just a man”. Add that line to the letter he sent to Alfred, and it’s clear Bruce is truly, FINALLY, heading down the path to being Batman. Yes, he likely won’t suit up (hopefully he won’t), but learning about Gotham is what Batman is about in many ways.
“This Ball of Mud and Meanness” was a very simple episode in many ways. But the layers that emerged from the simplicity was what made it interesting. Many balls are rolling now, let’s see where they end up.