Gotham “This Ball of Mud and Meanness” Review (Season 2 Episode 14)

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“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya Bruce Wayne. You killed my father parents. Prepare to die.” Yep, on the latest episode of “Gotham,” it was finally time for young Master Bruce to grow up and learn the hard way that sometimes stuff just happens, and the people responsible aren’t necessarily evil, they’re just drawn that way.

Entitled “This Ball of Mud and Meanness,” after a quote from serial killer Carl Panzram, a lovely fellow who claimed to have killed 21 people, committed burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arson and to have raped over 1,000 men. He also escaped from prison several times before finally being put to death via hanging, his last words being: “Hurry it up…I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around!”

The quote in question goes as follows: “I want to leave here and take a nose-dive into the next world just to see if that one is as lousy as is this ball of mud and meanness…I am sorry that I am unable to murder the whole damned human race.” Alrighty then. What a sweetheart of a guy.

Not entirely sure what that had to do with this episode, beyond the fact that hit-man Matches Malone (Tarantino favorite Michael Bowen, also of “Breaking Bad”) was likewise world-weary and ready to shuffle off this mortal coil, but it made for a colorful title, and I got to find out about Panzram, for better or for worse, so there’s that.

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Regardless, the bulk of the episode was dedicated to Bruce’s quest to track down Malone, after discovering that he was indeed the man responsible for killing his parents in cold blood. After securing a gun from Selina, Bruce found out from Alfred that a man named Cupcake (Jamar Greene, “Money Monster”) could possibly lead them to Matches.

In a dubious move for someone trying to keep his charge out of trouble, he let Bruce accompany him to talk to Cupcake, who was anything but a softie, despite that moniker, being the ringleader of a gang of sweethearts called the Mutants, who didn’t exactly look like the type of guys one would bring home to meet your mother.

Bruce being Bruce, he naturally tried to immediately buy Cupcake off, much to Alfred’s chagrin, but Cupcake wasn’t satisfied with just money- he wanted blood, too. Namely Alfred’s. It was a fairly close call, but Alfred pulled it off in the end, albeit passing out right after winning. “Is a check okay?” said Bruce.

Not sure how he made it out of there intact, much less how he got Alfred to the hospital, but maybe there’s honor among some thugs, it would seem- or I suppose that’s what we’re supposed to believe. Whatever the case, he left Alfred there and went to follow the next lead, to a punk rock club called Celestial Gardens.

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Apparently, they were expecting him, as the band almost immediately stopped playing and the singer, Jeri (Lori Petty, a long way from “A League of Their Own,” but not so far from “Tank Girl”) walked right up to him, knowing exactly who he was. Okay, granted, a kid like Bruce tends to stand out like a sore thumb, least of all in a place like that, and apparently they were expecting him, from the way he got in so quick, but you know what I mean.

It was still sort of odd, the way the band stopped playing at just the right moment, as if they timed the whole thing out. (It kind of vaguely reminded me of this scene, from the classic David Lynch tale “Wild at Heart.”)

Unlike Cupcake, Jeri wasn’t interested in Bruce’s money, but rather why she should rat out her friend. Bruce tells her he killed his parents, and she warns him Matches will kill him in a heartbeat, so Bruce pulls out his gun to prove he’s ready to tangle. Jeri is more bemused than scared, but gives him the address anyway, declaring him the “child hand of fate.”

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By then, Gordon has talked to Alfred, who directs him to the same place and tries to stop Bruce, but Jeri intervenes on his behalf, shouting “GCPD!” at the crowd and enticing them to stop Gordon, which they do, giving Gordon an impromptu lesson in crowd-surfing. Bruce slips away in the ensuing melee, but Jeri is not so lucky, getting herself arrested by Gordon in the process.

Bruce heads to the address, where he finally comes face to face with Matches, claiming to want to hire him. Once inside, he questions Matches, eventually pulling out the gun to quiz him about the murder of his parents.

Turns out that Matches doesn’t even remember doing it, at least until Bruce refreshes him on the details, and even then, he refuses to cooperate and tell Bruce who hired him to do it, saying he might as well kill him because he’s not going to talk.

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Bruce is hesitant, but then Matches confesses he wants to die, and how it seems fitting that the day would finally come that someone came to avenge one of his victims. Bruce cocks the hammer, but can’t quite bring himself to pull it, feeling more sad for the dispassionate man before him than anything, who has clearly long stopped caring about anything, least of all whether he lives or dies.

Bruce plops down the gun and leaves, only to run into Gordon in the hallway, who has finally gotten the address out of Jeri, who stalled just enough to give Bruce time to get the job done- or get himself killed trying.

Alas, before Gordon can make any sort of arrest, they hear a shot ring out and discover that Matches has chosen to end his own life with Bruce’s gun. So, the job got done, regardless.

However, there’s still the matter of who hired Matches in the first place, but with no leads on that particular bit of information, I’m not sure how Bruce is going to get it. Either way, he opts to leave home for the streets, joining up with Selina for a first-hand training of how to handle himself, so that he can prepare for…something. Wonder what that could be?

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Meanwhile, as all of this is going on, the Penguin’s “training” at Arkham continued, as Hugo Strange continued to subject him to all manners of torture, mainly via his “treatments,” which involved something called “Crane’s formula.”

Might this be Gerald Crane, as in father of Jonathan, aka “The Scarecrow”? I’m guessing so. If so, no wonder the Penguin is flipping out so much.

Other tortures included the “Ice Cream Test,” in which they gave the Penguin a big helping of ice cream and sent him into the lunchroom to see how he’d react when his fellow inmates got a look at it, when they themselves weren’t given any.

Needless to say, it did not go well for the Penguin, but the key element was that the Penguin didn’t fight back, which meant that he was coming along nicely, in terms of eliminating his aggressive tendencies. But that didn’t mean more “treatments” weren’t necessary, naturally.

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The final test involved Strange putting Penguin in a locked room with the same guy who attacked him over the ice cream strapped to a chair, with a host of knives next to him. Rather than attacking him and getting revenge, the Penguin instead talked the man down from his anger, and then proceeded to cut him loose, without repercussion on either end.

Finally satisfied beyond the shadow of a doubt, Strange elects to declare Oswald Cobblepot officially cured, much like Alex in “A Clockwork Orange” before him. But will it last? It didn’t for Alex, and I’m guessing it won’t for Penguin, either. Old habits die hard and all that.

Whatever the case, Strange gave Oswald a “certificate of sanity” and sent him on his merry way, despite sidekick Miss Peabody’s reservations- not to mention Penguin’s.

However, Strange does mention having “deep plans” for Oswald, that are apparently even more heinous than whatever he’s doing with the “semi-human” creatures in the basement. I guess only time will tell what those are.

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That was about it, beyond Dr. Thompkins bringing Kringle’s continued absence to Gordon’s attention, letting him know that she hadn’t even picked up her last few paychecks before allegedly leaving town.

Granted, her leaving was supposedly spur of the moment, and with Dougherty also MIA, it made a certain degree of sense, but Gordon didn’t have much time to focus on the matter with all that was going on in this episode- lucky for a certain riddle-loving individual we all know and love.

Instead, he vowed to investigate the matter further in the future, which did not go unnoticed by Ed Nygma, who imagined that Gordon was attempting to lull him into a “false sense of security.” The episode ended with Ed marking Gordon’s picture with a question mark, as if to indicate he will be his next target.

From the looks of next week’s preview, that will mean setting Gordon up for something or the other, likely the murder of Theo Galavan- not that he needs any setting up for something he actually did, technically. We shall see about that as well, I suppose.

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Given all that was going on and the overall nature of it, this couldn’t help but be a bit of a transitional episode, but it was still a good one, thanks to wonderfully rendered turns by guest stars Petty and Bowen, who managed to make a real impression, despite limited screen time. I can’t imagine we’ll see Bowen again, given his fate, but then again, if Strange gets a hold of him, you never know.

However, Petty could always return, and as her character was genuinely interesting, I could be okay with that. I liked the way she sort of was able to sum up everything Bruce was thinking and feeling but wasn’t quite able to put into words, as well as the way she played both Bruce and Gordon. Not to mention she doubles as the lead singer of a punk rock band. Rock on, Tank Girl!

As for mythology, we of course had Matches Malone, which was not the identity of the Waynes’ killer at all in the comics that I’m aware of, but rather a gangster that Bruce uses the identity of as he becomes a vigilante later on to hide his true one on the streets. It seems likely that he’ll do the same here, though you have to wonder about someone who would adopt the namesake of their parents’ killer!

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All in all, a good episode that, while not without flaws (seriously, those thugs just let a defenseless millionaire walk out of there unscathed with his protection down for the count?), was still highly worthwhile, thanks to some ace performances from its guest stars and a particularly solid one from David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne.

You can definitely sense the transition from boy to the man he will become happening, and his innocence fading and giving way to the harsh reality of life. He didn’t let Matches live because he didn’t hate him for what he did to his parents; he did it because he saw what a shell of a man he was and took pity on him.

That’s a lot to take on and communicate for such a young actor, but I thought Mazouz knocked it out of the park, though having an old-hand pro like Bowen to play off of certainly didn’t hurt matters. That was definitely a key moment in the episode, and an important one in Bruce’s trajectory from boy to man that was much appreciated by this fan. Keep up the good work, “Gotham.”

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What did you think of the latest episode of “Gotham”? Did you enjoy the turns by Bowen and Petty? What did you think of Mazouz’ work here? What do you think Penguin’s next move will be? Were you excited to see Paul Reubens, aka “Pee Wee Herman” in the previews for next week, apparently reprising his role as the Penguin’s father from “Batman Returns”? What is Strange’s “deep plan” for Penguin? What will Bruce’s next move be? Or Alfred’s, for that matter? What will Ed get up to next? Sound off on this and more down below and see you next week!