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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A returning character, along with some new blood, keeps Gotham interesting

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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • Never Mind The Bullocks: Gotham literally never minds the Bullock this week. He gets two lines, and one is him just being all male gaze-y with Sophia.
  • Really nice to get a change of pace with the cold open this week. It’s not set in Gotham, but rather in Arabia in 125 A.D. We get to witness the very first re-birth of Ra’s al Ghul, and we get a glimpse of a dagger that’s destined to be integral to the season’s events. Stakes are established immediately, which is never a bad thing.
  • Along with a new high-tech suit, Bruce also has a new snarky attitude. He balks at nearly every piece of advice that Alfred gives him. “Don’t get shot in the face? Got it.” Teenagers, am I right?
  • Speaking of Alfred, how great is it having him be an active, involved character and not just a voice of reason? Him once again saving Bruce is one of the episode’s many highlights.
  • Where the first two episodes of the season struggled because of familiarity and a lackluster villain plot, “They Who Hide Behind Masks” is much better at establishing the stakes for the season. We get the introduction of Sophia Falcone, Bruce coming into his own, Nygma becoming a factor in the Gotham underworld again, and finally, Ra’s al Ghul being revealed as Barbara’s benefactor and, it would seem, lover. Now that’s how you build some momentum.
  • So good to see Barbara back to her “normal” self this week. I was worried that she was going to be subdued for awhile, but thankfully that worry was unwarranted.
  • Penguin’s reaction to seeing that Nygma is no longer frozen in his club is incredible; Robin Lord Taylor goes fully unhinged. Zsasz has some pretty good input too: “I don’t know, it kind of opens up the room.” Always looking on the bright side, that guy.
  • So, Nygma comes back to life thanks to Myrtle, an Annie Wilkes-type superfan who nurses him back to health, even as his brain suffers. I’m actually kind of disappointed that Zsasz kills her later on, because she’s a nice addition to this one episode. I thought there was some real potential there to give Nygma a sidekick.
  • At the black market auction that Penguin holds, Alfred advises Bruce to go full “spoiled billionaire brat,” and boy does he heed that advice. He goes full rich playboy, and it gets the job done. He bids $2 million for the knife that Ra’s al Ghul is desperate to get for himself.
  • I don’t totally understand why Gordon is so opposed to Sophia helping him out in Gotham. Like she says, “you came looking for a gangster, and that’s what you found.” I guess he could be worried about endangering the life of Falcone’s only other child, but the old man is dying anyways. Why wouldn’t he be thrilled to have someone competent by his side? Plus, they’re clearly going down the road paved with sexual tension, so everybody wins.
  • Penguin right after Bruce outbids Barbara and she storms off: “I do love seeing that woman lose.”
  • Looking at all of these scenes individually, it would seem like this is an episode that’s mostly focused on setting up stories, which typically means a sluggish pace and not a lot of action. But “They Who Hide Behind Masks” is easily better than the two previous episodes this season. It has purpose, clarity of vision, and the return of Nygma, coupled with the introduction of Sophia, injects the series with fresh storytelling opportunities.