Matches | Gotham “This Ball of Mud and Meanness” Review
Gotham’s latest episode, “Ball of Mud and Meanness” has given our first in-depth look into Bruce Wayne since the winter break, and it did quite the job at that. Delving further into Professor Strange and Penguin’s psychosis bookended this fantastic episode.
Bruce Wayne has been hot on the trail to find those who killed his parents, and he thinks he finally has a solid lead. Early on in this episode, we find that Selina does come through for him and hands Bruce a loaded gun. It’s interesting that even Selina isn’t keen on the idea of having to ever use a gun. Alas, Alfred and Bruce begin their trek of finding Patrick “Matches” Malone, the man who pulled the trigger to kill the Waynes.
Bruce and Alfred find a gang that he was once affiliated with and, since this is indeed Gotham, the leader of the clan named Cupcake wants a cool million dollars to give up his “friend.” Bruce objects, and they eventually agree to pay $50,000 if Alfred beats Cupcake in a fight. It’s funny how, even when Alfred is getting pounded by Cupcake, he is still teaching Bruce how to fight. Alfred explains why he is taking the beating from the bigger man. While this does work, and they get a lead on Jeri (played by veteran actress Lori Petty), Alfred is in the hospital, which gives Bruce the perfect opportunity to go after Matches himself.
The club he goes to is straight out of the 80s grunge scene, and Jeri has some Joker-esque makeup. Lori Petty is perfect in this part because she plays that ultra-sarcastic rocker to a T. The dialogue between Bruce and Jeri is fantastic because he is very stoic where she is the complete opposite. She is just that crazy character who fears nothing and, at one point, pulls Bruce’s hand to put the gun against her head. There is a moment where Bruce is walking away, and she does eventually tell him where Matches is. She says that it’s fate and that Matches would love to see Bruce, quite a bit of foreshadowing for sure. It’s funny that Jim finally catches up to Bruce, but Jeri helps him get away by pointing a spotlight on Jim, and the crowd pulls him up to crowd surf.
The fateful meeting between Matches and Bruce definitely took an unexpected turn. Bruce plays it off like he is trying to buy his services as a hit man, and Matches explains how he’s killed all types of people and how much each costs. When Bruce gets into discussing how Matches was the one who killed his parents, at first, he doesn’t even recall who the Waynes are. This leads to a conversation how Matches is tired and doesn’t even really care if Bruce kills him. His life of going unpunished has weighed on the career killer, and he’s ready to go. He goes as far as to help Bruce in holding and aiming the gun properly to kill him. But, Bruce chooses not to. Matches’ last bit of dialogue was, “I’m a monster, and you need to kill me.” Instead, Bruce walks out and stupidly leaves the gun. He runs into Jim, and and they both hear a shot fired. Matches kills himself. The scene was great because it shaped what Bruce will do later in the season and reinforces that fact that he doesn’t understand the plight of Gotham‘s citizens like he thinks he does.
Onto Oswald’s plights. It’s interesting to note that Oswald is once again a puppet, similar to how he was when the mobs were at war in Season One. There is one big difference though; in this plotline, it’s believed that Penguin now has control to scheme his way through it. Professor Strange has been conducting experiments to curb Oswald’s anger, and we have quite a comical test with ice cream. Oswald is given ice cream, while another irate inmate becomes envious of said ice cream. He beats up Oswald, and Oswald doesn’t even lift a finger.
But it’s the next “test” that proves to Professor Strange that the treatment has worked. The inmate that went aggro when Oswald had ice cream is strapped to a chair, and Oswald can free him or save him. Before Arkham Asylum, Oswald would have certainly taken the opportunity for revenge, but this time he nicely sets the inmate free. The result leads Strange to give Oswald his “sanity” paper and claim him a free man. But of course, since Strange is such a sneaky character, it’s all just an experiment to see how Oswald will react to the outside world of Gotham.
The only other character with any sort of plotline was Edward Nygma. WIth the help of Leslie Thompkins, Jim is starting to investigate Kris Kringle’s sudden departure. Jim asks Nygma about her disappearance. In his usual quirkiness, Nygma leads with a riddle and continues to deny what has happened. Then we get to see his darker side as he talks to himself with Jim just out of earshot. He paints his infamous green question mark over Jim’s picture in the newspaper. It’s an okay reintroduction of the character after little mention of him previously, but it felt kind of forced. I have no doubt that it will lead to some nice scenes with the Riddler, but it was easily the smallest/weakest part of the otherwise great episode.