For the people actively watching and responding to Gotham every week, I think last week’s episode, Spirit of the Goat, could be considered the best episode since the pilot or even the best of the series at this point. Part of it came from taking a break from the mob focus and letting audiences watch a mostly standalone story that also delivered some character development. This week’s episode, Penguin’s Umbrella, is back to the heavy plotting that has rubbed some the wrong way, but does a lot to clear things up for some characters, return others to the status quo, and lead to only some minor frustrating developments. Best of all, though, I was excited throughout this week’s episode in a very good way.
I want to jump straight to the big gunfight scene. Gordon is in a rough spot, as the entire GCPD thinks they are looking at a dead man and he has no one in his corner. A hitman by the name of Victor Zsas (see Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1 for comic origins), who has a penchant for making tally mark carvings in his own body to represent the number of people he has killed, appears at the station and gives Jim no choice. A gunfight ensues, and while I was at first taken aback by the GCPD emptying out to let this sort of thing happen, I eventually found myself worried for Gordon. In a show where there is no way the lead character can die, that was refreshing. Seeing Jim take a bullet hit was refreshing. The man is not mortal. Gotham may serve as a series with some inevitable endings for various characters, but I saw peril for our lead character this week, and this gunfight happened with a good 2/3rds of the show still left to go.
Gotham has always held up its mob characters as the ones to really keep track of. While we may have development on other characters here and there (Gordon gets moments, Bullock got one episode, and Lil’ Bruce has strangely received the most), it is the plot progression of Carmine Falcone’s activities, and more importantly Penguin’s, that has really kept some sort of storyline going. While gripes may come from balancing this mostly serious side of the series with the pulpiness that a weekly police procedural set in the comic book world of Gotham City has to offer, it stands to reason that accepting this element will make the show easier to take. With that in mind, Penguin’s Umbrella is an episode that I found to really do well with the mob element, as it raised the stakes considerably and played out in an exciting manner.
The ultimate result may have been clear from the get-go. No matter if Gordon did or did not arrest/confront Falcone, this series was still going to have Jimmy & The Bulls back on the street next week. That in mind, we got to watch scrambling take place from all fronts, as the revelation of Penguin being alive got a lot of people very worried. It did not help that Bullock, after receiving a fitting storyline, was immediately gone from the episode, only to come back for the sake of a few quips and to let us know that we will still get to see Jimmy & The Bulls together. But then again, this was a crowded episode.
Thankfully, Lil’ Bruce and Alfred were kept to a minimum, though seeing more of Montoya and Allen realizing how wrong they were about Gordon would have been nice. Putting all of these characters together was one way to get us in the mind of Ben McKenzie, who was trying to do an awful lot to show Gordon as someone ready to die for the sake of proving a point and not going out like a sucker. The show is good for things like that. While it really seems to put characters into scenarios where they can make bold proclamations and state ideas of the show in broad but important sounding phrases (“This City can be saved!”), it is trying to evoke a comic book, which may be getting lost in the production of the series, keeping it from coming off as a better show, but that is what I am seeing.
Speaking of the comic book nature of this series, we get a lot of Fish Mooney this week. Her character seems to be the one many are mixed on, but I continue to really enjoy the type of energy that Jada Pinkett-Smith is bringing to the role. This week she is heavily involved in the activities of Falcone, and the way she treats Penguin is perfectly fitting of her character. There still may only be so much to who this person is (she wants power), but I am very curious as to how she plans to deal with Penguin, given that only one of these characters is expendable.
Oswald certainly had a lot to do as well, which makes perfect sense. I will get to the ending reveal, but centering a scene on him coming clean to a soon-to-be-dispatched goon about how conniving he is was well done. His motivations may be simple enough as well, but hearing him explain how it is that he can be such a schemer works, and Robin Lord Taylor continues to be doing a great job with this character. I can only wonder how additional seasons will work with this character at the rate he is climbing the ranks.
As for the ending, it may be a bit much to ask us to believe that Penguin is just that good at planning things out, but it does allow me into the mind of Falcone a bit more, which is welcome. Maroni has been a more engaging character thus far, because David Zayas provides a pretty hot-blooded performance, but John Doman’s steeliness has only gone so far. If anything, this is a showcase episode for his character, which only revealed to have been so in the last few minutes. Having an idea of how he has been playing things from the start makes him a bit more interesting and certainly a credible villain, if we are to be continuing along with the mob-based storylines.
Penguin’s Umbrella continues to find the show moving in positive directions. Some revelations and of course the dialogue still leave room for improvement in the writing department, but Gotham is better now than when it started. That may be the unfortunate case for a lot of TV, but I do want to see what it can pull off, were it to reach its ‘best’. I just hope that is very soon.
From Det. Jim Gordon’s Police Files:
- Most laughable moment: Penguin walking down the street, with his smug confidence as the result of revealing himself to the GCPD and everybody else.
- Speaking of which, the GCPD really hits an all-time low this week.
- “I don’t know chickens.” – Fish misses a lot of good joke potential.
- “Jumping catfish!” – The mayor is adorably excitable.
- So Fish’s henchman, Butch, has to die this season, right?
- Speaking of goners, Liza is definitely in some trouble.
- I really do want to know what happened with Bullock’s case from last week…
- “Honk Honk”
- This week’s Classic Gordon Clip