The cliffhanger ending to episode six: “Spirit of the Goat” lead viewers to believe that the follow-up would be Jim Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) show. The MCU (Victoria Cartagena, Andrew Stuart-Jones) was in the process of arresting Jim for the murder of Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), when the junior Penguin waddled right into the police station. Now everybody who had been breathing a sigh of relief that Cobblepot was dead and Gordon was willing to play in the muck with the rest of the GCPD is PISSED.
However, episode seven is wholly and entirely Oswald’s jam–follow me after the jump, and find out just how much of Gotham is under “Penguin’s Umbrella”.
Gotham is a show about a city’s evolution. It’s not a “realistic” depiction of a comic book like Arrow or Smallville, neither is it a real-world crime drama of the CSI/Law And Order variety. It’s something in-between. That’s why some have criticized it for being uneven. Gotham tells the story of how a relatively normal city becomes the kind of place that’s teeming with theatrical villains and costumed vigilantes.
That’s why the show begins with the murder of the Waynes: THAT was the turning point, and not merely because it resulted in Batman. The Wayne killings started a chain reaction that will transform the city of Gotham, and everyone in it.
And the series shows us that transformation through its characters.
Which brings us to Cobblepot. In only 7 episodes we’ve seen his evolution from meek, self-abasing toadie to canny, devious junior kingpin. Robin Lord Taylor’s performance may be the best on the show–his portrayal of Penguin is compelling, disturbing, and oddly likeable.
But let’s start with Gordon’s story–since that’s where we left off:
Like I said, everybody wants Gordon dead: Falcone (John Doman), Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith), Bullock (Donal Logue)–at first, anyway….the GCPD is already planning his funeral and giving away his parking spot. But Gordon refuses to something smart like leave town with Barbara (Erin Richards). He’s gonna face the music, one way or another.
This is the episode where Gordon finally grows a pair: He’s been the lone crusader against corruption and evil for six shows, but he hasn’t really convinced me that he’s got the stones to be Gotham’s White Knight until now. Boy Scouts are fine if an old lady needs help crossing the street–but you don’t call them when you need someone to kick ass and take names…
Gordon’s desperate circumstances bring out his inner badass, and it’s a delight to see: It even wins him some new allies. The MCU turn out to be the only GCPD officers willing to stick their necks out for Gordon–I guess the embarrassment of trying to arrest him for the murder of a man who wasn’t dead properly chastised them. Bullock does eventually come to Jim’s aid–reasoning that he’s probably dead anyway, so he may as well go down fighting the good fight–but I don’t think anyone was shocked by this turn.
Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) are happy to be of assistance as well, but their scene seems to be more to remind the audience that they’re still in this show. They’re great characters played by talented actors, but they’ve been relegated to the B-Plots (or C, or D-Plots even) of nearly every episode. I get that Gotham wants to establish that this show is about more than kiddie Batman, but Pertwee and Mazouz are being wasted if you ask me (and you’re reading my review, so you are).
Still, the scene did give Gordon the chance to pass the torch to Montoya and Allen–if Gordon doesn’t live through this fiasco, the MCU vowed to find the true killer of the Waynes.
Meanwhile, Fish Mooney is annoyed and frustrated at Falcone’s apparent lack of outrage concerning the fact that Cobblepot is alive and working for Maroni (David Zayas). Nikolai (Jeremy Davidson)–Falcone’s lieutenant and Fish’s “on the down-low” lover–thinks it’s a sign of weakness, and they should move their plan to supplant Falcone ahead. Fish isn’t certain–the old Don is up to something, and she doesn’t want to move until she finds out what.
After surviving Falcone’s first attempt to kill him courtesy of assassin and second-tier Batman villain Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan), Gordon reveals his balls-out, bugshit insane plan: Arrest pretty much every powerful person in Gotham with the desire and means to end his life.
It’s gutsy, and it’s hard to tell if he really thought it would work, or if he just wanted to force certain people to show their hands–but we’ll find out.
Falcone avoids arrest when he reveals that he has Barbara in his hospitable custody….and then he’s even magnanimous enough to let them both go without killing them even a little–What gives?
NOW we get back to where we started–Cobblepot:
Oddly enough, finding out how badly Falcone wants Cobblepot just makes Maroni like him more, and he already thinks the sun shines out of the kid’s skinny pale ass. The two families come as close as they have yet to full-scale gang war. First Falcone cuts off Maroni’s gun-running operation, then Maroni sends Penguin and his chief lieutenant Frankie Carbone (Danny Mastrogiorgio) to take out Nikolai in retaliation. Penguin uses the opportunity to suborn Carbone’s thugs and gut Maroni’s second-in-command like a fish. Carbone was the only one in Maroni’s inner circle who didn’t trust Cobblepot, and he had to be removed..
This left the ‘Conies and the ‘Ronies at a stalemate. A deal was struck: Maroni would keep Penguin–alive and well–Falcone would get a piece of property within Arkham City in return: A toxic waste dump called Indian Hill (suggested by Cobblepot). It’s not yet clear what the significance of Indian Hill is, but most assuredly there is some reason Penguin chose it.
All along, this entire situation–from the “death” of Cobblepot at the hands of Jim Gordon onward–has been orchestrated by Penguin and Falcone.
Oswald made a deal with the Don back when he first gave the order to have him killed: He ratted out Fish for her clandestine affair with Nikolai–and exchange, he got Falcone to order Gordon to kill him, knowing that there was a very good chance he would refuse.
Penguin has been Falcone’s man this entire time–feeding him info about Maroni’s organization, and his own traitorous underlings….
But if these last 7 episodes have taught us anything, it’s that Penguin is loyal to no one but himself and his ambitions.
This goofy looking man-bird has managed to cement himself in positions of trust and power with Gotham’s two most powerful syndicates–he is basically untouchable, and free to go forward with whatever his ultimate plans for Gotham are….all he really needs now is Jim Gordon. He’s bizarrely fixated on the heroic GCPD detective. As to why he imagines Gordon would ever be a willing participant in his plans–we don’t know yet…but Penguin seems to careful to have chosen him on a whim.
Unless he’s just got a crush on Jimmy-boy (which given the show’s track record isn’t impossible), there’s a VERY good reason why Oswald thinks Gordon is so important.
Anyway, “Penguin’s Umbrella” combines all the best elements of Gotham as a series: Mob war, supervillains before they were super, good men becoming great, weak men finding strength, the world as we know it becoming larger than life–it’s the episode I’d show my friends if I wanted them to understand the “big deal” about this series…