On the D/L – Gotham
Season 1 Episode 7 – “Penguin’s Umbrella”
This was the Gotham episode I’d been waiting for. The “case of the week” formula is dropped for this episode and the focus is entirely on the growing unrest in the mob community.
Following Gordon’s arrest at the cliffhanger conclusion to last week’s outing, things really begin to change on this show. Ultimately nothing changed the game massively for Gordon but there is a sense that things are lurching into place slowly.
I liked that Gordon basically chose to die in a blaze of glory that he hoped would set an example for others. Symbolic gestures like this give some nice foreshadowing in a show set in a city that will eventually rally behind a very theatrical symbol of justice.
The important thing is that the example Gordon set in this episode brought forward some other people sympathetic to his cause and finally gives Montoya and Allen something worthwhile to do in the show after lingering around in the background since the pilot. I also liked that deep down Bullock still has some sense of nobility about him that gives him enough motivation to help Gordon out in his crusade.
The best moments in any episode of the show are Bullock and Gordon’s differences in opinion and the discussions that they inspire, it’s clear that they are a different points in their career and have a different outlook on Gotham City. Gordon still believes it can be saved and Bullock is content to work within the framework of the corruption he knows exist.
Knowing this makes it all the more effective when they are on the same page and it really feels like a profound moment that changes their dynamic completely. Bullock’s bravado still makes him feel like it’s a fools errand but he does seem to believe that Gordon’s cause is one worth supporting. Whether he will live to regret this decision remains to be seen but he’s probably lost some favour with the mob after the events of this episode.
Robin Lord Taylor absolutely kills it in this episode as Oswald Cobblepot. The title “Penguin’s Umbrella” seems appropriate as the episode establishes that he is manipulating everyone in different ways. He’s remaining just useful enough to all parties so that nobody kills him but manages to subtly move his own interests forward. It was good that the unseen conversation with Falcone from the time of the pilot shows that he’s not entirely sure that his plan will work but he plays the odds in the hope that he has been a suitable judge of character. This episode shows that he hasn’t misjudged Gordon so by extension seems to have him right where he wants him. Similarly he knew what Falcone wanted to hear and managed to ingratiate himself with Meroni as a result. The only player that doesn’t care for him is Fish but his position with Falcone protects him from that. He seems to have played his hand perfectly and is in a good position to betray everyone at some point.
Notably this episode introduces longtime Batman villain Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan, who you might recognise from The Flash episode “Things You Can’t Outrun”) who is used very well here. He seems to be at a development point sometime before the complete lunatic Batman fans will be used to. Staples of the character are still intact such as carving the kills he is responsible for on his body in the form of tally marks and he generally seems like a threatening presence who believably openly challenges the Gotham City Police Department in an impressively framed shootout.
Unfortunately a lot of his screen time is spent utilising the old cliché of capturing the heroes girlfriend coupled with Barbara acting as your standard damsel in distress. I give this a little leeway as it pays off in an interesting away when she is used as leverage to stop Gordon and Bullock from taking down Falcone and Mayor James. I really liked how Bullock assumed they were bluffing and had to eat his words when it was proven that Barbara had actually been captured, it was a really funny moment that seemed perfectly in character. It also fits with the idea of Gordon being proactive but in over his head.
Not all of the moments worked here with some really stilted and cheesy scenes lifting me out of the episode. The worst offender would be Montoya and Allen saving Gordon from Zsasz complete with victorious music and the zinger “need a ride”. It just had me rolling my eyes a bit and robbed the scene of any tension. Similarly when the line “There’s nothing more dangerous than an honest man” was uttered followed immediately by Gordon loading weapons struck me as being far too overt.
Including Alfred and Bruce in stories that don’t really need them is becoming an uncomfortable habit on this show. Gordon’s scene with Bruce does help to reaffirm the promise he made the young Batman but it could have been done without. It was good to see Alfred be badass though.
The strongest episode so far that benefits from abandoning the “case of the week” formula entirely. Gotham embraces the strong subplots that have kept the show interesting and puts them to the forefront. There are plenty of great scenes involving Oswald Cobblepot that show his subtle manipulation of everyone around him in a risky yet rewarding way for him.
Gordon’s plan to go out in a blaze of glory that brings Falcone and The Mayor down with him is a brave one and entirely fits in a city that will rally against Batman for presenting similar martyr like behaviour. It also serves the important function in establishing allies for Gordon in his crusade to do the right thing in the wrong city.
Batman villain Victor Zsasz is well used here with just enough reference to his comic counterpart to provide recognition without beating the viewer over the head with it like previous episodes but his kidnapping Barbara subplot is a bit lazy for me.
Some cheesy lines that rob scenes of any power as well as another largely pointless inclusion of Bruce and Alfred do still bring this show down but there’s lots of intrigue building to keep the upcoming gang war interesting.