Gotham recap: 'Penguin's Umbrella'
Every good show has that one episode. The one that somehow transforms you from a casual viewer to an obsessed fan permanently crossing certain weeknights at certain hours off your social schedule. This specific episode, the one that really gets its hooks under your skin, was something Gotham desperately needed. The show was meandering, filled with similar villains and predictable plots that made it hard to be genuinely excited for Mondays at 8/7 Central. But after the 45-minute thrill ride of tonight’s episode, “Penguin’s Umbrella,” it’s about time you started planning evening television into your Monday routine.
From the opening moments outside the GCPD to the final seconds near a rain-soaked chicken coop, the seventh episode of Gotham is unrelenting. Riding momentum from last week’s episode, when detectives Montoya and Allen’s misinformed arrest falls apart with the Penguin’s sudden appearance, the GCPD is in complete disarray. Bullock’s pissed, Mooney’s pissed, and Gordon’s pissed. Everyone is pissed.
The only person who seems to be having a splendid time this whole episode is Oswald, even though his appearance at the police station makes little sense. Wasn’t his “death” along with his insider info on Mooney and Falcone what was keeping him in Salvatore Maroni’s good graces? How did he know to even go to the GCPD at that exact moment? Also, did no one even attempt to detain him and ask him some questions, chief among them being, “Why aren’t you dead?” The Gotham police force is not known for being the peak of law-fighting perfection, but this all seems pretty obvious.
Regardless of any lapses in procedure. This episode soon turns into a Jim Gordon versus the world deathmatch as he prepares to steel himself against the coming wrath of Falcone and a promise not kept. First order of business, getting Barbara out of town. Of course, the criminal element is one step ahead with Mooney’s goons using Barbara as a pseudo-hostage. In this episode, Mooney’s main henchman Butch gets unprecedented airtime. While acting like a grade-A sleazeball in Gordon’s apartment and during all his other nefarious goings-on throughout the episode, Butch’s character feels somewhat one-dimensional—not so much a thug as an actor obviously trying to play a thug.
Gordon eventually punches Butch’s horrible acting right in the face and whisks Barbara away to a bus station where he buys her a one-way ticket to getoutofheresville. Gordon’s affectionless pleading with Barbara at moments felt like the writers’ own pleading breaking through. “Yes, Barbara. Just go. Get out of this episode, so we don’t have to worry about you.” With her pleas for Gordon to leave with her falling on deaf ears, Barbara reluctantly boards the bus and exits stage left. Now, Gordon sets to work.
NEXT: Scum and Villainy
Carmine Falcone and his happy band of mob bosses once again meet up in an abandoned warehouse. Decked out in various prohibition era gangster attire, the mobsters try to decide Cobblepot and Gordon’s fates. Mooney is clearly agitated, thirsting for the blood of both men, but Falcone is noticeably less so and dismisses Mooney’s worries by nonchalantly ordering her to speak with Don Maroni while his own assassin, the indomitable Victor Zsasz, will deal with Gordon.
Zsasz immediately pays a visit to the GCPD while Gordon reveals his suicidal plan to arrest the Mayor and Don Falcone for conspiracy involving the Wayne murders. As his boss pleads for him to get the hell out of Dodge, Zsasz and his leather clad goon squad saunter into the GCPD like school yard bullies and forcibly request an audience with Gordon. Anthony Carrigan does an absolutely amazing job capturing the deranged psychosis of Victor Zsasz, one of the most vile lunatics in Batman’s gallery of villains. Hanging with a group of killers that includes such unstable gentleman as the Joker and Killer Croc, Zsasz sociopathic tendency for violence is never to be underestimated.
Once Zsasz bullies every single cop out of the GCPD, giving a depressing view of how absolute Carmine’s grip is on Gotham’s lawmen, Zsasz and Gordon have an old school western shootout right in the middle of the police station. Outgunned and bloodied, Gordon stumbles into the a parking lot as he plays a life-or-death game of hide-and-seek. When all hope seems lost, his savior comes in the form of a screaming Cadillac as Allen and Montoya pull Gordon in the car and speed away. With his query escaping, Zsasz turns his gaze to an unfortunate cop, executes her, and etches a knife wound into his forearm, Zsasz’s traditional M.O. of memorializing his victims.
This entire sequence from start to finish may be the best shot and most exciting scene ever in Gotham. Carrigan’s Zsasz is such an unpredictable loose cannon that he’s tons of fun to watch on screen, and the whole conflict of the show, primarily Gordon versus Gotham, finally plays out viscerally. The fact that characters were able to walk into a police station and attempt to murder one of its officers with absolutely no consequences shows more than ever before how terribly backward Gotham really is. It begins to make sense why someday a man in a bat cowl might try to upset this crooked status quo.
Meanwhile, Mooney visits Salvatore Maroni and subtly demands that he turn over the “scaly faced bitch” known as the Penguin. Despite Jada Pinkett-Smith’s chronic overacting, the scene was pretty enjoyable, to see the sidekick who was once only fit to hold her umbrella now upset the balance of power. Talk of respect and name-calling is tossed back and forth and Mooney eventually leaves empty-handed while Salvatore head henchman, Frankie Carbone, shoots Cobblepot looks of distrust. This culminates in Carbone’s double cross when he tries to kill the Penguin a few scenes later after robbing a bunch of or rival gangsters. With the Penguin always being a step ahead, he planned for such a backstabbing moment. He then delivers one of the best monologues in the entire show thus far:
“What drives you? What’s your passion? When you know what a man loves, you know what can kill him… for you it’s money. You love money. More than power, respect. You’re a skinflint Mr. Carbone, a cheapskate. Consequently, you don’t pay your people enough. It is a sad fact, that there is no loyalty among thieves…. that’s your problem. Your greatest passion becomes your greatest weakness.”
And in goes the knife.
NEXT: When evil wins
Gordon—stitched up and still possessed with the idea of arresting Gotham’s most powerful—enters a one-man army. He’s has reached his limit. Sick of being implicated in a murder plot, sick of the rampant corruption, and sick of leaving Gotham in the hands of crooks, Gordon is prepared to risk it all. There’s an unspoken understanding that if he goes through with this alone, he’s a dead man. However, Harvey Bullock soon shows up at Gordon’s place, thinking the most obvious hiding spot would be the last place anyone would look.
Bullock is drunk, like a guy living his last night on Earth. Despite his earlier protests, he has already decided to join Gordon’s little crusade, even if it is detrimental to his life expectancy. So like a condemned man, he’s simply living it up one last time.
In the morning, marching down Gotham’s streets armed with assault rifles, Gordon and Bullock first put the cuffs on the Mayor. Using him as kind of hostage, the duo slip past Falcone’s security and catch Gotham’s deadliest mob boss in his study. Unfortunately his plan has one vital flaw (much like this show), and that’s Barbara. With the intelligence of a love-addled teen, Barbara actually returned to the city to plead for Gordon’s life. Unwilling to take the chance that Barbara might be harmed, Gordon surrenders to Falcone and sheepishly leaves with Barbara and Bullock in tow. Falcone and Gordon considered Barbara’s actions as brave and loving, but she ultimately puts Gordon in much more harm by subjecting him to Falcone’s mercy, which history would suggest is near nonexistent. Stupid maybe, but brave and loving is a stretch.
In typical crime noir fashion, the audience learns that the Penguin has been an informant for Falcone since the very beginning—a triple cross! However, the episode ends with Carmine huddled under the Penguin’s umbrella and you can’t help but remember Cobblepot’s earlier soliloquy: “There is no loyalty among thieves.”
“Penguin’s Umbrella” is in some ways pretty frustrating because it shows how great this show can really be. Next week we will know if Gotham returns to its lukewarm plot lines and character development or if this episode serves as the beginning of something better.