‘Gotham’ Review: “Penguin’s Umbrella”
FOX’s ‘Gotham’ detects its seventh installment in “Penguin's Umbrella,” as the exposure of Jim's lie about killing Penguin brings killers and criminal chaos out of the woodwork, while Carmine Falcone reveals an unforeseen angle of conspiracy to his own plans.
Last week's ‘Gotham' installment "Spirit of the Goat" saw a killer targeting first-borns, reminding Bullock of a similar case from the past, while Gordon and Barbara dealt with the ramifications of Penguin's survival, so how does FOX’s latest episode of Bat-prequel drama shine a light on the city's villainous beginnings?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Gotham’ episode 7, “Penguin's Umbrella”!
‘Gotham’ is a continually maddening show, and not solely by virtue of the fact that its content chronicles an entire city's descent into madness. Where earlier today we gained further confirmation the Batman prequel drama intends to succumb to its worst instincts in highlighting yet another pint-size portrayal of a future villain (seriously, has anyone heard from Ivy Pepper?), mere hours later “Penguin’s Umbrella” unfurls as the show’s most on-point and exciting episode to date. There’s a palpable sense of energy throughout, whether by the increased focus on musical cues and camera work, or by the many conflicts of the first six episodes exploding off the page, and I’m left to wonder why the series has such difficulty keeping a consistent tone. It’s still messy here and there of course, but tonight’s hour afforded a thoroughly clean sweep of its major conflicts, positioning ‘Gotham’ in a much better place going forward.
The series plays to its strengths with “Penguin’s Umbrella,” not necessarily in alluding to future characters or examining any particular aspect of Batman psychology, but rather in allowing its established characters to live and breathe in their own messes, finally providing a bit of catharsis and accountability. Gordon is finally brought to task for his unanimously-terrible decision to spare Oswald Cobblepot’s life, and in doing so strives to set right as much as he can before an assured suicide mission to bring down either Carmine Falcone, or the corrupt Mayor Aubrey James.
So too does Cobblepot have to face the implications of his survival, and the looming Falcone-Maroni mob war it looks to create, something all the more complicated by Fish’s scheming plans for revenge. Heck, even Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya get a chance to lay their cards on the table with Jim, shortly before he and Bullock make good on their own, cementing a circle of allies that had sorely been lacking among the earlier GCPD stories.
“Penguin’s Umbrella” made an especially strong showing for its titular character, yes, but also in John Doman’s Carmine Falcone, who up to now hasn’t been given much opportunity to flesh out his character’s personality, at least in the way Tom Wilkinson managed to convey a great deal of the mobster’s specific menace with relatively little ‘Batman Begins’ screen time. Here, Falcone plays into the doddering old man stereotypes his rivals project, leniently allowing both Cobblepot and Gordon’s survival (when he’s not busy playing with chickens), only to unfurl that the entire plot has been within his command from the start. Not only that, but the level-headed manner with which he defuses tension with Maroni and keeps Fish as the architect of her own failed coup lends a strong sense of collected menace to the character, even if he underestimates the use of an unstable element like the Penguin.
It’s certainly been said time and again that Robin Taylor does great work as Oswald Cobblepot, regardless of the series’ structural issues at large, and it definitely bears mentioning that “Penguin’s Umbrella” gave the character a full range of perversions to play as well, equal parts cruel, crazy and capricious. It seems like something of a cheat to have Penguin’s machinations laid out in inordinate detail before Gordon ever walked him to the edge of that pier, but Taylor’s unhinged portrayal remains a series highlight, one which makes even the more questionable plot turns a tad easier to swallow.
Tonight’s hour also arranged some pretty strong set pieces, as one of our first fully-formed Bat-villains makes a grand entrance to the Gotham City Police Department, engaging Gordon in an all-points shooutout that kept a strong sense of tension, even clipping its lead a few times before Montoya and Allen arrived with a surprising save. Granted, a character like Victor Zsasz aims relatively low with regard to outlandish villainy, but it’s an important distinction between having someone like Anthony Carrigan* bringing strong personality to the role, and Jada Pinkett Smith’s presumption that Fish Mooney’s personality is the character.
*Yep, that was also Carrigan guesting on 'The Flash' two weeks ago as the gaseous Kyle Nimbus, who similarly survived his encounter with the show's main hero. All the same, let rampant speculation of a connected universe continue unimpeded!
Somewhat less effective through the hour was Gordon and Bullock’s brazen raid on the Falcone compound, though however admittedly ill-conceived as their plan may have been, it was nice to see the two settling their differences and committing to the endgame, if only to strengthen their partnership moving forward. It’s a damn sight better than what the narrative arranged for Barbara this week, hitting a fine trifecta of threatening her with rape, literally putting her on a bus, and yet somehow still endangering both her life and Jim’s big plan by the end, all because she loved Jim too much to stay away for good.
There’s a running theme throughout “Penguin’s Umbrella" that “love conquers all,” whether stated outright by Penguin or referenced in Maroni’s amiable resolution to the mob war, but ‘Gotham’ seems to make the mistake of presuming that “love” provides enough characterization for Barbara as a whole. It’s one thing to shoehorn Bruce into the story once more with a “final” heart-to-heart of sorts with Gordon, but holy hell, do the writers need to find something of agency for Barbara to do in the series.
Overall, “Penguin’s Umbrella” felt like something of a reboot episode for the series, now that all of Gordon and Cobblepot’s deceptions have been thrust out into the open, and the major mob and precinct dynamics seem largely to have returned to the status quo. There’s still the murder of the Waynes to solve, and whatever next maneuver Fish concocts in her war against Penguin and Falcone, but it was nice to see tonight’s hour bringing such strong catharsis across the board, along with a few especially electric action scenes. There were of course more than a few LOL moments we’ll look back on tomorrow, but “Penguin’s Umbrella” clearly had a lot of love and planning around its source material.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- "I don't know chickens." - actual quote from a human character.
- Keep in mind, this same episode also chained a bunch of nuns together under a bridge, and featured Penguin explaining to Maroni what sound a goose makes.
- Silly though it seemed, I very much enjoyed Alfred getting the better of Crispus Allen so easily.
- So, we're assuming Penguin has some kind of creepy fixation/affection for Gordon, right?
Well, what say you? Did ‘Gotham’’s seventh episode “Penguin's Umbrella” help set the stage any further for Batman's beginning? How do you think the prequel drama fared in its latest attempt at Batman lore? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Gotham' episode 8, "The Mask" on FOX!