Gotham Season 1, Episode 7: “Penguin’s Umbrella”
Written by Bruno Heller
Directed by Rob Bailey
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX
This debut season of Gotham has had its ups and downs as the series struggled to find the right balance between theatrical performances and gritty realism. The best stability so far has been struck in episode six, “The Spirit of the Goat”, a character centric episode. The series finds that balance again with this week’s episode, “Penguin’s Umbrella,” a central serialized episode that brings all of the underlying built up tensions of the past few episodes to the surface. The storm of change has started brewing in Gotham City, causing significant destruction all around. Only those who have found themselves under the protection of the Penguin’s umbrella are able to survive it.
Throughout the course of this episode, there are great action sequences, fun character moments, and significant revelations that lead to an advancement of the season’s plot. The episode has no real case of the week, much like episode five, “Arkham,” which featured rising tensions between mob bosses vying for property. This episode is much improved from that episode, in that it has a much better freelance villain, who has a sinister presence stem from a gritty standpoint, rather than a theatrical one. It also helps that hired hit man, Victor Zsasz, is a known villain from the Batman mythology, which surely gives him more credibility than a goofy eye gouging gadget owner.
The episode is fast paced, action packed, and game changing, setting up a new status quo in the battle for Gotham City. Gordon has found himself with solidified allies and has proven his integrity in the eyes of the Gotham City Police Department. Whether this means the GCPD will follow Gordon’s example is yet to be seen, but at least with this episode we have learned that the apathy of the police department is not their preferred state of being. This shows promise that Gordon can effect change in the system, especially if he continues to fight against it, joined by Crispus Allen, Renee Montoya, and Harvey Bullock, who now appears to be on his side.
In “Penguin’s Umbrella” we learn some very important things about Oswald Cobblepot’s plan that may change how we see the course of the past episodes. Oswald struck a deal with Carmine Falcone in the pilot that set everything in motion to where it is now. Oswald had faith that Jim Gordon was a good person who would not kill him, which brings new context to the plea he gave to Gordon. Now the question still remains, was he truly pleading to Gordon to spare his life so they could work together to save Gotham City, or is appearing desperate just his way of worming into people’s trust? The biggest surprise of the episode is the reveal that Falcone did not willingly spare Gordon in this episode, but Oswald. It’s clear that Oswald has plans for Gordon, but now what does it mean for Falcone’s speeches to Gordon about rules and the balance of power within the system by which Gotham City runs?
Hopefully, Falcone does have a plan for Gordon outside of protecting him as a favor for Oswald, as it would be disappointing if Falcone turned out to be only just another manipulated power figure in Oswald’s plan.
The portrayal of Falcone has been remarkable from John Doman, who has really brought life and weight to the character. He always has a great presence and compelling interactions with Fish Mooney. It’s so interesting to see him play his steely side against Oswald in flashbacks, and then in the present being warm to him, calling him “My Friend.” Robin Lord Taylor continues to shine as Oswald in this series, as there are so many facets to the character than he gets to display, from conniving to unassuming to malicious. Taylor sells it each time, and the highlight performance in this episode is in the scene where he kills Frankie Carbone (Danny Mastrogiorgio), which plays like a scene from a Greek tragedy. It’s an incredible scene and performance.
Jim Gordon has been trying to set an example for the Gotham City Police Department since the beginning, but has been marred down by having allegedly killed Oswald. This lie that he’s kept may have put him off of Falcone’s radar, but has put him under suspicious of the Gotham Major Crimes Unit, and put him at odds with his fiancée. Having the secret out puts Gordon in better standing with both the MCU and Barbara, but on the outs with Harvey Bullock, who works for Falcone to some degree. Now it’s not a hundred percent sure that Bullock is actually working with Gordon, as he may still be working for Falcone as a spy, but after last week’s episode, it’s more believable that Bullock would make that leap from scoundrel to ally.
This episode is a good example of Ben McKenzie’s performance as Jim Gordon, as it features some really great scenes where he shines. His showdown with Victor Zsasz is truly intense, and McKenzie sells it well. Another fine scene is when McKenzie plays against Zabryna Guevara, who portrays Sarah Essen, the police department Captain, as they discuss the unlikely outcome of successfully prosecuting Carmine Falcone.
The Case File: Carmine Falcone’s crime syndicate
This week’s case is neatly integrated into the ongoing plot of Gordon versus Gotham’s corruption, by having Gordon painted to a corner with no means to get out on his own. It’s an interesting development, as Gordon goes from believing he’s not alone in taking on the mission to clean up Gotham City, to realizing he is on his own when the GCPD clears out of the station to have a showdown with Victor Zsasz, who is charismatically and menacingly portrayed by Anthony Carrigan. One of the high-points of the episode is when the tide turns in Gordon’s favor, as he has been shot and pinned down by Zsasz and his crew, only to be saved at the last minute by Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya. This moment works well because of the isolation that was created earlier with the GCPD abandoning him. As it turns out, Gordon does have allies, and they are in the Gotham MCU.
Another interesting development in this episode is the outcome of the war between Falcone and Maroni; they both have lost men on the battlefield and decide to come into an agreement to end the fighting. As it appeared Maroni was giving up undesirable property to Falcone, but as we learn at episode’s end that Cobblepot was, in fact, working with Falcone, therefore making India Hill, a waste dump, a good commodity for him. The season is really building up the Arkham district storyline more and more, and it has been a continually rewarding plot point that will most likely be a key factor to future development in the series mythology.
This episode marks the return of showrunner Bruno Heller to the writing credit, and it’s a well written episode that feels like a direct continuation from the second episode, where this episode closes up those arcs. The action of the episode is very well directed by Rob Bailey, who knows how to shoot a scene to maximum dramatic effect, which brings out good performances by the cast. “Penguin’s Umbrella” has been a great follow up to last week’s character centric episode by building momentum, with a quicker paced, action filled episode that shows signs of promise for what is to come ahead.
- That’s a nice handsome bird, huh!? –Carmine Falcone, There has to be something up with his interest in livestock chickens.
- One was hoping that Victor Zsasz, during the Police Station scene, would call out for Gordon “to come out and play” like in The Warriors, but his shouting “Everybody Out — Pleease!!” was just as good.
- Look at Sean Pertwee as Alfred going all commando warfare on Crispus Allen, and then when the coast was clear, shaking his hand. It is a great way of showing off the dichotomy of his soldier skills and his proper mannerisms. “Sorry, Mate. Can’t be too careful.”- Alfred Pennyworth
- “Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you.” Bullock to Gordon
- Zsasz has killed 28 people so far, as reported by his razor made cuts on his arms.
- Zsasz’s ringtone is ‘Funkytown’ by Lipps, inc.?! Really?!
- Bruce hugs Jim Gordon in fear of losing another father figure. Poor Alfred, again being slighted as simply a butler.