Gotham 1.7 Penguin’s Umbrella AKA Metaphors are for Sissies

By Caleb Gillombardo on

 

Well gang, I did not enjoy this episode. After last week’s incredibly entertaining show, this week’s fell flat.

Unlike other episodes th  at featured a character’s name in the title (we’re looking at you Selina) this show did focus on Penguin and deepened his story. We didn’t get anything about his background or motivation, but his plotting and scheming were revealed. I do enjoy the fact that the show writers are setting Penguin up to be a criminal mastermind by means of clever planning instead of having a fetish for bird art. I just wish the development was slower, with more examples of why he decided to walk down this path.

The primary focus of this episode is on Penguin and how he is settling his position in the Maroni crime family. The third act twist reveals that his drive to improve his standing is because he’s really been working for Falcone all along as a super snitch. In this flashback to the pilot, we see him strike a deal with Falcone. Penguin trades his life for the knowledge that Fish and Niko are scheming to take out Falcone. Penguin also asks Falcone to make Gordon be his executioner, banking on the fact that Gordon will let him live.

Before this is all revealed, though, we see Bullock and Gordon come to blows over Gordon’s actions. We see Gordon getting Barb out of Gotham after a showdown with Fish’s pet thug, Butch. Gordon prepares to stand on his own against the mob families, but is shot by Falcone’s man, Victor Zsasz. Luckily, Montoya and Allen come to his aid, as they no-longer are working the case against him. Gordon fights through the pain and sets off on his rampage, now aided by Bullock who says he wants to be a good guy. There’s also a lot of play between the mob families, and it looks like the war is about to break out in full force. But Falcone and Maroni strike a deal, trading Penguin’s life for land in the Arkham project. Gordon and Bullock attempt to take arrest the Mayor and Falcone, but surrender when it’s revealed that Falcone has Barb captive. But he lets them all live due to Gordon’s demonstration of trust.

A lot happened in this episode. I would go so far to say that it was action-packed. The pacing was great and everything that happened stayed centered around the core plot. So kudos to the episode for that.

If the show was delivering more of this pace and a deeper story about the mob families, I’d be much happier. This is what the show is supposed to be focused on, in my opinion. It’s the bits that force in the elements of the larger Batman Mythos that drag the show down.

Oh, and anything having to do with Fish. The fact that the episode started with a voice over of her screaming in rage in that voice that is utterly devoid of emotion made me want to turn the show off immediately. Every time she tried to act threatening or dramatic, I just groaned in agony.
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She is the primary reason I did not enjoy this episode. I also really did not like the repeated use of mobsters trying to be simultaneously goofy and threatening. We saw this mostly in Butch and Zsasz. I was fine with Butch being Fish’s go-to guy and playing the character of a lap dog thug. But this episode gave him a role that was just distracting. It’s the same with Zsasz. I love his depiction as a skinny guy who can walk into GCPD and clear the room of cops based on simply his reputation. But he pushed that line from a quirky killer to a goofball with a gun.

Humor and violence can be mixed if the role is written properly and it’s given to the right actor. In this case, Butch and Zsasz brought the pace of the show to a halt. Their scenes took me out of the atmosphere that was being developed. If Gotham is supposed to depict how bad the city truly is, I don’t want to see goofballs cracking jokes while they shoot people. Give me a cold, ruthless mobster.

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Also, I’m really tired of characters constantly staring into the camera and grinning like fools. This is the worst with Penguin, but it happens frequently with other characters too. It’s starting to feel like a cheap crutch that the show uses instead of legitimate character development.

Complaints aside, a lot of important things happened in this show, and those bits were handled fairly well.

Most important was Gordon’s move to take a stand and defy the odds. In this episode, he decides to do what he feels is right even if it costs him his life. When the police chief tells him to back down because he’ll be alone, he relies that plenty of people will help him after he demonstrates that it’s possible to take a stand. And later when he’s attempting to arrest Falcone, he says it’s better to be going out in a blaze of glory knowing he’s doing the right thing. While this is not the first time we’ve seen this drive and passion from Gordon, this is the first time we see the hints of who he will become in the mythos. It’s here that he is learning the cost of doing the right thing.

Interestingly, in the scene after he gets shot, he says “I have to stand”. I  probably reading far too much into this line, but that’s an odd choice of words if there’s not a deeper meaning intended. I think this reveals some of Gordon’s background. He is pushing himself to stand for justice at the cost of his own life. I want to know why he has this drive. He does mention his father later as well as his connection to the city. Is his motivation from a sense of loyalty to Gotham itself? Is it a burden laid on him by his father? The pilot introduced Gordon as a war hero. What drives him to be a hero? Why does he have to stand for justice? If the show delivered these answers against the background of a city truly rotting away from crime, it would be an outstanding drama.

And speaking of motivation, what drove Bullock to reunite with Gordon? My love for all things Bullock makes me curious. I think this episode would’ve worked better if we saw the mob drama paired with the motivational elements that drove  Gordon and Bullock to action.
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I really enjoyed Bullock playing Marco Polo with a hooker in Gordon’s apartment and the sickened look Gordon delivered during this event.

Gotham shows so much promise. There are nuggets of an amazing program buried beneath horrible acting and pointless content. I started this article by saying that I didn’t enjoy the episode. I really did like parts of it, but I had to work hard to find those parts. I think that if a show is so caught up with its concept that it fails to deliver quality content, it cannot be successful. I don’t want Gotham to fail, I just want to become a better show.

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