TV Review | Gotham 1.07 ‘Penguin’s Umbrella’

1.07 zsaszOriginal UK Air Date: 24th November 2014

**Spoilers Contained Below**

This Week on Gotham…

Realising that the end may be nigh, Gordon hurriedly puts Barbara on a bus out of town. Falcone sends Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) to Gotham PD to pick him up ‘for questioning’, which leads to a shoot out. Gordon is shot, but saved by the Major Crimes team. Once recovered, Gordon (with Bullock, who has a change or heart/perspective) audaciously attempt to arrest both the Mayor and Falcone. Unbeknownst to Gordon, Barbara is being held captive by Zsasz after returning to Gotham to plead for his life. In the end, it is revealed that Cobblepot asked for Gordon to be the one to take him out (knowing he had a chance at convincing him to not kill him) in return for his spying on Maroni.

Elsewhere…

While seemingly working for Maroni, Cobblepot engineers a raid/hit on Nikolai, that also results in Carbone’s death.

The Verdict…

In short, Gotham knocks it out of the park for the second week running.

Ben McKenzie finally steps up, producing his most varied performance to date, and actually comes across like the leading man of the show. Then there’s that finale, where the depth of Cobblepot’s machinations are revealed.

That being said, the episode is not devoid of a gripe worthy moment or two.

The main issue revolves around Barbara. Whilst Erin Richards has slowly improved in the role, she just isn’t written very well. Despite agreeing with Gordon to get out of town, she comes back anyway and (off screen) gets kidnapped and held hostage by Zsasz. I can just about let slide the ‘returning to town’ part, as it has been made quite clear that she wants Jim and herself to handle things together. However, the idea that she’d go directly to the crime boss that’s after him to plead his case? It doesn’t make a whole heap of sense, other than to set up the tense scene in Falcone’s living room later on.

There is also the scene where Zsasz first goes to pick up Gordon at the station. I get the impression him being able to clear the station of all the cops on Falcone’s word alone is meant to send a powerful message that the crime lords run the town. However, the execution just made the police (bar Gordon) look like cowards.

While indirectly involved in these quibbles, Anthony Carrigan’s performance as Zsasz should be held wholly separate from them – he is very good in the few scenes he has, and hopefully will be kept around for the long term.

It was a week of strong performances. Until now, Ben McKenzie had been solid (if a little two dimensional) as protagonist Jim Gordon. Thankfully, Penguin’s Umbrella allowed him to display a much fuller, rounded performance than previously. Rage, sorrow, fear, desperation, and a bit of balls out cockiness were on display and he, and the show, were better for it.

Though the u-turn was rather quick and drastic when compared to how last week ended, it was great to see Bullock on the same page as Gordon, ready to take down some bad guys come-what-may. Donal Logue has been consistently good so far, and continues this streak.

Other highlights of the episode include Major Crimes actually being useful (saving Gordon from Zsasz), Alfred scaring the crap out of Major Crimes, and Fish’s return being handled quite well (in probably Jada Pinkett-Smith’s best performance to date). And then there’s Cobblepot.

Initially part of the B-story in this week’s episode, Robin Lord Taylor is once again excellent as our once and future Penguin. Initially, he heads a team for Maroni that launches a surprise attack on one of Nikoali’s hideouts, killing him in the process. All well and good for Maroni. What follows is a great little scene where Carbone attempts to use the raid as a cover up for taking out Cobblepot, only for the latter to reveal that he bought out Carbone’s muscle. Carbone is the one that ends up biting the dust, and Penguin’s machinations remain hidden.

One of the great aspects of this episode was how well the b-storyline interworks the the main plot. At the conclusion, we discover the Cobblepot is the one behind Falcone letting Gordon live. We also discover, via flashback, that Cobblepot did a deal with Falcone around the events of episode one – if Falcone asks Gordon to be the one to kill him (giving Penguin a chance to talk him out of it), he’ll turn snitch for Falcone against Maroni. This scene so beautifully illustrates just how good of a hand Cobblepot has played in the series to date. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up playing the two factions off against each other further, before sweeping to power in the aftermath of the bloodbath.

Penguin’s Umbrella was an all around great episode, with some strong narrative that is (for the most part) excellently executed. If a few minor quibbles were cleared up, this could have had a full five out of five score. As it is…

4.5/5

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