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Gotham – “Penguin’s Umbrella” Recap and Review
As violence between Maroni and Falcone continues to escalate, Penguin reveals a new component of his manipulative strategy, forcing Gordon to deal with the consequences of his decision to spare Penguin’s life.
Last week’s excellent episode left us with an exciting cliffhanger – Oswald Cobblepot reveals himself at the police station just as Gordon and Bullock are getting arrested for his murder. As the payoff episode to the longest running plot thread of the series, “Penguin’s Umbrella” falls a bit short in the end, but still gives us some supremely fun moments – including our first encounter with Batman villain Victor Zsasz. Gordon is forced to take some rather extreme measures in an attempt to save his skin, allegiances are tested, betrayals revealed and Carmine Falcone gets to come out as one of the smartest, most socially and business savvy people in Gotham, as he should be.
We begin with Penguin looking decidedly more penguin-y: he’s got his own mini-entourage to go along with his limp and over-sized shoes. Fish Mooney is less than enthused at the sudden news that he’s alive, and orders her right-hand man Butch Gilzean to bring her Jim Gordon.
Our hero, meanwhile, is entering full blown panic mode. I’m disappointed that we don’t pick up directly after the final moments in the previous episode as it was set up to give us a satisfyingly dramatic scene, but it also would’ve necessitated a lot of info dumping which we already knew. Gordon is clearing out his locker and giving Barbara the old ‘pack your bags and get out of town’ phone call when Bullock arrives with a sucker punch and holds Gordon at gun point. Jim lying about killing Oswald also puts Bullock in rather hot water with the mob, and he’s understandably furious with Gordon.
Of course it’s been proven that Bullock can rarely handle himself in a fight and Gordon quickly overpowers him. Gordon wants help but Bullock wants nothing to do with him – which in a way is helping as just a few seconds ago he was half-heartedly prepared to murder Gordon.
Fish’s goons are quick, and have already arrived at Gordon’s place to taunt Barbara before he arrives. She finally hears the truth of the matter from Gilzean and just when he’s putting on his slimiest mobster routine Jim arrives to diffuse the situation. Our boy scout is cool and calm, up until they threaten him and Barbara – then he shoots one in the leg and pistol whips Gilzean. No more Mr. Nice Guy! We’re finally seeing Jim Gordon get pushed to his limits and it’s refreshing to see that he reacts with some very violent impulses.
His first task is to send Barabara away, because she exists solely as a motivator and weakness for him. I’m continually disappointed in Gotham’s treatment of her, not that comic books have the best track record with women characters but she really has nothing to do but sit at home and worry about him. Don’t worry, she’ll be damsel’d later in the episode as well.
“You want to start a war over the guy who carried your umbrella?” We’re treated to another villain meeting of Carmine Falcone and his underlings, and once again Falcone is the measured voice of reason while Fish and Nikolai want to go to the mattresses. The reason crime rarely pays is that you never get the Don Falcones – the smart, reasonable mobsters that adhere to the system in place and maintain order at all times. To Falcone everything is a business decision, and he’d rather just talk to Maroni than wage war in the streets. Fish and her secret lover Nikolai (who seriously looks like Russian Antonio Banderas) have other plans, including using such a war to destroy both Maroni and Falcone. Fish, to her credit, suspects that Falcone knows more than he lets on as he sends what is no doubt one of the most powerful tools in his box – Victor Zsasz.
Victor (Anthony Carrigan) boldly strides into the GCPD just as Gordon is revealing his desperate plan to Captain Essen – arrest the Mayor and Falcone on conspiracy and “perversion to justice.” Essen is one of the few people willing to talk to Jim and tell him he’s a complete lunatic, and that no one in the police department or justice department will help him. To Gotham’s credit I have enjoyed the new women characters, namely Essen and Fish. Essen’s role doesn’t give her a whole lot to do but she’s fantastic in all her scenes with Gordon and/or Bullock.
Victor quickly steals the scene as he calmly walks onto a desk and loudly asks for Jim Gordon. The dialogue exchange here is absolutely fantastic as Gordon finds his usual calm but intimidating demeanor challenged by Victor’s supreme confidence. Jim refuses to go along quietly with Victor. “There are fifty cops in here. Try something.” Victor doesn’t miss a beat, “Everybody out,” he tells a room full of cops, “Please!” Anthony Carrigan portrays young Victor as a bubbling cauldron of built-up rage suppressed by his own confidence in his abilities and station, and it’s just perfect.
An exciting firefight breaks out in the now empty police building between Gordon, Victor and his two leather-clad femme fatales that were strange but appropriately comic book-y. The action was quick and brutal and I enjoyed that our hero actually gets shot and wounded multiple times, including a nasty one as he runs away in the parking garage. A car with the last people he expects pulls up to rescue him. The formerly antagonistic MCU duo of Montoya and Allen rescue Gordon and bring him to their doctor at the University. Victor ends the scene by needlessly murdering a random cop that was wounded in the fire fight, and he marks a new scar on his forearm – his 28th kill.
While Fish still wants to go to war, she obeys Falcone and pays a visit to Maroni and Penguin. We’re treated to a delicious little scene as Fish talks to Penguin for the first time since the pilot (the look she gives Maroni when he claims she won’t bite is priceless). Talks don’t go well and Fish gets to bodily threaten Penguin a bit while declaring that the mob war is officially on. Gilzean responds by kidnapping a bunch of nuns and using them in a rather inventive way to hijack a truck carrying weapons for Maroni and he gets to show off his comedic chops again as he asks the drivers whether they want a bullet or a beating.
With Gordon all patched up and seemingly given Wolverine’s healing factor (seriously, he was shot twice), Montoya and Allen take him to Wayne Manor where we’re given a rather strange scene where Gordon feels obligated to tell Bruce everything and officially appoint Montoya and Allen as his successors in the Wayne murder case. It’s a little pointless and over-dramatic as Bruce hugs Gordon, and feels like they just didn’t have anything for Bruce Wayne this episode but were obligated to use him in some way. To date we have not had an episode without our would-be Batman, though “Penguin’s Umbrella” contains only the one brief scene.
This time it’s Maroni’s turn to attack, and Penguin leads them to a guns-blazing assault on a warehouse. Everything goes perfectly according to Oswald’s plan, even Maroni’s right-hand man Frankie’s desire to kill Oswald and make it look like an accident. Our budding criminal mastermind is already two steps ahead of him, however, having paid off the rest of the henchmen considerably more than Frankie was willing to share. “When you know what a man loves, you know what can kill him.” Penguin knows Frankie’s weakness was being too greedy, and he murders the man himself with a knife. Penguin gets a lot of great lines in this scene as he kisses Frankie goodbye. Robin Lord Taylor has easily turned his portrayal of a younger, ambitious Penguin into one of my new favorite comic villains.
With Frankie and Nikolai dead (Niko was in the warehouse), Maroni and Falcone come together to broker peace. Once again Falcone is the voice of reason, trusting in the system and business to be better than any petty wars or in-fighting. We get some nicely tense glances between Fish and Penguin, now firmly on opposite sides of the bargaining table. Falcone agrees to let Maroni keep Penguin but he wants something in return. Penguin is apparently not quite worth a warehouse on the river, so he suggests “Indian Hill,” a toxic waste dump on top of an Indian burial ground. Sounds great!
There’s still the little problem of Jim Gordon, but help arrives just before his suicidal mission in the form of a drunken Harvey Bullock with a woman on his arm, which I imagine to Bullock is just another day. Bullock has come back around and agrees to help Gordon – after he “takes care of some business.” Marco!
Bullock and Gordon walk the streets in broad daylight carrying assault rifles in a rather awesome shot that looks right out of a comic book panel. Gordon jumps into the backseat of a taxi with Mayor James, and Bullock is the driver. One down one to go, though Falcone will prove a bit trickier. Our cops use the Mayor to get them into Falcone’s mansion (which was way too easy, they don’t check the car?) and finally come face to face with Falcone for the first time since the pilot.
Gordon is resolute in his mission, even when Falcone easily claims that they wouldn’t make it past the end of the street. A lovely scene plays out with Falcone in complete control, as he always is. Turns out Barbara came back to Gotham and tried to plead Gordon’s case to Falcone, which only gets her captured by Zsasz and used as a bargaining chip for Falcone. “Prove that you have her,” Gordon says. “I could, but I won’t,” replies Falcone in that wonderfully confident manner, “I want you to believe me.”
Gordon does, and Falcone repeats much of what he explained to Jim in the pilot episode about the system in place. “The real enemy, is anarchy.” Falcone lets them go and Barbara and Jim are reunited. The episode ends with Penguin paying a visit to Falcone and – shocker – he’s been working for Falcone all along. Now your mileage may vary, but I found this to be an extremely heavy-handed and obvious twist that you could see a mile away. Clearly Penguin knows who’s top dog and it’s in his best interest to use his best ability – that of a snitch, to the highest bidder. Gotham is very proud of its twist and even shows us a flashback scene that apparently took place during the events of the pilot episode, as Oswald lays out his entire plans to Falcone. It’s not a bad twist or that bad of an ending but the dramatic reveal that Penguin is the snitch of all snitches left an unfortunate aftertaste in my mouth.
Victor Zsasz may be the big name of the episode but Don Falcone is by far the central star. John Doman gets a ton of screen time here and he’s absolutely wonderful in every scene as the consummate professional and endlessly charismatic mob boss. Gotham’s willingness to take the focus away from Jim and onto Penguin, Falcone and Maroni is absolutely what needed to happen in this episode and it worked great. Zsasz was really only used in the one action sequence but it was one of Gotham’s best and I loved Anthony Carrigan’s performance.
Aside from the rather neat way everything was tied up in the end, “Penguin’s Umbrella,” was another fantastic episode and a great payoff to series long plot-threads. Our heroes get off a little too easy and the stakes never feel as high as Gordon believes them to be, mainly because we the audience are more familiar with Falcone and his measured tactics. The proud way Gotham revealed Penguin’s true allegiance at the end (replete with a lengthy flashback) also irked me, but it wasn’t enough to prevent this episode from being another of Gotham’s strongest.
Did You Notice?
- Victor Zsasz is the highest profile Batman villain we’ve been introduced to since the pilot. Like most villains he’s a deranged serial killer, and his Modus Operandi is to carve a scar on his arm for each person he’s killed. By the time Batman tangles with him, his entire body is covered in scars.
- The truck that Gilzean steals literally has Maroni written in big letters all over it. “How did they find out!?” Seriously?
- This may be Gotham’s funniest episode. Between Penguin’s ‘honk honk,’ and Gilzean’s perfect comedic timing, our villains are proving enjoyably humorous. Even Bullock’s limited screen time in this episode is full of pure gold.
- Bullock Quote of the Episode – “That’s a hell of a plan. You sit down with a pile of chimpanzees and a bucket of crack and come up with that one?”
- Indian Hill could be an interesting way to explain some of the supernatural stuff involving Arkham Asylum.
- Victor Zsasz’s ringtone is “Funkytown.” I’m not sure why but I laughed out loud.
- Victor has a meaningful look after Falcone explains that the true enemy is anarchy. Mr. Zsasz will eventually be all about anarchy as he kills indiscriminately.