Gotham episode 7 review: Penguin’s Umbrella

Ben McKenzie's Jim Gordon was back at centre stage in this week's revelation and character development-packed episode of Gotham...

1.7 Penguin’s Umbrella

This review contains spoilers

Holy nunnery roadblock, Batman! This week’s Gotham episode was quite possibly the show’s equivalent to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s HYDRA revelation – there were twists, surprise changes of allegiance and real danger for the core cast. In short, we loved it.

In long, there were plenty of elements to enjoy this week. The revelation that Jim chose to save Oswald in the pilot episode finally became common knowledge to the entire cast in Penguin’s Umbrella, which proved to be a welcome catalyst for an action-packed hour of telly. Although Gotham sometimes feels like it lacks direction, this week it certainly found its focus.

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For starters, we had a shockingly effective return for Fish Mooney, with an added rage boiling in her belly at the news of Oswald being alive. The now-extra-motivated Fish, after being absent last week with nothing to do, really benefitted from the twist. We aren’t even being irritated by Smith’s acting at this point, which is either us softening up or her upping her game.

Benefitting the most, though, performance-wise, was undoubtedly Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon. This week we felt that he was indisputably at centre stage, having spent a few past episodes feeling a little incidental to the plot. From begging Bullock “don’t kill me, help me” to confronting Falcone head-on, via arresting the mayor of Gotham, getting shot twice and emotionally encouraging Barbara to leave town – McKenzie truly shone this week, adeptly flitting between rage, sorrow and fear-of-death as if he’d been playing the character for years.

Donal Logue’s Bullock, as well, rose to the challenge of joining Jim’s crusade remarkably well. Although his scene with ‘the Duchess’ was a little disconcerting, the rest of his material was top notch. Transitioning from in-fighting fisticuffs at the start to heavy artillery-ing up with Jim towards the end was a sound nutshell-version of Bullock’s character development so far this season. Continuing to disprove our initial doubts about the ‘generic corrupt cop’ we pegged him as to start with, Logue continues to impress in the role.

It wasn’t just the big character development stuff either- there were some neat moments for the supporting players too. Seeing Sean Pertwee’s Alfred singlehandedly terrify a Major Crimes Unit detective was a great flash of his character’s potential, while Bruce’s impromptu hug with the presumed-doomed Jim was a genuine high emotion moment, for this writer at least. Speaking of Major Crimes, we’re still not particularly enthralled by these particularly one-dimensional characters, but are willing to let it slide in all the thrills of this week.

Showrunner Bruno Heller took scripting duties for this one, and his firmer handle on the characters really showed – save for Major Crimes and Barbara (who we still find a little flat), everyone’s arcs were pushed forward this week, and the show’s huge cast is generally beginning to display more confidence.

Heller’s script had plenty of action too – including shoot-outs, stabbings and the aforementioned nun roadblock. New-to-Gotham director Rob Bailey handled this sturdily, if not amazingly. There was a lot to cram in plot-wise, so it’s forgivable that there wasn’t much room for visual style or directorial flair.

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We were disappointed to see Nikolai go, as he had intrigued us in his previous appearance, but his demise should hopefully spur Fish into some darker territory. Victor Zsasz, introduced with a decent creepy turn from Anthony Carrigan, should supply a suitable replacement in Falcone’s ranks though, as we’d wager his role will increase at the season rolls on. He’s not yet the show’s most exciting villain, but he’s certainly got potential (and a ridiculous ringtone).

Of course, we’re missing the elephant in the room here, or rather, the Penguin in the room. Or the golden goose in the room, depending who you’re talking to. With audiences speculating since the start that Oswald would rise to the top of Gotham City’s intricate mobster framework come the end of the season, it now seems he’s been playing both sides and plotting away to himself since the start.

As ever, Robin Lord Taylor was excellent this week, again proving his range by showcasing his sincere apology face, pure evil ally-murdering abilities and some questionable goose-impersonation skills. To avoid ranting on about him again, we’ll just say that his performance remains the stand-out highlight of the series.

What’s more interesting this week is wondering where Oswald is going with all this. He now has both of the mob bosses under his thumb/flipper – both the chillingly intimidating Maroni and the forgiving-older-relative-alike Falcone will seemingly go to great lengths to keep him alive.

Some questions on our mind: which side is he really on, or is he trying to dismantle both empires from the inside? Why is he so keen to keep Jim alive (other than plot convenience)? And what on earth is his end game? Regardless of how long those answers take, we look forward to finding out.

One final thought: was anyone else expecting to see Jim and Harvey on horseback, chewing tooth-picks and wearing aviators when they started arresting everyone and carrying massive guns around? Taking down the mob would certainly incur a considerable amount of paperwork.

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