Gotham may have just slipped us the best episode of the season, and it unsurprisingly focused mostly on the great manipulator, Oswald Cobblepot. “Penguin’s Umbrella” was full of plot movement, twists, revelations, and some strong character building. We got so see who people really were, who they could be and how they should react. All anchored by a damn good performance from Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin. It’s weird to have an episode showing Gordon double-down as the paragon of hope for the city, and that not be the biggest thing to happen, but here we are, and Gordon may be a man alone (for the most part) and his situation seems the most safe.
This episode also saw the GCPD at a bit of an impasse. I don’t think i’m alone when I say that Gotham as a whole barely even needs cops, the way it’s depicted, so having Victor Zsasz walk into the department and start making demands was kind of embarrassing. Furthermore, being made to hand over one of their own out of fear of the mob, yeah GCPD had to have a collective “who are we” moment. Not all of them were ready to fall on the sword, but it did split things enough that Gordon now has some allies.
Allies he could use to go around and make very public arrests with. Nothing quite says “I got nothing left to lose” like trying to aresst the mayor and Falcone. He knew it wasn’t going to work, and while it was a strong gesture, I think it was used as a way to squeeze Young Bruce and Alfred into the episode, which isn’t needed. Gotham has been at its “best” when the story doesn’t try to squeeze every character into it. Yes, Bruce delcaring to be treated like an adult, but then having an honest and emotional childlike reaction. I guess we can take solace in knowing that Montoya and Allen working with Bruce and Alfred on the Wayne murders will give them something to do now that they aren’t investigating Gordon, but still. It could have been saved.
Another thing I could have done without is Barbara making the cliche mistake of going to Falcone to plead for Gordon’s life. OF COURSE she was used as a baragaining chip, and took all of the wind out of Gordon’s sails. And he needed that wind, it was the only thing keeping the drunken Bullock motivated. He was pretty much ready to give up after that. No more gusto to go with his machine guns.
Now lets get to the meat and potatoes of “Penguin’s Umbrella” which was Cobblepot making moves. It turns out the writers had a plan for OC, and finding out that he was really Falcone’s snitch this whole time was a cool twist. It made up for the more cliche things that took place earlier in the episode, and also pointed out that even the most thought out plans carried with them considerable risk. As shown in the flashback, Cobblepot was banking on his ability to read people would pay off on two fronts; one by not making Facone look bad in letting him live, and that Gordon was a righteous as he came off. A man not compromised by the broken system. He was taking a huge risk on both counts. And just like Falcone pointed out, things surprisingly went just as Cobblepot planned. Whether it was Maroni looking at Nikolai’s death as a loss, or giving up the land that was deemed “worthless”, it was all a calculated game.
“Penguin’s Umbrella” was a well thought out and deliberate episode that executed on most fronts. From character reactions, to actions scenes, to moments of levity (Zsasz’s ringtone being Funkytown was awesome). Hopefully they can continue in this direction for future installments, because Gotham is getting into the habit of showing us what the show could be, and we’re going to have expectations that it stays that way.