A Penguin Goes HONK! HONK! Gotham: “Penguin’s Umbrella”

This week on Gotham: every lingering plot thread converges!…and yet somehow nothing actually happens, excepting the single most absurd 11th hour plot twist this show has yet seen (which is saying a lot). Oh, and Barbara Kean finally does something for once. Kind of.

SPOILERS to follow, but since nothing of consequence happens, who cares.

This isn’t the first time that Gotham has sapped itself of all dramatic tension by ending an episode in the middle of cliffhanging conversation…and then picking up the next one at some later point in the day, thereby awkwardly and unnecessarily stalling the dramatic confrontation that they had previously cut in the middle of.

So yes, when we left off last week, Gordon was arrested for Cobblepot’s murder, Bullock was arrested for conspiracy, and Cobblepot showed up alive and well. And yet Officers Allen and Montoya, along with Commissioner Essen, just let these three people of interest disperse, so that they might dramatically reconvene at a later time. This gives Jim Gordon an opportunity to tell Barbara to get out of town, while Harvey Bullock makes time with the voluptuous Duchess of Devonshire and the warring crime families debate over what to do about Cobblepot.

Gotham Penguin's Umbrella

If you’ve been following this show so far, everything plays out exactly as you’d suspect. Except for the part where television is supposed to demonstrate dramatic, high-stakes storytelling. “Penguin’s Umbrella” (seriously?) mostly consists of way too many predictable conversations, nearly none of which were dramatically necessary, and Jim Gordon’s occasional attempts at badass hero posturing.

A major component in dramatic storytelling is change (or, as is often the case in the worlds of comic books and soap operas, the illusion of change). Something happens, and because the stakes are so high, nothing can ever be the same again, and we can’t go back to where we were before, so all we can do is move forward and try to deal. But there was very little consequence to anything in this story. Hell, even after Gordon and Bullock try to arrest Falcone and Mayor Kind with assault rifles in hand, the ensuing power play results in absolutely zero change in their relationships. (Well I guess Gordon and Bullock are slightly closer friends now, but with the writing in this show, that could change just as easily next week.)

Gotham Penguin's Umbrella

Before “Penguin’s Umbrella,” here’s where our characters stood:

  • Jim Gordon is a “Good Cop” who is manipulated into owing a favor to mob boss Carmine Falcone. He is lying to his fiancé about his involvement with organized crime bosses.
  • Harvey Bullock is a corrupt cop with a heart of gold.
  • Carmine Falcone is a mob boss with altruistic intentions, playing several sides against one another for what he perceives to be the benefit of everyone.
  • Maroni is The Other Mob Boss Who’s Not Falcone.
  • Fish Mooney is obnoxiously campy, and plotting to overthrow Falcone with the help of Nikolai The Generic Russian Mobster.
  • Gotham City is corrupt n’stuff.
  • Officer Montoya thinks Jim Gordon is a crook, and still holds a flame for Barbara, who is engaged to Jim.
  • Barbara Neal is the name of a character who occasionally appears in scenes on the TV show Gotham.
  • Oswald Cobblepot is a weird limping sociopath who used to work for Falcone and then went to work for Maroni after his publicly perceived death.

Here’s where we stand AFTER “Penguin’s Umbrella”

Gotham Penguin's Umbrella

  • Jim Gordon is a “Good Cop” who is manipulated into owing a favor to mob boss Carmine Falcone. He is lying to his fiancé about his involvement with organized crime bosses.
  • Harvey Bullock is a corrupt cop with a heart of gold.
  • Carmine Falcone is a mob boss with altruistic intentions, playing several sides against one another for what he perceives to be the benefit of everyone.
  • Maroni is The Other Mob Boss Who’s Not Falcone.
  • Fish Mooney is obnoxiously campy, and plotting to overthrow Falcone with the help of Nikolai The Generic Russian Mobster.
  • Gotham City is corrupt n’stuff.
  • Officer Montoya thinks Jim Gordon is a crook thinks Jim Gordon is okay now that she knows he’s not a crook. Still holds a flame for Barbara, who is engaged to Jim.
  • Barbara Neal is the name of a character who occasionally appears in scenes on the TV show Gotham. She tries to overcome her character flaw of Being Entirely Useless, and ends up screwing up Gordon’s plans as a result, leaving Gordon in pretty much the exact same position he was before.
  • Oswald Cobblepot is a weird limping sociopath who used to work for Falcone and then went to work for Maroni after his publicly perceived death — but now everyone knows he’s alive! AND he’s SECRETLY been working for Falcone the whole time, because he and Falcone schemed together to have Jim Gordon not-shoot Cobblepot so that Cobblepot could fake his death and go underground and then return as a double-agent under Maroni.

Gotham Penguin's Umbrella

And that’s the main takeaway from this episode: the retroactive secret alliance between Cobblepot and Falcone. On some parallel world, this is a good idea, adding layers of nuance and conspiracy to a captivating crime drama. But here on Earth-Prime, it plays like a convoluted attempt to keep viewers invested with a total unearned reveal. I accept that the show is about Penguin’s rise to power (and I do enjoy Robin Lord Taylor’s performance), but Cobblepot is more believable and likable as an a amoral opportunist than as the ultimate Machiavellian manipulator. Yes, it’s obvious that Cobblepot is still only working for his own agenda and trying to play both sides against the middle, but it just felt way too easy. It’d be a lot more interesting if, for example, he tried to get himself back into Fish’s good graces and agreed to be her new Nikolai, then went to Falcone and made a power play against him with the info on Fish (which he did, but not in an interesting way). Then we’d have Cobblepot with something over everyone’s head, playing snitch against snitch against snitch, and no one the wiser about it.

In case it’s not clear, this episode was painfully disappointing. Here are some other things that happened which may or may not be of interest to you (because they clearly weren’t of interest to the writers):

  • Falcone plays with chickens.
  • Several GCPD officers keep blank signed warrants in their desks, which Jim Gordon tries to use in his ultimate plan to…arrest Falcone and Mayor Kind and put them both on trial. smdh
  • Falcone plays with chickens some more.
  • Victor Zasz shows up as a crazy thug hired by Falcone. He’s decently scary. Also his ringtone is “Funkytown” because he is apparently a talking towel.

 

    • We finally learn about Harvey’s taste in prostitutes
    • Cobblepot says “Honk honk!” Because he’s Maroni’s Golden Goose. Or something.
    • Oh! This was cool! We got to see Alfred be a badass when Gordon, Montoya, and Allen went to the Wayne Manor! He finds Officer Allen sneaking around the grounds, then pulls a knife on him and drags him over to the car where Gordon is waiting.
    • Gordon is way too forthcoming with Lil’ Wayne. I get that he has a soft spot for the orphaned kid, but when you’re a cop on the run from absolutely everyone, there is zero logic in going to a mansion to explain a convoluted corruption plot to an 11-year-old.
    • But then Bruce gave Jim a big ol’ hug and it was all adorable and stuff. Even if the only motivation for going to Wayne Manor was “Holy The Plot Demands It, Batman!”
    • Cobblepot also helps orchestrate the murders of Maroni’s other right-hand man, Frankie, as well as Nikolai.
    • Maroni and Falcone come to an uneasy truce, where Falcone lets Cobblepot in exchange for Maroni giving him Indian Hill, a waste dump in Arkham City built on an Indian burial ground because apparently Gotham is set in a Stephen King novel.
    • Bullock does his best Lying Cat impersonation.


    Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. Thom enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey and robots). He is a graduate of Clarion Writer’s Workshop at UCSD, and he firmly believes that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is the single worst atrocity committed against mankind, although this episode of Gotham is really making him question that belief. Find out more at thomdunn.net.

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