Gotham S1.07 Penguin's Umbrella Review

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So the previous episode was no fluke! Gotham has found its groove, big time, with a major arc plot episode full of major revelations. And you know what? It’s even managed – finally – to make Gordon interesting.

Admittedly, he’s almost a MacGuffin in his own show – a plot device that motivates all the villains into action – but unlike a proper MacGuffin, he doesn’t remain unaffected by what goes on around him. Far from it. He’s now really starting to put his idealism where his mouth is. Much of the new vigour in the characters comes from the writing, sure, but there are a few moments here – especially when Essen asks Gordon, “Are you insane?” and he replies, “No… maybe a little. It feels good” – when Ben McKenzie seems to be discovering a few layers to his performance beyond mere moral indignation.

It would be impossible to pick a best bit from “Penguin’s Umbrella” because there are so many highlights. There’s the opening shot with Penguin finally embracing his Penguin-ness (he even seems to be accentuating his waddle) and brandishing what was once the symbol of his servitude – an umbrella. Or the hair-raising moment when Gordon faces Zsasz and calls for the support of his colleagues… who all promptly skidaddle. Or Penguin killing Frankie Carbone with the aid of new recruits. Or Falcone cooly calling Gordon’s bluff. Or Penguin revealing that he’s actually working for Maroni. This is all good meaty stuff and sets a standard for twisty-turny storytelling that Gotham may find it difficult to maintain, but it’s going to be fun watching it try.

(As a side note, the scene with Zsasz casually ordering all the cops out of the police HQ does make you wonder who would want to be a cop in Gotham. Not so much because of the physical danger, but because of the complete and utter lack of job satisfaction. You basically have to do as the criminal tells you. How could you have any pride in yourself? No wonder Gordon is having such a thankless time trying to win them over.)


Sixties Batman catchphrase “Holy…” turns up again, but with nuns involved at least it’s justified.

It’s all very stylishly shot, with some great action sequences. Szasz is a great henchman, so no doubt he’ll be back, and a few more pieces of the future Bat-mythos slide into place. Gotham has found its feet and it’s kicking ass.

Less convincing is Harvey’s over-the-top reaction to Gordon’s “betrayal” at the start of the episode (threatening to shoot him in the changing rooms? Really?), and subsequent sudden conversion. Harvey’s reasons for changing his mind make total sense (he a dead man anyway, so he may as well die fighting the good fight rather than the bad) but juxtaposed with the earlier scene it feels all too convenient and trite. More of a problem is the fact that there’s still zero chemistry between Gordon and Barbara, and the fact that Barbara is being made to act like a moron. Coming back to Gotham to plead with Falcone? On what plane of existence would any single-celled organism think that’s a good idea? It just confirms our suspicion that for the writers, Barbara is more of storytelling cog than a real character.

Ben McKenzie may have worked out how to sell us the idea that Gordon is an idealist crusader, but he’s going to have a tougher time selling us on the idea that Jim Gordon and Barbara Kean are in love.

Gotham airs on Monday nights on Channel 5 in the UK, and on Fox in the US.

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WriterBruno Heller
DirectorRob Bailey
The one whereGordon attempts to arrest the Mayor and Falcone, while Penguin guts Frankie Carbone and continues to cement his position as the power behind just about everybodys thrones.

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Available platformsTV
Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.