GOTHAM Recap: “Penguin’s Umbrella”

     November 3, 2014


For the first time in Gotham, I felt a real sense of dread and dramatic tension as the hour rolled on.  While the resolution of this conflict ultimately fell short of its build-up, it’s a good sign that future episodes won’t shy away from putting the show’s leading characters in mortal peril.  What’s the driving force behind all this mayhem?  Well as tonight’s episode’s title suggests, it’s all about Penguin’s burgeoning criminal empire.  Cobblepot’s been revealed as more than just a simple snitch, but rather a mastermind capable of seeing all the pieces in play and knowing just how to manipulate them for his own gain.  Everything’s coming up Penguin!

Hit the jump for our Gotham recap.

gotham-robin-lord-taylor-penguinPenguin’s Rise to Power:

This was Penguin’s episode in name and in actuality.  Though he spent much of his screen time in the shadow of more powerful mob bosses, it’s eventually revealed that all of the events in the criminal underworld since Penguin’s original death sentence have been keenly orchestrated by Mr. Cobblepot himself.  Not only does Penguin have dirt on Mooney and Nikolai, is squarely in Maroni’s circle of trust, and has Gordon on edge, he’s also secretly in Falcone’s employ, making the up-and-comer one of the city’s biggest power players.

Penguin gets a new theme, some new goons, and a new umbrella to open up tonight’s episode. When Mooney learns of the news that Cobblepot is alive, she tells Falcone that she wants Gordon, Bullock, and Penguin to die, and Maroni if necessary. She’s concerned that Penguin knows too much inside information. Falcone wants a peaceful situation to the problem, while Mooney and the others want to oust him once and for all. Falcone plans to send Victor (Zsasz) (Anthony Carrigan) after Gordon.  More on that in a bit.

Mooney meets up with Maroni in hopes of getting Penguin handed over to her. Penguin is back at Maroni’s side (apparently no longer with the cops). Maroni gets Penguin to offer up an apology for disrespecting Mooney and Falcone; Mooney is not appeased and is now out for blood.  Meanwhile, a gaggle of nuns walk down a dismal street and are stopped by Butch riding in a creepy panel van. We soon find that the nuns are chained up across a road, and a Maroni moving truck is about to run them down. Luckily for the nuns, the truck stops in time, but unluckily for Maroni’s gang, Falcone’s thugs rob them of their crates of guns and leave the drivers with a bullet in each leg.

gotham-robin-lord-taylorMaroni wants to hit back and takes Penguin’s advice on where to do so.  Penguin leads Maroni’s gunmen right to Nikolai’s hideout, where he and his fellow hoodlums are playing a casual game of cards. They blow the door and come in guns blazing; Nikolai and his gang never stood a chance. Maroni’s right-hand man isn’t impressed with Penguin and threatens to kill him, saying he got caught in the crossfire. Penguin tells him that his problem is that he’s a cheapskate, and his former comrades hold him up while Penguin stabs him to death, all thanks to a bump in pay.

Later, Maroni and Falcone meet up over the mutual grief over the losses of Nikolai and Frank. Falcone offers to let Maroni keep Penguin, unharmed, but asks for some real estate, in the form of a riverfront warehouse. Maroni turns down the offer, but gives Falcone “Indian Hill” instead, a toxic waste dump in Arkham on top of an indian burial ground. Falcone agrees and the two make peace.  Maroni warns Falcone to be careful going after Gordon, but perhaps he should be careful with his own in-house snitch since we see a flashback sequence in which Falcone and Penguin make a furtive deal that continues to this day.

Gordon’s Quest:

While Penguin’s busy building his empire from the ground up, Gordon’s attempting to take the mob down from the very top, namely Falcone and the Mayor himself.  After Penguin revealed himself to be very much alive, Gordon tries to warn Barbara to get somewhere safe, but Bullock coldcocks him and keeps him at gunpoint. Gordon takes him down and heads out to presumably save Barbara, who’s currently hosting two of Mooney’s thugs. Butch is particularly heinous in his treatment of her, but luckily Gordon shows up with his gun drawn and forces them both out. Butch threatens to kill him and Barbara, a threat Gordon answers with a shot to one of the thug’s kneecaps and a smashed nose for Butch. Gordon sees Barbara off at the train station and says he needs to stay behind and makes things right, and warns her to stay away from Gotham if he doesn’t make it out alive.

While Barbara’s safely away, Gordon returns to the GCPD and takes a stack of blank warrants signed by a Judge Bam-Bam. (Is this the first time this character was mentioned?)  Meanwhile, Gordon plans to execute warrants on the mob bosses, corrupt policemen, and politicians.

gotham-penguins-umbrella-erin-richardsRemember that hitman Falcone planned to send for Gordon?  Well, a bald man dressed all in black enters the police station with two leather-clad women; they immediately assume control over the folks in the GCPD. Victor says he’s there on behalf of Carmine Falcone for Jim Gordon, and the cops sell him out rather quickly. At least Zsasz asks nicely for all 50 of Gordon’s fellow cops to vacate the station, and for some reason they all do… That’s a bit much even for Gotham.

Gordon tries to shoot his way out, but Zsasz is too fast and his henchwomen prove too much for him. In a rare bit of realistic action, Gordon not only goes through all of his ammunition in mere seconds, but he actually gets shot in the process. He makes it to the police garage and disappears amongst the cars. Zsasz tracks his blood trail and is about to find him when another cop arrives on scene and distracts the gangsters. It’s all a bit too late as Zsasz and his cronies shoot Jim in the leg, but just then Montoya and Allen arrive and spirit Gordon away. The injured cop however, is not so lucky. Zsasz shoots her dead and then adds his 28th tally mark by cutting into his forearm with a box cutter.

Gordon comes back around and finds himself bandaged up in a veterinary school’s dissection lab, patched up by Allen and Montoya, who have yet to explain why they’re helping him.  Montoya apologizes to Gordon and tells him they’re on the same side now. (Looks like this is his first in with Internal Affairs.) Apparently they’re at Wayne Manor, because Alfred jacks up Detective Allen and checks on his identity with Gordon. In Bruce’s presence, Gordon has to renege on his promise to find the Waynes’ murderer; Bruce challenges him to explain why he expects to die. Gordon says that Montoya and Allen will take over his parents’ case if Gordon doesn’t make it. Bruce hugs Gordon for perhaps the last time (probably not the last time).

gotham-penguins-umbrella-ben-mckenzieGordon, meanwhile, is arming up at Barbara’s place. Bullock shows up, rather drunk, with Marsha, aka the Duchess of Devonshire. He offers to back Gordon up and “join the good guys.” Gordon plans to arrest Falcone and the Mayor on conspiracy charges in the Mario Pepper case. The very next morning, Gordon and Bullock take their massive guns to arrest the Mayor and take him to see Falcone at his mansion. There, Gordon arrests the mob boss while Bullock keeps the other thugs at gunpoint. Falcone tries to talk them out of it, saying that he’s got a knife to Barbara Kean’s throat at that very moment (or more to the point, Victor Zsasz does).  Gordon isn’t buying it, and Falcone’s not willing to prove it. The audience, however, is privy to the fact that Barbara is very much in Zsasz’s company, along with Mooney’s assassin. Gordon gives in, and Falcone reveals Barbara safe and sound; she apologizes for returning and screwing up the plan. Falcone knows they have to die, but says the city needs men like Gordon and Bullock. For some reason, perhaps because Gordon trusted Falcone at his word, Falcone lets them leave. He wants them to realize that Gotham needs his kind of order, and that anarchy is the real enemy that Gordon faces.

The tension here was the best that Gotham has offered up so far, but the resolution of it fell a bit flat.  It feels like we’ve seen this dance before and little has changed since the last two-step.

Bullock’s Path to Redemption (or Not):

Bullock once again shines in his few standout scenes, not the least of which has him coming to Gordon’s aid after a very public disagreement with him.  Is Hard Harvey finally starting to come around? Or was he just ready to make one last stand against the mafia to go out in a blaze of glory? Whatever his reason, it was fun to watch the two make amends and fight side by side with ridiculously large guns.

Wayne’s Coming of Age:

Master Bruce got the short end of the stick in this episode since we only see him for the brief moment when Gordon shows up to say, essentially, “I’m probably gonna die, kid, but these nice cops will take over your parents’ murder case. Peace out!” It was a touching scene between the detective and the apprentice, but was pretty much just a reminder that the two have a long-standing relationship by the time the Batman arrives on scene.

gotham-villains-jada-pinkett-smithIf it wasn’t for Penguin’s machinations behind the scenes in “Penguin’s Umbrella” I probably would have been harsher on this episode.  As it is, it feels more than ever like Penguin is the true villain of this first season.  Your guess is as good as mine as to where exactly he’ll end up by the finale.  Arkham, perhaps? Or in a penthouse suite lording over the underworld of Gotham? Stay tuned!

Rating: B-

Rogues Gallery:

  • Zsasz: “Alive is a very broad category. A man with no hands can still be alive.”
  • Zsasz: “28.”
  • Mooney: “Snitches get stitches, that’s how it’s always been.”
  • Maroni: “There’s nothing more dangerous than an honest man.”
  • Bullock: “That’s a good plan! You sit down with a barrel of chimpanzees and a bucket of crack to come up with that one?”