Gotham 1.07: “Penguin’s Umbrella”

Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) deals with intruders in the "Penguin’s Umbrella."

It’s time to give up on my hope that Gotham will become a dark, twisted and deep story that showcases what a scary place a superhero universe can be without extraordinary heroes.

Instead, it’s time to embrace Gotham for what it is: a dark, twisted and sometimes over-the-top story of a city without a Batman. It’s compelling but in a different way than I’d once hoped.

And when it amps up the action, as in this episode, it’s a whole lot of unpredictable fun. There’s very little slow burn. Secrets tumble out fast, sides are chosen and the board is reshuffled. Oh, and Oswald gets to kill someone again.

Victor Zsasz in comic form.
And, yet, it was also full of what’s becoming Gotham’s trademark humor: from Penguin being overly formal, apologetic and making honking noises, to villain Victor Zsasz’s Funkytown ringtone and to Harvey’s taste in bedroom companions. But the funniest sequence had to be Falcone’s idea of kidnapping nuns and chaining them together to block Maroni’s trucks from leaving the city.

Zsasz, a character created by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle for DC Comics, did some great mugging for the cameras, but I was utterly distracted in the big showdown sequence at police HQ by Zsasz’s sidekicks. I’ve no idea who they were but somebody spent a lot of time and effort to make them utterly odd.

Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) pays Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) a visit.

Overall, “Penguin’s Umbrella” made for an entertaining watch, save for the one glaring problem: why would Barbara Kean try to plead with Carmine Falcone forJim’s life? That makes no sense. The only obvious explanation is that the writers needed a way to get Jim to stop his suicide hero run. But I had fun coming up with a few possibilities:

  • Barbara is related to Falcone, so she thought she’d be in no danger.
  • Barbara decided she wanted to go somewhere other than the police station and her clock tower.
  • Barbara hates traveling by bus. Well, who wouldn’t? Jeez, Jim, at least put your girl on a train if she doesn’t have a car.

But Barbara’s odd decision served its purpose in resetting the status quo. Montoya, Allen and even Bullock are now Jim’s firm allies. What they hope to do next is uncertain, given Jim’s idea of arresting Falcone and the Mayor went down the drain. Fish and Maroni seem not long for this world, given that Falcone is one penguin step ahead of them.

David Zayas as Sal Maroni.

This also could be the episode that launches Oswald/Jim slash fiction, as Oswald obviously has latched onto our “one honest cop.” It’s a complex conundrum. If Jim had killed Oswald as ordered, the people Oswald has killed since would still be alive. But then Jim would be firmly in Falcone’s pockets and might already be sitting in jail for murder. No good choice, there.

Other enjoyable moments:

  • Alfred getting the drop on Det. Allen. I almost missed that because I was distracted wondering where the heck that car was parked. Wayne Manor is surrounded by woods? Maybe that’s where Selina hangs out.
  • The massacre in the warehouse, which was reminiscent of the real-life St. Valentine’s Day massacre.
  • Falcone playing with his chickens. He’s becoming as interesting as Oswald.
  • The mention of “Indian Hill” as a “toxic waste dump on top of an old Indian burial ground.” Hah!
  • Drunken Bullock’s game of Marco Polo with his girl.
  • Pretty much anything Richard Kind’s Mayor said, including his quick exit when it looks like Falcone is about to kill Bullock and Gordon.
Anthony Carrigan as Victor Zsasz.

I hope the show deals with the fallout from Zsasz shooting up police HQ and killing a cop. Perhaps that’s the turning point for the police refusing to be Falcone’s complete patsies. On the same front, it looks like Essen has flipped to Jim’s side too, given her willingness to stay and fight with Gordon. I want to see more of her.

And I definitely want to see Gordon being proactive now that he has a team, instead of reactive. The rest of the season should be fascinating.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.

Read all posts by Corrina Lawson for Criminal Element.



  1. soundsard

    The best song on this list (since “Rumble” lacks words, it’s not exactly a song) is the Velvet Underground’s astonishing account of a young white Manhattanite heading up to Harlem to buy heroin.

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