When I decided to watch and review Gotham dutifully here in my bat-blog, I had high hopes and anticipation for the series as a whole because I've enjoyed Bruno Heller's earlier works before, and I certainly approve of the initial casting of the lead roles. In addition, I'm always very optimistic when it comes to DC comic-book characters and their worlds being adapted into screen especially anything that's Batman-related. Nevertheless, as the episodes for this show kept coming in on a weekly basis, I did start forming a few reservations, some criticisms and an overall skepticism about the creative directions this show has been heading to, as well as the issues they've been tackling. My favorite installment is still Viper but the last two episodes Spirit of the Goat and this week's release Penguin's Umbrella were definitely its strongest contenders...yet.
What Gotham does best, it does it pretty well but then there are those other things that manage to make you roll your eyes and just visibly wince every now and then. It happened to me on a few occasions but I don't think they ever lessened the appeal of the show or my enjoyment of it. I suppose it's clear by now what makes the show works and what doesn't and the last two episodes provided us a hefty amount of both. I still hope that Gotham will start focusing more on it major arc but I can't help but feel that it will go back to its case-of-the-week formula again which won't be surprising for me either. Besides, Gordon and Bullock's chemistry has gotten better so I don't mind a buddy-cop drama format again next episode but since this week has been a game-changer, let's hope they can keep the momentum up. I think I'll keep my review of this episode just as condensed as the last one was, merely classifying everything between the best and worst moments of Penguin's Umbrella.
- "There's nothing more dangerous than an honest man" ~Salvatore Maroni
- WORST: The first twelve minutes or so of the episode started slow, if not awkwardly paced. I think the reason why it suffered like that is because of how abrupt the cutting of these scenes were. They weren't necessarily bad by themselves (I enjoyed Butch Gilzean going all cheery-rapey with Barbara and Gordon pistol-whipping him in the goddamn face) but there were hardly smooth transitions in these scenes until we get to Victor Zsasz and the police station action sequence where the pacing finally finds a better rhythm and directional style. The worst part of Penguin's Umbrella definitely, if not solely, belongs to Barbara Kean. I like her in general because I thought Erin Richards was convincing enough as the loving and supportive girlfriend with a troubled past. But I'll just go ahead and say that her role for this episode was the weakest and it got under my nerves. She was definitely underused which is odd considering what a plot device she has become lately. The entire damsel thing was needless and did not give her any sort of agency as a supposedly strong female; the predictable 'coming-back-to-save-your-man' was cliché and utterly idiotic because she only made it worse (and anticlimactic) for Gordon and Bullock. I just didn't like what they are doing to Barbara at this point and the lesser moments of the episode are certainly blamed on her passiveness and irrationality in action and ability. I hope Erin Richards will be given some material that's not sexist like what we had seen her play so far. I would like Barbara Kean to contribute something meaningful to the plot aside from being the girl endangered and needing of rescue.
- BAD: Newcomer Makenzie Leigh as Liza who is basically just an ornament baking pastries in Falcone's kitchen. It was nice to see her becoming a close 'friend' of Falcone but the actress is just..so unimpressive in the role. She didn't have the same spark after she got that makeover. I much preferred her with Fish so I hope we see her reporting to her 'mama' for updates about her undercover very soon. Other than that, we also have that grating scene where all of the cops of the GCPD walked away immediately just because a scary hitman ordered them to, and that's just far-fetched for me. At least have two officers put up a fight then get shot at so the rest would know Zsasz meant business. That whole scene played out too quickly and unconvincingly. We get that half if not everyone in the task force is corrupt but come on, that's just too easy. I suppose us viewers need to believe that Jim Gordon stands alone in his fight for Gotham's soul so this kind of extreme freeze out from the law enforcement is necessary...still, it was a tad incredulous.
- NOT NECESSARY: I belong to the faction of viewers that loves David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne and Sean Pertwee as Alfred but their scene for this episode is something I could have done without. Yes, it was touching that we're getting another follow-up to the growing connection between a young Bruce Wayne and Gordon but it carried no purpose aside from sentimentality. Sure, it also provided us with the possibility that Allen and Montoya can take over the Wayne murder case if Gordon doesn't make it out, but that subplot could have been discussed some other time (like the next episode; we do have a 22-episode package for this season so we really should take our time, Gotham).
- "When you know what a man loves, you know what can kill him" ~Oswald Cobblepot
- GOOD: Anthony Carrigan as Zsasz. He would look familiar if you're also watching The Flash where he played a villain called the Mist. I thought his presence was menacing enough and I'm glad we got to see him cutting as a way to jot down the number of people he has killed (which is really his only definitive trait aside from being absolutely crazy) I fucking loathed Zsasz but he's an entertaining asshole in the comics and I thought his casting was pretty awesome. It also made me crack up when we find out that his ringtone is "Funkytown." His scene in the kitchen with a bruised Barbara and a cupcake-making Liza with that bright lighting was funny because of how casual everything seemed among them. Meanwhile, Gordon and Bullock's interplay and dynamics have finally gotten to a place of honesty and trust. There is camaraderie between these men that is unspoken, and I sincerely hope that Bullock will not go back to his crooked ways so easily after this development. We saw him choosing sides for this episode and that he made the right one. He is willing to back up his partner, so it'd be a shame if he suddenly throws that all way once it becomes inconvenient again. I bet next episode we'll see them solve a case together while dealing with the repercussions from this episode's events.
- BETTER: Everything about the escalating mob war and the delightful interactions among Carmine Falcone, Salvatore Maroni, Fish Mooney, and Oswald Cobblepot whether by pair or as a group. A great majority of the episode was devoted on exploring the tension and violence from either side and the actors have now brought their A-game in every scene most especially Jada Pinkett-Smith as Fish Mooney who finally has an interesting conflict to sink her teeth in and chew the fuck out of it! Her exchanges with Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin have been so electrifying; there is great physical chemistry between these actors especially since both of their characters have a complex relationship on the surface, seeing as Fish practically raised Oswald to a life of crime (based from my understanding of their history). Those lingering, seething looks from Mooney met by an uncontainable smugness from Oswald...it was just delicious to see them try to outmaneuver each other as they try to maintain face with their respective bosses. Falcone and Maroni also hugged it out as they agree on a peaceful way to put a pin on a possible gang war from breaking loose simply by exchanging a piece of real estate and then agreeing that Maroni gets to keep his new pet. I stated in my previous reviews that I look forward to the mob war and now I'm finally getting it. The chess pieces are being moved and I like how the gameplay is evolving at this point. I can only hope that the next episodes will be more engrossing. We are getting there...
- BEST: It is Inarguably and universally acknowledged that Robin Lord Taylor as the young, ambitious cutthroat Oswald Cobblepot has been the brightest, most compelling and fan-favorite part of Gotham as a show. He carried this particular episode with his every scene and performance whether he's blending in the background as a parasite who whispers things into Maroni's ear, or he's standing right in the spotlight, stabbing a man with a knife and then giving him an unusually affectionate kiss on the head (that was unsettling as hell). I can honestly say that not since Heath Ledger's the Joker have we seen a villain so unpredictable, endearing and creepy as well as ultimately magnetic to watch on screen. The third arc of the episode, however, was also carried superbly by John Doman as Carmine Falcone. That omitted scene from the pilot episode where we see a conversation with Falcone and Oswald as they struck a bargain that benefits them both was the highlight of this week's installment. I admit that I did not see that coming at all so it made me giddy as I watched! This development and revelation also helped solidify Cobblepot and Falcone as formidable game players. Falcone is not going soft. As a long-time don, he is simply playing his cards very close to his chest especially now that Oswald revealed that two of his people have been conspiring to take him down. Employing Oswald to spy for him by embedding himself in Maroni's circle was an astounding crucial move in the chess-play and what a stone-cold move it was. Oswald, on the other hand, being consistently portrayed as a sneaky, backstabbing "scaly-faced bitch" (as Mooney lovingly called him) further enhances his threat and role in the grand scheme of things. I think Falcone knows Oswald has a usefulness he can benefit most from but he shouldn't underestimate the boy's capacity to betray and to do whatever it takes to get higher from the ranks so Falcone must watch his back. Meanwhile, Oswald's increasingly disconcerting fixation on Gordon is becoming a favorite angle of mine now. It's good to know that Falcone would have killed Gordon if Oswald didn't specifically asked for the don to spare his life as a favor.
I am ridiculously and painfully excited for what's in store for everyone in this show now. Hopefully Gotham continues to hit the sweet spot and play on its strengths which would often mean that some of the characters have to be dropped to craft and tell a proper story without these needless appearances and distractions. No way to go but up now, Gotham!
FINAL VERDICT: 4.25
* With lots of hits and only a few misses, this week's installment has more gravitas than everything we have seen so far. It has increased the stakes and placed characters in dangerous and compromising positions as unlikely alliances have taken shape. The show is evolving and will hopefully continue to do so.