Sidebar: Arkham immediately makes me think of H.P. Lovecraft and all his creepy goodness. But thankfully we don’t have to worry about Cthulha showing up in Gotham. The criminals populating this place are bad enough.
First off – again, that opening scene! Jim looks like he’s seen a ghost and soiled his pants at the same time. Robin Lord Taylor is absolutely killing it as Cobblepot. We’re just four episodes in and I’m already calling it –
Sorry, I didn’t mean to get into a Kanye West tirade there but he deserves it. I’d love to know what goes through Taylor’s head while he’s perusing the script or how he gets in the right frame of mind to play this character because daggone can he command a scene. No disrespect to Ben McKenzie, but Taylor just stole the opening – again! And that wasn’t all he stole – keep reading…
I do want to dissect this opening scene because it’s the equivalent of an amazing guitar rift that propels everything else. First, I’m noticing that Cobblepot is often filmed at a low-angle. This cinematic technique is often used to portray subjects as larger-than-life or in command. I think both inferences apply to his character – he’s larger-than-life (but not over-the-top) and he seeks to be in control of whatever situation he finds himself in.
I also admired the lighting used. Quite against the typical technique of painting the villain in darkness and the good guy in light, Gordon is the one drenched in shadow here whereas Oswald gets the full light treatment. Could this be a hint of things to come – that Gordon might finally show a darker side and Cobblepot might reveal he has a bit of good in him, however questionable his motives might be? Only time will tell us.
But it’s fairly obvious that Oswald is playing Gordon like a chess piece though I tend to think there is some truth to what he shares here. He admits he admires Jim’s honesty and his status as possibly “the last good man in Gotham” and feels a certain obligation to him because Jim spared his life. I’d say Cobblepot does feel a sense of duty to Gordon for that as that would only be logical, but how can a thug/future crime boss admire a person for his morality? My theory is that Oswald knows Gordon can be his trump ace when it comes to catching and clearing out the criminal competition and he’s willing to use it. Yet he also respects the fact that Gordon isn’t corrupt. In contrast, Cobblepot admits he’s honest but his grasp on honesty isn’t the same as Gordon’s. Oswald tells the truth to ultimately get what he wants while Gordon tells the truth because it’s the right thing to do.
Again, this episode showed us Cobblepot’s tendency to act as the snitch, which enables him to do good he doesn’t genuinely intend. Ratting on who is killing off the city commissioners is a good deed since it does, in the end, save lives. But does Cobblepot spill the beans because he truly cares? I doubt it. It’s to foster a relationship with Gordon so he can keep Jim up his sleeve. Cobblepot reasserts his honest tendencies, but in the words of Tony “Scarface” Montana, Oswald always tells the truth, even when he lies.
As far as the rest of the storyline goes, “Arkham” was a soft-hitting episode (as opposed to hard-hitting) and, to be fair, you need those once in a while. Not every episode can be a head rush; you need to quiet things down at times and lay some groundwork, and I sense this whole Arkham business is just starting to get thorny. If I had one minor complaint with the show thus far, it’s that I hope it doesn’t retain this police procedural plot all throughout since the episodes’ formula, thus far, has gone a little something like this: Crime happens; Insert character development; Gordon wants to go get ’em; Bullock is the wet blanket; More character development; Case unfolds; Criminal caught/killed; Wrap-up; Prep for next week. Of course, if a formula works, why change it? But sometimes you have to break the mold lest everything becomes predictable. I felt the same way about the first two books in the Harry Potter series: great, but if the rest of the series retained the “let’s solve a mystery” element, I wasn’t sure how well I’d like it. Then along came Prisoner of Azkaban and I ate my words. So I hope I eat my words here, too.
I’m really missing the Waynes, aren’t you? The only good thing is that young Bruce is no pampered, spoiled rich kid . I strongly suspected David Mazouz would be able to pull off this role and, so far, he’s done exactly that. First of all, the writers do a great job of making him sound believable yet mature and wise for his age. He’s not the sort kid who lounges around the house, snapping his fingers for Alfred to bring him some chips and dip while he plays his Xbox. Nope, Bruce is right in the thick of it, making sure his family’s legacy is not forgotten or trampled upon. Not to mention Mazouz really is a great young talent and I hope we get some episodes down the line that utilize his character more. He is the future Caped Crusader, after all!
As far as Arkham is concerned, the Waynes wanted to transform it, turning the old (infamous) asylum into a proper mental hospital to help the least fortunate. By proxy, this would give hope to the entire city. Bruce is just as selfless as his parents were, and it’s shown here at the very end when the final vote on Arkham is revealed. Speaking of which, I’m glad the show didn’t give us a “happily ever after” scenario. First of all, I doubt anything ends that way in Gotham and, secondly, it sets the stage for the future mob war. But more than that, it reveals a very true fact – sometimes evil triumphs. Sometimes bad guys win. But it won’t be forever and redemption is always possible, which is what Gordon reminds Bruce of. As long as he’s still alive, he can make a difference, and that’s a great message to us all.
The Best Line of the Night Award goes to Oswald Cobblepot for this: “War is just politics by other means, and isn’t politics just money…talking?” Not only is this true even in real life, it also becomes ironic considering everything that leads up to the ending. Because, you see, in Gotham, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, you get the women. Okay, that was another Scarface rip off but, seriously, I think it applies. What’s Oswald’s first plan then? Get the money, of course! Then he’ll get the power and then maybe some ladies. Or chicks. Get it? Penguin chicks? Never mind.
The entire Maroni fiasco, at first, seemed like the usual mob-versus-mob hit that gave Oswald a chance to reach a spot closer to the crown, so to speak. But Falcone actually had nothing to do with it as the robbers openly admit that Oswald “wanted” them to strike the restaurant. The question, though, is who was really calling the shots.
There are two possible scenarios:
1). Falcone hired some thugs to rob Maroni and shoot up his restaurant. Yet at some point Oswald took up the reigns unbeknownst to Falcone, seeing a chance to make a move as well as track these robbers down and leave them high and dry. And dead.
2). Oswald staged the hit all by hinself, having three random thugs bust up the joint, kill one of Maroni’s associates, and steal most of the money, only to reclaim a higher position and confront the thieves later with lethal results.
Scenario One is likely but Scenario Two is downright brilliant and only a true criminal genius (with grandmaster-like smarts, everything to gain, and intimate knowledge of Gotham’s underbelly) could pull it off. Hence, my vote goes for Scenario Two.
For starters, these thugs weren’t professionals. They were average, uncouth street criminals with guns. That doesn’t seem like the type of men Falcone would ever hire, especially to lash out at a big enemy. Likewise, if Gotham is Oswald’s “home,” he, over anyone, would know where to round up some expendable thugs.
Secondly, how did these guys know where the money was? We never see them casing the restaurant out yet one of them says it’s in the restaurant’s back. In fact, the only gent other than Maroni’s crew who knows about this money is Oswald. He gets caught spying on it, but he’s spying with that slick grin on his face. And you know what that means…
Thirdly, it seems coincidental that the restaurant manager gets killed (who in a previous scene chastises Oswald and calls him a “worm”) and guess who’s there to take his place? Oswald has already proven he will kill to take what he wants; so this logic of having some dudes bump off someone to get him one step closer to gaining control is definitely something he would do. Not to mention he doesn’t take too kindly to name-calling.
Fourthly, these thugs recognize Cobblepot when he comes to call, joking about the robbery and accepting his “gift” of food without protest. If they were Falcone’s men, even from the start and even at the lowest rank, why act chummy? No matter how dumb a thug you are, there are still things you don’t do – chatting it up with a potential enemy and eating anything an enemy might give you are two of them.
Fifthly, Oswald ensures there are no witnesses, not only to him taking the cash, but also so no one squealed that they saw him. I suppose you could say he took the money back for Maroni’s sake but…naaaww. A bag full of cash? It’s his for the taking and Maroni be darned.
I love that look he tosses behind his shoulder as he takes off with the money, leaving the trio of thugs to rot. He kept it cool on the outside but inside, Penguin be like…
Actually, Oswald seems a bit obsessed with money. He’s taken it from people before and doesn’t turn down a few Benjamins when someone gives them to him. My best guess is Cobblepot is at Scarface’s Stage One for World Domination: Get the money. Geesh, if getting money is this brutal, what will Penguin be like when he finally gets power? Or women?
[Speaking of Scarface, Oswald actually has some things in common with his non-Gothamite, Miami-chillin’ counterpart: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/media-review-gotham-and-the-scarface-connection/]
Oh – and a quick shout-out to the poisoned cannolis as Honorable Mention for Best Weapon. (Gotta love the Godfather reference – only in this case, I don’t think you’d want to keep these cannolis.) Once more, Cobblepot shows how he can become master of his immediate domain by manipulating practically everything but Nature in a given situation to make it work to his benefit. If this was a taste (pun intended) of the Penguin’s tactics-to-be, then being under his employ is a risky venture indeed. And this was probably just me, but this scene reminded me of the part in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where Harry and Ron leave out enchanted cupcakes for Crabbe and Goyle, who eat them and pass out. In the immortal words of Ron Weasley, “How thick can you get?”
Yeah, I know – this review wasn’t exactly “micro” but there was a lot of good stuff in this episode. Again, it’s a groundwork episode, so it ran a bit slow but it does its job. I do think each episode gets better and better, so I’m eager to see what the writers do with 22 episodes to play with instead of a meager 16.
Fingers crossed for more awesomeness, especially from the Cobblepot camp. Robin Lord Taylor steals the show week after week, and this episode had more Penguin in it than what was seen since the pilot. I marvel at how he can play such a conniving character who is the perfect balance of creepy and charming.
Until next week, fellow Gothamites!
For more “Gotham” goodies, you can check out:
“Gotham” – Part One (Character Snapshots): https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/media-review-gotham-part-one/
“Gotham” – Part Two” (Oswald Cobblepot): https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/media-review-gotham-part-two/
“Gotham” and the “Scarface” Connection: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/media-review-gotham-and-the-scarface-connection/
Episodes One and Two: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/media-micro-review-gotham-episodes-one-and-two/
Episode Three: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-three-2/