For starters, I love this episode’s title because it works on two levels: first, as an overt reference to the Penguin’s signature prop and, secondly, as an inference. The word umbrella can refer to either “something which provides protection” (such as defenses in an attack) or “something which covers or embraces a broad range of elements or factors.” Thus, Oswald’s “umbrella” is more than just an item he carries – he’s playing Gotham’s big dogs so his life and aims are protected as he’s clearly trying to construct a vast empire of his own.
Well, Jim, I think the proverbial can of worms has officially been opened. To be fair, Harvey’s initial anger is justified: all this time, he was under the impression that Jim was being honest with him. Now that he’s caught him in this giant whopper, it’s a wonder if Harvey will ever trust Jim again. Or if he does, it might be at arm’s length. Yet again, Harvey proves he’s a bulldog with a heart as he comes to Jim’s defense. The dynamic between these characters is very believable and it’s a joy to watch even when they’re expression the most repugnant of sentiments. I have to hand it to Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue for their performances here and throughout this season: these two characters would have been utterly decimated or reduced to bickering drama queens in the hands of other actors. But these men provide a perfect balance of wit, logic, maturity, and heart.
Probably the dullest character of the series thus far is Jim’s squeeze, Barbara. She just doesn’t do anything except fuss at Jim and make doe eyes (or both). She’s not compelling to watch (as a character – nothing against the actress) and she isn’t dynamic, unlike most of the main players in this fictional realm. Maybe that’s to be expected from a minor character, but even Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter series was a minor character and she had more personality. And she was a ghost.
I have nothing against female characters being put in situations where male characters must save them, but when that’s your only claim to fame thus far (such as in this episode), well…
You gotta start doing something. Other than running into trouble or else you’ll be condemned to damsel-in-distress mode forever. And we don’t need another Bella Swan – one is bad enough. Just bein’ honest.
And speaking of honesty, I’m picking up on a theme here, especially in this episode. “Gotham” presents a study in contrasts as it tries to define what honesty should look like. For Jim Gordon, this means taking the moral high ground and telling the truth. Yet for some folks in Gotham, honesty isn’t quite so clear cut. Maroni asserts, “There’s nothing more dangerous than an honest man,” and his rival, Falcone, later claims, “I have many faults but I’m not a liar.” Let’s break both of these statements down for a moment: Maroni’s assertion is that honest people can be threats because they won’t stoop to immoral or dishonest talk or behaviors. They speak the truth and truth can become a dangerous weapon. In contrast, even though Falcone seems to agree with Maroni, he still sees being a liar as a less-than-honorable trait. In reality, I think what Gotham’s criminal element fears most is not a man who is moral but the truth. Truth forces people to take a side, whether to believe it or reject it. The criminals at play here only give an appearance of the truth but we know it’s all smoke and mirrors. So when a man demonstrates the real deal, he becomes a threat to their way of life.
Speaking of Gotham’s criminal element, this episode marks the debut of another Batman nemesis, Victor Zsasz who, to his credit, has a really cool-sounding name. It’s pronounced “zazz” as in, well, this…
I had never heard of this villain before until this episode so I briefly researched him online. This villain’s trademark, evidently, is that for every life he takes, he makes a physical mark on his body. So over time, Victor is literally covered in cuts. Talk about really getting into your work. What makes him so sinister for me is the fact that he just straight up kills people. He’s not like, for example, Oswald Cobblepot, who spills blood to either cover his tracks or obtain something he wants. There’s a big difference between that and trophy killings. Oswald kills for a reason (however flawed it is) whereas Victor kills for sport. Still, he sounds very dark and disturbed and I’d like to learn more about him, so hopefully this won’t be his one and only appearance this season.
And while we’re on the subject of our man Oswald, remember how back in Episode Six, he asserted to his mother…
Well, something like that. Now he makes good on his promise in being the world’s dopest (translation: greatest) snitch!
My, what a tangled web Oswald weaves! Both the writers and Robin Lord Taylor have to be credited here. Just when you think you’ve got Oswald’s grand scheme figured out, he lobs another curve ball or pulls another wild card from his sleeve. It really makes me wonder how he’s going to pull it all together to come out on top. I won’t spoil the twist at the end of this episode because it’s a thread that runs throughout the entire show (which you’ll definitely pick up on with repeat viewings), but I definitely didn’t see it coming and it makes me love Cobblepot’s character even more for his ingenious unpredictability. He’s such a contrast to both Falcone and Maroni in that he represents a new generation of power yet embodies the best traits of both men – Maroni’s strong armed tactics and Falcone’s level-headed sensibilities. I also love how he’s incorporated with some old school gangster flavor yet keeps it fresh, from some of the Godfather-esque score to even the traditional kiss of “respect” upon the head of an enemy.
Though thanks to that scene, once more the “gay Penguin” theory is still circulating.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t devote any space to this because it is stupid, but I think it deserves clarification. Have you guys or gals ever seen The Godfather trilogy or similar movies? There were guys (i.e. gangsters) kissing guys (usually other gangsters or associates) in non-sexual ways, and I’d dare someone to label these characters as homosexuals. Oswald Cobblepot isn’t the series’ token gay boy. Again, go read the comics. Granted, “Gotham” is taking certain overall liberties but nothing quite so drastic – at least none so far. And that look Maroni’s associates give Oswald isn’t driven by “homophobia,” as one reviewer claimed: it’s a look of horror that this Cobblepot gent isn’t to be trifled with. Also, his declaration that “Love conquers all” is meant metaphorically, not as a statement of affection: what you love will consume you, for good or bad. It’s a follow up to Oswald’s initial observations that what a man loves can be the very thing that will kill him and that deep-seated desires can simultaneously morph into weaknesses. Instead, I compared this entire exchange to how Michael Corleone kissed Fredo on the mouth (the mouth, people) and pronounced him a traitor. It isn’t sensual, sexual, or anything of the like – it’s the mark of a cold-hearted, tactical-headed crime boss, which is how the Penguin always has been depicted.
So unless Oswald openly admits he’s not into women (and admitting you don’t date doesn’t count) or gets into an all-male make out session (which, again, if “Gotham” is basing his personality off of the comics and, thus far, it has, then that’s highly, highly unlikely), please people…
Okay, moving on to some sane commentary now…
This episode also marks the reunion of Oswald and Fish, which, to some viewers might seem to come a little too soon. Why does this meeting come to such a head now? Keep in mind that this episode would have been about the halfway mark if “Gotham” was running with its original sixteen episodes. Once Fox bumped its order up to twenty-two, we’re not near the midway point now. So expect more fireworks in the future as well as a swifter than planned demise for Fish, which I hope Oswald gets the grand honor of doing. This will certainly be a powerful set up seeing as Oswald has a big target on his back now. Likewise, persons in power are always looking over their shoulder, so it will be interesting to see if Falcone or Maroni suspect what Oswald is up to – that he’s out to claim their throne as his own. One thing is for sure, nearly everyone he comes across (probably besides his mother) is a piece in his one-player chess game, even when it seems like he’s a piece on someone else’s board. And this grand Gotham chess match includes Jim Gordon whom Oswald is convinced he can make him “see the light.” This whole season thus far concerning Cobblepot’s take over is like watching someone play chess against a computer opponent set at a moderately low intelligence level – it might beat you at times but more often than not, you win.
Overall, this episode was a great follow up to “Spirit of the Goat” and it was a fun departure from the typical formulaic story structure we’ve been encountering thus far. In fact, some reviewers are hailing it as the best “Gotham” episode to date and they wouldn’t be wrong. All it does is make me eager for the next episode. And the next one…and the next one…and the next one…and the next one….
How to Walk Like a Boss 101:
Step 1 – Wear a cool suit. Accessorize to taste.
Step 2 – Get flanked by other suited dudes to keep the common folk at bay.
Step 3 – Develop a signature gait. No Ministry of Silly Walks patent required.
Step 4 – Act like you own the world. Because if you’re Oswald Cobblepot, you do.
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/
Episode Four: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-four/
Episode Five: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-five/
Episode Six: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-six/