Media · Story & Characters

“Gotham” – Episode Seven (S1) Review


Penguin’s Umbrella
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 an empire of his own.

Now let us begin as the only proper way we can. Oswald, be a dear and show us how.
Penguin Take a Bow

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. Yet 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: these two characters would have been either decimated or reduced to bickering drama queens in the hands of other actors. But these gents 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. 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, well…
Gurl Fish
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.

As a whole, I’m picking up on an interesting 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 other folks, honesty isn’t quite so clear cut. Maroni asserts, “There’s nothing more dangerous than an honest man,” and his rival, Falcone, claims, “I have many faults but I’m not a liar.” Let’s break both of these statements down. Maroni’s assertion is that honest people can be threats because they won’t stoop to dishonest talk or behaviors. They speak the truth and truth can become a 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 itself. Truth forces people to take a side, whether to believe it or reject it. The criminals at play here 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. 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 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 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…
Do dope things
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 scheme figured out, he lobs another curve ball or pulls another wild card from his sleeve. It makes me wonder how he’s going to put it all together to come out on top. I won’t spoil the twist at the end of this episode 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 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 the Godfather-esque score to even the traditional kiss of “respect” upon the head of an enemy.

Speaking of which, I think this deserves clarification. Have you 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. That look Maroni’s associates give Oswald isn’t driven by “homophobia,” as one reviewer claimed: it’s a look of horror that Cobblepot 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 as deep-seated desires can simultaneously morph into weaknesses.

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 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. This will certainly be a powerful set up seeing as Oswald has a big target on his back. 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. One thing is for sure, nearly everyone he comes across 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 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 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….


3 thoughts on ““Gotham” – Episode Seven (S1) Review

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