Monday, November 3, 2014

REVIEW: 'Gotham' - Gordon Fights for His Life While Falcone and Oswald Meet Again in 'Penguin's Umbrella'

FOX's Gotham - Episode 1.07 "Penguin's Umbrella"

As violence between Maroni and Falcone continues to escalate, Penguin reveals a new component of his manipulative strategy, forcing Gordon to deal with the consequences of his decision to spare Penguin's life.

Gotham has struggled in these first few episodes explaining just what it wants to be as a drama series. Every week you could count on time being spent on Jim and Harvey investigating a new case, Bruce doing something in his mansion, Fish conspiring in her nightclub and Penguin trying to reestablish himself in Gotham. It all felt very redundant after a handful of episodes. These characters have largely been kept at the same environments every week. There was no clear indication of how the various plot threads are connected together. The cases that Jim and Harvey work on especially feel like stuff that will never be that important to the ongoing narrative. Instead they work as something that will give narrative drive for an hour each week.

I precede my review of "Penguin's Umbrella" with those comments on the early days of Gotham because this hour is the most consistent version the show has presented to us so far. I believe a lot of that is because there is no case of the week and all of the various plots are interacting and effecting each other. After the pilot, the show has had five episodes of rising action. It was about damn time that some of that stuff started paying of in rewarding ways.

Oswald's reintroduction into the world does exactly that for the series. His popping up at the police precinct at the end of the last episode has forced many characters from many parts of the narrative to either act or deal with the consequences of Oswald still being alive. Jim was asked to kill Oswald in the pilot because Oswald betrayed Fish and Falcone. He didn't and now Oswald has returned to the city stirring up great conflict between Falcone and Moroni. That lights a fire underneath Jim Gordon. For the entire series, he has been proclaiming that he'll do good in this city but the character never found the momentum to actually do anything. He hasn't come any closer to solving the Wayne murders. He just knows that the heads of organized crime were involved in it. Now that he is marked for death for disobeying orders, he's able to go a little crazy and try and actually do something. That is profoundly more compelling and interesting to watch. He has this grand plan to arrest Falcone and the Mayor. He'll either get them talking and expose the truth or he'll take them down with him.

Jim is fighting for his life throughout "Penguin's Umbrella." Over the hour, he discovers just how few actual allies he has - Montoya, Allen, Bruce, Alfred and a reluctant Harvey. He arrives to the police precinct hoping that a room full of cops would be enough to allow him a certain level of protection. No one will help him with his crusade but, Jim believes, their mere presence will keep anyone from taking him out. Falcone's hitman, Victor Zsasz, shows up and the rest of the precinct files out. This is Jim's fight and he manages to escape. He works hard to protect the person he loves (Barbara) and the people he's made promises too (Bruce and Alfred). He'll gladly accept Montoya, Allen and Harvey's assistance when they offer it. And yet, Jim needs to be the man of action in this plot. When he storms Falcone's mansion demanding his arrest, it has to be solely on his shoulders whether or not his plan will come to fruition. It's his decision to make. Falcone claims he has Barbara and Jim has to determine whether the man he wants to take down is telling the truth or not.

Jim turns down his weapon in order to save Barbara's live. It turns out Falcone wasn't bluffing at all. And yet, for going the entire hour with a death sentence, the show had to present a very good reason why Falcone would keep Jim alive. Jim will continue to be a thorn in Falcone's side. The dynamics between the police and the crime families is in flux right now. Falcone needs order to be restored in order to effectively build on his empire. That also means Falcone and Fish have to deal with Oswald and what he's doing with Maroni. There never seems to be the same amount of urgency underneath Oswald throughout this episode. He is calm and cool - seemingly knowing exactly how all of this will play out. It turns out that that is the entire point. Oswald has been working with Falcone this whole time to manipulate Maroni while Jim is left to deal with the consequences. It's a part of this puzzle that really does bring a lot of things into better focus. Jim gets to live because Oswald still sees a greater purpose for him in this game. It should be interesting if Jim returns home and just goes back to work again next week like none of this ever happened. However, it would be very hard for the series to go from this hour to a return to form next week. It doesn't feel like it could play that well at all. And yet, we'll have to see if this momentum can last.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Penguin's Umbrella" was written by Bruno Heller and directed by Rob Bailey.
  • Falcone is also keenly aware of how Fish has been plotting to oust from him the top spot with Nikolai - who gets executed in Oswald's attack on a Falcone-owned compound for Moroni. That financial lost must be import to Falcone in order to get rid of the traitor in his family.
  • And yet, Fish still has a great asset in Liza who has grown incredibly close to Falcone. Oswald doesn't know about her true intentions which means Fish is still a very strong piece of this ongoing puzzle.
  • The land deal Oswald got Moroni to give to Falcone must be pretty important.
  • No Nygma or Selina this week. I didn't miss them at all.