Last week’s episode of “Gotham” had a lot going for it: a strong look at one of the primary characters, some solid forward momentum on the matters of the city at large, and a seeming culmination of events that have been threaded through the entire season thus far. While I hesitate to use sports metaphor since I’m not much of an observer outside of hockey and wrestling, last week’s episode definitely seemed to throw an ambitious Hail Mary pass that could’ve led to one hell of a touchdown.
Instead, this next episode dropped the ball pretty spectacularly.
Episode 7 was entitled “Penguin’s Umbrella,” and although Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot doesn’t have as much screen time this week as most other characters, it’s the end of the episode that makes the title clear. It’s a metaphor for how many people are actually starting to fall under Penguin’s influence, even if they’re not entirely aware of it yet. These include two of the most powerful people in the city, as well as some prominent people directly underneath them. Penguin expanding his sphere of influence is fine. As a Batman fan, you should expect it. That being said, though, if it’s going to happen, you should be able to see it.
Here’s how things fall down for this one: everything meaningful in the overarching story happens off-camera. We don’t see the very next moment from Gordon and Bullock’s encounter, we pick up an indeterminate amount of time afterward, and are given all of maybe a minute and a half to see how it temporarily resolves itself. A pretty massive occurrence with Penguin, which was never alluded to in the episodes between the pilot and this week’s, is shown to us only after the fact, and completely reframes many of Penguin’s most prominent character moments. If Bruno Heller and the other writers on the show’s creative staff had this planned all along, they did a pretty effective job at hiding it, because by the time this episode ends, the “surprise” comes in a way that feels clunky, kind of forced, and in a manner defying logic. It was really disappointing.
There were some interesting moments in the episode overall, though. My attention was at its highest during the scenes that featured David Zayas’ Sal Maroni, David Mazouz and Sean Pertwee’s brief moments as Bruce Wayne and Alfred respectively, Detectives Montoya and Allen finally appearing as a little more than caricatures of their familiar iterations, and the world live-action television premiere of Victor Zsasz. Zsasz is one of the single most sadistic villains in Batman’s entire rogues gallery (in some stories even giving the Joker a run for his money), and for the most part I found the characterization of him as a mob tool for hire to be pretty satisfactory. The actor who played him, Anthony Carrigan, definitely has a certain manic and intense presence about him, which is something you would hope from a character who’s primarily known for murdering people and marking each kill he carries out by carving a tally mark in his skin.
Still, disparate events a good narrative does not make. Too many conveniences and not enough active action on the screen made this one land with a thud, and I certainly hope that things can only go up from here. 6/10
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