Over the last couple of weeks, Gotham has been taking baby steps in the right direction. With Penguin’s Umbrella, however, the show takes a gargantuan step forward in what is its first bonafide great episode.
Last week’s hour ended on a terrific cliffhanger – if you haven’t watched it yet, stop reading now – when Oswald Cobblepot revealed that he was still alive to an entire precinct full of cops, just as Gordon was getting arrested for murdering him. That Cobblepot hasn’t exactly been hiding in the weeks since the premiere episode and that no-one of significance has laid eyes on him is still hard to believe, but the fact that everyone now knows is a huge boost to the show, not least because it frees characters like Detectives Montoya and Allen of irksome plotlines.
Another aspect of Penguin’s Umbrella that makes it a standout is that it doesn’t play out as the case-of-the-week-style outing we’re usually accustomed to. Instead, it’s Gordon who gets the spotlight, with our detective having to deal with the fallout of not executing Cobblepot on multiple fronts. To that end, this is easily Ben McKenzie’s best performance of the series so far, and he navigates a gamut of emotions with aplomb.
What is even better about this hour of Gotham, though, is how the events had ramifications for both major and minor characters. The aforementioned Montoya and Allen now have a much more welcome purpose on the show. The camaraderie between Bullock and Gordon has never been better. Even Detective Essen shows a glimmer of backbone in the centrepiece standoff between the GCPD and Batman villain Victor Szasz. (On the subject of Szasz, Anthony Corrigan leaves a far more memorable impression here than when he played The Mist on The Flash a couple episodes back, not least because he had the best lines to deliver – and the best ringtone.)
Cobblepot’s big move has ramifications for the mob war too, and the Penguin-to-be’s scheming didn’t end there. Robin Lord Taylor puts in his usual MVP-worthy performance and the sensational reveal at the episode’s conclusion is another potential game-changer.
Nonetheless, Gotham is still nowhere near perfect. For one thing, the show misses a trick in not showing us the immediate aftermath of last week’s final scene – does Gordon just go back to work after Cobblepot outs himself? By far the most irritating facet of this hour, though, is Barbara Kean, who sends eyes rolling with her dumb decision making. Putting it mildly, the writing for her character is extremely poor at present. Hopefully, Erin Richards will get some decent material to work with soon.
Nonetheless, Penguin’s Umbrella is comfortably Gotham’s best episode so far and we can only hope that this quality level is maintained – and elevated – as the series continues.
Gotham is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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