Episode 7: “Penguin’s Umbrella
by Dan Tomasik
Gordon and Penguin find themselves the targets of mob boss Falcone.
Victor Zsasz is a lesser-known Batman villain. What he lacks in grandiose ambitions, he more than makes up in disturbing behavior. A unique case amongst villains, he was born into a rich family. When his parents passed away, he inherited everything, only to gamble it all away (ironically, to the Penguin) in a single night. Wallowing in despair from losing his entire birthright, he stumbled upon a beggar who attempted to kill him for his wallet. An epiphany allowed Zsasz to fight off the beggar and began his new life. He began to see people as empty shells, only given purpose or meaning in death. He started carving tally marks into his flesh to commemorate each kill. The only thing that matters to him anymore is his body count. The scariest aspect of Zsasz is his sanity; he wasn’t born crazy, didn’t torture animals, suffered no abuse as a child, and endured no terrible accident. Everything he does, he does because he willingly chooses to do it.
The Zsasz we see in Gotham is a great deal different. He looks fairly similar and carries the tally marks carved into his flesh, but many of his more terrifying tendencies have been toned down. Zsasz isn’t the type to work for anyone other than himself, certainly not to be a mob boss's hired gun. Working with someone who only thinks about killing people requires a certain level of insanity. Villains don’t employ Zsasz so much as let him loose, understanding the lack of control they have over anything he does. He never employs underlings, again due to his preference for killing people over anything else. Lastly, he doesn’t use guns, preferring a knife both for carving victims and his tally marks.
Last week was Bullock and Nygma’s time to shine, this week the spotlight belongs to Gordon and Penguin. Once word breaks that Gordon failed to kill the Penguin for Falcone, the full extent of GCPD’s corruption is revealed. Bullock tries to kill him with 50 officers within earshot. A mob enforcer strolls into the station and orders everyone to get out and they comply. Gordon handles it beautifully.
“What are you doing here?!”
“I work here. It’s my shift.”
These and other moments show that Gordon has a wondrous gift for dry wit, in addition to being an absolute badass.
Penguin’s concerns are focused on not being turned over to Falcone to be murdered by Mooney. While the character has had some shaky moments in some episodes, Robin Lord Taylor really shows his stuff this week. Watching him walk through the streets of Gotham, his odd walk punctuated by an umbrella cane, understanding full well that many wish to see him dead and not letting it bother him one bit; he looks every inch the Batman supervillain he will someday become. More than just a coat boy or underling, he is equally capable of brilliance and monstrosity.
Then there’s Mooney. Chewing the scenery as usual. She does have a good moment during her first scene, screaming in fury that Penguin is alive after all. His quiet, awkward confidence is perfectly contrasted by her screech. Everything from there is her usual brand of goofiness trying to be taken seriously. Honestly, who can take her seriously when she claws a former underling, and growls that, “only her friends get to call her Fish”? As for her big secret that she’s willing to kill Penguin for, it’s truly not that big a secret. She’s nailing the Russian mob boss behind Falcone’s back, ultimately to overthrow all competition and establish herself as Gotham’s mob boss. It doesn’t take a genius to pick up on that.
Frankly, Falcone’s recurring overweight henchman this episode was a more threatening and intimidating villain than Mooney. I’m not sure if we ever got a name, but his scenes with Barbara and with Maroni’s delivery boys deftly illustrated what it means to be a charming yet dangerous character. Can we have him take over for Mooney, please? The only thing she can do that he can’t, is pull off wearing a dress.
Perhaps the future will show a de-evolution of Victor Zsasz, depicting his slow descent from mass-murderer to mass-murder-addict. There is also potential to showcase Penguin’s transformation into a mob boss on equal footing with Maroni or Falcone. Mooney is probably due to die soon, either as a victim of the impending crime war or just to end our suffering at having to watch her flounder at being a real villain each week. A reckoning is on its way for Gordon as well, a moral gauntlet that may destroy him or define him. Good times are ahead for Gotham fans!
Episode Score: 8.1