What's the Penguin's Endgame on 'Gotham'?
The midseason finale of Gotham proved to be a much more solid episode than what we've come to expect from the show. While I've been hard on Gotham (like many comic book aficionados) in the past, recently I have begun to treat it as a weird Elseworlds story rather than anything definitive. That's made it much easier to deal with some initially odd changes to the Batman mythos. One aspect of the show that has worked since the beginning is the portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot, who is now coming around to the name most fans know him by, The Penguin. Since Gotham returns with new episodes on Jan. 5, we have time to think about the future of Penguin. Will he kill Fish Mooney or just completely destabilize her criminal empire? How long will it be before he betrays Falcone? And how powerful will the Penguin be by the end of the season?
Executive producer Bruno Heller said at the 2014 summer TV press tour that the first season "is very much about the rise of The Penguin and his titanic struggle with Fish Mooney." Penguin has proven to be the most well developed and popular character on the show with his arc beginning as a low level gangster who schemes his way to true power. What would cement his place in Gotham's criminal underworld more than killing Fish Mooney?
Penguin being responsible for Mooney's death, directly or indirectly, provides a neat arc for the character and is a pretty dramatic way to end the first season. Gotham has definitely made this seem very likely. Fans of the show have speculated that Oswald Cobblepot will kill Fish Mooney furthering his transformation into the criminal mastermind we know him to be in the comics. But I think it would be more interesting if Mooney survives.
While Gotham can operate without her, seeing Mooney killed off would be a major loss. Killing Mooney means we lose the only female character on the show that has any development (or anything interesting to do). And why would they cast Jada Pinkett Smith as the character if she was only going to be on for one season? Having Penguin out-maneuver Mooney and potentially every other major crime boss seems a bit too easy. Keeping her alive means the second season can involve her comeback as a story arc. The better question is, what really is Penguin's endgame?
The actor who plays Penguin, Robin Lord Taylor, said in an interview with the Red Eye Chicago, "He's been a powerless person his entire life and all he wants is to not be that way anymore." But that still doesn't explain what happens when Penguin gets that power. The most major vendetta he has is against Mooney, but we still don't know what kind of a crime boss he'll be. His character's strength comes from watching him outsmart everyone around him, so Gotham risks losing momentum by having him topple all his major foes so early. I expect new crime bosses to appear as obstacles and for Mooney to hit Penguin in ways he may not expect. After all, Penguin may be smart, but he is new to power in Gotham's criminal hierarchy.
When the show returns we'll definitely see a much more confident, powerful Oswald Cobblepot, who is finally embracing the nickname The Penguin. Gotham is also continuing Mooney's crusade to take down Falcone and claim his empire. But while it seems like the show is setting up every other crime boss to maneuver themselves into an early grave with only the Penguin left standing, Gotham is the kind of city that can't have just one crime boss. That's too much of a vacuum of power.
While Gotham is playing around with established canon, there's no way the writers will get rid of Falcone that quickly. For Penguin, Falcone is an asset better alive than dead, so I suspect he'll try to find a way to wreck whatever schemes Mooney cooks up. No matter how their ongoing rivalry plays out, the dynamics between The Penguin and Fish Mooney have proven to be what I am most looking forward to when Season 1 returns.