Why Gotham’s scheming Oswald Cobblepot rules
UK Broadcast Channel 5 (from February) US Broadcast Fox
The first season of Gotham didn’t go down quite as well as the showrunners hoped, with viewers complaining about all sorts of things – from Jada Pinkett Smith’s hammy performance as Fish Mooney to the fact that young Batman wasn’t quite as interesting a character as we thought he’d be. If there was one thing everybody agreed on, however, it was that Gotham’s proto-Penguin was brilliant.
Seemingly from nowhere, Robin Lord Taylor stepped into Oswald Cobblepot’s probably ill-fitting shoes and, somehow, became the Penguin. From his humble beginnings working for Fish to his new role, circa season two, as Gotham’s biggest crime lord, Oswald’s rise has been staggering – like the waiter in the House Of Commons bar ousting David Cameron as PM. And through it all, Taylor’s performance has been impeccable: a bold mixture
of sleaze, intelligence and violence... all tempered with a surprising vulnerability.
That’s because the writers decided to make their Penguin a mummy’s boy. Utterly bewitched by his demanding, loopy mother – played by Hollywood comic legend Carol Kane – Oswald comes across as a little boy trying his best to make it in the big mean world. Which, of course, makes his murderous plotting all the more shocking.
If anything, you find yourself rooting for him. And yet he’s as vicious as any villain Jim Gordon comes across, making our soft spot feel rather icky. And that’s what makes him a great villain. He’s not a one-note, one-sided bad guy – he’s a rounded human being, who does everything he does for a reason (so far there seem to be two: to stay alive and to make his mummy proud). Long may this wonderful Penguin waddle. Jayne Nelson
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