GOTHAM 101 – The Penguin
Last time on “Gotham 101,” we took a look at Gotham’s leading protagonist, Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie). In this next installment, Robin Lord Taylor takes the spotlight as he portrays one of the city’s rising gang members, Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, aka The Penguin.
You could say that up until now Robin Taylor has been one of those actors you see in movies or an episode of a television show where you’d say, “Hey, it’s that guy!” You never really remember his name, just that you’ve seen in something else. For example, he’s the kid in Accepted who has a super dose of ADD. You last saw him this season in episode four (“Indifference”) of The Walking Dead, when Rick and Carol were out alone getting supplies. We don’t know what happened to him by the end, but from the looks of his girlfriend, we’re just going to take a wild guess and say he didn’t fair as well either.
Robin seems to be pegged to play as one of those characters who’s often nervous, twitchy, and neurotic. That’s fine; he not only looks the part, he can also play up those traits really well. But will he be the right fit for Gotham City’s future mobster and overall crime lord?
According to Gotham’s main website, Oswald Cobblepot “has the brains of a chess grandmaster and the morals of a jackal. A low-level psychopath for gangster Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), he hides his sadistic lust for power behind an exquisitely polite demeanor.” Well, okay, we can see Robin playing that quite well. But we get the feeling FOX will be taking some liberties with his origin, like with so many others.
Oswald, aka The Penguin, has always been described as a portly fellow with a hooked nose and short stature. There have been many versions of The Penguin throughout the many different Batman TV shows, comic books, and video games. Sometimes he has a Cockney accent, sometimes he doesn’t. Unlike most of the criminals in Batman’s eclectic rogue list, Penguin is not driven by some sort of psychotic obsession. He more falls under the mobster-type of criminal, and often labels himself as a “gentleman of crime.” He’s often depicted has a classy yet ruthless gent with an affinity for birds and high-tech umbrellas. What The Penguin isn’t is a psychotic megalomaniac hellbent on getting revenge on the entire city for supposedly making fun of his appearance (see Tim Burton’s Batman Returns).
Pre-Crisis Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot was born into one of the oldest and richest families of Gotham. His ugliness, however, made him a reject within his own family. This eventually led to his losing some sanity and becoming evil. This origin is later disputed in Batman: Penguin Triumphant where he never went insane. Instead he became driven into being more astute and skilled at creating weapons of intimidation to control others.
Post-Crisis Oswald retained his smarts but was more conscious of his strengths and weaknesses. In order to best stay in power among the Gothamites as well as keep his decadent lifestyle, he decided to go straight by becoming a successful nightclub owner. Despite his best (-ish) efforts, he could not escape people labeling him as a criminal. This led him to selectively pick and choose some small acts of lawlessness, but he was always caught by Batman or the GCPD in the end. This eventually led him to become a member of the Suicide Squad.
If Penguin learned anything from his time on the Suicide Squad, it’s how to control others from behind the scenes and let others take the fall. This tactic gave Penguin three things he has always longed for: social acceptance among the Gotham elite as a legitimate businessman and celebrity host of a successful restaurant and nightclub, the Iceberg Lounge; a strong hold over most of Gotham’s criminal activity with members needing him for his elaborate fencing operations; tolerance from Batman and the GCPD because he often provides them valuable information (as long as it doesn’t interfere with his own goals).
Aside from being a criminal mastermind and tactical genius, Penguin is weirdly agile for a short and stocky guy. Although he doesn’t show it very often, he can tumble with the best of them as a master in Judo. And like Catwoman’s affinity for all things feline, Penguin has a sort of obsession for all things avian. He often uses his bird companions for criminal activities, specifically when he feels like going out “on the field” himself.
It’s clear that Gotham’s version of Oswald will be learning from Fish Mooney, a completely original character set to be the current crime boss. Is it just us, or is Fish’s name a sort of foreshadowing for her eventual downfall/demise?