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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Monday’s episode of Gotham, “Mommy’s Little Monster.”]
If the first season of Fox’s Gotham ended with Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) believing that he had gotten everything he ever wanted, Monday’s hour proved just how wrong he was. He was betrayed by those he thought to be loyal, and his mother (Carol Kane) was killed as part of rival Theo Galavan’s ongoing plan to take the city for himself.
So where does the future Penguin go when he’s got nothing left? The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Taylor about Oswald’s “major oversight,” his “moral compass” and the impact of this “absolutely devastating” loss.
That whole “crime lord of Gotham” thing really isn’t working out well for Oswald.
It certainly is not. But that’s the nature of the beast — when you gain any kind of power in Gotham City, it’s just there to be taken away from you.
After the way in which Oswald came to power, it’s strange that he didn’t seem to think that someone could try and do to him what he’d done to Fish in the first season. Butch betraying him to the Galavans seemed to come as a complete surprise to him.
I think he did become complacent. He built his empire on a very shaky foundation, and that was Butch Gilzean. Butch was essentially brainwashed, and Oswald was overly trusting in the conditioning that Butch received, never expecting that it could be reversed or changed, which is really an oversight on his part.
Going forward, hopefully he will attain his power again, but he’ll be much more smart about making sure that his closest allies really have his best interests at heart, and not just doing things out of compulsion. (Laughs.) They’ll be working for Penguin because they want to be, rather than being forced to be.
What were his biggest mistakes? Was it believing in Butch’s loyalty, or not thinking about the ways he was vulnerable through his mother?
He was really expecting that he’d be able to protect his mother. He really believed that he could do that, and he really was trusting in Jim Gordon and Butch Gilzean, and all of that was a major oversight on his part. Really, he didn’t take the appropriate steps to protect his mother the way he should have.
Part of that seemed to be that it was just something he didn’t even think was on the table. He had this particular code of conduct that made going after his mother seem repellant.
That’s why he didn’t put the appropriate resources toward protecting her the way he should have. He does believe in honor, and we see that in an earlier episode this season — there’s a scene where Jerome and the Maniax are taking over, and he’s watching it on television with Bullock, and he’s disgusted by it. He thinks it’s chaos for chaos’ sake, and that’s beneath Oswald.
There’s another scene, his first meeting with Galavan when it’s revealed that Galavan had taken his mother hostage. Before they get to that point, Oswald asserts that he’s a builder. He wanted to build an empire instead of destroying things, and I think he truly does believe that. Oswald does have a moral compass, and what Galavan is doing is so against that. That’s the genius of Theo Galavan.
In a strange way, where Oswald is at the end of the episode feels natural for him in a way that his position as king of crime never did. He works better in opposition to someone, and being the underdog…
Unfortunately for him, that’s where his major strengths lie at this point in his life. He really does understand what it means to come from behind, and come from below, as opposed to maintaining his position at the top. He’s spent his entire life being counted out and being underestimated, and that’s almost where he feels most comfortable, because then he can scheme and plot, and it’s not as overt, or as noticed. He operates better in the shadows.
Do you think he’s happier now? Which is a strange thing to say consider what happened to his mother, but is he more comfortable now?
His mother was his tether to humanity, and she offered the only love he really experienced in his life. To lose that is absolutely devastating, but in a way it’s freeing. He feels tremendous guilt about his role in her death, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens if he can ever come to terms with that. In a way, his shred of humanity has been ripped away from him. It’s a huge transition for him.
A transition into what? Where does the Penguin go next?
I think he’s learned a tremendous amount, and has changed tremendously based on what happened. Going forward, we’re going to see him continue to discover who he is, but that’ll deepen and become more vibrant. He’s lost his mother, but also his relationship with Jim Gordon is very shaky and tenuous now. It’s almost as if he’s got full license now to be the monster that everyone seems to want him to be.
Will Penguin become a monster without his mother? In trying to deal with one problem, has Galavan created an even bigger one for later? Leave your guesses in the comments below.
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.