Penguin has never had it easy, but the Gotham season 3 winter finale had fans hearts breaking for the lonely villain.
Gotham season 3, episode 13, “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies,” had Nymga and Penguin going toe-to-toe. At the start of the episode, Penguin was still very distraught about the idea that Nygma was in danger and couldn’t get to him fast enough. But when he got there he was quite shaken to see just how much hatred Nymga had towards him at that point. There was so much menace in Nygma’s voice as he threatened to end Penguin’s life and the king of Gotham seemed to shrink before our very eyes.
There’s a reason that Penguin is so vulnerable in this moment. His greatest weakness has always been his love for others. Because there have been so few people that Penguin can truly open himself up to that he gets truly wrapped up in his relationships with them. This can be seen with both of his parents.
There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t have done for either of them, and when he was around them he wanted to be the best version of himself. He would completely abandon care for anything else in his life when it came to them because there was nothing more important to him than those that truly cared about him. Their deaths also brought out his fiercest self, the loss of those precious connections sent him into a murderous rage.
Similarly, Penguin thought that Nygma was a true friend and eventually his feelings of friendly love turned into something romantic. Because of this, Penguin is more vulnerable than ever before when he learns what his friend has planned for him. He can’t even bring himself to truly yell at Nygma while he chained him down and prepared to kill him. But Penguin’s pleas of love fall on deaf ears as Nymga accused him of saying anything to get free.
When Penguin was freed by someone passing by, he headed straight home only to find that his house has been taken over by Butch and Tabitha. Even though they threatened to kill him, Penguin had no problem standing up to them with the same strength fans are used to seeing. That’s because they don’t have the same power of him as those close to him do, like Nygma does.
Barbara was the next one to reveal her betrayal, and still Penguin remained calm. Once he realized that she wanted to use him in order to find Nygma though, Penguin wasn’t happy. Barbara claimed that if Penguin gave him up than he could go free, but that would mean Nygma’s death. Even though Penguin admitted that he should want Nygma dead, he doesn’t.
Instead Penguin told Barbara, “Actually I don’t know that I did. Love him, not really. Ed was right, I thought I loved him because he saw me as no one had since my mother. But I killed Isabelle. Because I wouldn’t share him. Ed said love is sacrificed. I should have been able to sacrifice my happiness for him. I couldn’t. But I’m ready ow. I won’t call Ed. I won’t let you hurt him.”
Afterwards, Nygma revealed that he’d been there the whole time. He expected Penguin to give him up to Barbara and would then prove to Penguin that he’s incapable of loving another person. Now that Penguin’s proven otherwise, Nygma wasn’t sure what it meant.
Nygma does end up changing his plans, but he still meant to kill Penguin. He took Penguin to the docks and brought him to the water’s edge with a gun aimed right at him. Penguin tried to plea with him once more saying that he loves him, he’s proven it now. He also worried that the kill would change Nygma, it would be his first cold blooded kill of someone he loves. But Nymga was adamant that he doesn’t love him.
Penguin, meanwhile, is convinced that they need each other. He’s the only one that knows Nygma for who he really is, he was there from the start and built Nymga up to who he is today. Penguin told Nygma, “When I met you, you were a nervous jittery loser. You were nothing. I created Edward Nygma and I am the only one in the world who truly sees you as you are, who you can still become.”
It’s clear that Penguin trusts Nygma to do the right thing and let him go, that’s why there was such a look of shock on his face when the gun went off and he’s shot. In his heart, Penguin really felt the connection to Nygma and didn’t think that would happen. It’s heartbreaking to see the look of utter defeat and sadness on Penguin’s face.
What makes this moment even more heart breaking is that it mirrors the time he was nearly killed by Gordon and was able to get out of it. This time, it appears, Penguin wasn’t so lucky in escaping death. It’s as though he’s truly reached rock bottom again, and this time he’s utterly alone. He won’t be able to crawl back to his mother, because she’s gone. And he’s without a friend in the world to help him.
Not only has Penguin lost his love, but he’s seemingly lost everything. It’s inevitable that Penguin will somehow survive this, physically, but will he survive it mentally? It’s no secret that Penguin is already quite the brutal killer, however this will surely transform him.
It’s hard to imagine that he will return from this with any shred of humanity left. Every chance at happiness Penguin has had was cruelly taken away from him. He’s doubtful to let another person in and allow himself to have weaknesses any longer. From now on, it’s easy to assume fans will be seeing a much darker character.
Additionally, from a fan’s point of view the storyline of the Gotham season 3 winter finale is equally heartbreaking. There’s a finality to Penguin and Nygma’s relationship that cannot be ignored. Penguin gave Nygma every chance to change his mind, and yet he didn’t. Up until the final moments it seemed like Penguin was prepared to forgive Nygma for his plot to kill him. After what happened, it’s highly unlikely that the two will ever be close again. What could have been the first male/male romance on the show isn’t going to happen.