Gotham, Season 2, Episode 4, “Strike Force”
Written by Danny Cannon
Directed by TJ Scott
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX
Gotham enters a new arc as Theo Galavan begins to implement phase two of his plan to seize control of the City. The first part of his plan was to bestow chaos by unleashing the Maniax and his next move involves making himself appear as a hero to win the hearts and minds of the citizens. The extent of this plan was accomplished with the surprising twist in last week’s “The Last Laugh”, which also disposed of one of the show’s most interesting villains. This turn has reaped rewards for Galavan, as well as created a new shift in the direction of the season.
Galavan’s staged heroism has won him a candidacy for the Mayor’s office which will give passage for the next phase of his evil plan. The season has done well doling out just enough information about Galavan’s plan to maintain the mystery of the character and give momentum to the narrative. Although this pacing can make the audience a bit antsy, like Barbara, who wants to get back into the action, it may be worth the wait if Galavan’s plan lives up to the buildup. As Galavan has assured Barbara; “Patience. Your time will come. The wheel is turning.”
And the wheel is turning, as it turns out; the massive bloodshed that has overtaken the early episodes has allowed for more heroes to enter the stage to combat the chaos. With the introduction of GCPD’s new Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis), we get another enforcer against the corruption of Gotham. Barnes not only cleans out some of the bad eggs of the GCPD but enlists new recruits for an incorruptible task force. Chiklis is already a welcome addition to the GCPD cast, presenting Barnes as a person with absolute authority. As for the new recruits, they still need more screen time before they can leave a proper impression. It’s good to know that this season of Gotham won’t purely be a spotlight for the Rise of the Villains and their terrorizing, but will also be giving the side of good an equal chance to shine.
Although “Strike Force” is a step towards the light, with brighter hope for Gotham, there appears to still be dark territory ahead, for Gordon especially. This task force may be exactly what Gordon has wanted for the GCPD, but it comes at a cost, and with compromise. This adds more tension for Gordon as he might have to answer for the deals he made with “the funny walking” devil, and for the actions he committed to get him to his current position. Now, if or when that happens, will Gordon be able to face what he has coming to him?
The romance between Ed Nygma and Kristin Kringle has been developing since “Spirit of the Goat” and has only now finally moved to the next level, with them going on an official date. This arc begins well enough with Nygma practicing asking out Kringle with a skeleton, but he is interrupted by his other psyche who pretty much goads him to quit dragging his feet and just ask her out already. To little surprise, this action turns out in his favor. It is strange what Gotham is doing with Nygma here, as they have really toned down his riddle compulsion and instead decided to play up this cooler-than-thou alter-ego. This brings to mind the Michael Cera-starring film Youth in Revolt, whose main character suffered a similar affliction. Where the development of this arc finds momentum is in how Kringle reacts to Nygma’s advances now, especially after her suspecting his involvement in her ex’s disappearance. Gotham dismisses away the suspicion by having him save her from a bullet and having her vocalize her new perception of Nygma. What is surprising is how much of the cards Nygma lays out on the table for Kringle to see and how open she is with him after learning part of the truth. It appears that Gotham is going to let Nygma enjoy Kringle’s company for now, but things can only lead to trouble with that lingering alter-ego around. Nygma may need to protect Kringle from himself.
As promised, Bruce goes back to school, where he appears to be still an outsider, as we see him recklessly shuffle between two talking schoolboys on his way to his deluxe limo. There are more interesting developments happening in his interactions with Galavan than at the school in this episode, as Bruce meets Galavan for a meal to discuss his murdered parents. This brings up questions, like what does Galavan know about the Wayne murders? What plans does he have for Bruce? How does Silver St. Cloud play into things?
Along with those burning questions we get a new character from the comic books introduced into Gotham and she is Silver St. Cloud. In the comic books, Silver is one of the select few that learn of Batman’s secret identity and also serves as a love interest for Bruce. The petals of romance appear to be blooming here as Bruce gazes out to find Silver in playful bliss by the water fountain and is instantly smitten. Gotham has ingeniously chosen to make Silver an associate of Galavan’s as it brings some added tension to their possible pairing. Giving her the title of Galavan’s ward is an added plus. Natalie Alyn Lind is a fine casting choice; she already is doing well, portraying Silver as a fun and fancy-free spirit.
It looks as though Bruce’s declaration that he misses Cat has made an effect on her as this week we find Cat looking to follow up. Unfortunately for her, Bruce told Alfred about Cat’s involvement in Reggie’s death, which has him scooting her away from seeing Bruce. This is a difficult scene to watch, as Alfred smacks her as a penance for her murdering his ex-friend. The look on Camren Bicondova’s face as she holds back the sniffle in her voice after he berates her—it is truly heartbreaking. This is going to be interesting to see develop, as now that Cat has been turned away from Bruce and appears to accept this separation, it becomes more of a question of what will motivate her to see Bruce again. Will it be from jealousy, when she finds out about him and Silver? Or might she discover Galavan’s evil plan and Silver’s possible devious part in it? Only time will tell.
Case File: Assaults on the Mayoral Candidates
This week’s case has the GCPD investigate a series of concentrated attacks on contenders for the mayor’s office. This is all part of Galavan’s plan, which although it gives momentum to the season’s new arc, is also a bit strange and roundabout. If all he needs is to have the power of the mayor’s office on his side, he already had it, as we saw the Mayor was under his control in“Knock, Knock”. Perhaps Galavan’s evil plan needs him to be adored by the Gotham public to fully realize his vengeance upon the city. It is clear now that Galavan has a vendetta that he intends to secure by building a fortress at the center of the city where he can reign. Galavan is actually quite clever at achieving this goal, as he utilizes his enemies to overcome his obstacles.
Galavan enlists The Penguin to pave the way to his desired mayoral position by clearing out the other viable candidates. In the beginning of the episode, it is well established that Galavan’s presence has unsettled the balance for The Penguin and his rule of Gotham. Galavan’s view of Gotham’s current state is that it is garbage, and what he wants to do is destroy it in order to rebuild the city in his vision. We know that The Penguin likes Gotham the way it is and that he would never go along with this plan, so obviously he needs some motivation, which Galavan reveals to be The Penguin’s imprisoned mother. That Penguin would be manipulated this way is plausible, as it has been established that his mother is his weakness, but this turn completely deflates The Penguin as a villain. Before, The Penguin was the one manipulating and now he is the one playing a goon. Despite this neutering of The Penguin, Robin Lord Taylor gives a good performance being wound up by Galavan. Taylor also does well portraying The Penguin’s downward spiral, which culminates not only in his shouted squeals of frustration at the end of the episode, but moreso in his standoff conversation with Gordon, where his tone is coarse and thick with desperation and bitterness.
This episode is written by Danny Cannon, one of Gotham’s signature directors. Cannon’s previous writing contribution is one of the series’ better standalone episodes, “Red Hood”, and this is another solid entry. As a follow up to “The Last Laugh”, this episode does well at clearing the board and resetting all the pieces to move forward the story. The Penguin explains the disruption in recent episodes, Captain Barnes establishes the new status quo of the GCPD, and Galavan reveals more of his plans for the future of Gotham. The story is very economically and cleanly told. The direction of the episode isn’t as sharp as previous ones have been. TJ Scott’s use of lighting during indoor scenes is typically stunning and often offers an interesting variation on Gotham’s visual tone, but in this episode the lighting makes the episode come off as over-saturated and foggy. Also, the sequence with Camren Bicondova jumping down the wall outside of Bruce’s prep school and then climbing up it again looks very awkward and choppy. Lastly, it feels like a missed opportunity not to make more of a build up to the entrance of Captain Barnes. As it is, the pacing feels a bit rushed. All in all, “Strike Force” is a good reset episode and introduction to new characters, with hope for more interesting developments to come.
- A few of the names of terminated corrupt GCPD officers bring to mind some possibly significant people: Hightower, from the Police Academy film series; Coulson, from the Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D; Perez, which might refer to prolific comic book artist George Perez.
- “Tough is what we eat for breakfast.”—Captain Barnes.
- It’s cool that Gotham likes to play with how soon or late they place the show’s title card. This week the title card comes about fifteen minutes into the episode.
- There is one group in The Penguin’s mob meeting that looks like a gang of Daryl Hannahs dressed like Pris from Bladerunner. Though when you look closely at their blueish eye make-up, they almost resemble The Sons of Batman face tattoo from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
- “No, Master Bruce. I expect you to run.”—Alfred to Bruce as his Batman training Begins.
- “A crime unpunished is a crime itself.”—More wisdom from Captain Barnes.
- Randell Hobbs’ mayoral campaign poster, with its bold yet simple last name text atop a head shot of the candidate, looks like it shares a similar sensibility with that of one Foster Kane.
- “You shouldn’t be joking about near misses. Next bullet might get stuck right in your eye.”—Bullock warns the unit.
- “Yes sir, No Joking!”—Strike force member. This and Barnes’ speech about, “No more chaos” are clear references against the Joker idea and his philosophy.
- Although, it’s great that Gotham is getting more good guys on the roster, the show still missed an opportunity for utilizing already established good guy characters like Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen. Also, isn’t Harvey Dent supposed to show up sometime this season?