Gotham: Strike Force Review

Theo Galavan's scheming continues to entertain in "Strike Force," another enjoyable episode in Gotham's second season.

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

Gotham: Season 2, Episode 4

Tonight’s Gotham started a new mini-arc after last week’s “The Last Laugh” had us saying goodbye to The Joker and the Maniax’s reign of terror in Gotham. Of course, the reign of terror isn’t over — not really. As we viewers (and an increasing number of behind-the-scenes players are realizing) know, Theo Galavan is the one behind Gotham’s latest crime wave, and he is a patient schemer.

Galavan is fooling everyone.

Theo Galavan is like a chess master, moving his pieces into place. This week, he coerces Penguin into becoming his bishop by kidnapping his mother. Penguin acquiesces, taking out the other candidates for Gotham mayor, clearing the way for Theo’s rise to power. But it is a messy bid. Making Penguin an enemy seems a hasty move — one that could eventually lead to Theo’s downfall in the long run.

Luckily for Theo, for now, Penguin has limited moves. He may be quasi-friends with Jim, but he can’t spill the beans on Theo while the Galavans still have his mother. And, while Jim knows that Penguin is the one behind the attacks on the mayoral candidates, he can’t say anything without risking Penguin exposing Jim’s brief turn as corrupt cop in the season premiere.

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Gordon has a new ally in the GCPD.

Now, normally, being a crooked cop might actually earn Jim some points in the Gotham P.D., but the GCPD has a new captain — Nathaniel Barnes (played by Michael Chiklis) — and he is the knight in shining armor Jim has been waiting for. Or so it seems. His introduction to the P.D. and this show comes in the form of a stirringly righteous monologue that ends with him firing the most corrupt of the GCPD’s cops on the spot. He goes on to appoint Jim Gordon his second-in-command, making him the leader of a shiny new group of cadets they call the strike force. Given that these police ducklings are nearly indistinguishably from one another, I have a feeling they are not long for this world. (Side note: How does Gotham simultaneously have the “best” police academy in the country and the worst police department?!

Barnes’ appointment is seemingly everything Jim has ever wanted in a boss, but is it too good to be true? His strict, monolithic stance of Gotham’s criminal activity might be too black-and-white. And Harvey, who has survived this long sheerly on his impeccable intuition, pretty much spends the entire episode rolling his eyes at everything Barnes does. (Side note: I’m still angry about the killing off of Essen, who was just as committed to cleaning up the P.D. Barnes’ introduction and his subsequent soldier-off with Jim may be the most masculine thing I’ve ever seen on a show populated by roughly 464 mafiosa characters in season 1 who would have sooner chopped off a finger than abandon their masculinity in even the smallest of ways.)

Theo and Bruce, best friends forever?

Elsewhere, Theo moves another piece into place: his friendship with Bruce Wayne. It’s unclear why Theo wants to be friends with Bruce — for the money, for the status, just to mess with the kid? — but he is doing a good job. He laments the fact that the GCPD has yet to solve the Waynes’ murders, and introduces Bruce to his niece/ward Silver St. Cloud, who just happens to be starting at Bruce’s school. Bruce is obviously taken with her, but I am automatically suspicious of anyone who has familial ties to the Galavans…

While Bruce makes a new friend, Selina is persuaded to stay away from Bruce by a physically-abusive Alfred. Now, I am usually an Alfred fan, but this was not cool. Selina may be a murderer, but she is also a kid. Not to mention a kid struggling to decide where on the hero-villain spectrum she falls. A little compassion could be the very thing that keeps Selina an ally. So, even if Alfred is trying to protect Bruce, he isn’t doing a very good job of it long term. His treatment of Selina was callous and cruel and reminded me a bit of Barnes’ perspective on how the GCPD should operate: by assuming the worst of people.

Ed finally gets the girl.

Meanwhile, Ed finally gets a date with Ms. Kringle, and it goes surprisingly well — despite him letting slip that “he’s glad [Edward]’s dead.” Now, we know Ed killed Edward. Kris does not, but Ed manages to convince her it is just a figure of speech and the night ends with a kiss. Ms. Kringle officially has the worst taste in men. This storyline continues to work the least for me. Ed is a sympathetic character in many ways, but as long as he stays so segregated from the rest of the storyline, I will continue to be bored.

Gotham deftly juggled a lot of storylines in “Strike Force,” another solid episode in what has so far been an enjoyable season 2. Theo’s slow burn scheming is moving at exactly the right pace. This week’s episode may have been more about moving the pieces into place then knocking down any kings or queens, but after last week’s big moves, it was a welcome change of pace.

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3 out of 5