TV Recap: Gotham, ‘Strike Force’

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Strike Force Plot Summary:

With a possible bid for mayor on the line, Galavan (James Frain) forces Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) into an uneasy alliance.  Meanwhile, the GCPD gets a new aggressive Captain (Michael Chiklis) who makes Gordon (Ben McKenzie) his right hand man.

The first few episodes of Gotham have been so Jerome focused that we’ve almost forgotten about our favorite waddling crime boss.  We haven’t seen much of the Penguin this season, but the spotlight was finally put on him in this episode.  The first season was all about Penguin’s rise to power, where every episode highlighted his brilliant scheme of the week.  It seems this season is all about stripping him down, but Robin Lord Taylor is up to the task.

Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX
Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX.

What makes Penguin’s vulnerability work so well is the show has given us an equal competitor in Theo Galavan.  I wasn’t sure about this guy as a primary antagonist, but James Frain has really found his stride with the character, and now I’m on board.  Their first meeting is terrific.  The back and forth, Penguin’s resistance, the reveal of Galavan’s ultimate plan, and the final nail in the coffin for Penguin was gut-wrenching.  They took a character I hated from the first season and made her a perfect plot device.  Things aren’t exactly going well for Penguin right now.  We’re so used to seeing this guy always in control, always ten steps ahead.  Taylor plays the character on edge beautifully, really showing his versatility as an actor.  What makes this storyline so great is we know Penguin will eventually give this guy his comeuppance, and I cannot wait to see that come to fruition, even if it’s the last episode of the season.

While Taylor was the standout this week, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Gotham newcomer Michael Chiklis, a superb addition to the show.  We know Chiklis is a great actor, and it was pure pleasure to watch his first scene as new GCPD Captain, Nathaniel Barnes.  He’s the classic “I mean business” authority figure, like James Gordon on steroids.  His first speech (in which he literally cleans out the GCPD) was cliché, but Chiklis owns it.  Gordon instantly gets a man crush on this guy, and their new strike force definitely adds a lot of excitement and character to the show.  We saw Gordon as the ultimate idealist in the first season, and to pair him with a guy who finally matches the passion he does, but also remind us that Gordon did not such a moral thing in the premiere is brilliant storytelling.  Watching Gordon and Penguin get contentious, but also show an equal level of fear that their mistakes will catch up to them was compelling, and almost unites two characters who are at total odds.

While Penguin and Barnes stole most of the spotlight, the minor subplots delivered as well.  There’s an old Wonder Years episode where Kevin Arnold spends nearly the entire time staring at the phone in an attempt to psyche himself up to call a girl.  Well, after more than a season and a half of build up (and one life saving), Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) FINALLY ASKS OUT MS. KRINGLE, FOR THE LOVE OF QUESTION MARKS!  THANK GOD!  Their dinner date was a good scene though, and while I’m still not feeling the whole “I’m talking to my split personality” crap, they at least wrote stronger material for it.

Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX.
Photo Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX.

Speaking of dates, Bruce (David Mazouz) has a big dinner with Theo Galavan, who actually starts talking about Thomas Wayne’s mysterious past.  But instead of taking this rare opportunity to ask more questions, Bruce is too busy drooling over a pretty girl playing in the water fountain.  For crying out loud, pay attention, Bruce!  This girl is Silver St. Cloud (Natalie Alyn Lind), one of Bruce’s girlfriends from the comics, so she’s obviously here to stay.

Bruce’s other girlfriend, Selina (Camren Bicondova), had a rather rough moment with Alfred (Sean Pertwee).  This was a tense, well written scene between the two, although I’m surprised they went so far in regards to something Alfred does.  I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s some blow back from the online peanut gallery.  Kind of dicey for network television, but proof that this iteration of Alfred is a hard man.

Gotham‘s consistency is riding high, and delivers another great episode.  Not only does it put long term pieces in play, but it puts characters we’ve seen have the upper hand in vulnerable positions.  My only big criticism with this episode was the mayoral security.  I can suspend my disbelief more than anyone, and I rarely nitpick, but the security around Gotham City mayoral candidates is worse than apartment buildings that have bricks leaned up against the door so anyone can get in.  Seriously.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.