I announced last week that Gotham has won me over after a lackluster first season. At times during this season, I’ve felt like this series has been taken over by a whole new creative team. This isn’t the case but something just seems different. There’s much more of a linear direction in the overarching stories of Season 2. Fan service has been considerably reduced but respect is still given to the source material. Gotham is no longer afraid of being its own canon. “Strike Force” follows suit with Season 2’s newfound success for the most part. There’s only one storyline that’s all too reminiscent of Gotham’s struggles early on.
After last week’s episode, Jerome and his fellow maniacs are no more. Theo Galavan’s ploy to usurp power in Gotham City has resulted in support for his potential Mayoral candidacy. His planned heroics at the charity gala have made him a well-respected public figure. Since his actions required the demise of his Arkham escapees, Galavan looks to Penguin for help. After being gone for some time, Penguin is thrown right back into the big picture. With Galavan holding his dear mother hostage, Penguin is forced to eliminate Galavan’s political adversaries in the Mayoral race.
Gotham’s biggest strength this season has been its utilization of principal characters. Penguin was no doubt the standout character of the first season. As fun as he was to follow, sometimes he wasn’t necessary to the primary narrative. I was surprised by his recent absences but I’m glad he wasn’t shoved into the story unnecessarily. Now that he’s taken over leadership within Gotham’s criminal underbelly, it was only inevitable that he would be met with a new challenge. Knowing how close Penguin is with his mother, Galavan’s scheme may be what pushes Penguin over the edge. His involvement in Galavan’s mayoral campaign is a great and subversive take on Batman Returns. With the recent announcement of Paul Reubens joining the series as Penguin’s father (identical to his role in said film), I wonder if this was intentional or not.
Galavan hasn’t exactly been the most charismatic villain, but I prefer his methodical scheming as opposed to overbearing theatrics. This episode also follows up on Bruce’s expression of gratitude towards Galavan from last week. Bruce definitely fits into Galavan’s master plan somehow. To what extent we don’t know but it must be big to warrant him sending his niece (Silver St. Cloud) to the same school as Bruce. I guess Alfred has finally decided to fully embrace a fatherly role for Bruce by taking him up on his offer to return to school.
Speaking of Alfred, he gets perhaps his best moment of the entire series during “Strike Force.” After finding Selina watching Bruce from a distance, he flat-out slaps her across the face. After what happened between Selina and Alfred’s former compatriot Reggie, this was a long time coming. Hopefully this means the end of seeing Bruce and Selina together for the time being. It’s also an excellent opportunity for Galavan to fully capitalize on Bruce’s mindset of improving the city and Wayne Enterprises.
The title of this week’s episode comes with the arrival of Capt. Barnes (Michael Chiklis). He makes his introduction in this episode by making it abundantly clear he’s there to clean up the GCPD. With Gordon and Bullock, he organizes a team of recruits to act as a response team for the GCPD. He’s as no-nonsense a cop as they come. Based on his attitude, I have to question whether or not he’s as honest as he proclaims. If he is, then why didn’t he show up earlier on while Gordon was making the same kind of statements? My complaints with Barnes ultimately end there because if anyone can deliver forceful police actions it’s Chiklis.
Once again, Edward Nygma is the odd man out in Gotham. Ever since he was introduced, I haven’t found an organic reason for his inclusion outside of name recognition. Ever since last year’s finale, he’s developed a split personality designed to compensate for his social awkwardness. His other half is cool and collected, which is fine but for some reason doesn’t mesh with the Riddler. Does this mean his cool side will eventually take over and become the future Riddler? His inclusion this season hasn’t been much different from what we’ve seen before; tonally inconsistent and hardly consequential.
If Galavan is given a little more personality, I can see Gotham standing alongside Arrow and The Flash. There’s still a few issues that hold this show back from being on par with these two DC TV pillars. Now that we are well into the second season, only time will tell. I still remain optimistic for two reasons. Firstly, this series has already improved since last year. Secondly, both Arrow and Smallville had disappointing first seasons but progressed into becoming great shortly thereafter. Gotham definitely has the potential to follow suit if they can keep this up.
Episode Rating: 8/10