Episode 204 “Strike Force”
[photos: Nicole Rivelli /Fox]
Four episodes into season two of Gotham and the show is still tonally uneven. The police procedural is ethereal, there only in spirit. The villains are so comical they are often satirical. And then there is the plot…
Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) arrives like a hurricane with expected results. His dramatic Gordon-esque introductory speech ends with several officers in the unemployment line and a stern warning that corruption will be met with swift action. Harvey is not happy, but Gordon is, finally having an ally who thinks like he does. Only time will tell if Barnes can shock him, my guess is yes.
Boldly, Theo Galavan summons Penguin, revealing his master craft organizing the Arkham breakout and Jerome’s rampage. Theo brazenly tasks Penguin with the assassination of his rival candidates for mayor. Penguin refuses with one the show’s best line to date – “You’re looking for an assassin. It’s Gotham, they’re in the phone book, under A.” Unfortunately Theo is a step ahead of Penguin, revealing that he is holding Cobblepot’s mother hostage.
Barnes takes the first step toward starting his war on crime in Gotham by assembling Unit Alpha — a strike force consisting of four, hand picked, corruption free rookies. The captain places the unit under Gordon’s command. Galavan accepts an award for his heroism in front of city hall. A spray of bullets interrupts his acceptance speech, but spurs him on to announce his bid for mayor.
Uncharacteristically Penguin immediately murders mayoral candidate Janet Caulfield as ordered, perplexing his loyal companion Butch and most viewers. Alfred intercepts Selena as she waits for Bruce to get out of school and makes it clear that he does not want her in the young master’s life. Edward invites Kristin (Ms. Kringle) to his apartment for an awkward dinner that is nearly disastrous, but ends on a promising note for Nygma.
Bruce treats Theo to dinner for his bravery during the fundraiser. Theo takes the opportunity to plant seeds of discontent in Bruce’s mind about the GCPD and their lack of progress regarding his parents’ murder. Possibly a sign of deeper manipulations, Theo introduces Bruce to his niece, Silver St. Cloud.
Opting out on the second murder, Penguin unleashes Victor Zazz to finish off Theo’s competition. Zazz pursues his target into the streets where he encounters Unit Alpha. His target slipping away and outgunned by Gordon and the strike force, Zazz uses the environment to make his escape. This attack firmly sets Barnes’ sights on the Penguin, whom he dubs “enemy number one”.
What’s not working?
The show’s drama rarely feels real. Like a bad soap opera, I expect the music to cue as the actors stop speaking to sell the importance of a scene. Perhaps too much is going on, too many parallel stories, everything seems slimmed down, never given time to simmer. The police procedural element is virtually non-existent. Supporting departments like forensics and autopsy no longer get any screen time unless the thin plot demands a scene break.
And finally Barbara Kean continues to be marginalized. Cut her loose already; let the poor actress get into a role she can shine in. She is a pet of the main villain; her dialog even indicates that she is bored in the role.
The aesthetic is for the show is reminiscent of Burton’s Batman universe. The Gothic set design, wardrobe, skillful lighting, and shot composition is great. Having been nominated or won in almost every category for production, visually the show is beautiful. This episode’s ending shot with Penguin silhouetted is fantastic, capturing the character’s anguish beautifully.