[This is a review of Gotham season 2, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Gotham certainly took viewers by surprise with the climactic twist in last week's episode - and with Jerome's arc (for the moment, at least) placed securely on the backburner, the show is free to focus on what has emerged as one of this season's most prominent plotlines in Theo Galavan's (James Frain) grand plan for the city. This week, we discover just how ambitious he really is, as fan-favorite character Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) becomes wrapped up in the Galavans' machinations as well. Also, the arrival of Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) may signal a new era for the GCPD. Let's discuss.
WELCOME TO BARNES' WORLD
Barnes' commanding entrance into the GCPD was certainly a dramatic highlight of the episode. Moments after announcing his arrival, Barnes fires a number of corrupt and otherwise ineffective officers, arresting one who questions his actions. Calling Gordon (Ben McKenzie) into his office, Barnes makes Gordon his second-in-command, though Bullock (Donal Logue) is less impressed. He's seen idealists come and go in Gotham, to little effect. Before long, Barnes reveals to Gordon that his plan is to recruit cadets straight out of the academy to join a GCPD Strike Force designed to clean up Gotham's streets. Finally, four new officers join the team, with their first official mission to take down the Penguin.
The fact that Barnes almost instantly calls out the fact that Jerome and the Maniax were easily able to invade the GCPD and kill their commissioner sets the tone for what a lightning rod this character could be in injecting some much-needed drama and conflict in the police-centric storylines. As it stands, there hasn't been enough of a focus on the corruption within the GCPD, as Gordon has largely been the only dissenting voice against it all. At this stage, it's unclear if Barnes will live up to this potential, but Chiklis is definitely the kind of actor that could elevate the show to new heights. Side note: Perhaps Theo's plan for the GCPD to chase down the Penguin (more on those two in a second) too perfectly aligns with Barnes' determination to take Penguin down. Considering how powerful Theo is, it wouldn't be a shock if he and Barnes are working together.
THEO'S PLOT THICKENS
Just as Penguin is reeling from the chaotic aftermath of Jerome's antics, Theo asks to meet with him. As it turns out, the Galavans want to recruit Penguin to be their "destroyer" and take out the mayoral candidates, paving the way for Theo to win the election. Penguin initially refuses but is coerced to cooperate when he learns that the Galavans' have his mother captive. Penguin and his men fake an attempt on Theo's life to cover his tracks, and Penguin himself kills one of them, though a second assassination -- this time perpetrated by Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan, menacing as always) -- is thwarted by Gordon and the newly branded GCPD Strike Force. Meanwhile, Theo grills Bruce about his parent's unsolved murders and introduces the young Wayne to his ward, Silver St. Cloud (Natalie Alyn Lind).
The next stage of Theo's plan puts Penguin in an intriguing position. Last season, Penguin proved that he has a knack for manipulating those around him in order to gain more power, and now he finds himself yet again pushed aside and under the thumb of a more powerful figure. Both he and Gordon are now put in compromising positions wherein each will likely have to answer for his crimes in some way later this season, although Penguin's decision to kill Counselor Caulfield was particularly ill-conceived. Who wouldn't notice the fact that he "walked funny"? In any case, it's almost certain that Silver will play some role in Theo's mission to become mayor. His persistence in riling up Bruce over his parents' deaths was very suspicious indeed.
After stringing viewers along for ages, Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) finally takes some definitive action in his feelings toward Kristen (Chelsea Spack) this episode. Egged on by the voice in his head, he casually and confidently approaches her and asks her to dinner, to which she smiles and says yes. Later on, she shows up at the address he provided, which ends up being Nygma's house. The two engage in relaxed conversation, as Kristen apologizes profusely for being so mean to Nygma and accusing him of writing her abusive ex's farewell letter. When Nygma says he's glad that Kristen's ex is dead, she corrects him that he had actually left town. Kristen appears ready to leave, but Nygma apologizes and confesses that he has a voice in his head that made him feel guilty about spoiling the moment. Unfazed by this, Kristen kisses him.
Viewers may remember that Nygma killed Kristen's ex late last season and couldn't help but leave a clue in the letter he wrote to cover his tracks. Since then, he's been left to ponder his next move regarding the object of his affections, though it appears that he did get away with murder consequence-free. At this point, it remains to be seen how Kristen will find out, but it does seem to be an inevitably. Likely, her fate will be tied to his eventual turn into the Riddler fans know and love. Smith has been a ton of fun to watch as both sides of the character's personality. However, the more confident side will probably take over once he embraces his inner darkness - a move that may be right around the corner.
What did you think of "Strike Force"? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section below.
Gotham returns with "Scarification" next Monday at 8pm on FOX.