Ever since ‘The Shield’ ended, star Michael Chiklis has struggled to find a suitable vehicle for his talents. The short-lived series ‘No Ordinary Family’ and ‘Vegas’ certainly weren’t it, nor was a run on the weakest season of ‘American Horror Story’. This week, he joins the cast of ‘Gotham’. Will this be a better fit, and will he stick around for a while?
Judging by the episode title ‘Strike Force’, I take it that the writers of this show are fans of ‘The Shield’ (where Chiklis’ character headed a police unit call the Strike Team). The actor steps in as Capt. Nathaniel Barnes, the replacement for the deceased Captain (briefly Commissioner) Essen. Barnes is a gruff bulldog of a man who’s determined to clean up the city, and who has a zero tolerance policy for corruption among his officers. His first act after charging into the police station is to fire a bunch of cops and even arrest one. He warns those left that he’ll be holding them on a short leash. Unfortunately, characters like this tend not to survive long in the ‘Gotham’ universe.
Jim immediately likes the man. Barnes is at least initially impressed with Jim’s record as well. He asks Jim to be his second-in-command and puts him in charge of a new Untouchables-like squad called the Strike Force. Because so much of the GCPD is already in the pocket of organized crime, Jim and Barnes have to recruit the most promising candidates straight out of the police academy, when they’re still young and idealistic and haven’t had a chance to be corrupted yet.
Meanwhile, the Penguin has suffered a serious downturn in business since the Arkham breakout. Just as he demands that his own criminal associates find out who was behind that, Tabitha shows up to fetch him for a meeting with her brother. As soon as he meets the man, Penguin recognizes that Galavan is the mastermind behind the Maniax. Galavan freely admits as much. He’s planning a run for Mayor so that he can demolish half the city and replace it with fancy (and lucrative) modern development. To facilitate that, Galavan wants Penguin to bump off some of his competitors, including a popular City Councilwoman and a powerful union boss. He also wants to stage a fake assassination attempt on himself to build up his credibility.
Penguin has no interest in being anyone’s lackey and refuses, until Galavan reveals that he’s holding Penguin’s mother hostage. He has clearly done his research on what pushes the man’s buttons.
The next day, Galavan is awarded a Medal of Valor and Bravery from the city for stopping Jerome. During the ceremony, a drive-by shooter makes a lot of noise without hitting anyone. Galavan stands up afterwards and declares his candidacy for Mayor.
Later, Penguin kills the Councilwoman himself and sends Victor Zsasz after the union boss. The latter is interrupted by Jim and the Strike Force, who have a big shoot-out with Zsasz but fail to capture him. The union boss lives. A witness provides Jim with enough of a description to identify Penguin as the Councilwoman’s killer.
Jim barges into Penguin’s office to confront him, but Penguin isn’t scared. He knows why Jim came alone, and reminds him that he still holds leverage over his head. How would his new captain feel if he learned that Jim Gordon had killed Ogden Barker at Penguin’s bidding? Jim sulks away back to the police station, only to learn that Capt. Barnes is aiming his sights at taking down the Penguin. That may not be good for Jim.
As all that is going on, we realize that Galavan is just using Penguin as a distraction and plans to throw him under the bus as soon as he’s elected Mayor. Penguin has undoubtedly figured this out for himself as well.
Young Master Bruce
Here’s something you don’t see on network TV very often: a grown man punching a teenage girl in the face. Especially not when that grown man is one of our sympathetic heroes, and the girl wasn’t threatening him.
As Alfred waits outside Bruce’s school, Selina Kyle slinks up to wait with him and say hello to Bruce (who told her last week that he missed her). As soon as she gets within striking distance, Alfred decks the girl. He tells her that was for killing his mate Reggie last season and orders her to scat. She’s a bad influence and Alfred doesn’t want her hanging around Bruce anymore.
Bruce invites Theo Galavan to have dinner with him at a fancy restaurant in order to thank him for saving him from Jerome. Galavan introduces Bruce to his niece Silver, who will attend the same school. Bruce is instantly smitten.
Ed continues to be tormented by the alternate, more assholish personality in his head, which eggs him on to be assertive and finally ask Ms. Kringle out on a date. Impressed by his sudden burst of virility, Kringle agrees. She’s a little surprised when he invites her for dinner at his own apartment rather than a restaurant, but Ed somehow manages to be charming for most of the date. Unfortunately, he nearly blows the evening with an offhand comment about being glad that her former boyfriend is dead. (Kringle thinks that he merely ditched her and skipped town.)
Remarkably, Ed turns things back around again. Kringle may even be turned on by the possibility that he’s a little schizophrenic. (She must have a dark side of her own.) The date ends with them making out.
I really like the casting of Chiklis and hope that he hangs around for a bit. The episode also nicely layers in a lot of complexity regarding the degrees to which Jim has become compromised by his relationship with the Penguin. Gordon is normally such a straight-laced do-gooder in most tellings of the Batman mythos. I appreciate that this one tries to be a little more complicated than that.
The new season already seems to be much stronger than the first was at this point.