How long has it been since somebody on Gotham promised that change was coming and/or here? Oh, wait, that was only last week, when Theo Galavan told the people of Gotham City they’ve had enough of people like Jerome Valeska? And then Theo stabbed Jerome in the neck, thereby launching his mayoral campaign. Gotham is that kind of show, one that has worn out all goodwill thanks to its never-ending promissory style of drama: Don't like what you see on the show? Just wait, it'll change in a moment! Change has been a constant in season two, but none of the recent changes have suggested significant alterations to the status quo.
"Strike Force" seems to challenge that assumption, but do you trust the show anymore, especially after the events of last week? What about the sudden appearance of Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis), an army-trained straight-arrow cop, instills confidence after viewers had the rug pulled out from under them in episode three? Theo Gallavan is on the warpath, and there's no reason to think that Barnes isn't at least a response to that scheme. After all, we are introduced to Barnes in the episode where we see Theo gearing up to take the reins of power. Galavan does this by blackmailing Oswald Cobblepot, and romantically tempting Bruce Wayne (Silver St. Cloud, hubba bubba).
Gallavan wastes no time in announcing his candidacy: He says he will run for mayor seconds after Cobblepot's assassin (Butch? Seems like it was Butch ... ) takes a shot at him. So why wouldn't viewers be suspicious of Barnes? Sure, he fires some corrupt cops. And he's in tight with an upstanding police academy trainer that Gordon recognizes. But again: In the context of an episode where Theo Galavan is pulling so many strings, what suggests that Barnes isn't putting on a show?
Maybe you buy Barnes's thunderous introductory speech, a feat of oratory that's mainly sold by Chiklis's conviction. After all, what manner of army brat leader tries to rouse his men by saying, "I wasn't even here, and I'm ashamed," about the death of Commissioner Sarah Essen? It's like saying "Nobody can blame me, but I feel embarrassed to be associated with you anyway."
But in spite of this: Barnes projects strength and leadership? The guy whose plan doesn't even make sense? Here we veer deeper into nitpick territory, but bear with me. Barnes appoints Gordon to lead Unit Alpha, a group of police cadets who are hand-picked by a gruff instructor ... that Gordon previously butted heads with. Barnes picks cadets instead of trained police officers because GCPD's corruption is apparently so pervasive that, in spite of the cadets' lack of training, these kids are, um, more optimistic, and therefore better?
Yes, Unit Alpha's members are more idealistic, and sharp, but why wouldn't Gordon be better-served by a group of cops who know how to work as a team, and still care about their jobs after they've worked shoulder-to-shoulder with crooked officers? Gordon preemptively waves this question away by saying that Barnes would have a hard time weeding out all the corrupt cops in a department that's so completely rundown. But where is this show's sense of optimism? If the GCPD is so far gone, why hasn't Gordon just chucked in the towel and become proto-Batman himself?
A bigger quibble: Kristen Kringle doesn't seem concerned by Edward Nygma's sudden transformation into Sociopath Nygma. He even gives her the opportunity to hesitate before she kittenishly kisses him, but after she catches him talking to himself. Kristen excuses Nygma's behavior because he's disarmingly direct: He's not talking to Kristen, he's addressing an "inner voice" that "keeps [Nygma] in line." Kringle's line about how everyone has that kind of voice would make sense if Nygma weren't desperately wailing to his inner voice to "go away!" Yes, we all have quiet little freak-outs, but again, in the context of a desperate, quirky character like Edward Nygma shouting "Go away" in an otherwise empty room, why wouldn't Kringle be a little worried? This is right after Nygma turned a complete 180 and suavely requested Kringle's company after awkwardly yelping his way through embarrassing flirtations (bullet in a cupcake, guys, ring a bell?). Why don't the creators of this show worry that their characters' constant inability to make connections based on their previous experiences won't wind up alienating their viewership? Are we that gullible?
- How long until Leslie Thompkins leaves Gordon and maybe even takes Alfred up on his offer to go out to Chez Bernaise?
- Time for: Fan-boy-ish Speculation! Which writer on this show's creative committee decided that Bruce's teenage heartthrob should be Silver St. Cloud?
- Also, who chose Louis Prima's "Just a Gigolo" during Nygma's big date scene? I want names.
- What are we thinking: Is Barnes corrupt? Or is he honest, and therefore bound to die as quickly as Essen did? I'm leaning toward the former, but the latter could happen. Say he's on the take, then grows a conscience, but is still shot anyway by, I dunno, Cobblepot. Something like that?
- Tabitha Galavan to Oswald Cobblepot: "You're not the king of Gotham — you're the king of garbage." Easily the worst line of dialogue in tonight's episode.