Monday, October 12, 2015

REVIEW: 'Gotham' - The Police Department Gets a New Captain Who Shakes Up the Precinct in 'Strike Force'

FOX's Gotham - Episode 2.04 "Strike Force"

Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis) is called to duty to create a law-abiding task force, with the help of Gordon. Meanwhile, Penguin gets caught up in a favor for Galavan, and Nygma asks Kringle out on a date.

The Gotham City Police Department gets a new captain in "Strike Force." Michael Chiklis makes his debut as new series regular Captain Nathaniel Barnes. He is intimidating and a force to be reckoned with from the first moment he appears on the screen. He demands respect and is coming into the precinct ready to make some drastic changes in the face of destruction and devastation. It's a powerful moment that signals a change for the police department even though the accompanying rousing score does lesson the significance of Barnes' actions. This is a man who doesn't just talk about cleaning up the police department and the streets of Gotham. He actually does it too.

Jim is way too trusting of Barnes immediately because he does and says all the things that he strongly supports. Jim has been trying to change the police department from the first moment he joined the force. Barnes was able to do more in a few seconds than Jim was able to accomplish in an entire year. That's impressive and shows just how committed Barnes is to the cause. It is important that Jim has an ally that respects his worldview and wants to help make it a reality. Barnes believes in law and order and wants to return that structure to the city. Right now, criminals are running things. They are creating chaos and panic in the city. It's up to the police to deal with that situation before it gets any worse.

It's a very aspirational and lofty goal especially once the episode remembers that Jim has been compromised a little bit. He does have a relationship with the Penguin. One that has forced Jim to do some horrible things just in order to pursue his dream of helping the city. Barnes is able to see things for what they really are. He understands people in a way that isn't abundantly clear just by reading their files. The first half of this episode is building up this new union of forces. Barnes creates a new unit filled with officers straight out of the academy for Jim to be in charge of. It could be a turning point on this war on crime. The second half of the episode does broaden out a little bit. It showcases what's going on with Nygma and Bruce. It also shows just how much more complicated this task is for Jim and Barnes.

The audience has an understanding of how much Jim wants to clean up the department and the city. It didn't need to be said yet again in the beginning of this episode. Barnes will be a crucial ally. But all that is character setup. The more intriguing parts of this episode come from the intimate details of the characters. Jim wants to stand by as Barnes' second-in-command. But that is more complicated to do when the plan is to take down the Penguin and run the risk of exposing Jim's past dealings with him. It's a tricky and complex situation that largely just hints at a precarious future. The city isn't getting better just because Jerome is dead. In fact, it's only getting worse as various organizations do their best to execute their agendas and manipulate the other citizens of the city. Theo continues to be one step ahead of everyone else. That is an entertaining quality. But again, it's just a plan where he calls for patience as the city is about to undergo a more massive change. The show can only tell the audience to wait for so long.

Gotham really did lose something special last week in Cameron Monaghan as Jerome. He gave life and unpredictability to the first handful of episodes of the season. Sure, he was just a pawn. But he was the most entertaining part of the show in those three hours. With him gone, the show moves back to the breakout star of its first season - Robin Lord Taylor's Oswald Cobblepot. This hasn't been a very busy season so far for the Penguin. All of that changes this week as he becomes a part of Theo's plan to control the city. He is forced into killing the candidates for mayor because Theo has Penguin's mother. It's been made painfully clear that Penguin would do anything for his mother. There's no way she's getting out of this situation alive. In fact, her dying would make him a much more interesting character. He wants to be the king of Gotham. He wants to be seen as this master manipulator of events. And yet, he is being played by Theo. But he also doesn't tell Jim the truth. He holds onto his secrets even though alerting the police to the fact that Theo was the man who broke the inmates out of Arkham could eventually help him destroy this man who has his mother. And yet, secrets are being kept in order to create dramatic stakes. It's just frustrating to watch as this episode is pure set up. It doesn't want to do exciting things. It leaves that for the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Strike Force" was written by Danny Cannon and directed by TJ Scott.
  • Is calling the new police unit the Strike Force a nod to Chiklis' past Emmy winning role on FX's The Shield? It definitely feels like it. 
  • When Bruce takes Theo to dinner to thank him for saving his life, he meets Theo's ward, Silver St. Cloud. It's a tad surprising that when Theo isn't plotting the destruction of the city he is looking after a teenager. And yet, her being associated with him can only mean bad things for Bruce in the future.
  • And yet, Bruce and Silver are being positioned as romantic interests because Selina continues to not be good for him. Though that largely comes from Alfred making sure she doesn't come anywhere close to Bruce.
  • Bruce always wants to take his training seriously one episode and then the next he's complaining about Alfred forcing him to run home from school. It still doesn't make any sense at all.
  • Nygma finally gets his date with Ms. Kringle and almost blows it by letting it slip that her former boyfriend is dead. Somehow the date still ends with the two of them kissing. It's not all that sweet either. So much has been building up to this moment. And yet, it doesn't feel all that charming or original.
  • Harvey has concerns about what Barnes is doing to the department but those are largely kept to himself in these first few days under new leadership.