Now that Jerome is gone, Gotham has some big questions to answer: How does the city attempt to recover, and who’s left to pick up the mantle of evil? For the first part, we turn to newcomer Michael Chiklis as GCPD’s new hard-hitting Capt. Nathaniel Barnes. For the second part, we already know who is still lurking in the shadows with more power, intelligence and ruthlessness than the self-proclaimed King of Gotham himself, Penguin. Monday night’s episode “Rise of the Villains: Strike Force,” brought new gusto and new steps in Theo Galavan’s plans, but it also put Gordon in a rather uncomfortable position. What is to become of him if Barnes discovers his under-the-table dealing with Penguin? Things might be changing at the GCPD, but that’s not necessarily good news for our layered, not-so-angelic hero.
“Strike Force” begins with a whole lot of pent up aggression. Penguin is determined to discover who caused the Arkham breakout and to alleviate the chaos the Maniax (most specifically Jerome) brought to Gotham City, causing Penguin’s business to crumble beneath his feet. As he calls a meeting to discuss what must be done and instilling new rules of decorum on how crime is run in the city, Tabitha saunters in, gives Butch the side eye (unwarranted), and presents Penguin with an invitation to meet Theo. Things are not destined to go well.
On the other side of the law, Gordon is getting grief from fellow police folk about his “holier than thou” attitude when Capt. Nathaniel Barnes slams a chair into pieces to make quite an entrance (a touch dramatic, no? At least he didn’t put his nails to a chalkboard or attempt to sit backwards in said chair instead. That’s been done to death). Barnes gives a quick history lesson about the precinct building then cuts right to the chase: In his mind, every officer in the GCPD should be ashamed of the terrible things that have happened in recent weeks, and anyone who is not ashamed should resign immediately. Barnes fires a handful of officers who have proven to be morally gray and says that from now on, any officer that so much as tiptoes on the line of corruption or crime will not only fired, but also arrested. Big words for the big man in charge, and Gordon’s career in the GCPD is once again not nearly as secure as he’s hoping.
Barnes calls Gordon into his office, and after bonding over being former men in uniform, Barnes names Gordon his second-in-command and states that it’s time to clean up the department and bring respect back to the GCPD name in Gotham City. Harvey’s not nearly as onboard with Barnes’ new rough-and-tough direction, but Gordon’s not ready to hear it. And of course, he won’t be smiling so much when it’s finally time to go after Penguin, considering what the crime boss has on him.
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Meanwhile, Theo’s plan is working perfectly. His bid for mayor has yet to be announced, and yet, he’s already gaining popularity regarding the position. He meets with Penguin who quickly realizes that Theo is, in fact, behind the Arkham breakout and subsequent chaos. But surprisingly that’s not what pisses Penguin off. No, when Tabitha calls him the “King of Garbage,” Penguin angrily explains his successes and explains how wrong it would be to underestimate him.
Unfortunately for Penguin, Tabitha and Theo estimate his worth pretty much exactly on the money. After Penguin refuses to work as Theo’s “destroyer” and kill the two new candidates for mayor (Penguin gets to sass the billionaire a bit here, “You need an assassin. This is Gotham, you can find them in the phone book.”), Theo and Tabitha threaten his mother’s life in exchange for the deed to be accomplished.
Back at GCPD, Barnes’ blunt, gruffness is quite enjoyable. Lines like “everyone knows you’re banging the M.E.” are certainly entertaining, but it’s also a relief to see someone else in charge who is just as determined as Essen to not only take down crime in Gotham City, but to also enlist as much help for Gordon as possible. Unfortunately, the team Barnes wants to put in place for Gordon is a group of cadets with way too little training, though quite a bit of fire and promise, and Barnes doesn’t seem to worried about their future out in the field. Gordon once again seems to support Barnes’ movement but states that the newbies on “Strike Force” might be facing too big a risk. “True, what have we got to lose?” Barnes replies. Um…their lives?
NEXT: Is Penguin’s reign coming to a close?