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.
WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.
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?
Meanwhile, Theo receives the Gotham City Medal of Valor and Bravery for his efforts against Jerome and has a fake attempt made on his life precisely at the right moment to make him “reconsider” his stance on running for mayor. And the crowd rejoices, for now. Penguin is forced to take down Theo’s competitors in order to keep Mama Penguin safe, starting with Janice Caulfield. But at some point, you would think the guy would want to think up a Plan B to save his mother. The GCPD arrive at the scene of the crime and realize rather quickly that Penguin is the culprit. Now things are starting to get more and more stressful for dear ol’ Gordon.
Theo’s plans continue to unfold as he invites Bruce to dinner at a fancy hotel. Bruce is back at school, thanks to his agreement with Alfred but is unaware that Alfred literally slaps Selina to shoo her away from seeing Bruce again. Alfred meets Bruce at school under the guise of picking him up, but instead hands him a change of clothes and expects him to run back to Wayne Manor, which a cool six miles away. Bruce did say he wanted to train.
Theo and Bruce meet for dinner, and it’s clear that Theo’s plans for Bruce go way beyond saving his life from Jerome. He’s got plans to introduce him to his niece Silver and poke his nose into the investigation of Bruce’s parents’ death. What are his motives? Does it all come back to gaining public support for his mayoral run?
After a week without the brilliance that is Edward Nygma’s descent into the Riddler, we get a whole story line dedicated to his romancing of Miss Kringle. Edward is practicing how he can appropriately convey his affections when his alter ego appears, taunting him to stop mumbling and take what he deserves as Kristen “owes him” for saving her life. Edward’s alter ego is peeking through as he confidently tells Kristen where to meet him for dinner and that she’ll enjoy it. Thankfully that confidence doesn’t overtake the whole night which begins with a rather appetizing meal cooked by Edward himself and pleasant conversation filled with awkward apologies and adorable glances. But as these things usually go, Edward slips up and states that he’s glad Officer Dougherty is dead, and Kristen seems suspicious of Edward’s attempts to cover up the statement but is somehow won over after he tells her about the voice inside his head. (Edward of course, glazes over the more violent aspects of this voice and the fact that it’s basically an alternate personality.) The two kiss and begin a tender, sweet romance that is sure to eventually become troubling.
Taking down the next candidate is clearly a harder one for Penguin, so he sends in an expert to get the job done. Thank goodness for the return of Victor Zsasz who makes Gordon pause in shock when he realizes who’s carrying out the political hits. Zsasz gets an “unexpected” shot to the leg and disappears, just as the only female cadet takes a shot as well. Thankfully it’s a near miss, and all members of the Strike Force are still in good health.
Gordon visits Penguin at his home and confronts him, but Penguin’s not having it. Despite being in a truly terrible situation with Theo Galavan, Penguin knows he still has control and power over Gordon for gunning down Ogden Barker while trying to pay a debt. Gordon knows he has no legs to stand on in this fight, but he tells Penguin he’s willing to face whatever punishment is set to come his way. Seems that punishment could be coming sooner rather than later as Barnes tells the Strike Force and his second-in-command that it’s time to build a case against the Penguin and take him down for good. Penguin knows his time of reckoning is coming, as well, as Theo’s successful path to becoming the most powerful man in Gotham City is made more and more clear.