Well, here’s an Elseworlds story you’ve never read before: Gotham City getting aid from a member of the Fantastic Four? Let’s jump right into “Strike Force.”
The episode with Penguin firing off a shotgun to call his arguing patrons to attention. Time to talk with some civility, shall we? Penguin sits at the table. No one knows who executed the Arkham breakout, and Penguin can’t believe that. The GCPD thinks it’s still Paul Cicero, but others thought it was Penguin himself.
But hey, Penguin has given them all the freedom they want. The ginger maniac had to spoil everything and businesses are still in the can. Now, Penguin’s crews fight amongst each other. This city belongs to them now, and that brings responsibility. It’s time to restore confidence in their brand with discipline and unity. There will be no more chaos or gang wars. From now on, if you want to kill, blackmail, steal, Penguin must hear about it first.
The meeting adjourns just as Tabitha congratulates Penguin on his speech. Her brother would like to talk to him. A car is waiting outside.
We then get more arguing at the GCPD until Captain Nathaniel Barnes, played by Ben Grimm himself, Michael Chiklis, arrives for duty. He calls everyone to attention and discusses the history of the department and its architecture. He likes the strong, sturdy stuff, I suppose. And yet, just days ago, an escaped convict strolled in and murdered the commissioner and nine others. He’s ashamed. Hell, so am I. Who can just waltz in like that?
But anyone who isn’t angry, Barnes says, should resign. No one makes a move. Barnes thinks that some are lying. He’s gone through the files and calls a few names. The individuals step forward. These people, he says, are criminals, not officers. Reading off their criminal charges, he relieves them on their duties.
One argues against this abuse, prompting Barnes to arrest him. From now on, any detective who breaks the law will go to jail. If you turn a blind eye to crime, Barnes will bust you. Oh, and he calls Jim into his office.
In private, Barnes asks Jim for his thoughts on his introduction. Jim agreed with every word. Barnes has read Jim’s file- he knows that he’s a troublemaker and fighter. Jim doesn’t deny this. So Barnes makes Jim his second-in-command to fix the department and bring law and order to the city. Though the GCPD is short on hands right now, Jim warns Barnes that this could be tough. Luckily, tough is what Barnes eats for breakfast. Yup. Barnes is a Jarhead.
Outside, Bullock isn’t a fan of this Barnes guy. Gotham is corrupt, but Gordon doesn’t think it needs to be that way.
Theo watches a news report on potential new leadership candidates in Gotham City. But Mr. Galavan himself, who has not declared, has great support. Tabitha brings Penguin in- the name grew on him- to speak with Theo. Soon after, Barbara arrives to get more smooching just as Penguin figures it out- this entire plan was orchestrated by Theo himself. Barbara gives Penguin a drink.
But Theo is here to talk about Penguin’s empire. Penguin may still be seen as small time by the likes of Tabitha, but he’s come a long way from carrying Fish Mooney’s umbrella. He’s not to be underestimated. Theo again goes over the city’s history and how it’s time to move into the cleaner, brighter future. He reveals a literal display of the city, specifically residential areas. Thousands of homes would have to be destroyed.
To rebuild, Theo must destroy. Penguin has a flare for this since the public loves Theo too much right now. So Penguin will be Theo’s destroyer. However, Penguin argues that he has no flare for destruction. He’s a builder and problem solver. Plus, this task would involve public official backing…such as a mayoral candidate who is in the race by popular demand like Theo Galavan. But that means Theo’s competitors, Caulfield and Hobbs, will have to go. Penguin will have to take a shot at Theo as well, as not to arouse suspicion, but miss.
Penguin is given a folder of the candidates, but still insists that he’s not the man. Theo needs an assassin. They can be found in the phone book under “A.” Before Penguin leaves, Theo stops him and Tabitha grabs the remote to show her favorite reality show.
And on screen, we see Gertrude being held captive. The candidates die and Gertrude gets to live. It’s that simple.
Leslie is awaken by a phone call from Captain Barnes, who has heard great things about her. She’ll be receiving a lot of dead bodies soon, but Barnes is here to speak with Jim. Be at the academy at 0700. How does Barnes know where Jim is? Please, everyone knows that he’s banging the M.E.
At the academy, Jim looks over some photos when Barnes soon arrives. Jim may not have excelled in most areas, but he finished at the top of the class. How? Jim was a soldier. He saw combat while his classmates diddled with themselves in their parents’ basements. Barnes sees a warrior in Jim, but he can’t carry on the way he’s been doing on his own. What if there was a team of cops that haven’t bought yet that still have hope in the system? Cadets.
Graduation is next year and there’s a chance to grab up some young faces. It wouldn’t hurt to look into it, right?
Later that day, Jim and Barnes meet with Gus Freeman, played by Danny Johnson, who remembers that Jim argued a lot. Gus shows the two a pair of guys boxing in the ring. Keep your eye on the little guy, who soon ends up kicking serious ass. Patience- not Jim Gordon’s strongest virtue.
We then get a series of interviews with potential cadets, not unlike Jim interviewing inmates at Arkham Asylum. The cadets have their various reasons for joining the academy, but they all desire to make the world a better place. Soon, four cadets are picked to honor the GCPD badge with their lives. They are now Unit Alpha of the GCPD Strike Force under the command of James Gordon. They will answer to him, and him to Barnes.
For proper introduction’s sake, our new recruits are Luke Garrett, played by Lenny Platt, Carl Pinkney, played by Ian Quinlan, Sal Martinez, played by Lucas Salvagno, and Josie Mac, played by Paulina Singer.
Jim is a bit surprised by the name Strike Force. These kids will be facing a lot in the city at their young age, but hey, what have they got to lose?
Later that afternoon, at a press conference, the city of Gotham presents Theo Galavan with the Medal of Valor and Bravery for his efforts. Theo takes the podium and takes questions from the press. Before he can answer why he’s not running for mayor, a gunman rides by and opens fire. No one is harmed, but Theo then says that the people of Gotham don’t buckle under pressure. If the villains want to try and stop him, then he will run for mayor.
At Ms. Janice Caulfield’s office, masked men enter the office. Penguin confronts Caulfield herself, played by Saundra Santiago. It’s late, but there’s no time for delay. He confirms that he is here to kill her. She’s a mother, but Penguin has one of those, too. Penguin takes out a knife and gets to stabbing.
The two employees outside the door ask Butch why they’re doing this, but truth be told, he has no idea. When Penguin heads out, Butch apologizes for ruining the employees’ night. And he knows the names and addresses of the employees, so try not to go blabbing.
Elsewhere, Bruce exits school. As Alfred waits for Bruce, he gets an unexpected surprise from Selina. When Selina joins Alfred, he literally slaps the hell out of her. He doesn’t know what she wants, but he knows that Bruce’s life will be better without her in it. Selina backs off.
When Bruce arrives, he tells Alfred that he doesn’t want the other kids to know he has a butler. The reservations have been made for dinner with Theo, and it’s the least Bruce can do for saving his life. Alfred gives Bruce a pair of sneakers and athletic wear. It’s finally time to prepare, starting off by running all the way back to Wayne Manor.
At GCPD, Nygma rehearses a speech with a skeleton. He’s declaring his feelings for Miss Kringle, but then Dark Nygma waltzes in. Nygma doesn’t need his opinion, but Dark Nygma tells Nygma to buck up. He saved Kringle’s life- she owes him one. Nygma needs to take what he deserves.
So Nygma meets with Kringle and directly asks her for dinner tomorrow. She says yes. And that’s that.
Barnes addresses the new recruits about letting perps slide. Let them go, and they’ll do it again. Crime unpunished is a crime itself. The city is bleeding to death from the free passes handed out. So from now on, no one gets a free pass. What is the Strike Force for? To send a message that this epidemic will not continue any longer, but be extinguished with extreme prejudice. With that, the recruits are given their new uniforms. Martinez informs Barnes that Caulfield has been killed.
At Caulfield’s office, Bullock spots a pattern, which would be true if Galavan was also dead. No one present wants to give a name since they have their names and addresses. Jim goes to the two employees to convince them. Eventually, one admits that the killer was short, with fancy clothes, and walked funny.
We cut to a fancy restaurant where Bruce and Theo prepare to have their dinner. Theo offers Alfred a spot to join, but Alfred turns it down, knowing that Bruce wants to talk with Theo alone. It’s nice, but Bruce just thanks Theo for saving his life. Theo didn’t even know what came over him. He wanted to talk with Bruce regarding his parents’ passing. He finds it astonishing that the police have yet to solve this case. Even Wayne Enterprises has failed to aid.
Outside, Bruce looks outside and spots a young girl playing in a fountain. This, as it turns out, is the very and much younger Silver St. Cloud, played by Natalie Alyn Lind. Silver’s father was Theo’s stepbrother, but as he passed, Silver is Theo’s ward. She just came out because it’s such a warm day. These two, it turns out, will be sharing the same school after she spent the last two years abroad in Switzerland. As for the school, Bruce just thinks that it’s okay since he’s been home schooled for long.
Nygma, meanwhile, gets to work concocting in his home when Kristen arrives. She was expecting a restaurant, but Nygma just likes to cook, and he’s a good one, at that.
Butch and Penguin survey Hobbs’ location. Penguin seems a bit ruffled, but he has this under control. Butch demands to know why the hell they’re doing this. Penguin explains that Galavan has his mother captured and he’s being forced into committing these murders. If they find out Penguin is looking, he fears that his mother will be harmed.
Soon enough, Randall Hobbs, played by Michael Mulheren, arrives. Hobbs’ muscle thinks that he should be moved, but these men have never met Victor Zsasz, who slinks in unannounced. He came to volunteer. Hobbs stands tall. Zsasz may be outnumbered, unfair as it sounds, but he’s undaunted. Zsasz fires away and pursues Hobbs, killing some of the henchmen in the process.
Hobbs escapes to the streets, losing one more henchman in the process to Zsasz’s guns. GCPD arrives just as Zsasz comes face to face with Gordon once again. The shootout continues with the Strike Force heading in to advance on Zsasz. Zsasz stands his ground, but falls back, outnumbered.
He heads forward and shoots one of the Strike Force members, but also takes a hit. He fires at the fire hydrant to create enough of a diversion to escape.
Back at Nygma’s, Kristen and Ed eat. Kristen owes him an apology for being nothing but mean to him, but Nygma thinks that he’s been annoying to her. And yet, Kristen ignored his cards and other advances. Nygma says that their interactions are the highlights of his day. As far as Doughtry goes, Nygma is glad that he’s dead. We then get a literal record scratch. Wait, dead? He just skipped town, right? Out or Kirsten’s life?
He tells a disappointed Dark Nygma to leave him alone and explains to Kristen that he talks to himself because he’s such a klutz. She, surprisingly, can understand that. We all have a voice like that, she says. What was his voice saying, she asks? He was angry at Nygma for spoiling the night. Kristen’s inner voice says that maybe the two of them can get back to a good moment. And since the two are very close.
Yeah, they kiss. The glasses kind of get in the way, so they remove them and kiss proper.
Penguin stews in his thoughts when he receives a visit from Jim, who knows that he killed Caulfield. Penguin isn’t in the mood to talk, though Jim thinks that this is an attempt for Oswald to rise in the ranks. Penguin cuts off Jim’s rousing speech. He has no warrant and Penguin throws back the murder he committed. Sure, it was self-defense, but where are the witnesses. And didn’t Jim ask Penguin to run Loeb out of town?
Jim back down for the moment, but he tells Penguin that he’ll face whatever’s coming to him. As will Oswald.
At GCPD, Bullock warns the Strike Force not to joke about the battle with Zsasz. They may not be so lucky next time. Barnes gives the team their next new mission to take out Gotham public enemy number one: Oswald Cobblepot. It’s time to take down the Penguin.
And while Bruce spots Silver St. Cloud at school, Selina also stews over Alfred’s words about Bruce’s life being better with her not in it.
Barbara, meanwhile, wants more fun in her life. Patience, Theo says as he prepares for his address. While GCPD pursues Penguin, Theo will steal the mayor’s office right under its nose.
And Penguin gets bad news as the episode comes to a close.
“Strike Force” builds upon the aftermath of Jerome’s death and his impact in the city, so we’re again getting some continuity this season, which I like. And like Bullock believed, it does make sense that people would suspect Penguin had some involvement just because of his connections in the criminal world.
Penguin is a man with a mission. He started off carrying Fish Mooney’s umbrella and now he’s his own man. Whether people take him seriously is irrelevant to him. His focus is building his empire. He can’t do that with a competitor and now he finds himself in a difficult place with doing Theo’s bidding.
Oswald is at his best when he’s cunning and ruthless, so it’s a change of pace to see him in a subservient position. He’s doing this to save his mother, but part of me wonders whether he’s planning to turn the tables on Theo. Even if Penguin has killed before, he’s murdered those who stood in his way or brought him conflict. Being someone else’s hitman makes him that same timid man carrying Fish Mooney’s umbrella.
But here’s my problem: why does Penguin feel the need to get his hands dirty? We saw in the very opening of this episode that he’s got tons of people working under him. Even in the premiere, yes, he confronted Loeb directly, but he had Zsasz with him. Penguin has plenty of options at his disposal. He shouldn’t have to stick his hands in the filth when he doesn’t have to.
If anything, having others commit the murders allows him more time to think of ways to save his mother. After all, Theo wanted Hobbs and Caulfield taken out, but there’s no reason why Penguin had to do it himself
Feels like the writers didn’t know how to approach this without giving Penguin more to do. Hell, even Butch comments that he didn’t get what was going on. It’s not all that funny if the show acknowledges it doesn’t know what it’s doing at times.
Nygma’s side story feels disconnected from the rest of the season. Given his quirks and talks with his other self, I would think that someone commented on this because people have seen him do it. But his bond with Miss Kringle I’m fine with because he gets something to do outside of the department, even if I’m not a fan of this other personality. At the very least, he became more direct and assertive, which guaranteed him a date.
For Kristen to accept him despite his darkness and even having voices in her own head is a bit odd because Kringle has been pretty straight-laced. But then, like Nygma, we’ve only seen her within the work environment, so hopefully we get to learn more about her.
Continuing with the follow-up from previous episodes, it was quite satisfying to Alfred pop Selina across the face like that. The kid is a bonafide killer and despite Reggie’s ulterior motive, he was still one of Alfred’s mates, so of course he’d be livid at the person who killed him. We’ve seen Alfred warm to Selina before, but that was because of the light she brought into Bruce’s life. Now that he knows about her dark side, he intends to keep them as separated as possible.
Should Bruce learn that, though, and given how he misses Selina, I can’t help but think that this will just drive him to her in defiance. In the meantime, though, he can always shack up next to Silver St. Cloud. So we have yet another Batman character introduced, but I don’t think this interpretation will be as inquisitive and curious about Bruce’s personality as her comic counterpart since Bruce has yet to don a cowl. Well, if anything, this sets up a potentially annoying love triangle between Bruce, Silver, and Selina.
Again, I must wonder why Selina is even back to just roaming the streets when she works for Penguin. Hell, why wasn’t she at the meeting in the beginning of the episode?
As for the GCPD, it’s nice to see someone coming in to clean up the corruption, but the question remains as to where someone like Barnes has been this entire time. When Jim first arrived in Gotham, he got the impression that he was one of the few good officers. Sure, he had Essen and eventually Bullock backing him, and I guess Montoya and Allen if you want to count them, but for the most part, Jim operated as a one-man army against the GCPD.
Barnes was never mentioned or alluded to, and the recent massacre wasn’t the first time the GCPD had been attacked, so where the hell has he been this entire time? That said, I do like Michael Chiklis in his debut so far. He brings a commanding presence to a city and police department that’s in need of a clean sweep. Right from the start, we know he’s a no-nonsense man that wants to produce more officers like Jim.
Yeah, putting them in the line of fire against someone like Zsasz is a risky move, but Gotham is a dangerous place, so these young faces would learn eventually. I do hope we learn more about these recruits, though, because in the span of one episode, they go from cadets to being in a shootout with a dangerous assassin where they could have died. More time spent with their training would have been nice, but maybe we’ll learn more about them in subsequent episodes.
So “Strike Force” progresses Theo Galavan’s plan to take over Gotham with his official candidacy as he ropes in Penguin to thin out the competition, putting Penguin in an awkward position that not even Jim, for all of his heroism, can shake him out of right now. I’m glad someone is coming in to sweep up the GCPD, but again, Barnes popping in out of nowhere with no previous mention is a slight issue.
Here’s hoping his Strike Force manages to do some good, but with Theo gaining popularity, there’s another growing threat beyond city corruption.