Uh, spoiler alert, I guess. But there may be no scene that better sums up Gotham’s insanity than in last night’s episode, where Bruce Wayne’s butler slaps the hell out of the 13-year-old Catwoman when she comes over to say hi.
Technically, Alfred has a reason, but the main reason is of course that Gotham is bonkers. There’s no reason in trying to comprehend this yet again; we must simply accept that we live in a world where someone believes showing Batman’s beloved butler slapping a young girl is appropriate Batman storytelling and move on.
There are two big shake-ups in “Strike Force,” the first of which is the arrival of
Vic Mackey Nathanial Barnes, the new no-nonsense GCPD commissioner played by Michael Chiklis. In one of Gotham’s most inexplicable moves, Barnes is basically Gordon—he’s determined to clean up Gotham City in general and the GCPD in particular, he refuses to let any crime slide, and he even fires the dirtiest of Gotham City’s cops within the first five minutes of his arrival. He’s literally what Gordon is supposed to have been, except that Gotham’s Gordon keeps compromising his integrity by making deals with the Penguin out of desperation and stupidity.
And thus we see why the show forced Gordon to do that favor for Penguin in the season 2 premiere, where he gunned that criminal down: Now Gordon has his own crime to hide from his new boss. This is an interesting dilemma, although, again, it goes against pretty much the entirety of Bat-lore that we’re watching Jim Gordon try to hide his criminal dealings from the police. But for now, all Barnes knows is that Gordon is a kindred spirit who wants to put things right; the new commissioner not only makes Jim his second-in-command, but puts him in charge of a vaguely elite “strike force” of four cops straight out of the academy, before they can be corrupted. To summarize: the new police commissioner, who is more like Gordon than Gordon himself is, has given Gordon his own team of mini-Gordons to fight crime.
The other shake-up is that Theo Galavan calls in Penguin for a meeting, and asks him to join forces—namely, to kill the two candidates running for Gotham’s mayor, to stage an attempt to kill Galavan (to make his mayoral bid look kosher), and then to partner up for the ol’ “turn a bunch of residential areas into a big-ass commercial area of wealth and skyscrapers” plan that evil tycoons love so much. Interestingly, Penguin declines—he’s currently king of Gotham’s underworld, and he’s still having a bit of trouble of getting his almost-ludicrously-from-the-‘90s gang of thugs organized—until Theo reveals he has the Penguin’s mom hostage.
Thus the Penguin is forced to brutally murder one candidate (because you can’t have an episode of Gotham without extreme violence) and to send Zsasz to take out the other. This latter murder attempt actually turns into a shoot-out, where Gordon and his team of Gordons manage to save candidate Hobbs at the last second, although Zsasz gets away. So Penguin will still be forced to obey Theo Galavan next episode, even as Oswald and Butch try to find his missing mom so that Penguin can enact what will almost certainly be a very messy revenge.
Alas, “Strike Force” lacks that sharp focus that the first three episodes of Gotham had this season, although it’s quite reasonable that the show would want to check in with some of the other storylines, given that it’s episode 4. Of course, this means seeing the Riddler/Ms. Kringle “romance,” where Riddler finally asks Ms. Kringle on a date. About the best I can say about it is that the Riddler doesn’t date rape her—something I was a little bit worried about when I saw Nygma cooking dinner for her at his home.
Then it’s time for Alfred! As promised last episode, Bruce Wayne has returned to school, where Alfred is patiently waiting to pick up his young master. This is when Selina Kyle pops out of nowhere and walks up to the car, obviously hoping to say hi to Bruce.
This is when Alfred slaps her without saying a word.
I have to say I was at least as shocked as poor Selina, and I was even more shocked when Alfred explained why he slapped her: for killing his pal Reggie last season, which almost makes a little sense until you realize that Reggie almost killed Alfred, he was spying on Bruce for Wayne Enterprises execs, he was a heroin addict, and he was literally threatening Bruce’s life when Cat gave him a helpful push out the window. You’d think Alfred might be a little understanding here—or at least refrain from physically assaulting a child—but nope! And while Selina holds her cheek in shock, Alfred takes the moment to tell Cat she’s horrible and Bruce Wayne’s life will be immeasurably better without her in it.
This is insane. And par for the course for Gotham.
But we’re not quite done with Bruce. In what seems to be a boring subplot, then a creepy one, then a kind of interesting one, Bruce takes Theo Galavan out to dinner to thank him for saving his life last episode. But as we soon discover, Theo didn’t come alone—he has a ward named Silver St. Cloud who basically kickstarts Bruce Wayne’s puberty right then and there. And what do you know, she’s also starting at Gotham Academy! It’s actually pretty disturbing to realize that Theo Galvan has acquired a child for the purpose of seducing another child, but thankfully even Gotham glosses over this weirdness, instead focusing on the reveal that Theo has some very specific plans involving Bruce Wayne, but what? And why?
With all the talk Theo spouts about being part of the line that built Gotham 200 years ago, most Bat-fans think he might be part of an adaptation of the pretty recent Court of Owls storyline in the comics, and for now, I don’t have any better answer. But for the moment, the involvement of Zsasz in the mayoral killings means Barnes and the GCPD know Penguin is behind them, and Barnes has a new enemy #1. So Gordon and the Gordons are charged with bringing Penguin down… even as Penguin knows Gordon’s own dark secret. Will Gordon actually confess to his crime? Will he forced into helping the Penguin escape the police? Or will he put the city’s well-being over his honor yet again?
As usual, with Gotham, I have no freaking clue. If Alfred Pennyworth is fine slapping little girls then for all I know Jim Gordon could turn into the Joker himself.
• Odds that Gordon had a massive erection when Barnes arrived and started giving his “cleaning up the town” speech: About 95 percent, wouldn’t you say?
• Everyone knows that Gordon is “banging the M.E.” according to Barnes. Come on, Gordon. You work with detectives. They’re corrupt, not idiots (mostly).
• Penguin looks incredibly dapper in his hat! I want an action figure.
• So when Gordon does the roll call for the Gordon Force, the four names are: “Garrett. Pinkney. Josie. Martinez.” Is the sole woman’s last name actually Josie, or is Gordon calling the woman by her first name? That’s pretty messed up.
• Gordon’s first bit of training for Bruce: Run 90 minutes from school back to Stately Wayne Manor. I swear, Bruce isn’t going to leave to go train to become Batman, he’s going to leave to escape his lunatic employee.
• Line of the night goes to Butch, when a woman asks him why he and the Penguin are murdering the mayoral candidate: “Darlin’, I’ve got no idea. We’ve been doing crazy stuff all day long.” THIS IS GOTHAM’S OFFICIAL MOTTO.
• I gotta admit, Butch is growing on me. The show seems to have finally realized he’s best as support character to Penguin, a la Bob the Goon in Batman ’89. Someone to comment on the craziness around him.
• Odds that Barnes is working for Galavan: About 95 percent, wouldn’t you say?