Nearly a third of the episode has gone by before the GOTHAM logo appears, allowing plenty of time for the new status quo to be established in the aftermath of the Maniax’s activities in the first three episodes of the season. We start with Michael Chilkis’ Captain Nathaniel Barnes arriving in the precinct house, a man with some clear ideas about cleaning up Gotham (although haven’t we heard all that before?) and the start of what could be a beautiful friendship (in the Casablanca sense) between him and Jim Gordon – even if Barnes’ first proper target is obviously going to cause Jim some problems…
Because it’s the obvious one: the Penguin. Robin Lord Taylor is at his best in this episode, showing both the Penguin’s capricious and saner sides (sometimes in quick succession), as well as his clear devotion to his mother. The facedown between Lord Taylor and Ben McKenzie’s Jim Gordon at the end of the episode is well written, acted and shot, but James Frain’s Theo Galavan needs to be given stronger material to work with to match Lord Taylor’s intensity.
There’s less concentration on the Wayne side of things this time around, but there’s a highly unexpected scene between Sean Pertwee and Camren Bicondova outside Bruce’s school, leading to a moment that Bicondova plays beautifully without dialogue towards the end of the episode. I’ll reserve judgement on Bruce’s latest friend until she’s had a few more scenes.
And there’s also some unexpected momentum for Ed Nygma and Miss Kringle – for once, Ed’s alter ego giving him some good advice. Chelsea Spack finally gets a chance to show some more sides to her character, and it bodes well for the future.
It’s an episode setting stuff up: the Strike Force of the title are a group of – hopefully – uncorrupted young cops fresh out of the Academy, who are going to work with Jim to bring down the great unwashed of Gotham. Anyone want to put bets on them all surviving the fall finale?
Verdict: A change of pace allows various strands to progress, but this is Robin Lord Taylor’s finest episode yet. 8/10