NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Gotham are present in this review.
After some sizeable developments with the mob over the past couple of weeks, Gotham made a welcome shift to focusing more on the GCPD officers this week. This is especially true of Bullock, who got some new developments that helped to explain his cynical, seemingly irredeemably corrupt personality.
This comes from the episode’s title reference, a serial killer called The Spirit of the Goat (sorry, it’s not Scarecrow, as some viewers of the first season trailer for Gotham speculated), who wears a mask and performs ritualistic killings of the children of one-percenters. Bullock seemingly shoots the man dead after tracking him to his latest murder, but gets his partner permanently handicapped in the process.
What’s interesting about this sequence of events that take place ten years before the show’s events, is that Bullock is more like Gordon during this time, and his partner, Dix is more like who Bullock is in the present day. Bullock began as a heroic, devout cop that didn’t mind the idea of rushing into danger to save someone’s life, even without backup, much like how Gordon is in the present. It presents this cool idea that Gotham City finds a way to enslave and corrupt even the most noble of do-gooders, and makes you wonder how long Gordon can endure the influence of such a toxic city.
Sure, it’s a bit of a stretch to think that this one event was entirely responsible for Bullock’s complete resigning to the city’s twisted definition of law, but it’s also evident that we haven’t gotten the whole story of Bullock’s downfall, which is no doubt going to be developed over multiple prospective seasons.
Nonetheless, the supposed reincarnation of the Spirit of the Goat, which is too perfect to suggest a copycat, particularly when the murders include crucial details that only Bullock and Dix knew about (leading to a disabled Dix being a red herring for a while), gets under Bullock’s skin. It brings back a little more of the good cop that’s still buried somewhere in Bullock’s soul, particularly when we learn that Bullock has been setting aside funds and time to care for his former partner, whom he feels responsible for crippling. Equally satisfying was Bullock putting a stop to the second killer, and discovering who was actually pulling the strings by himself, putting an end to at least this demon, even if others are sure to still be at large.
The twist with the two killers was actually very creative and cool this week. Dr. Marks, a hypnotherapist, ended up implanting ridiculous sub-conscious suggestions into two of her patients, which explained why the two killers knew impossible linking details, and outwardly appeared to have little to no association with each other. It was also cool to see her temporarily try and stop Bullock by triggering a kill command in another patient, even if it ultimately did no good, with Bullock shooting her in the foot and managing to make the arrest anyway. Yes, Bullock didn’t actually kill Dr. Marks, which was another nice small touch that continues to prove that deep down, Bullock isn’t a bad man. He’s just a very beat down cop.
Regardless, Dr. Marks being the culprit sort of calls back to original Gotham villains like The Balloonman and last week’s rogue chemist. It seems to suggest that people are already trying to attack the supposed villains behind the suffering of Gotham City’s lower citizens, and already acting as vigilantes. This seems to indicate that Batman isn’t ultimately the first person to challenge the supposed laws of Gotham City, though also seems to illustrate that Batman’s crusade is a more noble and fulfilling one than the ruthless, twisted killers that have so far done unspeakable things in service to supposedly improving the city.
Speaking of Batman, Bruce continues to impress with his detective work, even showing his bravery by refusing to flee, and leaving his window open, despite the killer of the rich being at large. This does lead to Selina Kyle sneaking into the mansion and stealing something, which will no doubt come back into play later in the season, but it continues to effectively demonstrate that Bruce is already on the road to being The Dark Knight one day, even if he’s still got a long road ahead of him. This is noticeable when he seems oblivious to Alfred’s care, claiming that the killer won’t take him, because there’s no longer anyone to take him from.
Beyond The Spirit of the Goat, the other villains mostly took a backseat this week, with Falcone, Maroni and Fish Mooney all completely absent from this episode. Cobblepot returned home to reunite with his mother, whom he’s shown to be able to effortlessly manipulate, taking advantage of a rather creepy, overbearing mother/son bond. Likewise, Nygma also got more screentime this week, continuing to demonstrate how perfectly cast Cory Michael Smith is as the proto-Riddler (I love the question mark mug, by the way!), particularly as he fruitlessly tries to get the romantic attentions of an attractive archivist that he’s interested in. It almost makes you feel sorry for the guy, since you feel like his being doomed to become The Riddler one day could have been prevented, had people just paid a little better attention to him, making an otherwise somewhat goofy, over-the-top baddie seem more tragic than he was in his former portrayals.
As smart and well-written as the episode was though, it was the ending that really stood out. Gordon and Barbara appear to have patched things up in the end, making their former conflict feel a little too pointless, and Gordon’s backstory still feel a little too inconsequential, but things nonetheless got heated when Montoya got the necessary means to have Gordon arrested.
Yes, Gordon was obviously never going to jail, as the series would be over if he was convicted of first-degree murder in the first few episodes, but Montoya’s clearly personal vendetta (and the episode) nonetheless had a sublime conclusion, with Gordon and Bullock put in handcuffs for the murder of Cobblepot, just as Cobblepot shows up on the GCPD’s doorstep, believing that his announcement is doing Gordon a favour, and frankly, it kind of is at that very point. The episode’s very final line where Bullock gets right in Gordon’s face and shouts, “You son-of-a-bitch!” was also brilliant, rounding things off by demonstrating that, despite Bullock still having a good cop somewhere in him, he nonetheless feels that he’d be safer relying on the mob to break him out of jail, rather than actually having both him and Gordon being let off the hook for a crime they clearly didn’t commit.
On another note, it will be very interesting to see how the false allegations affect Montoya’s dynamic with Gordon and Barbara in future episodes, now that Montoya’s crusade to arrest Gordon was clearly shown to be in error.
“Spirit of the Goat” was another strong episode that marks one of Gotham’s best so far. The police, and particularly Bullock, finally got some much-needed added focus, and even without the mob this week, the show’s entertainment value thankfully didn’t suffer at all.