Gotham: Spirit of the Goat Review

A terrifying serial killer stalks the streets of Gotham City in "Spirit of the Goat." Here's our review...

This Gotham review contains spoilers.

“Spirit of the Goat” was a perfect opportunity to do something that even the better episodes of Gotham have so far failed to do: give us a case of the week that actually matters. Previews showed us a baddie who boasted a passing resemblance to the Scarecrow, with a potentially nasty serial killer vibe. Well, both of those things were there, but a compelling episode they did not make.

This isn’t Gotham‘s worst effort. Not by a long shot. But it’s disappointing when you have an episode that clearly tried to pull out all the stops to do something that at once felt Batman-y and uses the show’s procedural format to its advantage, and it only barely manages to do either. They tried to peddle this as something of a Halloween episode, but outside the impressive atmospherics at work in the lair of “The Goat” it just wasn’t quite happening.

But let’s start with something that did work. The concept of “Spirit of the Goat” is that a serial killer has returned to Gotham City after ten years. This is problematic because a younger Harvey Bullock shot the Goat dead and that was that. The “copygoat” (a term that gets used far too often in the episode to be clever or particularly amusing) causes problems because his crimes include details that were never revealed to the press. Bullock is, as expected, not pleased by any of this.

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The Goat is a decent visual, looking something like a cross between the Scarecrow and the hood that the Zodiac Killer famously used in one of his daylight attacks. When we get to his creepy killer sanctum (twice), I have to confess, it’s another one of those moments that makes me wish that this was actually a full-blown Batman series. When Gotham gets the set design and lighting right (as it does in these scenes), it really does put you right in the Gotham City of legend. There’s potential in this case, but once again, Gotham is a tale of two (maybe even three or four) storylines, and they all just feel incompatible with each other.

Most of the episode centers on Harvey Bullock and the Goat case. That’s fine. But we still have to deal with the implications of Oswald Cobblepot’s continued existence. That’s fine, too. In fact, as usual, the strongest character work takes place in Robin Lord Taylor’s scenes. 

We do get a couple of nice guest appearances this week, though. First Dan Hedaya as Detective Dix, Harvey’s former partner, who is living out his golden years in less than pleasant fashion thanks to the first go-around with the Goat. He’s an appropriately salty old bastard, and now we know where Harvey gets it from (he was a much more idealistic young man).

And we once again get Carol Kane as Oswald’s mom, Mrs. Kapelput. Y’know, I was about to complain about this character, but then I remembered a couple of things. First of all, I refuse to ever say anything bad about Carol Kane (Transylvania 6-5000 for life). But actually, the brief scene with her son tonight is kinda cool, and exceptionally creepy. 

Robin Lord Taylor continues to be a saving grace. His “Hi, Mom. I’m alive” and the bit about how he doesn’t even date were revealing, and added to the Norma/Norman Bates vibe on display with his mom. When Oswald is talking about how he thinks he’s found “a real friend” in Jim Gordon, her reactions imply that there’s much more at work than we initially suspected about this character. But strolling into the police station at episode’s end stretches credulity a little too far, especially since he’s already pulled this stunt in Jim’s apartment. I’ll confess, though, since Penguin has managed to maintain almost complete control of their relationship and his situation since he’s wormed his way back to the city, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see how this plays out.

Unfortunately, though, nearly everything else surrounding that relationship, namely Gordon’s attempts to continue pretending that all is as it should (or really, should not) be are wiped out by the contrivances on display as Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen close in on him. I’ve reached a point of frustration with this show now where any scene with Jim and Barbara has me reaching for the ibuprofen, and the only ones worse are the strained bits with Barbara and Montoya. The last five minutes of the episode are such a mess of convenient writing showcasing a cartoonishly incompetent and/or corrupt police officers that it nearly washed away any remaining good feelings I had about the whole story. But again, I’ll be back to see what Oswald has up his sleeve this time.

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You know how in recent weeks, even during episodes I didn’t particularly care for, I have continued to praise how organic the inclusion of Bruce Wayne and Alfred has felt? No. Not this week. We could have gone an entire week without them and it would have made not a lick of difference. At least when Bruce said, “I have work to do,” he wasn’t working on solving the Goat case.

I must reserve special scorn for the Riddler this evening, sadly. Edward Nygma was completely shoehorned into the episode, once again opening with an inane riddle, in case you have been asleep since promotion for Gotham began. That would be bad enough, but precious time is wasted on his attempts to make time with GCPD records librarian Kristen Kringle (get it? ho-ho-ho) in two scenes that can charitably be described as momentum killers. Nothing wrong with Cory Michael Smith’s performance, mind you (I think he suits the role well enough), but if they aren’t ready to really deploy this character, they should keeep him on the sidelines untill they are.

Gotham is still trying to do entirely too much. It should be enough to make a procedural with these characters set in Gotham City. But by trying to build mythology at every opportunity while still remaining beholden to the tenets of procedural television, just makes things feel all the more contrived. “This city used to have hope,” the villain of the week tells us. I’d like to have hope for Gotham, too.

Oh, one other bit deserving of praise. We get a glimpse of some “hilariously over the top” news coverage about the grip of terror that the Goat has Gotham City in. In fact, the tone of this coverage is considerably less hysterical, and far more responsible than how “real life” news media is covering the current “Ebola Outbreak” (actual graphic I’ve seen) in New York City at the moment.

Gotham Central

– That Queen Consolidated logo showed up in the skyline again.

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– I believe this is the first time the show has used Penguin’s middle name of “Chesterfield.” I could be wrong, though.

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2.5 out of 5