This review contains spoilers.
1.6 Spirit Of The Goat
Holy Ghost on a bicycle, Batman! The oft-criticised Gotham displayed some real confidence this week.
Spirit Of The Goat had jumps between time periods, core characters being left out, development for background cast-members, some stellar direction, and a core mystery that kept us guessing throughout. As we said in our big feature about Gotham over the weekend, those who are continuing to watch the show are most definitely being rewarded as the weeks go on.
One of our favourite facets of this week’s episode was the focus on Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock. Since week one we’ve been hoping to learn why he acts like such a prat all the time, and if there’s a more genuine, damaged character underneath. This week, in a welcome sidebar to the ongoing Wayne-linked weekly murders, new-to-Gotham scribe Ben Edlund continued Harvey’s gradual personality U-turn with a grim dissection of his past.
There are indeed some dark memories and deep regrets in his locker, we learnt some of them this week thanks to – as he called it – his reactionary “deja-vu acid flash black” when a copy-cat killer starts recreating one of Bullock’s least favourite memories. Bullock, it seems, is still haunted by the ten-years-closed ‘Goat murders’ case which saw his younger self running into a crime scene without backup and his partner resultantly losing the use of his legs in an altercation with the killer. Bullock still carries this torment with him, sending magazines to his crippled partner and paying for him to stay in care.
The fact that Jim Gordon witnesses all this can only mean good things for their on-screen relationship going forward, too. Jim now knows that Harvey needs help dealing with his demons, which could make for some meaty material in future episodes. Seeing Bullock take the detective lead by following his hunches, confronting suspects and working late really brought his character to life. He’s provided some solid comic relief in recent weeks, but this time around he really felt like a key part of the show.
The mystery of the copy-cat killer played out as one of Gotham’s strongest individual episode narratives too – the re-use of former killing sites, the coin-based intel the copy-cat couldn’t possibly know and the suspicious therapist that tied it all together combined well to make a cunning conspiracy. It felt like we had an actual investigation this week rather than a quick clue-hunt and wrap-up fight in the last five minutes. Top stuff.
Elsewhere, Gotham took time to step back, take a breath and mingle with the supporting cast a bit. Mainly benefitting from this was Cory Michael Smith’s Edward Nygma. Although lines like “he’s crazy good at riddles” seem entirely shoe-horned, the flashes we see of his character here are rather intriguing. He’s getting better at playing for laughs, too. Most interestingly, and unless our flirt-o-meter is completely on the blink, it seems like the Riddler-in-waiting has the hots for Chelsea Spack’s Kristen Kringle.
The scenes where Nygma attempts to reorder Kristen’s filing system stood out as an entirely contrasting subplot to the core murderous activity, which we’re quite interested to see developed further. The internet has sparked to life with suggestions of Kristen’s future potential with everything from Harley Quinn to a daughter of the Joker mentioned as a possibility for the character. Personally, we think she might just be an original supporting character akin to Fish Mooney – another ‘normal’ person to dilute the worry of off-the-wall wackiness coming to the fore. Nonetheless, this new subplot has our attention.
Speaking of Fish, it was interesting to have an episode without her, Falcone or Maroni. The gang war foreshadowing was put on hold, with time left over to delve into Oswald Cobblepot’s home life. Is there any funnier sight than Robin Taylor Lord having an angry bath while chatting to his mum? While some might be annoyed that the central Wayne plot and the gangster plotting was left to the side this week, we felt it work really rather well (better than Arkham did, by a long way), with time spent merely in Oswald’s creepy company being constantly welcome from our point of view.
As well as this script which let the characters breathe, it’s worth mentioning the direction and mise-en-scène here too. For the first time since the pilot episode, we really felt like Gotham was a character in this week’s episode – the crooked staircases, abandoned theatres and even dimly lit autopsy rooms of Spirit Of The Goat brought back the grim, gothic, expressionistic feel that we loved from the opening episode. More of this slightly distorted visual realm would be verily welcomed in future episodes. Also, Arkham director TJ Scott redeemed himself hugely in this Burton-esque view of Gotham, with some very tight action scenes and an effectively off-kilter atmosphere.
This week wasn’t without its niggles of course, with the far-too-obvious Riddler foreshadowing coming across as lazy dialogue-scripting, Jim’s love-life still seeming underdeveloped and the Major Crimes Unit subplot continuing to feel somewhat superfluous to the main story. Regardless, Spirit Of The Goat was indeed a very strong episode. We had a slow-moving mystery filled with tricks and twists, directorial flair, beautiful sets and some winning development for Detective Bullock. Consider us still very much on board to see how Gotham continues to progress.
One thought: How much was that ending crying out for a flash of the Eastenders end-of-episode musical motif?
Read Rob’s review of the previous episode, Viper, here.
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