This week on a Very Special Halloween Episode of Gotham, we explore the past, as plot threads dovetail towards the future. Oh, and Bullock finally gets his due. Kind of.
Ten years ago, back when Harvey Bullock was still a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed rookie, he helped catch a serial killer called the Spirit of the Goat (get it? ‘Cause Gotham = Goat Home?), who preyed on the children of Gotham’s wealthy. Unfortunately, Bullock’s older, more cynical partner Detective Dix wound up permanently injured on the case. Whoops.
Flash forward to today and there’s a copycat killer on the loose! Or…is there? Because an autopsy reveals that this new Goat killer inserted a coin into victims’ necks, then stitched the skin back up—the same M.O. as the original Spirit of the Goat, but a prescient detail that Bullock and Dix were careful to keep from the public, for fear that, well, it might inspire a copycat killer.
For once, Harvey Bullock is the one leading the charge, and Gordon is either conspicuously absent or otherwise distracted. He’s been trying to reconcile his relationship with Barbara. “I came here to be a cop,” he tells her, “but this city needs something else.” And so she urges him to let her help carry the burden of his secrets. Barbara tries to be an active character for once and approaches Montoya about Gordon’s innocence, but it’s too late—Montoya and Allen found a witness to Cobblepot’s alleged murder, and they already have a warrant for Jim Gordon’s arrest.
Meanwhile, Edward Nigma awkwardly flirts with a GCPD file clerk named Kris Kringle (Get it? ‘Cause…nevermind), and Cobblepot goes to visit his mom, who gives him a bath and grills him about the other women in his life and generally makes me uncomfortable. Oh, and Bruce Wayne leaves the window open because he’s not afraid of the Spirit of the Goat since he has nothing left to lose, and Selina Kyle sneaks in through the window and tries to steal something. Also he thinks the whole goat / totem thing is stupid. Heh.
Despite Bullock’s attempts to go it alone, Gordon asserts himself as a partner, and together they dig deeper into the Spirit of the Goat. They go to visit Bullock’s former partner, Dix, who asserts the golden rule of Gotham: “No heroes.” Dix suggests that rather than a copycat killer, they’re actually dealing with a conspiracy, of which the Goat persona is just one agent. Gordon gets increasingly confused every time that Dix alludes to Bullock as an idealistic White Knight, always rushing into danger and eager to do the right thing. Imagine Gordon’s surprise when he learns that Bullock is also paying for Dix’s continued care at the nursing home / rehab center (and maybe slipping the old man a nudie mag here and there).
The Spirit of the Goat strikes again, but Bullock and Gordon are then able to find, subdue, and apprehend him. Commissioner Essen congratulates our heroes on their good detective work, but Bullock’s still not satisfied—especially once he realizes that the new Goat worked for the same housekeeping company as the original Goat. They also shared the same therapist…who was also the family therapist of the “copycat” killer’s first victim. Bullock confronts the therapist, Dr. Marks, deducing that she is the true mastermind behind the Spirit of the Goat and hypnotized the last two janitors who carried the mantle. This is where she gets up on her villaingilante pedestal, twirls her invisible mustache, shouts “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you mangy cops and that dog of yours!” and explains how the Spirit of the Goat was a therapist for Gotham itself, by murdering the rich people who plague the city. There’s some kind of poetic metaphor in there, but anyways she tries to use a hypnotic trigger on the wealthy Mr. Hastings to make him kill Bullock, but Bullock gets an eleventh hour bullet off and catches Dr. Marks.
Oh, and then Montoya and Allen arrest Jim Gordon for the murder of Oswald Cobblepot, and right when they’re about to nab Bullock for conspiracy to murder, Cobblepot himself walks right into the police station.
Thoughts & Commentary & Further Conspiracy Theories
Bullock takes the lead on the case, and gets some backstory and depth? Barbara Kean actually maybe kind of does something besides standing around her apartment being sultry? (Or tries, anyway?) Bullock and Gordon apprehend a criminal without an eleventh-hour plot contrivance and a well-placed bullet? (Well, the Goat, anyway; Dr. Marks was still apprehended using “The Gotham.”) It’s almost like someone at the Fox network has been regarding my recaps and finally listened!
To be fair, much of it wasn’t dramatically earned, and the show still suffers from “tell-not-show” and a lack of subtlety. For example, it would have been nice to see Jim Gordon even remotely concerned about the possibility of losing Barbara, instead of just writing her out of a single episode. I actually kept thinking about Walt and Skyler on Breaking Bad (in the earlier seasons, before Walt was completely irredeemable) and how we got to see Walt grappling with the lies he was telling while Skyler suspended disbelief until her instincts became too overwhelming. That’s called “dramatic irony,” and it really helps to raise the tension—which is something that Gotham’s character plots could really take a cue from. Right now, the show just relies on abrupt cliffhangers to carry the plot over to the next week, leaving each individual episode otherwise indepedent from the rest.
Still, I was glad to see Donal Logue get the chance to show off his chops.
I’m conflicted on my feelings about the Spirit of the Goat itself. Visually, he was creepy, but despite the ritualistic cultish aesthetics that surrounded his slayings, he actually wasn’t that scary. I mean, c’mon, he used chloroform? Does it really take a Batman to inspire Gotham’s criminals to higher aspirations of sadism? That being said, the idea of a psychologist secretly controlling this super villain avatar was cool, even if it was a fairly obvious twist. Still, I’m getting a little tired of the vigilante villains every week. I understand the impulse, of course, and how it juxtaposes with the Dark Knight-to-be, but delivering a monologue at the end of the episode to explain how these elaborate and maniacal homicides were done with vaguely altruistic intentions is boring and annoying. Like Freud said, sometimes a homicidal maniac is just a homicidal maniac. Whatever happened to a good ol’ revenge plot? On Gotham, even revenge has to be heavy-handedly connected back to class warfare, and while I’m always game for stories that explore classism, I still prefer my stories to, ya know, explore these conflicts, instead of just telling me that it’s all because of wealth and corruption. Income inequality is a hot-button topic right now, and it’s easy to use “1%” as shorthand for “evil rich people,” but it’d be much more interesting to see the grey areas and complications that exist around the distribution of wealth.
- Based on the previews on the Goat’s burlap-mask, I definitely thought we were getting an episode riffing on the Scarecrow.
- I cannot imagine a single world where the existence of Kristen Kringle amounts to anything but a groan-worthy pun. (Or, ya know, a terrible riddle. Ugh.)
- Didja catch the question mark on Nigma’s mug? Didja?
- Does anyone else think that the Spirit of Gotham was inspired by the Court of Owls? Or was that just coincidental?
- The highlight of this episode for me was the fact that Bullock was more pissed about Cobblepot still being alive (and the inevitable fallout from Falcone) than he was about being arrested.
- This episode marks the mid-point of the original 13-episode season order, which is probably why the #Gobblepot stuff is coming to a head so quickly. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of plan they had in mind in case they didn’t get a full season order (and then to see what happens after the mid-season break).
- Ahhhhh Mama Kapelput ahhhhhhhhh.
- I understand why Cobblepot would go see his mother (and also understand why he’s so crazy), but to just show up at GCPD?! I guess it’s hubris for all his survival efforts so far. Or I guess we’ll find out next week, anyway.
- I’m kind of mad at myself for already wasting the “Father…I Shall Become…” joke on the “Balloonman” episode. Alternatively, I could start titling every post with “Father…I Shall Become…A [Goat / Chemical Weapons Expert / Villaingilante of the Week / etc].”
- …That’s all I got.
Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. Thom enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey and robots). He is a graduate of Clarion Writer’s Workshop at UCSD, and he firmly believes that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is the single worst atrocity committed against mankind. Find out more at thomdunn.net.