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Gotham – “Spirit of the Goat” Recap and Review
When a killer begins targeting the first born of Gotham’s elite, Bullock is forced to confront traumatic memories from a nearly identical case he worked in the past. Later, Gordon is confronted by past decisions.
Gotham really hits its stride this week with some proper backstory and character development (though interestingly for Bullock and not Gordon) tying into a creepy, mysterious murderer with echoes from the past. We also get a big payoff at the end when our glacially paced plot dangler from the pilot episode is finally shoved into the light as Oswald officially reveals himself to the world just as Gordon and Bullock are being arrested for murdering him.
The payoff is rewarding and wonderfully staged, the main murder story is full of nice little twists and for once Bruce isn’t shoe-horned into an event, easily making “Spirit of the Goat” one of Gotham’s strongest episodes yet.
We begin with our first ever flashback to ten years ago, as a creepy skinhead dons a raggedy mask and mutters some creepy stuff about the Spirit of the Goat. Detectives Harvey and Dix, his old partner (played by Dan Hedaya) have reached the end of the investigation, and in classic police drama fashion they just can’t wait for backup befor busting in – but this time it’s Bullock that’s the impulsive hero and runs into the abandoned theatre, forcing Dix to run after him.
The theatre is suitably creepy as our serial killer flits around the stage while a candle lit altar holds his latest victim in dramatic fashion. Dix falls right into a trapdoor near the alter while Bullock grapples with the masked villain. “I will always come back!” the killer yells ominously, and Bullock gets to utter a straight-up action hero retort – “Come back from this!” before unloading his gun into the masked man’s chest.
In our current day Bullock stares at a murder victim that has Randall Milkie, AKA The Goat written all over it: first born rich kid, sacrificial alter, candles. Bullock believes it’s a copy-cat killer from a crime that still haunts him (as we’ll later find out). Bullock’s rarely been seen without Gordon and he’s suitably annoyed that his partner’s not even answering his phone. He’s equally annoyed with Nygma’s incessant riddles and it’s refreshing to see Bullock actually be deeply affected by a crime, giving our lovably gruff detective a bit of humanity.
I also enjoyed the unique setting of this scene – a rail bridge with the industrial side of Gotham in the background. Gotham’s scenes may very much look like sets at times but they do an effective job adding to the comic book atmosphere, splitting the difference between realism and the dramatized locales of a comic book.
Gordon’s not yet on the case because he’s still dealing with some drama at home – namely that he continues to keep an ever increasingly annoyed Barbara in the dark regarding his involvement with Oswald Cobblepot and the MCU’s quest to arrest him for it. I’m giving Gotham the benefit of the doubt and hoping that their relationship will grow stronger from this and Babara becomes more of a well-rounded character, but as of right now it’s the same old song and dance they’ve been having since the pilot – she worries for him and wants him to open up, but he remains aloof and mysterious.
Gordon joins Bullock and recognizes that his partner is much more on edge than usual. Bullock suggests they talk to the family of the slain girl, and visit the Hastings where they meet the family therapist, Dr. Marks (Susan Misner) as well as the father (Brian O’Neil) who seems a bit out of sorts. Bullock is instantly antagonistic toward the therapist, as we expect him to be. “No one’s capable of dealing with this kind of tragedy. It’s a freight train; it runs you over and you try to pick up what’s left.” He’s got a point, and once again I grow to like Bullock more and more.
We’re treated to our first scene revolving around Edward Nygma as he visits the records office to pull up old files on the original Goat killer. Records are run by Kristen Kringle (Chelsea Spack), someone that Nygma fancies in his supremely creepy way, and his complete unawareness of social graces lead him to instantly make fun of her name. Nygma does seem to legitimately care for her and later attempts to rearrange her entire filing system, giving him some humorous lines about his insane new system. Miss Kringle is utterly shocked and appalled. It’s a fun little scene though it means little in the context of the episode. I’m not sure what all they can do with the Riddler this early in Batman’s story but I’m enjoying Cory Michael Smith’s portrayal.
We continue to jump around to other characters with Penguin finally paying his crazy mom a visit. I like the fact that our mincing young villain has a crazy doting mom that still bathes him (and worries that he’s run off with some ‘painted lady’). Oswald is upfront and revealing to his mom about what’s been going on (though he keeps things vague, she doesn’t seem particularly detail-oriented), and the entire scene’s purpose is generally a chance for him to tell us, the audience, what’s going on in his head since his only reliable confidant is in fact Jim Gordon. “You watch mom, I’m going to be somebody in this town.”
The autopsy of the Hastings girl reveals what Bullock feared, a specific calling card that Randall Milkie left behind in his victims that no one else knew about. Captain Essen suggests they pay a visit to Dix, whom we weren’t sure was even still alive last we left him in the flashback. He’s alive but crippled, and more bitter than ever while he stews in a hospice. Dix reasons that there must be multiple killers involved, a conspiracy, before humorously warning Gordon about Bullock’s hotshot heroism. “Talking about Bullock here? Harvey Bullock?” Gordon’s incredulous as the terms White Knight and Loose Canon apply much more to him than his ‘slovenly lackadaisical’ partner.
Meanwhile our MCU team of Montoya and Allen, whom have been absent the last few episodes, have been busy. They secured an eye witness to the events at the dock during the pilot episode when Gordon pretended to kill Oswald, and quickly get a warrant out for Gordon’s arrest. Barbara stops Montoya outside the municipal building to attempt one last plea at stopping this investigation, or at least offering to work with them and figure things out. Montoya, however, is a woman with a mission to take Gordon down, though her motivations may be more personal in nature. “Do you understand? What he knows – who he knows will kill you.” Things are building up quite nicely to get a showdown between all these players.
Our detectives enlist Edward Nygma’s help in discovering our new Goat’s identity (which apparently simply boils down to which maintenance workers are on vacation right now). The man’s got the exact same hideout as the previous Goat leading to more internal drama for Bullock. Since Gordon is decidedly more badass than Dix things go much better this time, though Bullock’s rough but reckless fighting style tends to get his own ass kicked more often than not, leading Gordon to once again bail him out. The victim is rescued and this time our masked killer is successfully captured alive.
For once it’s Bullock that’s dissatisfied with simply capturing the bad guy, knowing there’s a bigger picture out there involved in these murders. Jim leaves to go home but Bullock stays on, and notices a familiar hand-clenching tick that our murderer employs. He immediately returns to the Hastings to talk to Dr. Marks, the therapist. I love that even in a potentially dangerous, revelatory situation he still finds time to crack jokes (“Funny word therapist – the rapist.”).
Meanwhile Jim returns home to find Barbara all packed and ready to flee. She doesn’t even know the whole situation but is more than willing to throw her life away in order to stay with Jim and keep him safe. Gordon is not the fleeing type, and seems almost ready to finally reveal just why the MCU is gunning for him when they arrive to arrest him. Bullock is on his own, for now.
In an intriguing twist Dr. Marks turns out to be a powerful hypnotherapist with an agenda to brainwash easily moldable killers into harming the rich people of the city. Her motivations are left fairly vague and seem more out of a sense of balancing the corruption in the city, not unlike the Balloonman from episode three. Bullock is quite pleased with his own detective work, and Dr. Marks is quick to admit to it. She’s also brainwashed Mr. Hastings and sends him after Bullock with a single phrase like an attack dog. For once Bullock manages to overpower his assailant and shoots Dr. Marks as she flees. Captain Essen lays it all out quite succinctly: “Take me through the part where you drove to the nice part of town and shot the doctor lady.”
We barely get any follow-up as a handcuffed Gordon is brought in, and all the drama that’s been building up finally hits the fan. Bullock attempts to cover for Gordon while Gordon tensely tries to reveal to Bullock that No, he really didn’t kill Oswald. All this does is get Bullock arrested as an accomplice, and Captain Essen gets a chance to be awesome and steps in to defend both of them.
Things are escalating to boiling point levels when Oswald Cobblepot strides through the front door, freshly bathed in a clean suit, stunning the entire police station. “You son of a bitch!” Bullock growls, now realizing that Gordon’s been lying to him this whole time. The two come face to face in front of Oswald and the police just as the episode ends, in what is by far the most exciting and thrilling conclusion to any episode of Gotham yet.
Wow, that ending was just amazing. The timing, the setting (love the late afternoon sunlight basking the police station in orange), the entire situation was handled just beautifully, and did an amazing job at making me want to watch next week’s episode RIGHT NOW. The buildup to Oswald’s non-murder and Gordon and Bullock’s involvement in the pilot has been a long-time coming, and it’s immensely rewarding having it build to such a great cliffhanger.
It’s also nice that the actual main plot was fun and revealed a lot more about Harvey Bullock’s character and past. In fact I’m pretty sure Bullock actually gets more screen time than Gordon in this episode, which I am more than okay with. The hypnotherapist as puppet-killer was a neat and unexpected twist and it’s nice that Bullock got to solve it pretty much all on his own, offering a bit of closure for a case that’s haunted him (hopefully we’ll get more scenes with Dix in the future). It was also interesting to get our first little side story starring Edward Nygma; at this point I’m giving Gotham the benefit of the doubt that they can continue giving him interesting things to do and reasons to do them without being too forced.
Also interesting that I never even mentioned Bruce Wayne in that entire recap. He’s in the episode in a few very brief scenes, and I congratulate the episode for not targeting him as one of the Goat’s victims. Bruce even responds to Alfred’s growing concerns that the Goat wouldn’t go after him, as he wouldn’t be taken away from anyone (cue sad face from Alfred). There’s a nice little scene where Selina shows up to check on on Bruce but otherwise he’s hardly involved at all, and “Spirit of the Goat” is made all the better for it.
Did You Notice?
- Wearing masks in Gotham always makes your voice drop down a few octaves and take on a modular quality. Just ask Batman, Scarecrow and whom I’m dubbing the ‘Goat-Men.’
- I may have to start doing a Bullock Quote of the Episode – “Holy Ghost on a bicycle!”
- While it’s mentioned that the Goat-Men go after the first born of rich kids regardless of gender, it’s only young women that are captured and/or killed in this episode.
- It would be incredibly lame but technically possible that they are still more Goat-Men out there, additional killers that were hypnotized under Dr. Marks.