It’s Bullock Hour
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Gotham has, to its credit, been improving with every week and Spirit of the Goat proves to be the strongest episode that falls short of its potential by the same maladies that have plagued it from the beginning. The central thread of the episode is perhaps the strongest it’s ever been, zeroing in on Harvey Bullock and his past to describe how he became whom we generally know him as now. My biggest pet peeve with Gotham has been its inability to flesh out its characters and giving them personalities that are thinner than paper. This week, much to the credit of writer Ben Edlund, the script delves into Harvey Bullock’s backstory with aplomb, tying in the threats from his past into threats in the present. It’s a deft bit of writing and characterization the show has been sorely missing. Not to say the show’s problems have completely gone away, but at the very least it’s improving from okay/mediocre to decent.
The episode opens with a flashback that goes back a decade to Detectives Bullock and Dix. In typical Gotham fashion, the serial killer they’re hunting believes that he’s been possessed by an ancient goat spirit that loves to kill people. As if the show is determined to never espouse subtlety, they name him Randall Milk. Get it? Anyhow, back in the days Bullock was very much a Jim Gordon, always on the lookout for the next criminal, a valiant vigilante if there ever was one. Unfortunately Bullock’s gung-ho nature about killing that evil man results in Goat Man pulling a trap that causes Dix to crash to the ground, paralyzing him in the process. But he’s not the only one who has to suffer the consequences of the circumstances that led to Dix being on a wheelchair for the rest of his life. It’s a germane story and one of the few times in the entire series where it’s felt genuine narrative strength and consequences when it comes to the fight against Gotham’s criminals.
In the current day, a new body is discovered whose markings match those of Goat Man. The gruesomeness of Gotham’s killings is kept intact here, as Goat Man apparently has a penchant of sewing Liberty Pennies into the craniums of his victims. And for the first time in this entire series, Bullock feels the urgency again to actually do his job, spurred by the return of his old nemesis that was responsible for his earlier downfall. Finally there’s someone within the GCPD that we can actually root for and Bullock grabs onto that audience expectation with aplomb. And we see through the meeting between Gordon, Dix, and Bullock that Harvey has been taking care of Dix ever since the accident out of a feeling of responsibility. They manage to corner and arrest the new Goat Man and through their interrogation they discover that famed therapist Dr. Marks is responsible for the hypnotization of the killer. It’s a brilliant sort of twist that I wasn’t expecting from Gotham. Dr. Marks’s reasonings for her actions are horrifying in how sheerly chilling they are. In her opinion, killing off the wealthy children of Gotham’s elite is a twisted way of cleansing the city of its darkest, most corrupt elements. For once, the case of the week feels well thought out, acted, plotted, and actually neatly ties back into a horrified past of one of the key characters. The ending is rushed, but considering how poorly some of the previous cases were handled by the show, I’ll forgive this part. I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for Harvey Bullock.
Nevertheless, there are elements that Gotham needs to seriously work on to improve itself. The tonal inconsistency has the effect of driving one up the proverbial wall over the course of a single hour. All of the victims were for some reason female, which just serves as further evidence of how terribly Gotham treats its female characters. But Gotham’s female characters aren’t the only ones getting the short end of the stick. Bruce and Selina are in one scene and it’s utterly pointless, which is even more disappointing considering the promising Wayne Enterprises story last week. And Cobblepot. Oh, Cobblepot. Possibly the greatest asset to this show, the creators are now layering in that he’s gay, which is totally fine. But the way they’re creating the character is so obnoxiously stereotypical of the negative connotations fixated onto gay characters it makes me seriously concerned that the show is hacking into its own lifeline and destroying one of its best characters. But at the very least his timely arrival at the episode’s climax begins to pit Gordon and Bullock at each other’s throats and I can’t wait to see that unfold, just after Gotham affords Gordon with an episode to deal primarily with his character. Despite all of those annoyances and glaring problems, at the very least in its sixth episode Gotham proved that it can improve by condensing its scope and actually paying attention to its characters.
Title: Spirit of the Goat
Written By: Ben Edlund
Directed By: TJ Scott
Image Courtesy: IGN