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Gotham, Ep. 1.06, “Spirit of the Goat” is Harvey Bullock’s finest hour

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Gotham, Season 1, Episode 6: “Spirit of the Goat”
Written by Ben Edlund
Directed by TJ Scott
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX

Unlike last week’s “Viper”, this week’s Gotham turns in a case of the week that truly amps up the creep factor without going too far outside of the gritty reality that the show has set up. “Spirit of the Goat” presents an antagonist that not only fits well tonally with the series, but is entertaining, with a somewhat supernatural mystery whose answer falls in line with the noir style. One of the episode’s most pleasant surprises is that it places Harvey Bullock in the lead, allowing him some much needed character depth, as well as highlighting his skills as a great detective in his own right. This episode also provides a significant development in the ongoing Major Crimes Unit investigation of Jim Gordon and his part in the murder of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, a plot that hasn’t progressed much since “Selina Kyle”.

The intricacies of Oswald Cobblepot’s plan continue to surprise and at times baffle, as it’s uncertain what his real intentions are. Last week’s “Viper” showed Cobblepot revealing to Maroni exactly who he was, which put him in danger. Luckily, Gordon’s honesty saved Cobblepot’s life, which led to Cobblepot claiming in this episode that he has found a police officer that he feels that he can truly trust. This reasoning culminates in Cobblepot revealing himself to the Gotham City Police Department, which will save Gordon from being prosecuted for his alleged murder. Now the question remains, did Cobblepot do this because he genuinely wants to help Gordon, or did he do it because he needs Gordon for his ultimate plan to take over Gotham City?

The plot appears to be thickening even further, now that Bullock knows the truth about Gordon not killing Cobblepot and does not seem very happy about it. The season has been developing slowly, but in this episode the plot threads come together in exciting and interesting ways that serve both the overarching mythology as well as the case of the week, making this one of the best standalone episodes of the show so far.

 

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Character Study

In the beginning of this episode, we learn that Harvey Bullock was once a lot like Jim Gordon, with his heroic spirit and desire for justice evident in a flashback that shows him on a case with his partner Detective Dix (played by excellent character actor Dan Hedaya). It was this case of a serial killer who believed he was possessed by a goat spirit that injured Dix and possibly was the first step towards Bullock becoming the lackadaisical detective that we know now. This episode presents a lot of Bullock’s depth, with the return of the Gotham Goat bringing out his sleuthing skills and his motivated work ethic. Bullock, it turns out, cares about people like Dix, who he makes sure has access to all the dirty magazines he wants, and also is a very capable detective that doesn’t always resort to murdering every criminal he comes across. Donal Logue has been great as Bullock since the pilot, remaining a likable presence on the show although he’s not always been utilized as well as he should. Logue is great at bringing the comic relief, and in this episode we get to see a more contemplative side of Bullock, as well as him throwing blows in some really great fight scenes.

This is the first episode that offers any real insight into Edward Nygma. In the pilot we are introduced to a heightened, over the top Nygma who was already displaying traits of the villainous Riddler. In subsequent episodes, the character had been sufficiently toned down, which served better for his characterization while not entirely betraying what we saw in the pilot. It appears that Nygma’s story is that of an oddball personality who annoys the people around him, prompting him to repress these traits. Cory Michael Smith plays Nygma with remarkable charisma and a sense of creepiness that makes him as unseemly, yet very watchable presence. His development as a character will be interesting to see play out, and one wonders if it will involve file clerk Kristen Kringle, whom Nygma seems to have taken an interest in.

                   

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The Case File: The Gotham Goat

The case of the week is a supernatural serial killer, or so it seems. The truth behind the Gotham Goat turns out to be another citizen turned vigilante with their own brand of justice, this time using hypnosis to manipulate janitors to target members of the wealthy elite.  The characterization of the serial killers as the Gotham Goat is the most grounded out of all the cases with an atypical serial killer presence so far. The true villain, Dr. Marks, brings an added mystery that is very satisfying when revealed. There is also the extra fun of Marks siccing another hypnotized patient on Bullock. The actress portraying Marks, Susan Misner, does a nice job with Logue, acting strangely comfortable when Bullock interrogates her and revealing herself as the mastermind behind the Gotham Goat, which gives the scene an awkward, but enjoyable tension.

The episode is written by Ben Edlund, who is known for writing some of the more fun episodes of Angel and Firefly. In “Spirit of the Goat”, Edlund brings a solid case of the week and integrates it well with the serialized narrative, developing Bullock and Nygma in the process. This episode is well directed by TJ Scott, who makes some interestingly choices in composition that heighten the tension and set in the creepy atmosphere, complete with flickering lights and dark stairwells. The music is also particularly well chosen, with a scene like Cobblepot staring out at the camera in his bath set to Bing Crosby’s “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”. This episode overall is the highlight of the series, and hopefully its tone can be maintained in future episodes as the season starts to heat up.

Detective’s Notes

  • Gotham’s Golden Rule: No Heroes!
  • I wonder if Detective Dix is named in part after prolific Batman writer Chuck Dixon. It would be a nice shout out if he is.
  • What have we got here? Harvey Bullock: Boy Detective!
  • The Gotham Goat’s inclination for killing the first born of Gotham’s elite is absolutely reminiscent of The Penguin’s plan in Batman Returns.
  • We may have gotten our very first “Holy—” phrases with Harvey Bullock saying “Holy Ghosts on a Bicycle!!”
  • Nygma tells Bullock the riddle of crossing a river with a wolf, a cabbage and a goat, which is the second show this year to use that riddle. The first was FX’s Fargo, in that case a fox, a rabbit, and a cabbage.
  • What’s in the box that Selina Kyle lifts from Wayne’s desk?
  • Also what’s with that smile she gives while watching Bruce sleep? Does she have a crush, maybe?

-JP


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