After last week’s goofily watchable “Viper”, Gotham continues to show modest signs of improvement in “Spirit of the Goat”, in which the titular serial killer, a foe from Bullock’s past, resurfaces to continue a reign of terror and Montoya’s vendetta against Gordon comes to a head… Bullock is one of two characters granted a new dimension in this week’s episode. It turns out that Jim Gordon’s partner wasn’t always the corrupt misanthrope we’ve come to know and despise. To our surprise, Bullock too was once a good cop, paired with a cynical, world-weary partner — Detective Dix (played by veteran character actor Dan Hedaya) — and fighting crime with the noble intent of protecting the innocent, until circumstances wore him down and he learned Gotham’s Golden Rule: “No heroes.”
Bullock’s backstory, as it stands in this episode, is slight, but we’ve been so starved for any kind of relatable human quality inside the burnout we’ve been following that for now it’ll suffice. We may not know what it is that once motivated the detective to do good, or what finally drove him to the dark side (one would assume it took more than the tragedy that we here learn befell his partner), yet at least he’s no longer a cartoon. Fortunately, his development isn’t confined to his past either, as we actually see him thinking and detecting, even turning his mouth off, as he works the reopened case; and he’s actually shown to care about another human being, paying his former colleague’s nursing home expenses (and porn magazine subscriptions of course). Donal Logue is a fine actor who’s been visibly grasping for something to sink his teeth into, beyond the occasional one liner and the macho posturing, since Gotham premiered. So it’s gratifying to watch him at last receive and develop a shred of soul to his character. What he discovers gives the title “Spirit of the Goat” a twofold meaning.
The other Gotham regular upon which new light is cast this week is Cory Michael Smith’s Edward Nygma. The character’s riddles have returned — lest we forget for even a second he’ll one day become the Riddler — and there’s a ridiculous question mark emblazoned on his coffee mug, just in case any four-year-olds watching this saga of crime and political corruption miss every other reference to the future supervillain. But, lo and behold, Ed gets a love interest! Though she’s saddled with the unfortunate name Kristen Kringle (Gotham‘s attempts at Dickensian nomenclature have mixed results), the bespectacled file clerk gives the forensics expert something to do other than titter gleefully in the background. With her blonde ponytail, could Ms. Kringle be a vessel through which Gotham‘s writers hope to channel the spirit of Harley Quinn? The beloved Doctor Quinzel is most likely beyond the range of the show, unless the producers want to introduce yet another young nemesis-in-training.
The primary adolescent scoundrel we’ve been dealing with thus far, “Cat”, returns for but one scene this week, and she’s as shoehorned in as ever. Creepily watching young Bruce Wayne sleep while she reviews his research into his parents’ murder, the character never misses an opportunity to remind us of her namesake. After all, why walk across a floor when you can pounce on a sofa and perch atop it for no apparent reason?
The actual “Goat” killers — both those in the past and present — are red herrings, since Bullock discovers they’re the handiwork of Dr. Marks, a hypnotherapist treating a victim’s father. Marks’ “therapy” for the city is to target the firstborn of Gotham’s one-percenters. (It’s a pared-down take on the Penguin’s plan in 1992’s Batman Returns.) Marks is given scant motivation for her campaign, and her hammy delight at watching one of her puppets attack Bullock recalls Julie Newmar’s Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV show (again, Gotham loves citing other incarnations of the Bat mythos even when unwarranted), but since she and her scheme are merely a puzzle for Bullock to unravel in the closest the show has come to a character study, I can forgive the shorthand.
The best part of “Spirit of the Goat” is its ending, which provides Gotham‘s best cliffhanger to date, as Oswald Cobblepot not only makes his existence known to the public, but does so at police headquarters at the very moment Gordon and Bullock are arrested for his murder. Prompting Bullock to do an about face and spit venom at his partner. For the first time since the pilot, I’m curious to see where things go. With next week’s episode titled “Penguin’s Umbrella” we’re bound to get more of Robin Lord Taylor’s scene-stealing opportunist. But is it too much to ask that Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney sit out next week as well? Without the crime boss, Gordon and Bullock have more room to develop, and they’re far more deserving of our time and interest when not relying on gangsters for information at every turn.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).