Greed is a disease. It festers and spreads throughout the body until you’re consumed with thoughts of money and power. For some, the One Percent needs a reality check. They argue there is no fairness in a tiny minority that holds all the wealth while the rest of us have to suffer.
“Spirit of the Goat” takes this sentiment to its logical extreme as a new threat suggests the underclass simply kill Gotham’s rich children. Using homicidal negative reinforcement, the rich will either need to change their ways or die out. However, the Spirit of the Goat affects more than just class disparity as it puts the focus on Harvey Bullock’s (Donal Logue) past.
Not since “Selina Kyle” has Gotham experienced an episode of this caliber. With “Spirit of the Goat,” the show breaks way from its usual mode and opens with a flashback to ten years ago. I don’t normally care for flashbacks because I find they’re a lazy way to shoehorn in exposition about a character’s past. However, when utilized correctly, flashbacks can offer a new perspective on a particular character or plot.
During this sequence, Bullock and his contemporaneous partner, Dix (Dan Hedaya), discover the van of Randall Milkie (Christopher James Baker). Milkie was a killer who believed he was inhabited by the “Spirit of the Goat” – a mythological creature who kills the children of the wealthy.
Opening this old case up again gives more nuanced insight into Bullock’s drab closed-off persona. Ten years ago, Bullock was much like Gordon – eager, impatient and a real “white knight.” Meanwhile, Dix was a cynical and lazy cop who’d lost any hint of idealism. He was an image of what Bullock would eventually become.
Gotham has a golden rule: “no heroes.” True to that mantra, all it takes is the Spirit of the Goat to change Bullock from bold and brazen to disenchanted and discouraged. Bullock manages to gun down Milkie but at the price of Dix breaking his legs, a wound that confines him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
The whole scene feels familiar. I can’t help but think about Barbara Gordon and her transformation into Oracle. Could this event be a warning to Gordon who may one day fall into the same trap? Or is it a lesson about what happens to cops who try to be the hero in Gotham?
In the present day Gotham, horrors from a decade before have reappeared. The Spirit of the Goat is on the loose leaving a trail of rich children in his wake. Modern Bullock realizes, to his anger and horror, that his old adversary is back. This episode’s character development for Bullock comes as a relief after weeks of stale reliance on Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and the crime boss storylines.
Even though Mooney, Falcone and Maroni aren’t in the episode, “Spirit of the Goat” still features tie-ins to the overarching narrative. These moments are subtle, perhaps owing to the presence of talented Supernatural writer Ben Hedlund. If he continues to team up with Bruno Heller, then Gotham has a chance to turn it around and become fantastic.
While “Spirit of the Goat” is a huge step in the right direction, Gotham is still littered with superfluous scenes. In particular, consider the scene where Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) sneaks around Bruce’s room while he’s asleep, or the sequence about Bruce’s refusal to leave Gotham. While these moments are arguably important – they do set up Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne’s longstanding relationship and Bruce’s stubborn personality – the episode would have been stronger without them because they don’t advance the narrative in any way.
The writers also seem unsure what to do with Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Although he continues to tone down his hammy performance from “Arkham,” his scenes still seem awkward and out-of-place. It seems the showrunners want him to have him act as a counter-balance to Gotham’s heavier moments, but the scenes come off as too goofy to create true equilibrium.
“Spirit of the Goat” finally wraps up the absurd side plot of Gotham’s MCU detectives Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) and Crispus Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) as they attempt to pin Gordon for the murder of Oswald Cobblepot. We’ve known for weeks that Cobblepot is alive, and since “The Ballonman,” that he’s in Gotham. So when Montoya and Allen bring Gordon into custody, I had that “Finally!” moment as Cobblepot walks into the station. It is ridiculous that Cobblepot was able to walk around Gotham for so long without anyone recognizing him.
Cobblepot’s reveal does have consequences, however. Now Bullock knows Gordon lied to him. After finally acting like real partners last episode, this will surely drive a wedge between the two once again.
And Bullock isn’t the only one Gordon needs to worry about. Mooney and Falcone will certainly try to kill him for not killing Cobblepot as he was ordered. The repercussions of Gordon’s actions will certainly reverberate through the entire GCPD. It’s unclear how Gordon (and behind the scenes, Heller) will manage all of these threads, but what I do know is that next week’s “Penguin’s Umbrella” has much to address.