Season One, Episode Six – “Spirit Of The Goat”

By Matt Fleming. Gotham takes itself as seriously as a gritty series about the origins of Batman could, but six weeks into its first season, the melodrama is becoming familiar and enjoyable. “Spirit Of The Goat” exhibits the promise that the series can maintain several storylines without losing the viewer’s attention. Although Gotham is only a quarter way into its inaugural season, it is successfully laying a foundation for some compelling plot lines that could keep this show afloat.

“The Spirit Of The Goat” takes a silly premise and effectively normalizes it with some surprisingly tight storytelling. Beginning ten years in the past, the episode centers on a case that flummoxed a young Harvey Bullock and his old, jaded partner, Detective Dix (a dynamic Dan Hedaya). A masked killer, seemingly possessed by “the spirit of the goat,” targets the children of Gotham’s rich and powerful. The detectives gun down the killer, but Dix is injured and Bullock begins his slip toward becoming the cynical foil to “boy scout” Jim Gordon.

Flash forward to modern-day Gotham: the spirit of the goat has been resurrected, and Bullock is not happy. Gordon and Bullock seek advice from the convalescing Dix, who posits a conspiracy, seeing that the new killer is repeating habits of the previous killer, habits which were known only to the detectives. While the two manage to apprehend the killer, Bullock is unsettled, and finds out that the spirit of the goat may have some very simple, yet sinister, origins. As they pursue this sadistic killer, Gordon reconciles with Barbara, while Major Crimes Unit cops Montoya and Allen – still convinced Gordon shot Oswald Cobblepot – seal their case against the detective. Cobblepot retreats to his mother as he begins plotting his path to vengeance against the Gotham Underworld. Bruce Wayne and his caregiver Alfred Pennyworth show up briefly, just to remind viewers that Kid Batman is honing his detective skills.

Gotham uses its time quite well in this episode, tightening its focus and letting the mostly stellar cast carry the show. While Jim Gordon remains the show’s lynchpin, this episode decidedly belongs to Harvey Bullock. Donal Logue, journeyman character actor, has made Bullock a highlight of the series, and this episode’s performance finally takes the detective to the next level. Usually satisfied by simplest-answer detective work, Bullock taps into the young man he once was, resembling his plucky partner more than the heartless codger he has become. Logue puts forth a very heartfelt performance, channelling some serious energy and giving Bullock the depth he has lacked. The relationship between Bullock and Gordon hits a boiling point at the end of the episode, leaving this viewer ready for next week’s impending collision.

Gotham has done a great job with its weekly guest stars, bringing familiar faces and names on to enhance the rest of the cast, and “Spirit Of The Goat” is no different: this latest episode packs the one-two punch of both Dan Hedaya and Carole Kane. Hedaya, familiar to anyone who has watched movies or TV in the last thirty years, is wonderfully sardonic in the role of Detective Dix. His head bobbing and face-flexing toward Logue illustrates how far Bullock has drifted from his youth, and how Bullock has become a grizzled, old cop repeating his former partner’s motto: “no heroes.” Hedaya makes great use of his time-traveling screen time, looking weather-worn and haggard and somehow still managing to chew up both Logue and Ben McKenzie. On the other hand, Carol Kane is wickedly witchy as Gertrud Kapleput, the clingy and creepy mother of the future Penguin. While her role is limited, her presence assists in expounding on Oswald’s motivations. She loves and believes in her son, and that encourages his deranged ascent to power. Kane is welcomed as a semi-regular in this crazy world, offering a small amount of odd eccentricity.

Erin Richards returns as Barbara Kean, and she continues to weigh down the show with her complicated relationship with Jim Gordon, although her performance in this episode is a little more toned down than in previous entries. If Richards can dial it back, and the writers can limit her meddling, she may grow to bearability. On the other side of the Barbara-coin, Victoria Cartagena (Renee Montoya) and Andrew Stewart Jones (Crispus Allen) make the most of their subplot, driven to apprehend Jim Gordon for a crime that didn’t happen. Their actions, along with those of Cobblepot, appear to be the catalyst for the impending crime wars, as well as the potential undoing of Gordon.

Strangely enough, the subtle character expansion of Edward Nygma is the highlight of the episode. Cory Michael Smith takes an obvious character, the future Riddler, and bases him in science and reason, and his small, entertaining sub-subplot is intriguing and exists simply to build the character. This time around, the show’s writers don’t hit you over the head with Nygma, but the continual dismissal of his peers seems like the type of stuff that might forge a formidable rogue. As far as future Bat-villains go, Oswald Cobblepot is still the man to watch. Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin is limited in this episode, but he remains the show’s secret weapon. His scenes with his mother are just scuzzy enough to remind you that he is vicious, and he will certainly play a major role in the rest of the season’s most compelling arc.

Gotham is certainly trying hard to be less than forgettable, and six weeks into a daunting 22-episode run, it seems to exhibit some staying power. When the writers are concise and focused, their cast carries the show to great effect. Gotham has figured out how to balance the many subplots it has generated, and knows what to omit for the sake of brevity. There is still potential for the show to fly off the rails, but it continues to evade such pitfalls. “Spirit Of The Goat” is a great example of Gotham giving it all it’s got, and thanks to some awesome actors, it remains a show that demands a weekly investment.

Passing Thoughts:

-It cannot be overstated: Dan Hedaya kills it in this week’s episode. This show has the great fortune of nabbing awesome guest stars.

-For a brief moment, the DoomRocket staff swore they saw a Vicki Vale. Say it ain’t so.

-Twelve-year-old Bruce Wayne is great at a few things: amassing a serious wall-of-clues, making Alfred sad, and sweaters.

-Camren Vicondova pops in for a moment, her Catgirl breaking into Wayne Manor. Even as a kid, you can tell she wants to make out with Bruce.

-Seriously, Donal Logue is making a case for an Emmy nomination. Not a win, but still.

-Eddie Nygma doesn’t understand why nobody wants to hear his riddles or likes it when he reorganizes their evidence room. He just wants to make friends.

-This show has some weird naming tendencies. Kristin Kringle, Randall Milkie, Detective Dix. Pretty stupid.

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