Once again, I think the show is finally heading in the right directions ever since the last episode where certain chess pieces are beginning to make the crucial moves across the board. This week's installment entitled Spirit of the Goat had yet another unusual villain-of-the-week case which has become a staple now; it was just as cartoonish and audacious as a show like Gotham tends to produce on a weekly basis. So far in the season we had a nerdy tandem of child snatchers, a disgruntled social worker who ties corrupt public servants to a weather balloon to dispose of them, a professional assassin who punctures the eye sockets of his victims, a radical scientist who spread samples of a deadly drug that enhances strength into something superhuman, and now a serial killer who ritualistically kills the first born of any wealthy family of his choosing as a sacrifice to an ancient goat-god. Yup, we had just watched these demented yet creatively murderous individuals go about executing the methods to their madness as Gordon and Bullock are on their tails, pursuing vital clues which eventually solved these cases by the end of each episode.
While this formulaic plot goes on, we also get developments on certain characters such as Oswald Cobblepot and Fish Mooney as their schemes begin to achieve results for the upcoming Falcone vs. Maroni gang war. And even for a show that's pre-Batman, the writers simply can't resist to include a young Bruce Wayne in the mix anyway, as we see him struggle to cope with the tragedy of his parents' murder and figure out the larger role he might have to play in the series.
The biggest criticism of the show so far has been the fact that its writers don't seem to know the best way to utilize the characters or when not to use them at all for a particular story. This often muddles or dilutes the impact of certain plotlines when we have all the characters making their appearances even the ones who don't merit from being there (Selina Kyle and Barbara Keen are often mentioned to be the main offenders of this, and, to a lesser extent, a few of the Bruce Wayne and Alfred scenes). The last episode Viper has finally learned how to incorporate their characters in meaningful interactions that actually help to move the plot forward (particularly the arc concerning the gang war; and that surprising revelation concerning the shady operations of Wayne Enterprises). Meanwhile, Spirit of the Goat finally zeroes in a character for deeper analysis and insight. In this case, we have gotten stellar developments and some personal history for Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue).
It's worth mentioning that the episode was written by Ben Edlund of the CW's Supernatural who has definitely (and hopefully) jump-started future installements like this that would devote a great amount of time developing a character so viewers will understand their motivations better and therefore decide whether or not to root for or sympathize with them. This episode did a terrific job to define who Harvey Bullock was before and why he has become who he is now: we got to see his struggles to overcome the city's greater evils back in his prime, only to give in and employ a more apathetic stance for the sake of self-preservation (and perhaps due to the guilt of endangering his senior partner's life). The notable piece of dialogue said partner has imparted, and has now become the mantra Bullock has learned to live by since that day: "Gotham has only one rule: No heroes" was quite poignant. It enlightened us as to why Bullock tries to dim Gordon's light since the pilot episode to begin with; he wasn't doing it maliciously, he simply knew enough about such school-boy heroics to make an informed decision that doing the right thing doesn't undo the permeating bad things that happen in the city every day, and that there's not enough reason to try harder when everything else is against you. It's no question that Gotham has interesting characters but we mostly only know them on the surface and their desires that are readily apparent in dialogue and action as oppose to deeper self-reflection and interactions with people in their lives who know them better than they would allow themselves be known. Harvey Bullock was allowed the chance to be better understood once we as viewers see him contemplate about a case that has haunted him to this day, his strained yet caring relationship with his former partner Dix, and that fact that we saw him actually solving a case by himself because it was something personal and important for him to do. Sure, the twist about who the spirit of the goat is just as absurd as one might expect but I think what mattered most for this episode is that it was Bullock's journey; that for the first time in a long time he found something to invest his heart in even if it's just a simple matter of catching the individual responsible for murdering rich kids (a therapist with an egotistical drive to prove a point and settle a score with a city that needs a rude awakening which she believed is her obligation).
On the other hand, we also get more scenes with Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) which is a relief although I'm still not sure what the show plans to do with him in the long run. His transformation to become the Riddler is coming but I have yet to see any strong indication as to when and how that would be possible, given the way he's being written. I would acknowledge that having him work for the law as a forensic analyst is a promising angle; it would be fascinating to know what will be the catalyst which will suddenly make him turn his back from public service to pursue a life of crime that constitutes forever annoying people with his constantly grating riddles. I thought the episode did well enough to give him more scenes to interact with Bullock, Gordon and that fellow co-worker Kristin Kringle, but they felt unusually placed for an episode that was strongly Bullock-centered.
Robin Lord Taylor's Oswald Cobblepot bonds with his mother in his scenes which are creepy because of the Oedipal vibe shared between them. Cobblepot arrives to his mother's place just to let her know that he's very much alive and that there never was a painted whore who led him astray. He then takes a bath while his mother affectionately scrubs him with a loofa as he tells her about his new "friend" Gordon, a cop he believes will help him rise from the ranks. At the end of the episode, he gets a second great entrance when he casually walks in the GCPD precinct just as Gordon and Bullock are about to be whisked away in cuffs for Cobblepot's supposed murder. That ending scene worked really well and ended the episode with a high note. MCU's Allen and Montoya finally will get a new storyline (their insistence to prove Gordon killed Cobblepot is getting on my nerves already), Barbara never has to stay in the dark anymore with this piece of information, and Bullock and Gordon's relationship will get very complicated. I absolutely adored Bullock's reaction the moment Cobblepot appeared. He was instantly pissed at Gordon as if he'd rather be tried for murder than to deal with Falcone and Mooney once those two figured out that Gordon wasn't one of theirs and he disobeyed orders, and now everyone's screwed. Bullock has gotten comfortable of his corrupt cop status after all, and has been getting along with his partner in the belief that Gordon is beginning to see and do things his way.
The only drawback for me with this development is that Gordon may not have to answer to Maroni anymore which I was looking forward to. But we shall see; they could still work a way around it and hopefully find other ways to put Gordon in more distressing situations where his honor will be questioned and his life will be endangered. I'm not going to talk about the Bruce Wayne scenes for this episode (which also included Selina Kyle) because I would rather they didn't appear in this story because they hardly contributed anything and it's not like young Bruce had any progress with his "investigation" project. Also, I can't understand what the hell they want to do with Selina anymore. I just wish the writers will utilize their characters better and only when it's important. It was such a relief that Mooney, Falcone and Maroni didn't have any screen time here because the story demanded it. It would also allow the development from that arc some air to breathe and grow in the background until we get return to it hopefully by next week's installment alongside the Bullock-Gordon-Cobblepot pay-off. I'm betting that Falcone and Mooney will be there, considering they have an axe to grind with Cobblepot, but I don't think Maroni will be eager to get himself implicated just yet. I don't know what's going to happen and it's definitely making me very excited for what's in store.
FINAL VERDICT: 3.75
* An insightful character-centered episode that hopefully allowed viewers to appreciate one of its chief players in a much better and meaningful light. The episode also reached an invigorating apex by its last scenes' revelation which promises that the show will embark more exciting developments later on