That’s more like it. Much more like it. The name “Ben Edlund” in the credits has been a promise of quality on shows such as Supernatural, Buffy, Angel and Firefly in the past, and he delivers a cracking script once again for Gotham. This is the show’s best episode so far by a long, long way. And it doesn’t even have to rely on the Penguin to do that.
Admittedly, Edlund also benefits from not having to shoehorn in Jack-Skellington-in-dress (aka Fish Mooney) and James Gordon is pretty much a background character also. But the writer takes full advantage to show what the series could be like if it wasn’t usually encumbered by these two pieces of dead wood. If anything, “Spirit Of The Goat” makes you wish Harvey were the star.
Detective Bullock is great here, as he’s given much more depth as a character, from his flashback, to his being denouement moment where you’re just wishing he’ll go to the slimy psychotherapist, “Just one more thing…”. It’s a superb performance from Donal Logue.
He’s just one high point in an episode full of them. Edlund takes a silly premise – a serial killer using a goat as his alter ego – and sells it completely with a script that refuses to acknowledge that this is at all silly. There’s black humour, sure, but Bullock and Gordon act completely straight, like they’re in CSI Gotham or The Streets Of Gotham, not a comic book adaptation. The show has struggled a little to balance its dual nature previously, but Edlund shows how it can successfully walk the tightrope.
Building Towards Batman
Bruce wonders why the hell someone would choose a goat as emblem to strike fear into others.
The direction seems to move up a notch too. Armed with a slick script, TJ Scott delivers some sumptuous visuals, impeccably lit. The precinct has never looked better and the gothic-tinged fight scenes are small screen action its best. The abduction of the second victim – a scene that really could have been cut altogether in terms of the plot (Gordon receiving a phone call to say she’s been abducted would have achieved the same end) – deserves its place in the episode because it’s so damned tense and stylish.
While the Penguin scenes are entertaining (though his mother doesn’t seem very surprised to see him – did the police never tell her he’d been killed?), it’s the turn of the future Riddler to take the super villain spotlight this week. Cory Michael Smith seizes the chance just as much as Logue does, and while Nygma isn’t yet as interesting a character as Cobblepot (he’s just a bit of a creepy nerd, with no edge of danger yet) you can still see the seeds of something intriguing and disturbing happening here. If nothing else, his little hand sign for describing his new filing system is wonderfully weird.
The Barbara/James/Renee love triangle is as ho-hum as ever, but thankfully the subplot involving Gordon’s arrest for killing Cobblepot doesn’t drag on. Instead it climaxes in a brilliant cliffhanger with the Penguin announcing his “resurrection” in the middle of Gotham PD HQ. That certainly made sure we’re tuning in next week…
Most Unsubtle Foreshadowing Yet?
Yeah, Eddie Nygma’s going to become the Riddler – we get it!
Go Directly To Jail
In the final scene, Allen and Montoya say they're going to send Gordon to “Blackgate Pen”. In this comics, Blackgate Penitentiary (formerly Blackgate Prison, introduced in 1991) was where sane criminals in Gotham were sent, as opposed to Arkham where the psychos were sent. Blackgate is traditionally situated on an island in Gotham Bay, making it a bit like Gotham’s Alcatraz. So, will Penguin be its Birdman?
Politically Correct In-Joke
Harvey at one point says, “Holy ghost on a bicycle,” which is only a sly reference to Robin’s catchphrases in the ’60s Batman TV series, but also an amusing twist on “Christ on a bike” which presumably a major channel like Fox might get a little nervy about.
The Eyes Have It
Is it just us, or is that supposed to be a stylised Spirit Of The Goat mask in the background?
The Gotham PD HQ was unusually noisy at one point in the episode. That, plus the addition of some really distracting spotlights, gave the odd impression there was a helicopter hovering about inside the building.
Gotham airs on Monday nights on Channel 5 in the UK, and on Fox in the US.