Spirit of the Goat Review: There's No Room for Heroes in Gotham
Last week, I said that Gotham was finally finding its footing, and that it had smoothed over some of the problems that arose from introducing such a large cast with so many disparate elements so quickly. After this episode, which was solid but not as polished or interesting as Viper, I still think it's gradually finding its footing, but it still has several glaring flaws, chief among them its tendency to go on irrelevant tangents.
Barbara returned, which is never good news. They're doing Erin Richards down a tiny bit more, so she at least fits in with the visuals of the show a bit better, but all the writing issues are still there. She still feels irrelevant to the proceedings, and the relationship problems between her and Gordon are oversimplified and petty. Most of all, the show has never laid any kind of foundation that made us care about them as a couple in the first place, so we really don't care when their relationship is in trouble, especially when they're both so immature about it. Baby Batman is feeling more relevant overall, and David Mazouz killed it in the scene where he differentiates himself from the other rich kid victims of the Goat killer because "there's no one to take [him] away from." That being said, the diversion with Selina Kyle felt like just that, a diversion, the beginnings of a plotline that could very well be interesting but should have been left for another episode in order to streamline the narrative. Same goes for the Riddler, who was finally creepy this week, but unfortunately not in a fun way. I like Cory Michael Smith's performance, and I would like to see this character developed, but again, I wish the writers would wait until they had time to really develop the character, rather than just giving us a brief insight into his awkwardness with women. Instead of adding tiny subplots like Edward Nygmas, the show needs to subtract subplots, and focus on an A and B plot per episode like the rest of the world.
The A and B plots of this episode would have been much better served without all the tangents, because they were noticeably underdeveloped. It was nice, if predictable, to see that Bullock had a softer side, and that he was once an idealist like Jim. But the reasons the episode presents for his transformation into a cynic are fairly simplistic. That kind of psychological transformation happens over many years for many different reasons, but this episode asserted that he became a cynic because his idealism sort of maybe led to his partner's debilitating injury. I realize the show isn't exactly trying to be subtle, but in this case the transformation would be more poignant and thematically relevant if we were left to just assume that the institutional corruption of the entire city is enough to turn Jim into Bullock, and Bullock into his former partner.
The crime-of-the-week was interesting, with a hypnotherapist manipulating patients to kill the rich children of Gotham. The show is at its most intellectual when it explores the void that Batman ultimately fills, seen in this episode when the therapist claims that people "need to believe" in the Spirit of the Goat. It says a lot about the sickness of the city if people "need to believe," not in God, not in Gordon, but in a guy in a Hannibal Lecter mask who strings up rich teenage girls. We can clearly see how Jim would fail to save the city, because they need some kind of compromise between an evil "cleansing" type of vigilantism and Gordon's unrelatable stalwartness. But this interesting point was undercut by the fact that the conclusion was laughably rushed; they spent so much time on the subplots that, once again, the villain conveniently spilled her guts at the first hint of confrontation with the police, there's a brief Dollhouse-like moment in which she sets a patient on Bullock, then he shoots her in the leg and that's it. Gotham has so much action, and yet has the propensity to be so anticlimactic.
-I stand by my assessment that Gotham should subtract rather than add subplots, but I'm really excited for Poison Ivy and hope they make time for her soon.
-Cobblepot's relationship with his mother, and with women in general, has the potential to either be complex and filled with social commentary or a trite Oedipus/Freud reference. If they're canny about it, it could be a comment on the connection between sociopathic behavior and feelings of inadequacy in the context of rigid gender roles. But it could easily go the other way, especially if, as AV Club predicted, Cobblepot is gay, in which case it would also play into unpleasant stereotypes of gay men being "turned" by dysfunctional, overbearing mothers. We'll see which way it goes.
-The constant "riddle" references while Nygma is onscreen is not doing anyone any favors. He's the Riddler, we get it.
-I enjoy that Cobblepot seems to genuinely admire and respect Jim. Even though he has his own warped moral compass, he can still recognize that Jim is a true white knight, which only makes the character more interesting. And, if he is gay, I would definitely ship them over Jim and Barbara.