It’s the last week of October. In television, that means this is the week every show either does an explicitly Halloween-themed episode, or at least one with a darker/more horror-based angle.
Which brings us to this week’s episode, involving an old case from Bullock’s past – an occult-based murderer targeting Gotham’s wealthy who claims to be channeling an ancient spirit, and the possibility of murder continuing from beyond the grave.
Most of the above is really just window dressing for the holiday, but it does hit on one good thing about this episode: after being a supporting force over the past few weeks, we get Bullock in the limelight. It turns out to be one of the better decisions the show has made in a while.
I’ve been commenting for a few weeks on the show’s problems with its depiction of the ‘good’ side of Gotham. They aren’t terrible people, but they are often incredibly bland. In fact, of the members of the Gotham police force we’ve seen, Harvey Bullock has really been the only one all that interesting – and that’s largely thanks to Donal Logue’s portrayal. While the ideal solution for the show is to improve the writing of the other characters – and as we saw last week, they might be – this offered another alternative I’m okay with in the short term: dial everyone back and let Harvey take the wheel.
Again, this works as well as it does largely thanks to Logue. A lot of Bullock’s story this week is the kind of thing we’ve seen done in a lot of other shows: the case from his past, learning the cynic isn’t as nihilistic as we’d previously pegged him for, some residual guilt over an old incident (in this case involving a former partner played by Dan Hedaya who, for what few scenes he gets, has a pretty good rapport with Logue), even the covert moment of goodness where we learn Bullock’s been taking care of his former partner since that incident. It’s all old hat, but Logue makes it work. For being written as a supporting lead from the get go, he honestly makes more of an impact as a protagonist in this one episode than Gordon has over the last five.
Gordon, meanwhile, is down to bare bones storytelling this week. In fact, a lot of the supporting cast are down to bare minimum. We check in with Bruce, we see a little bit of Oswald on one of his less homicidal days, and otherwise the rest of the cast are focused on advancing the building internal affairs storyline. This doesn’t really do much for characterization, but it is nice to finally see Montoya and Allen doing something besides just spinning their wheels.
Oddly, the one other member of the GCPD that benefits this week is Edward Nygma. Prior to this point, he’s been pretty minor in the show – a forensics investigator who lays on his fixation on puzzles a bit thick and functions as a walking reference to annoy Bullock. This week actually gives him a chance to attempt to interact with other members of the department. The result of which is…I’m still mixed on how to feel about it. On the one hand, I like the idea of giving Nygma more development. He’s not a favorite character, but it’d be nice to see him grow beyond the ‘Someday you will be the Riddler’ shtick the way the show has done for Oswald. At the same time, the idea of the eccentric genius trying (and failing) to flirt is another pretty old gag. Cory Michael Smith plays it fairly well, actually managing to work the sincerity into the absurdity of the moment, but it’s still the kind of gag that feels like it should be retired.
As far a the case of the week goes, really, there’s not a whole lot else I can say for it beyond praising the show for letting Bullock at the wheel. Otherwise, there’s really not a lot else I can say for this particular case. We don’t spend as much time dwelling on the victims as we have in some prior weeks, instead shunting the focus onto Bullock trying to determine how a seemingly dead killer could resurface. Really, it’s his story, the Goat is just a means to an end. Probably my one complaint with it is, honestly, I was able to guess what was actually going on fairly early. I still needed to fill in some holes along the way, but the show really isn’t subtle about letting you know who’s actually responsible. On top of that, the reveal doesn’t amount to much – it’s another statement on the corrupt nature of the city (which, while a valid plot point, can risk being beaten to death). In the end, it’s ultimately supplanted as a climax by the cliffhanger the episode ends on: with Allen and Montoya confronting Gordon…only to have Oswald walk into the department and clear his name.
It’s actually an interesting note to end the episode on, and I am curious to see where the show takes it. Especially given the last shot we see is Bullock ready to murder Gordon for lying to him. To be honest, this may be the most interested I’ve been in where Gordon’s story is going since the pilot.
All in all, not a bad episode for the Halloween pick. The Halloween part is mostly just decoration (as it were) but honestly Logue more than made up for it by reminding us why he’s been one of the best casting calls on this show.
Add on that ending and I look forward to seeing how things progress between him and McKenzie next week in Penguin’s Umbrella.
-Though it’s only for this week, Donal Logue carries the show well in the primary role
-Gordon’s storyline, while stripped down, is at least moving forward
-Despite an interesting start, the actual case is really only there to set up Bullock’s story
-Though Gordon’s plot is going interesting places, Montoya and Allen are still disappointing