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'Gotham' recap, 'Spirit of the Goat'

Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor, L) returns home to his mother (Carol Kane).
Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor, L) returns home to his mother (Carol Kane). (Jessica Miglio/FOX)

Gotham is a place for crooks and cynics, but certainly no heroes.

There's no reward for doing good, only for going with the flow. This goes beyond the adage "no good deed goes unpunished." The city itself viciously sacrifices those trying to save it.

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"Spirit of the Goat" digs deep into the moral push and pull of being Gotham's finest, starting with how Bullock became so cynical.

No one starts out that way. It takes a series of disappointments or one traumatic event. For Bullock, it was the latter.

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Arriving at the scene of the crime of the first Spirit of the Goat murderer, Bullock valiantly rushed into the abandoned mansion without backup, to save the damsel in distress. His partner, Detective Dix, was attacked and became paralyzed.

Ridden with guilt, Bullock has since adopted his former partner's motto: "Gotham's golden rule: No heroes."

Now Bullock, easily the most insufferable character on the show, has become likable. Imagine that. Mr. Lackadaisical, Slovenly Cynic has depth.

Bullock harps on how he's feeling déjà vu, but the episode is more like the Bizarro World. Bullock's the first one to the crime scene. Bullock's the one chewing Jim Gordon out when he's late. Bullock's the one who wants to play hero.

Everything's reversed. Up is down, evil is good and Ed Nygma gets the hint when he's being inappropriate. Well, that last one is iffy.

As Bullock starts putting effort into his job, Gordon's on the slippery slope of disillusionment. He feels hopeless.

"I came here to be a cop," Gordon admits to Barb, "but this city needs something else." 

Gotham needs an outsider. Someone who isn't wrapped up in the maze of law and crime, as Gordon puts it. That's why Batman is the hero Gotham needs, but he still has more learning to do.

In the meantime, Gordon's the best they've got. But he's suffering from being a good guy in Gotham. Like any dirty secret, it's crept into his personal and professional life.

Pretending to kill Cobblepot for Bullock and Carmine Falcone's sake only worked for so long. That is, until MCU secured an arrest warrant for him.

As MCU is about to lock up Gordon and Bullock, in shuffles Cobblepot with a beaming smirk on his face. Anything to help out a friend, I'm sure. But would you look at that face that only a mother could love? (Side note: barf.) He's clearly up to something.

Of course this happens just when Gordon and Bullock were starting to act like they're on the same team. Once Falcone and Fish Mooney find out Cobblepot's still alive, lines will be drawn and the police department will be divided between Falcone and Maroni.

It's just one of the many battles in the war Cobblepot was talking about.

If Bruno Heller (series creator) meant for "The Spirit of the Goat" to be an understated Halloween special that delivers on suspense without jack-o-lanterns and witches galore, then he succeeded.

"The Spirit of the Goat" raised more hairs and chilled more spines than typical "Gotham" episodes. The DIY executioner mask, the sacrificial altars, the empty mansions with an ax-wielding maniac running around — it felt like a tame horror movie.

That said, the hypnosis conspiracy theory felt convoluted and rushed. Basically, mad psychiatrist Dr. Marks treats her patients for compulsions, then hypnotizes them to believe that they're the Spirit of the Goat and will do whatever she says. Like murder One Percenters as a form of negative reinforcement. Catch all that?

I expected the good doctor was prescribing a new mind-controlling drug — maybe one of those tranquilizers Bullock was asking about. He could use some. He is a loose cannon, after all.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM "SPIRIT OF THE GOAT":

BEST ONE LINER: "We're gonna go with 'Milkie.' I already filled out the paperwork." – Bullock to Randall Milkie, the first Spirit of the Goat.

BEST ENTRANCE: Cobblepot. Here are his best (so far): "Hi Jim, old friend!" when he visits Gordon at his apartment; "Hi Mom, I'm alive!" when returns home; "Hello! I'm Oswald Cobblepot," as he walks into the Gotham City Police Department with a maniacal chuckle. Funny thing is, the only person who was happy to see him was his mother. Which brings us to…

BIGGEST CREEP: Between Nygma sniffing Kris Kringle's hair and Mrs. Kabelput sponge-bathing her son, it was a tough deci... Wait, no it wasn't.  Mrs. "Oedipal Complex" Kabelput is Gotham's biggest creep. Ever. She even makes Selina Kyle's stalking, trespassing and stealing seem cute. Excuse me as I hypnotize that bath scene away from my memory forever.

BETTER LEFT UNSAID: "Why would the Goat take me? There's no one to take me from." – Bruce to Alfred. Ouch!

CREEPIEST NEWS REPORTER: The woman on "Gotham 7's Goat Watch" who sounds way too gleeful that One Percenters are getting murdered. They are people too, you know.

DATELESS CLUB: Neither Cobblepot nor Nygma can land a date with the ladies. Cobblepot doesn't particularly care, so long as his mother's around. Gag. And as for Nygma…

WORST FLIRTING GAME: Nygma, for reorganizing Kris Kringle's files — laterally! As someone who color-coordinates her dresser and closet (ROYGBIV, thank you very much), my eye would twitch if Nygma pulled that stunt on me. Step away from her filing cabinet and give her some organizing folders. Right there you've been upgraded from "creepy" to "quirky."

BARB IS BACK: Did anyone notice she was gone last week in "Viper"?I'm less concerned about her relationship with Gordon than I am with the possibility that she becomes a vigilante. She bores me. That's why when she tells Gordon, "I'm just asking for half of what you have to carry," I interpret it as a hint that she wants to join forces with him and fight crime on the side.  Gives her something to do other than stand around and pout all the time.

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