On Bull Season 3 Episode 7, “A Girl Without Feelings,” the team defends a sociopath and gives depth to a diagnosis that rarely receives it on screen.
Even among shows that tackle mental health issues, its rare to see sociopaths or psychopaths treated as anything other than killers or monsters in the making. For Bull to challenge that is a bold move.
Tally lacks empathy because of how her brain functions, not because of a choice. When she says she is not sad about her brother’s death, she means that she simply is not capable of the emotion.
At the same time, the show never shies away from the impact of what it is portraying. The jury is shocked by her perceived coldness, and rightfully so. There’s no denial that Tally makes herself look guilty.
As happens so often, the evidence piles up on a way that would likely make the case hopeless for any team but TAC. This time, Bull is also saddled with guilt over the fact that Tally is a client from his days of practice.
Also a bit too common, especially having just been in the previous episode is the friend who winds up being the true perpetrator. This episode adds an additional sickening twist to that trope.
Tally’s brother has loved her despite the fact that, as she says, she cannot love him back. This acknowledgements hints that, even if Tally cannot be sad that he is dead, his loss brings her as close to the emotion as she is able to be.
It also means that he has been protective his entire life. What protective brother wouldn’t attack the man raping his sister while keeping her in a drug-induced blackout?
While it is never explicitly stated, the message is clear: whatever Tally is, and however she acts, she does not deserve that act of violence.
Like the jury, the audience must see that Tally is human, even as she views portraying emotion as a “trick” she can pull off, and even as she draws her brother’s gruesome death in an attempt to piece her own memories together.
It’s for these reasons that we can feel empathy for someone who is incapable of it themselves. And that never changes– even a brief moment of emotion that Jason nearly falls for is just another trick.
To do all this while still portraying sociopathy accurately is an impressive feat. There’s only one thing that feels slightly off, and that Tally’s immediate agreement to live in a facility, even one she can come and go from as she pleases.
Considering that Tally’s fight with her brother, part of the reason she looks so guilty, is based off his own efforts to take her into his permanent care, the choice doesn’t quite fit her personality. The stakes of the case may well change her mind, but she doesn’t say so.
Still, Bull challenges biases that even those of us who are passionate about mental health might have. The episode makes us think, and (only a tad ironically), it makes us feel, too.
A subplot that I hope gets more focus in the future shows Danny pursuing a relationship with Gabrielle, the man who manages Cable’s old apartment building. Well, sort of pursues, anyway.
We haven’t seen much romance for Danny until this point, so it’s hard to say whether what appears to be a resistance to commitment is a character trait. We certainly see that Gabrielle is interested in more.
It will be interesting to see how Danny’s feelings, and especially how her devotion to work, play into her future behavior. There’s been a spark between these two since the very beginning, so I hope she’s able to open her mind soon.
What did you think of this episode of Bull? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Bull airs Mondays at 10/9c on CBS.
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