This Gotham review contains spoilers.
“It’s a new day in the GCPD.” That’s what Jim Gordon said at the conclusion of the previous Gotham episode. While I wouldn’t quite go that far, “Beasts of Prey” is an enormous improvement over the almost indescribably bad “Everybody Has a Cobblepot.” In keeping with the new format of these reviews, we’ll discuss most of what works right up front, in the posh part of Gotham City known as…
Gotham always seems to handle its best visuals right up front in these episodes, and this week is no exception. While I’ve never really been a fan of the recent Fish Mooney/Dollmaker story, the “hospital” looks impressively atmospheric in the opening here. When Gotham nails its production design, it feels a little like a live-action episode of Batman: The Animated Series, and I think we got that here. Maybe with the barest hint of The Prisoner thrown in.
Milo Ventimiglia is here this week as a serial killer known as “the Ogre” or “the Don Juan Killer,” depending on who you ask. Think of him as a murderous Christian Grey, I guess, with a room full of “toys” and a desire to mold women into his vision of the ideal. Ventimiglia is nice to see, and switches easily from charming to menacing, although the flashback structure of the episode kind of lets him down. It might have been better to see him at work/watch him turn before we knew he was a serial killer.
In fact, other than the usual Gotham problem of trying to juggle too many stories (this week it’s the Ogre, Fish Mooney, and Bruce looking to find Alfred’s traitorous and stabby “friend”), “Beasts of Prey” kind of has some solid police procedural storytelling in its DNA. The “Ogre” case is going to play out over more than one episode (likely as a result of the show needing to continue chasing other stories around), but on its own, would have probably made for a fine case-of-the-week scenario. Even the often annoying Ed Nygma served a purpose this week, and other than the now obligatory utterance of the word “riddle” in his presence, I feel like if this is how he was utilized week in and week out, as a supporting character with a real purpose, that I wouldn’t have been so hard on him all year long.
I guess the problem here is that Gotham can’t afford “villain of the week” types with four episodes to go in its fourth season. The good news is that this is probably the thing that finally sets things in motion for Gordon to eliminate Loeb once and for all. The case lands in Jim’s lap in a strange way (brought to him by an idealistic young officer who believes in Jim’s take charge ways), but that turns out to be a swerve.
See, this officer wasn’t really an idealist after all. He put the Ogre case in Jim’s hands because not only is the Ogre a serial killer, but any time a cop gets too close, he goes after someone they love. It’s just Commissioner Loeb’s way of putting Gordon in harm’s way while keeping his hands clean. I suppose this would be considered pretty smart, but again, the entire Ogre story seems like something that should have been seeded throughout the season in order for this revelation to really carry any weight at all.
Uh-oh. We’ve wandered down…
– Fish Mooney is the worst liar in the world. “I wasn’t trying to escape” she tells the (ugh) Dollmaker, with all of the guile of a grade-schooler caught shoplifting. This is some real master criminal stuff.
– While it’s (thankfully) likely that we’ll be rid of Fish Mooney for good by the end of this season, they unfortunately left the Dollmaker alive during the escape. This is not progress.
– Despite Robin Lord Taylor’s continued excellence, the Penguin’s story has lost all momentum and all meaning. What was up with the bit where he walks past Bruce Wayne, doesn’t see him, but stops to do the “shifty eyed criminal” thing? Did he sense future Batman’s presence? Gotham was originally intended for a short, 13-16 episode season. It was right around that mark that what had been the most compelling part of this show ran out of steam. Gotham would do well to adopt the cable/Netflix model of a shortened season going forward.
Life with The Waynes
While the “Alfred gets stabbed” story got off to a shaky start, I see a purpose to it now. Ordinarily, I feel like things have been grinding to a halt when Bruce and Selina share screen time, since their initial purpose seems to have exhausted itself. This week was a little different, and we definitely see Selina cross a line that Bruce won’t. I’m not sure I buy it, but at least it’s a real development.
– I’ve really warmed to the idea of Bruce and Gordon being friends, which is strange considering how hard I am on many other of this show’s conveniences. But really, when you think about it, on the very first page of the very first Batman story way the hell back in Detective Comics #27, we were introduced to a Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne who are quite close, and who Gordon feels close enough with to share details of high level cases with. It makes sense that they wouldn’t just be casual acquaintances.
– Is it me, or does the bad stuff that Alfred’s stabby (and now quite dead) pal hint at sound like it could relate to the Court of Owls? The Court of Owls is almost certainly something that will be explored in Gotham season two, and it’s one of those elements of Batman mythology that will make the most sense in the context of this show.
– When Jim has his little face to face with Commissioner Loeb, he shoves the police chief. Intentionally or not, that guy looks an awful lot like Police Chief O’Hara from the 1966 Batman TV series. It certainly bolsters the theory that Gotham is actually a prequel to that incarnation of the Batman mythos.