Gotham Review: “Beasts Of Prey” (Season 1, Episode 19)

Gotham returned from its latest hiatus tonight and came out swinging for the first of four final episodes. Unfortunately, though, “Beasts of Prey” is a monumental swing and a miss and was definitely not worth the wait.

Like many episodes, the hour is split between multiple characters, each with varying degrees of success. We’ve got Jim Gordon hunting down a serial killer known as the Ogre (played pretty well by Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia), Fish still in captivity on the Dollmaker’s island, Penguin trying to buy some real estate and Bruce hunting down the man who stabbed Alfred in the gut. All of the subplots are problematic, but the Penguin’s is perhaps the best, which is disappointing since it’s the one with the shortest amount of screentime.

The biggest crime that the episode commits is laziness, as the story beats plod along without much weight or urgency, the characters are all pretty one-note, the reveals are clumsily dropped and don’t mean very much, and the acting, cinematography, music and shot compositions are all sub-par and come off as incredibly cheesy at times.

Gotham has delivered some pretty terrible episodes in its troubled freshman year, but “Beasts of Prey” may just take the cake as the worst to date. The only positive things I can say about it are that it finally gets Fish away from her Island of Dr. Morreau situation, and the episode (every so gently) pushes the intriguing Wayne Enterprises corruption arc along. Aside from that though, Beasts of Prey is nothing more than a placeholder and set-up for what’s to come in the final three hours, and while there may be exciting things on the horizon, I wouldn’t blame people for giving up on the show entirely after this week.

One of the episode’s biggest misfires is how it handles its villain, The Ogre. This isn’t the deformed, genetically altered Ogre from the comics, but a handsome serial killer who preys upon young women, looking for “the one.” He’s killed over a dozen girls over the years and has gone scot-free because he’s willing to target the families of the cops that investigate him.

Jim doesn’t know this when he takes the case from a young officer, who beguiles him with praise and asks him to look into an unsolved homicide. Riding high off his recent victory over Commissioner Loeb to become the president of the policemen’s union, he agrees without thinking twice. It’s only later revealed that the man responsible for the crimes is the Ogre, and that Leslie Thompkins could now be in danger because of it.

The idea of the Ogre killing those close to the cops who investigate him is an intriguing one, but is so poorly mishandled in this episode that it comes off as an afterthought. As it turns out, Loeb himself made sure that the Ogre case landed on Gordon’s desk, and while that’s one hell of a way to show corruption within the GCPD, it’s just another example of a botched idea that holds no weight whatsoever, thanks solely to its execution. Jim confronting Loeb should be a high point of the episode, but comes off as just another spat of yelling from Ben McKenzie. The guy playing Loeb just stands there silently, while the extras in the scene look dumbfounded.