Gotham Season 1, Episode 19: ‘Beasts of Prey’
Written by Ken Woodruff
Directed by Eagle Egilsson
Aired Mondays at 8pm (ET) on FOX
As Gotham heads towards the end of its first season, it winds up some plot threads with an episode that has everyone reaching a turning point. After his big win over Commissioner Loeb in “Everyone has a Cobblepot”, Gordon has let his guard down a bit, and this has allowed Loeb the chance to retaliate against him. The mark that Loeb places on Gordon gets him so riled up that he is even more determined to bring down the dirty Commissioner, but first he has to deal with the serial killer known as “the Ogre”, which is merely set up in this episode as part of the case of the week.
The other plot threads at work are a bit disparate and aren’t really united by any theme; one thread is not even taking place concurrently in time with the others. In one thread, there’s Penguin hatching a plan to take out Sal Maroni, an idea that, although not surprising, is coming completely out of left field. It would’ve been nice to have gotten a inkling of Penguin’s thought process, but at least viewers know that the final episodes for Penguin involve a showdown between him and Sal Maroni. This could mean that one of them may not make it to season two.
Speaking of not making it to next season, just outside of Gotham City, Fish Mooney has been held prisoner on an island of medical horror. In this episode, her story has become all about escape, and for her, she’s so resolute that she plans to do so dead or alive. There are moments in this plot that seem to have been accelerated for the sake of series momentum, which is a shame, because Dr. Dulmacher has been built up so much, and so little has been done with him. Now where this plot carries the most weight is in the threat of Fish’s possible demise, which is only made the more credible by recent news of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s departure after this season. This may or may not mean Fish’s death on the series. Here’s holding out for a fate that involves at least a recurring guest role in subsequent seasons.
“Beasts of Prey” does a good job at setting up these characters for the final episodes, but as an episode of Gotham, it’s missing a few logical beats to make it a really worthwhile episode.
Bruce’s arc has taken a dark turn here, as he is poised to seek out revenge against Reggie (Alfred’s former army pal who maimed him back in “Red Hood”). In what could be a defining moment for Bruce, we find him tempted to push Reggie out a window in an act of vengeance, but due to a moment of conscience, he hesitates and is unable to. Instead, Cat sees Bruce’s threatening gestures, and raises it by offing Reggie herself. It’s not yet certain what the aftermath of this event will be, as Cat’s intent to kill Reggie is still unclear. She may have done it in order to save Bruce from committing the act and abandoning his innocence forever, or she may have done it because she knew Bruce would be incapable of following through. The character of Cat comes from the school of hard knocks, and has already displayed acts of violence in order to protect herself, but not to this extent. Whether this murder will weigh on her at all is something worth exploring. Also worth considering is how this action will affect her relationship with Bruce. Will this murder be a catalyst for them to bond, or something that will keep them apart, with both of them having different views on murder? We know that Batman doesn’t kill on principle, and Catwoman does anything she can to get by. These conflicting priorities may come into effect earlier here, which could be interesting.
Although having Bruce and Cat together has often been the source of fun and lighter fare, this recent development seems like it will be a little less fun and a lot more grim. This is Gotham after all. David Mazouz continues to bring life to Bruce, and gets some interesting interplay with Gordon, as he tries to deceive him about Reggie, which Ben McKenzie portrays Gordon as well aware but tentatively permissive of. Camren Bicondova is fun when playing with Bruce, as she is tough in the scene where she deals with Reggie.
The Case File: Grace Fairchild’s Murder
When Gordon is first given this case, it seems shoehorned in, without any connection to the season’s main plot, which can be okay, as they have made these standalone plots work before. But the reveal that Commissioner Loeb set up Gordon to be targeted by the serial killer he’s investigating is a very clever turn of events. A serial killer going after the investigator involved in solving their case may not be a completely new concept, but it’s an idea that is worth exploring on Gotham.
The problem with this episode is that only sets up the serial killer in the past and there are no cues as to the threat he is in the present; instead, we are misdirected with flashbacks. Although we are given insight to the killer’s MO, the flashbacks are intrusive to the episode as a whole. Gotham’s characterization of the Ogre, played very unassumingly by Milo Ventimiglia, appears to derive more from Fifty Shades of Grey than it does from the comic book roots. Next week’s episode seems like it will better showcase Ventimiglia, because what is presented here doesn’t do much more than show two extremes that appear too similar.
This episode is written by fourth time Gotham scribe Ken Woodruff, whose recent contribution has been the padded “The Scarecrow” episode. This is another episode that feels like a bridging episode, and doesn’t fully work logistically in the narrative. The flashbacks in this episode are clearly for the benefit of the audience, but don’t flow with the plot, and the separate character storylines are fairly haphazardly presented throughout. The direction by Eagle Egilsson is what makes this episode work, as the visual style of each scene, with the costuming and staging, are so well crafted that it makes the episode extremely watchable. The narrative is helped greatly by Egilsson’s sense of storytelling, as a scene where Bruce searches for Reggie at Polk Gun Range is seamlessly transitioned into a scene with the Penguin by merely having Penguin show up in the background of Bruce’s scene, which services the unification of the stories in ways that the script doesn’t. Even little things, like a scene with a finger getting cut off leading into a shot of a corpse toe, is interesting image juxtaposition, as is the burning film stock transitions used in the Ogre flashbacks, which are all lively touches that just simply look cool. “Beasts of Prey” is a fairly middling episode of Gotham, but it is elevated by the keen direction and the anticipation of seeing Gordon pursue The Ogre in next week’s episode.
- Gotham always seems to be populated by some wonderful guest cast in small yet colorful parts, such as Alpha House’s Willa Fitzgerald as victim Grace Fairchild, and Orange is the New Black’s Barbara Rosenblatt as the manic shop owner.
- Bruce really needs to learn how to lie better, because you don’t have to be a detective to see through Bruce’s misdirection of concern over slicing the bread too thick.
- The officer that stuck Gordon with the Ogre case is named Len Moore. Could this be a veiled reference to Alan Moore, notorious Batman writer of “The Killing Joke.”?
- “You had me at homicide!” – Leslie Thompkins
- “You fly too close to the sun, you’re going to get burned.” – Harvey Bullock. Maybe this is why Batman only flies at night.
- “I’ll bring you back from the dead if I have to, and make something the world has never seen.” – Dr. Dulmacher. Could this be foreshadowing for a possible Fish 2.0?
- “I could’ve smashed your head in with a brick, y’know?”- Cat to Bruce.