Gotham Recap: ‘Beasts of Prey’ Goes Heavy on Surprise, Still Disappoints

By  · Published on April 14th, 2015

Did you miss Gotham while it took a month off? Maybe a little? To be honest, I can’t decide if I did or not. I certainly laugh more at Gotham than I do at most comedies (like the “flirting” between Bruce and Selina).

Selina: Could’ve smashed your head with a brick, you know.

Bruce: Why would you do that? Why’d you even say that?

But the show’s constantly-shifting mix of captivating and downright terrible might be wearing thin. Also, it’s not helping that everyone just finished up binge-watching another origin story for a brooding, masked vigilante who fights to free a city choked with corruption. That also happened to be really, really terrific. But these are our last four Gothams of the season, so let’s enjoy them (or something) while they last.

“Beasts of Prey” introduced a major player for these last four episodes (which we know because Milo Ventimiglia’s signed on for a multi-episode arc. Also, reading future episode synopses is a big hint). He’s the Ogre. Or maybe the Don Juan Killer, depending on who you ask. But really the Ogre, because that’s the name of the DC Comics baddie he’s been loosely based on- even if “The Don Juan Killer” is a much better name for a guy who seduces women, chains them up, forces them to play housewife, then knifes them to death if the lamb’s a little overdone.

Gotham really had to stretch to find the Ogre. He’s made precisely one appearance in one comic, ever: 1996’s “Batman 535,” in a story titled “The Ogre and the Ape.” The ink-and-paper Ogre was Michael Adams (Gotham’s is Jason Lennon), an ordinary junkie who was recruited into a top-secret program and, as top-secret programs often do, mutated him horribly in an attempt to create a link between man and ape. The Ogre’s now extra-large, muscled and veiny with a couple of nifty Frankensteinian bolts in his head. His traveling companion, the Ape, is a gorilla given a sizable IQ boost. The Ogre and the Ape skulk around Gotham City, enacting bloody revenge on everyone responsible for their mutation, but the final scientist on the list figured they might be coming and had a gun handy. The Ape takes a bullet and Batman arrives just in time to talk the Ogre down from his final murder, letting the Ogre walk free with the body of his gorilla chum. The moral? Bloodthirsty science mutants can still have a heart of gold. The other moral? Multiple homicides are perfectly forgivable if you relent at the end of your kill-list, and Batman says it’s cool.

Also, there were two other Ogres in DC Comicdom, but they apply even less to “Beasts of Prey” than poor Mike Adams does. You’ve got your O.G.R.E. – that’s the Organization for General Revenge and Enslavement – that battled Aquaman for a few issues in the late ’60s. And your O.G.R.E. – no acronym-explanation given – a Wayne Enterprises suit of armor that was meant to assist in natural disasters, but there was a ghost caught in the armor’s memory cortex (don’t ask) and it went on a terrible ghost robot rampage.

Gotham’s Ogre is an Ogre in name alone, and very much in the school of Gotham villains who barely even count as comic book villains. Jabs-People-With-Pointy-Stick Man. Is-Pretty-Good-At-Making-Bombs Man. The Balloonman too, probably, although he at least had a neat gimmick.

And so does Ogre. Guy has a back closet full of all kinds of weird shit we never actually see him use in “Beasts of Prey,” and that’s a full Fifty Shades of Grey’s worth of terror bondage gear, plus several very ominous looking gas masks. Far be it from me to ask a serial killer to be more horrible, but the Ogre could use a little spice. This is Gotham. Gotham is weird. And it’s plenty frustrating when Gotham eschews the weird for someone as boilerplate as Has-A-Freaky-Sex-Arsenal-But-Just-Uses-The-Knife Man.

Gotham links the Ogre into its police corruption finale by the end of “Beasts of Prey” (a name so awesome I really expected an episode with more punch; for example, the only other media out there titled “Beasts of Prey” are an episode of Ultimate Survivor Alaska where people race through brown bear territory and a PC game where you have to build a house while dinosaurs try to eat you). That spunky young beat cop who introduced Jim Gordon to the Ogre case wasn’t doing it out of mutual desire to clean up the streets. He was doing it on Commissioner Loeb’s orders, because the Ogre hacks apart the family members of any cop who dares investigate him and Jim’s never met a heroic situation he didn’t charge blindly into.

Jim’s figuring all this out (and then shouting down Loeb in a screamy voice so loud it didn’t even sound like Ben McKenzie) felt good, and earned. Like this is the next step in Gordon’s baby-step war on crime – going after Falcone and failing, going after Loeb and eking out a win, and now going after Loeb again and maybe putting a corrupt Gothamite behind bars for real this time. But now that we seemingly have our big end-of-season development and it’s… well, so paltry (sorry, Ogre), Gotham’s coming up short against its comic book colleagues in a way that’s finally easy to quantify.

All our other TV superheroes (well, excluding Constantine because I didn’t watch that one) follow roughly the same strategy. A case/crime/supervillain of the week, slowly building to that final confrontation with the Big Bad: the Reverse-Flash, Ra’s al Ghul, Kingpin, Leviathan, etc. Gotham hasn’t done that at all. It strings a few episodes together in what looks like an arc, then gets distracted and plays somewhere else for a while. And I’m honestly not sure if that’s intentional or not. If it’s intentional, it makes Gotham into much more of a cop show than a superhero one. Which would make total sense if Fish Mooney wasn’t battling Dr. Frankenstein on Terror Island every week.

If it’s unintentional, Gotham’s just a big discombobulated story mess. Remember Falcone? Been a while since he’s done anything of consequence, hasn’t it? Ditto for Maroni. Also Penguin, whose Gotham City Bar Renovation thing has been the entirety of Gotham’s mob development for several weeks now.

Another big check in the “Gotham, You’re Confused, The Story’s That Way” column: whatever happened to Butch Gilzean? Penguin commanding the brainwashed right-hand-man of his former nemesis was genius; every moment between Penguin and Butch was layered with shades of wait, who’s playing who? Also, Drew Powell is a charisma bomb (an understated charisma bomb, no less), which is a rare jewel in Gotham’s cast. But the past two episodes have been Butch-less, without a single line explaining where he went. Gabe (Penguin’s far dumber Butch stand-in) is great, don’t get me wrong, but he’s also a standout example of Gotham’s storyline ADD. And seriously, if Penguin’s making a play against one of Gotham City’s biggest gangsters, he’s gonna need a henchman with an IQ somewhere above rice pudding.

There’s a solid amount of game-changing moments in “Beasts of Prey,” but they whiff by because Gotham didn’t put in the right legwork until this point. You’ve got Penguin’s plan to off Maroni. Fish finally escaping the Island of Misfit Slave Labor. These should be great, cathartic reveals. Instead, they’re just kinda cool, and only because they’re the first bump after a long story plateau. Penguin’s murder plot means something’s actually going to happen with the mob guys beyond Cobblepot, these light fixtures don’t match the bar top at all. Get on that. Also, I’ll break your thumbs, I guess. Selina dropped Reg out a window, which seems a bit uncharacteristic of Gotham’s fairly kid-appropriate femme fatale. And Fish’s great escape would be a huge sigh of relief. She’s can get back to Gotham City, where things make sense, but I’ve long stopped assuming that Fish’s storyline will make any kind of sense. Also, with Jada Pinkett Smith dropping seemingly huge news like it was nothing (SPOILER WARNING: huge news, dropped like it was nothing) the bullet in Fish’s side was also not a shock.

I’ll admit that all this craziness makes Gotham a ton of fun to write about, because it can shift so drastically in quality from week to week. As opposed to The Flash, say, which dependably puts out high-energy fanboy fluff ( still so much fun, though). Gotham has a tendency to break my brain, because my opinion on the show shifts as often as the show does. Sometimes it’s incredible camp. “Beasts of Prey” had more than a few moments of genius – a very strung out Reg bellowing “I’m gonna TELL ON YOU!” with the same spittle-flying viciousness someone would bellow “I’m gonna EAT YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY!” is just perfect. Also, Bruce’s hesitation tremor when he nearly pushed Reg looked very similar to the universal hand motion for yep, ‘bout to grab a handful of that butt. I have no idea if any of this was intentional. It almost doesn’t matter.

So here’s a question to end on. If you missed Gotham while it took a month off (or even if you didn’t)… will you watch it when it comes back next fall? Maybe it’ll take those last three Gothams to figure out for sure. Who knows what might happen three weeks from now.