Monday, April 13, 2015

REVIEW: 'Gotham' - Jim Investigates a New Serial Killer While Fish Plots Her Escape in 'Beasts of Prey'

FOX's Gotham - Episode 1.19 "Beasts of Prey"

Gordon and Bullock investigate a cold case involving the Ogre, a serial killer who targets young women in Gotham City. Meanwhile, Fish plots her escape from the Dollmaker, and Bruce and Selina confront Reggie.

Gotham is back from its one month hiatus to kick off the final four episodes of its first season which will largely be centered around Jim going up against a new serial killer known as the Ogre - played by Milo Ventimiglia. It's very ambitious of the show to try to tackle this arc that will likely bring all the recurring plot threads of the season together. It's already starting to bear some serious consequences for Jim as there's a new shift of power in his dynamic with Commissioner Loeb and Lee being put in danger. Those complications come out at the end of the episode. All of the action and events of this hour have been building up to make this case a much more personal one for Jim to tackle. It works for those last few plot beats. It's just getting to that point that felt like a drag.

It was very hopeful for Jim to believe that his battle against police corruption was actually starting to gain some appeal from his fellow officers. The officer played into his moral ideals and got him to accept this case. Loeb knew what kind of personal destruction this case could bring Jim. And yet, it was deliberately keeping a piece of information away from the protagonist as well as the audience. Over the course of the hour, the audience does get these out-of-place stylized flashbacks of what really happened to the dead girl at the center of the investigation. So the audience gets ahead of the detectives with information which only makes them seem less effective at their jobs. That really isn't a great way of making us believe in Jim in this fight. These flashbacks were placed just so the audience can get a sense of the person whom Jim will be going up against. The show shows the audience just how charming and demented this man can be. That instability is suppose to be alluring. The audience is suppose to be distressed enough to want Jim to catch this guy so he can face justice. But it all happens at such a sluggish pace.

The flashbacks occur so slowly - and frankly, there's only a couple of them to begin with. But the actual investigation doesn't seem to make any real progress. Jim and Harvey run around town, but they largely just have to wait until Lee or Ed tells them something that makes the case more important. They don't know any actual detective work that makes progress on solving this murder. In fact, the show is deliberately keeping information from them in order to generate plot for an episode. So, a piece of evidence is missing from the file. That should be a big deal. And yet, it's something Jim and Harvey aren't concerned about until Ed finally tells them what it was in the episode's final third. It's the calling card of the Ogre which sends shivers done Harvey's spine while only making Jim more passionate about the case. But they are also no closer to solving this case and stopping the Ogre than when the episode started. Now, it's simply something more personal for Jim. But it derived all of those personal stakes out of plot complications that didn't add up to anything entertaining.

The true excitement has to come out of the show's three subplots which all have varying degrees of success. The stuff happening with Oswald is very much similar in structure to Jim's story. The character is simply being readied for what he is going to do in the final few episodes which is plotting the death of Don Maroni. Again, that's a great mission and statement for the character to make at the end of the episodic story. But it didn't generate enough interest in the middle parts of the episode. Oswald just kept cryptically telling his henchman that the place he was trying to acquire had interest to him. It wasn't until the end that that interest was made known in one declarative statement.

Similarly, the Bruce story didn't have a whole lot to it. But it still felt like the characters moving forward in a meaningful way and not just through some new plot device. The roles have been reversed in Bruce and Alfred's dynamic. Bruce is now the one taking care of Alfred even though Alfred still wants to be taking care of Bruce. Sure, Bruce is naive in a lot of ways in this story but his intentions are pure and honorable. He's walking into a very dangerous situation with the board of his company and he thinks he and Selena are all he needs to take them down. They are an effective team and are able to get the information out of Reggie Payne. But it's still a problem that they don't know how daunting this actual fight is going to be. But the show's plot beats aren't all that interested in that either. Instead they want to make a point that Bruce had the opportunity to kill Reggie and didn't. Selina did for him because he hesitated. That hesitation could fuel some wonderful character interactions between Bruce and Selena. But I'm worried the show is just too padded with plot and characters to actually dig deeper into what killing Reggie will mean to them.

And finally, Fish is able to successfully escape the Dollmaker and his island of disturbed experimentation. This story has entirely been about showing Fish as a fighter. She has had to claw her way back into power. That was a very strong arc to put that character in. She has been forced to make sacrifices in the name of survival. And yet, it is a big deal that she chose to save some of her fellow prisoners as well. The Fish of the past likely would have put her survival above anyone else's. This experience has changed her because she saw just how demented the Dollmaker actually was. Was it a mistake to leave him alive during their grand escape? Probably. He'll likely return with a vengeance. But right now, it's suppose to feel uplifting that she was able to find away to leave this prison. Sure, she's bleeding out in the process. But she's still alive which is the most important thing about her at the moment.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Beasts of Prey" was written by Ken Woodruff and directed by Eagle Egilsson.
  • Bruce and Penguin crossing paths and not realizing just how important the other is to the narrative of the show was just so unnecessary and felt purely like pandering to the show's fans.
  • Did we really need to see that guy's severed finger falling to the ground? It's just such meaningless and graphic violence that holds no weight.
  • Jim needs to keep Lee safe or risk her falling into the hands of the Ogre and at episode's end he can't get in touch with her. That should be daunting but it simply feels like a fact that gets lost because of Jim then going to confront Commissioner Loeb.
  • Harvey pleading to Jim to work less has grown so increasingly stale every time it is brought up. It's the same character beat over and over again that doesn't offer any greater insight into who he is except that he is lazy.
  • It feels like it has been forever since the audience has seen Falcone, Montoya and Allen, right?
  • Why did the show feel that they had to have Lee explain what a speakeasy is to the audience?