It feels weird to complain that a TV show is too violent the day after the new Game of Thrones season premiere was eagerly consumed by thousands (some of them legally, even). But since neither Batman nor Tyrion Lannister got where they were by playing by the rules, neither will we. “Beasts of Prey,” the aptly named episode that marks Gotham‘s return to the airwaves after a number of weeks off, is a boringly brutal affair. It’s stuffed with bloodletting that wastes time on characters we’ve got no attachment to and, in the process, tarnishes those we do.
Surprisingly, Fish Mooney came out smelling sweetest this week. The captive crime boss executed her slow-rolling escape plan from the island of Dr. Dulmacher with a series of clever fake-outs. First, she deliberately tripped an alarm to test the facility’s security protocols, standing their nonchalantly as heavily armed guards rolled up to send her back inside. Then she dodged punishment from the mad doctor by playing to his vanity, insisting that she’d stolen a knife not to kill him but to off herself rather than be subjected to his “Dollmaker” experiments. Finally, she tricked the biggest — and potentially most troublesome — inmates in the place into serving as decoys while she and the other prisoners escaped.
But when the payoff is as unimaginative as this was, what’s the point of putting it all together? While Fish steals a helicopter to make her getaway, the dudes she duped get machine-gunned artlessly by the guards. Now instead of five guys we don’t know or care about, we’ve got five corpses about whom we know and care just as little. Maybe the idea is that a hail of bullets is its own artistic reward?
Meanwhile, Jim Gordon spends the episode on the trail of the Ogre, a serial killer played by guest star Milo Ventimiglia. According to Harvey Bullock, this monster’s been preying upon women for years, kidnapping and killing them in a twisted search for true love; everyone on the force is too terrified to investigate for fear of personal retaliation. Gordon is tipped to the case by a fellow officer on the orders of Commissioner Loeb, who recognizes that if the case is pitched to Gotham‘s golden boy, he won’t be able to resist taking it
Too bad the audience doesn’t have a similar egotistical Achilles’ heel to exploit. The Ogre scenes are as predictable as they are unpleasant, culminating with the killer selecting the knife he’s going to use on a helpless, terrified victim. Without the extra oomph provided by the proto-supervillains we saw in the previous episodes, this misogynist-murderer-of-the-week is just a creep targeting and tormenting females in ways we’ve seen explored more sensitively and/or shockingly a million times. He’s Patrick Bateman from American Psycho remixed by Fifty Shades of Grey sadist Christian Grey, with a pinch of Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs thrown in as well. Why watch this when you could watch any of those? (Alright, maybe not Fifty Shades.)
Even our top-billed future villains get in on the gruesome act. In the night’s most superfluous storyline, the Penguin wins over the walking Italian-American stereotype who owns a bar he wants to buy by chopping off the fingers of her granddaughter’s boyfriend. One severed digit thunks to the floor, much like Fish’s eyeball several seeks ago; the sequence hit bottom just as hard.
But that’s nothing compared to the evening’s biggest shock: Future Catwoman Selina Kyle straight-up murdered a guy! This character has traditionally walked the line between the two sides of the law, but here, she backflips into the dark side so fast it’s hard to see her anymore. The development also puts Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. The Dark Knight Eventually, in the awful ethical position of whether or not he should rat out his one friend in the world. The rush to be hardcore is screwing up the trajectory of the character who’s the whole reason the series exists in the first place.
Previously: Toys in the Attic