Not all villains come in spandex and catchy nicknames. Real, believable villains—sans superpowers—are often much more frightening. Gotham’s “Beasts of Prey” attempts to tap into that familiar pseudo-horror plot while the rest of the show’s disparate characters circle in orbit. But even with a one-month hiatus, Gotham’s is still fumbling around to find itself and this episode doesn’t impart overwhelming confidence that Fox’s troubled superhero/cop drama will end its first season on a strong note.
In what will ultimately feel, when it’s all said and done, like a bloated and overwrought first season, Gotham is winding down to its season one finale. The show seems focused on four characters: Bruce, Gordon, Penguin, Mooney. Everyone else can pretty much go to hell. Remember when Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya were in this show? Remember when they teased that they would actually be important? LOL.
Anyway, these are the characters we’re left with and almost all their stories have no connective tissue. Mooney is still on Dollmaker’s monster island, Penguin is still adapting to the club-owning life/plotting murder, Bruce is still trying to find his parents’ killers, and Gordon is off finding some new killer week after week after week. So unless something takes a serious turn for the weird, our characters seem pretty set on their own trajectories, which can sometimes make Gotham a pretty tiring watch.
And this episode is a pretty great example. In some parts, Gotham tries some new narrative tricks, but feel somewhat jarring from the show’s usually structure, and in others, the writers fall into predictable clichés. Like almost every episode of Gotham, there are enjoyable moments, but for some reason, they’re beginning to feel few and far between.
Mooney is still marooned in Dollmaker’s mansion of horrors, where men and women are torn apart and sewn back together like Frankensteinian monsters. Mooney is doing her absolute best maître d’ impression as she hobnobs with all the assholes (ahem) rich people who are paying for these torturous replacement body parts. Dollmaker remains, for the most part, a looming, offscreen threat. It’s still not really clear why he puts up with Mooney at all. All she’s ever really done is be insubordinate, but for the sake of plot she needs to stick around.
Speaking of Mooney’s habit for insurrection, all episode she busily plans an escape plan, but with two separate groups. First, with the tough and brawny prisoners, which she convinces are her best bet to make it to the docked boat. The second plan is to take the helicopter with everyone else. After Dollmaker catches her in his office, providing one of the episode’s better scenes where we see Dollmaker’s overwhelmingly terrifying influence, Mooney decides to GTFO.
Step 1: Brawny dudes run to the boat, thinking the outside gate has been unlocked. They quickly realize they’ve been duped when they find an unfortunate padlock and curse Mooney’s name. Step 2: While we hear the whizzing of bullets and screams from the brawny dudes, Mooney and the rest of the prisoners/organ donors cut across the lawn to the helicopter, while Dollmaker’s security is pre-occupied. Step 3 (and this is my favorite part): Mooney hops in the helicopter cockpit and takes off.
All things considered, not a terrible plan. They even got to beat the shit out of Dollmaker, who stupidly decided to confront Mooney in the basement with all the prisoners rather than, you know, anywhere else. But the fact Mooney that can fly a helicopter is maybe the most concrete reason why Gotham just doesn’t work. Why can she fly a helicopter? She is a crime boss that controls a very limited part of a city. We’ve never seen her leave Gotham. Hell, she’s never even mentioned her past at all. Why would a crime boss need to know how to fly a helicopter anyway? It’s this flagrant disregard for character development and instead just throwing stuff out there when it’s convenient that makes it near impossible to feel anything for these characters. In fact, Gotham even plays off the fact that Mooney can fly a helicopter as a joke.
The real story here is that maybe she’s being somewhat heroic to save those who can’t save themselves, she even sustains a battle wound to prove her valor. But when you don’t really care about a character, you certainly don’t care to watch her wrestle in the gray area of good and evil. It’s all kind of boring.
Where Mooney’s plot takes a turn in the wrong direction, Bruce and Penguin advance their stories in interesting ways at the very least. Both Bruce and Penguin’s stories center around obsession with the young Master Wayne being in ceaseless pursuit of Alfred’s attacker (from a couple episodes previous) and Penguin’s quest to terminate his working relationship with mob boss Don Maroni…permanently.
NEXT: Let’s focus on Bat-Mite for a second.