Gotham Episode 19-21 (The Gotham Ogre Trilogy) Review: Ventimiglia’s Ogre Sets up Incredible Potential, Fails to Clear Bar

Episode 19: Beasts of Prey

Gotham ventured into Cold Case territory in last night’s curiously titled “Beasts of Prey”, the first of three episodes that take us into the world of one horrendous serial killer.  The first third of the tale packs an emotional punch, thanks largely to a well done performance from Benjamin Mckenzie. Though his Gordon starts out calm and collected, by the end of the episode, his character is frothing at the mouth in his desire to put this serial killer away. It’s a terrifically paced performance that presents Gordon at his most compelling since “Penguin’s Umbrella”.

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The whole mess starts when Gordon is asked to look at a cold case by a little-too-earnest officer. Thanks to a tip from his girlfriend Leslie Thompkins, he checks out a sleazy speakeasy that just happens to be frequented by his prime suspect. Soon, he’s chasing after flashbacks of an obsessive serial killer known only as The Ogre (Heroes’ Milo Ventimiglia, having a ball playing against type). This killer has an M.O. more in line with a Criminal Minds psycho than a D.C. supervillain: The Ogre sets his sights on an unlucky girl, then invites her into his home, forcing her to stay forever and be his perfect wife. Needless to say, this doesn’t go over too well and ends inevitably with the creepy killer hauling her into his love/torture dungeon. Think Hostel meets 50 Shades of Grey. It paints a formidable foe for Gordon to tangle with, while leaving enough mystery to keep the audience wanting more.  The way the two characters foil each other reminds me of James Gordon Jr.’s relationship with Dick Grayson’s Batman in “Black Mirror”.

On the criminal underworld side of things, Penguin tries to acquire an Italian lady’s bar by playing anti-Cupid for her daughter. There are a few pleasant turns from Robin Taylor Lord as he commands his henchman to cut off his unfortunate prisoner’s fingers with all the concern of a man ordering a cheeseburger. It’s a fun side plot that exists only to pleasantly pad out the episode while reminding the audience of Cobblepot’s master plan to take out Moroni.

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Faring less well is Fish Mooney’s plan. After stealing keys to the gate and boat, Mooney is caught by Dollmaker. She convinces him that she was only trying to steal a knife so she could kill herself, preventing the fate of being one of Dollmaker’s experiments. Later, she somehow manages to spring herself out of jail, thanks to a convenient knowledge of helicopters. It’s a plan the writers might see as brilliant, but succeeds only because five thugs are too idiotic to realize when they’re being used as bait. To show there’s some justice in the world, Fish’s escape leaves her with a nasty bullet wound as she exits the episode fighting to keep control of her helicopter. All this idiocy would be passingly entertaining if there were any reason to be invested in the most frustrating character on the show. Jada Pinkett-Smith is reportedly leaving the show after this season, which will hopefully be the end of Fish’s subplot dragging down fine episodes like this one. The question on my mind is: will the character be killed off, or will Dollmaker succeed in a radical plastic surgery that results in a recasting?

GOTHAM: Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), smiles after escaping the Dollmaker in the “Beasts of Prey” episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, April 13 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

Meanwhile, young Bruce Wayne takes it upon himself to track down Reggie and find out what he knows. After apparently walking from his mansion to a gun range, he runs into Selina Kyle, who leads Bruce right to Reggie. Confronted with Alfred’s assailant, the future Dark Knight performs his first ever interrogation. It’s not the most intimidating questioning (in fact, it’s pretty repetitious), but it’s neat to see flashes of the Bat come through in the actions of the boy. After acquiring the needed information, Bruce grapples with the chance to push Reggie out of the window and to his death. It’s another big step in Bruce’s development, but such an important moment deserves better staging than a little boy holding his hands inches away from a man’s ass. For a split second, I thought Bruce’s revenge was to give ol’ Reggie a mean wedgie. Nevertheless, Bruce follows his eventual one rule, while Selina demonstrates the differences between the Cat and the Bat, as she relishes in the chance to murder someone she barely knows. It’s a disappointing end to Reggie, who could have been a great character to keep around and bring out Alfred’s past. Let’s hope something broke his fall.

Next week kicks off the final three episodes of the year. With Ventimiglia going toe to toe with a top-of-his-game Mackenzie, we could be ending this mixed bag of a season with one killer finale. Check back next week to find out!

Overall: 7/10

Episode 20: Under the Knife

The most impressive thing about the Gotham episode “Under the Knife” is its ability to be horrendously awful without a single appearance from Fish Mooney. Last night the cat and mouse game between Benjamin Mackenzie’s Gordon and Milo Ventimiglia’s Ogre, wonderfully setup in last week’s episode, sadly digressed into a painfully conventional story plagued with laughable dialogue and an uncomfortable aura of misogyny.

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When we last left Gordon he had just discovered that the Ogre, a serial killer responsible for the murders of at least eleven women, has a history of murdering the loved ones of those investigating him. Armed with this terrifying knowledge, Gordon races to Leslie Thompkins place, successfully scaring the hell out of her before demanding that she leave town to escape the Ogre’s wrath. Thompkins refuses to leave, though she is regulated to the sidelines for the rest of the episode. Part of what makes this episode so uncomfortable is its depiction of females as victims who depend on strong men to save them from another strong man. It is early in this arc, so things may change for the better. Still, it would have been nice if a strong female character like Leslie had been the one to face off against the Ogre.

Alas, the Ogre sets his psychotic sights on Gordon’s far less interesting love interest, Barbara. Not even a bisexual subplot could make Barbara an interesting character, so it’s no surprise that she drags the momentum of Ogre’s vendetta. While the Ogre tempting an ex-lover of Gordon’s to the dark side is caked with potential, Barbara is too vacuous a character to make it work. When Ventimiglia expounds to Barbara about the pain in hiding one’s true self, it falls flat because there is nothing to suggest there’s more to Barbara than what we’ve already seen. Simply put, Barbara is too underdeveloped for such a shift to happen. Other than some disapproving parents, there is no reason to believe that this attractive and rich paragon of society should feel enough shame to want to kill people.

Meanwhile, Bruce and Selina plot to steal an all-too-convenient key from the head of Wayne Enterprises during a Charity Ball. While it’s nice to see these two working together, the subplot has all the tension of The Parent Trap minus any payoff. The only significant event is when Bruce spastically yells to Selina (in a crowded ballroom, mind you) that he disapproves of her murdering Reggie and boldly declares that he will never kill anyone in his life. Yet another “character moment” shoehorned randomly into the plot rather than organically created from the events. What’s the point of exploring Bruce Wayne’s youth if all of his defining qualities are already ingrained into him? Wouldn’t it have been interesting, perhaps even bold, if there were several episodes where Bruce truly does tempt himself with murder? Instead, Gotham plays it safe and delivers the Bruce Wayne we are comfortable with rather than a Bruce Wayne that we could be thrilled by.

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Preventing the episode from being a total wash are Maroni and Penguin, who partake in a gripping barroom conversation with Mrs. Cobblepot. In a scene almost too painful to watch, Maroni reveals to Penguin’s mother the terrible truth of her son’s life of crime. Watching Carol Kane break down in Maroni’s gaze while Penguin helplessly watches is a prime example of the wonderful potential this show has.

The Nygma arc hits a large stumble this week, complete with a cliché subplot revolving around his crush being abused by her hulking boyfriend (there’s that misogyny again). Nygma’s solution to the problem involves waiting under a bridge and stabbing the boyfriend again and again, effectively transforming himself into The Riddler. Echoing like Bruce’s aforementioned moment, Gotham delivers another quick switch from good guy to bad guy in lieu of a slower transformation that could have intrigued over the seasons. At least next week will show us how good Nygma is at covering his tracks while working inside the GCPD.

Next week the Ogre and Barbara take their relationship to the next level by exploring his sex-torture dungeon. Hopefully Gordon will be able to track them down in time to make it an episode more worthy than this one.

Overall: 3/10

Episode 21: The Anvil or the Hammer

So much for the Ogre. Just like so many other promising subplots found in Gotham, this one takes off with promise only to be gunned down right after clearing the runway.  If you haven’t guessed it, “The Anvil or the Hammer” closes out this three-part serial killer hunt. The ending is serviceable, but seems rushed to make room for next week’s the season finale.

When we last left the Ogre, he was busy turning Barbara to the darkside by showing him his torture chamber. After a night of what can only be assumed as the most awkwardly initiated sex ever, Barbara tries leaving the demented serial killer who, as we found out last episode, doesn’t like that sort of thing. A few torture session later and Barbara is forced to choose the Ogre’s next victim while Gordon and Bullock follow their trail.

There are moments where it looks like this episode may take a risk and turn Barbara into Gotham’s first unexpected villain; an emotionally broken woman who vents her hate by guiding the blade of her murderous lover. Alas, she only graduates to mentally broken before Gordon and Bullock anticlimactically gun down the Ogre. How bold would it have been if we saw Barbara become a villain for the season finale, with the experienced Ogre by her side? How brutal would it have been to see Gordon close out his first year in Gotham by hunting down the one woman who him even come to this city? Obviously it was too much of a gamble for Gotham.

Bruce has a trio of trials this episode, failing the first one when Bunderslaw catches him stealing documents out of his safe. Bunderslaw gives Bruce a good talking to about the evils of running a company and how making money is evil (unless you’re using it to buy body armor and weapons to beat up poor people). Once Bunderslaw’s done channeling Ayn Rand, he hands the young heir off to Lucius Fox, a familiar name to anyone who saw the Dark Knight, so everyone. Fox passes along some cryptic info to Bruce, who joins forces with Alfred to find out a dirty little secret about his father. Before that fun can begin, Bruce spills the beans about Reggie’s death. Disappointingly (but not unexpectedly) Alfred shrugs off the news rather than react normally and, God forbid, actually add some real drama to this relationship. You might as well hit the erase button on this backstory, because chances are that Reggie’s name will never come up again.

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While the GCPD subdues the Ogre, Penguin does the job of shoehorning in conflict before next week’s finale. Rather than something that hasn’t been tried before, Penguin’s plan involves tricking Maroni into going to war with Falcone. Even though this is a retread (weren’t they at war, like, five episodes ago?), it does set up potential for an action finale. Then again, this show does to potential what a car tire does to a frog so let’s not hold our breath.

Next week brings us the return of Fish Mooney with a punk rock getup. Her timing amid a gang war adds a bit of spice the final episodes of the season. Gordon, Penguin, Maroni, and Falcone are all crashing towards each other. Unlike past conflicts, there’s no sure bet on who will win. Penguin may have an immunity to death due to his place in Batman lore, but that’s no guarantee he ends this season on top.

Overall: 4/10

Milo Ventimiglia and Benjamin McKenzie gave it their all, but in the end they couldn’t overcome two lackluster episodes that failed to cash in on the premise.  So let us lament the Ogre for he is dead and gone, never to intrigue us again. He joins the ranks of Liza, The Red Hood Gang and Reggie; the casualties of Gotham’s botched potential. I’m hoping for a great episode to close out this bumpy ride, but it’s hard to hope at this point.

The Ogre Trilogy: 5/10

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