Thursday, 23 October 2014

GOTHAM, 1.5 – 'Viper' • the drugs do work

Thursday, 23 October 2014


The best hour of GOTHAM so far, and a sign this show could make a go of things. It's no coincidence it focused on the strongest aspect of the show (the machinations of Gotham's two biggest crime lords), and added super-powers to the equation. They even found a way to get young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) out of his mansion; although we still had Batman foreshadowing with Alfred (Sean Pertwee) commending his detective skills. I've been hard on this show, but maybe it's time to cut it some slack? The past few weeks have been fun.

This week, there's yet another disgruntled ex-employee causing mayhem: Stan Potolski (Daniel London), handing out vials of drugs to the homeless that turns them into super-strong evildoers. Unfortunately, this 'Viper' narcotic only lasts a few hours before your bones crumble to dust and you die of asphyxiation—or from a sudden inability to hold heavy objects over your head, as one unfortunate busker found to his cost.

Naturally, Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) are on the case, just as Viper becomes a hot street craze and the underclass begin causing chaos across town. Elsewhere, Sal Maroni (David Zayas) learns the true back-story of Oswald "The Penguin" Cobblepott (Robin Lord Taylor), Fish Mooney's (Jada Pinkett Smith) plan to overthrow Falcone (John Doman) using "secret weapon" Liza (Makenzie Leigh) became clearer, and Bruce resolved to clean up the family business after investigating Wayne Enterprise's connection to the dodgy, newly-announced Arkham Project.

It's still true Gotham hasn't made Gordon or Bullock anywhere close to as compelling as they need to be, since they're ostensibly the leads of this show, but other things are taking shape. I really like the collusions and manoeuvring of the underworld characters, which is providing a lot of drama and feels engaging. Oswald has now been taken under the wing of a powerful mobster (which bodes well for future stories), but I was most pleased with how Fish is manipulating her own dangerous boss. She's been faking a hatred of fellow gangster Nikolai (whom she's actually sleeping with), while tutoring new employee Liza in the art of seduction, to have her win Falcone's heart by arranging a meet-cute designed to turn her boss's head and win his heart.

So now we have both Oswald and Fish both taking stronger steps towards overthrowing their respective employee's; although Oswald's plan did come across as foolhardy. He didn't have to confess everything to Maroni and accept a beating, did he? That was a huge risk. Things would have gone fine if he'd just gradually proved his worth to Maroni's outfit, using the henchman skills he's secretly acquired while working for Maroni's competitor. Maybe Oswald's just impatient?

It was good to see a decent storyline for Bruce Wayne, who's spent previous episodes sitting indoors watching the news. I still have a feeling his presence in Gotham is more trouble than it's worth, but "Viper" gave him a decent storyline about wanting to get more involved in his late parent's affairs and keep their legacy above reproach. It could have felt silly having a young boy suddenly so interested in his family's multi-million dollar business, and wanting to speak to the board members about the company's future, but they chose wisely when casting Touch's David Mazouz. You can accept he's that precocious and headstrong, so it doesn't ring false. The fact he's also finding signs of corruption in the Wayne's business also works as a nice echo of what Gordon's unearthing at the GCPD.

Overall, this episode worked for me. The super-serum allowed for some comic-book-y action and fun, but the backbone of the hour was criminal politics and duplicity. If Gotham can somehow get me interested in Gordon and Bullock as characters, there's hope for this show yet.

written by Rebecca Perry Cutter • directed by Tim Hunter • 20 October 2014 • Fox