GOTHAM Recap: “Viper”

     October 20, 2014


Tonight’s episode of Fox’s Gotham was particularly difficult to watch for the lactose intolerant.  Yes, a bulk of the episode’s plot centered on a drug that drained the victims of their body’s calcium, leading them to binge on dairy projects before eventually collapsing under their own body weight as their bones crumbled from the inside.  Pure nuttiness.  That aside, there was a good bit of this hour dedicated to young Master Wayne and his ever-present desire to solve his parents’ murder once and for all, now, thankfully, with more help from Alfred.  Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin continues to steal the show, followed closely by Donal Logue’s roguish Harvey Bullock, but is it enough to keep viewers addicted?

Hit the jump for our Gotham recap.

gotham-viper-robin-lord-taylor-david-zayasTonight’s villain of the week: A strange, one-eared man who drops a green vial that reads “Breath Me” into an addict/musician’s open guitar case.  Now, I’ve never struggled with addiction, but I like to think that even the most hard-up junkie won’t just take whatever’s dropped into his lap if he’s never seen it before, but hey, what did I expect … this is Gotham!

Penguin’s Rise to Power

Penguin’s part takes a bit of a backseat in this episode, but he still makes the most of his scenes.  We open with him overhearing Maroni’s plan to rob Falcone’s casino, just to mess with the mob boss. He brings some inside info on the casino to Maroni (and introduces himself as Penguin, which Maroni says is a good name).  Maroni sniffs him out as an ambitious up-and-comer, until Penguin reveals that he used to work for Mooney and Falcone; Maroni does not take that too well.  He sends Frankie Carbone (Danny Mastrogiorgio) to fetch Gordon by threatening to send Penguin’s head to Falcone, which would reveal Gordon’s feigned assassination of the minor criminal.

Gordon gets a front row seat at Maroni’s table, along with a rather roughed-up Penguin.  Maroni’s clearly in charge here, and he wants to hear Gordon’s version of the events surrounding Penguin’s apparent death.  Finally, a good bit of well-written dramatic tension, especially when Penguin keeps trying to interrupt and ends up with his face pressed against a meat slicer..  Gordon, always the straight arrow, tells the actual truth, and luckily Penguin did the same.  Uncharacteristically for Gordon, he’s now in the good graces of Maroni.  It all works out well for Penguin in the end, even though he’s sweating bullets while Maroni’s crew robs Falcone’s casino, but luckily his plan works out and he lives to see another day.

Gordon’s Quest

gotham-viper-ben-mckenzie-donal-logueWhile Gordon’s not fraternizing with mob bosses and underlings who are back from teh dead, he spends his time eating lunch with his good buddy Bullock.  Who should appear but Selina Kyle, who picks a pocket nearby and unintentionally gets the cops’ attention.  Though they start to chase her, they soon detour to a convenience store where a shop owner has been beaten up by a drug addict with superhuman strength, enough to rip an ATM out of the wall with his bare hands and run away with it on his back.

The cops canvas the area talking to random street people and get a hit on a possible hideout of the strongman.  They find him pretty quickly and he begs for their help since he’s in withdrawal.  He’s still juiced up from his last fix and is about to heave the ATM at the cops, but it crushes him under its weight… Meanwhile, the “man with the mangled ear” is handing out doses to the aforementioned street urchins. The drug quickly makes its way to the press (who have dubbed it Viper) and to the city’s criminal element, who wreak havoc on the police station.

Nygma explains that the drug draws calcium from the victim’s bodies, which is why they crave milk and cheese, duh.  The addiction leads to crumbled bones, suffocation, and death.  Nygma is very excited.  He says that a highly technical lab is the only one capable of synthesizing this stuff. Bullock wants to impose a curfew on the well-intentioned public, but that won’t fly, so they start with the pharmaceutical company Wellzyne instead.  Surprise!  Their legal team shows up at the station, complete with info on a former employee of theirs: a biochemist named Stan (Daniel London).  He apparently grew frustrated with his mundane work at the company and attempted to cut off his own ear during a disagreement with his supervisor.  The company is putting the onus of the Viper drug fully on Stan, which is just like a multi-national Fortune 500 company, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, Gordon pieces together another lead from one of Stan’s photographs, which leads them to Gotham U’s philosophy department (because of course it did).  They discover that Stan had nothing to do with making shampoo, but rather making biochemical weapons for soldiers to use in order to boost their strength.  Wellzyn worked out the kinks of the first batch of Viper, and refined it into Venom instead.  (Hello, Bane reference!)  The professor admits to working with Stan to expose Wellzyn, as well as Wayne Enterprises, for their part in the drug’s production.  He also takes a hit of the refined drug and nearly chokes Bullock to death.  Gordon takes him down with a few rounds, but the professor dies saying that both Wellzyn and Wayne Enterprises will pay for their empty altruism.

gotham-viper-daniel-londonBullock’s Path to Redemption (or Not)

Doesn’t get to do much besides eat street food, wrestle old men jacked up on drugs, and ask for a definition of altruism for the viewing public who needed to know.  I fear that he’s devolving into the humorous sidekick to Gordon’s straight man rather than acting as a foil for Gordon’s struggle to walk the straight and narrow in Gotham.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the much-needed addition of humor in their relationship, it’s just that the balance is a tough one to maintain.

Wayne’s Coming-of-Age

We spend a fair amount of time with Master Wayne as he’s compiling more evidence in his parents murder, while Alfred tries to dissuade him from his plans for revenge.  I really like the trajectory Wayne’s given in this series: rather than striving blindly for vengeance alone, he wants to understand how the underworld of Gotham works.  Another good bit of writing reveals itself as Wayne is also shown to be, at least in part, a typical adolescent boy: messy, sleepy, argumentative, the usual.  He’s got a one-track mind though as he asks Alfred to question the board members of Wayne Industries about the Arkham deal and how exactly it went down, which he presumes is not how his parents would have done it.

The young billionaire’s path crosses with Gordon’s once again as he attends the said same charity event that Stan is about to attack.  Will Gordon and Bullock make it on time?!  At least their cross-city trip will give Wayne time to talk to a middle manager about the irregularities regarding the Arkham deal.  She offers to arrange for Wayne to talk to the board, but Stan interrupts their conversation by pumping Viper into the ventilation system.

Gordon finds Stan on the rooftop and threatens to shoot him if he doesn’t turn off the Viper stream, but a trick shot gives Stan a big dose of the drug instead.  He cryptically tells the cops to check out Warehouse 39, and then jumps off the roof to his death.  Apparently the rich folk didn’t inhale nearly enough of the drug to trip out because we don’t get to see the aftermath of the plot.  What we do see is Mathis (the woman Bruce was talking to at the event) revealed to be in the employ of WellZyn.   Bruce discovers this, and is then delighted to see Alfred helping him in his quest to piece together the facts.  +1 to the World’s Greatest Detective(s)!

gotham-viper-sean-pertwee-david-mazouzSo we’ve already got two major crime families (headed by Falcone and Maroni) with multiple underlings vying for control (in Mooney, Nikolai, and the Penguin), and now we’ve got corrupt corporations threading into the mix.  It’s very much a real-world scenario that’s responsible for Gotham’s ills, but the show heightens those all too familiar newspaper headlines into something bizarre and cartoonish.  That’s all well and good, but it feels like Gotham is still trying to find its footing.  Here’s hoping they get there soon since next week’s promo suggests a real ramp up in the action and a thickening of the plot.

Rating: B-

The Rogues Gallery:

  • Wayne: “I don’t want revenge. I want to understand how it all works, how Gotham works.”
  • Druggie: “Do not vex me, mortal.” Store owner: “Suit yourself, Zeus.”
  • Bullock: “Anybody dead?”
  • The scenes of the drug addict sprinting down the street with an ATM on his back, and then eventually being crushed beneath it?  Totally nuts.  (But a distant second to Breaking Bad’s ATM hijinks.)
  • Gordon: “God help us if that drug gets out.”
  • Bullock: “Lawyers, scumbags, the lot of em.” Gordon: “Yeah, some of em.”
  • If you recognized the name Frankie Carbone from both Batman and Goodfellas, you’re right!
  • Maroni: “If I don’t like what I hear, slice his face. Prosciut.”
  • This whole bit about Mooney’s “secret weapon” is so, so, so weird.  Equally disinteresting is Mooney and Nikolai’s tryst.
  • Bullock: “I’ll help you die quicker, you terrorist!”
  • Bullock: “What’s altruism?!”
  • Stan: “Go look at Warehouse 39!” – Someone’s been watching too much Syfy.
  • Falcone: “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear that aria you were humming.” Mooney’s Secret Weapon (What is her name, anyway?): “Ah yes, it’s my favorite.”  What even is this…