Gotham has been enjoying a fairly successful run this fall on Fox. After just the first few episodes, Fox felt confident enough to expand the first season from the initial to 16 episodes to a full run of 22; making it clear that Gotham is unlikely go the way of previous genre shows such as Firefly and more recently, Almost Human.
The story so far has centered around the character of Detective James Gordon, the newest member of the Gotham Police Department as hestruggles to understand the corrupt world of Gotham. Moving the plot in the background has been the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, a death which has had profound ramifications not only for the young Bruce but for Gotham’s business, politics and criminal underworld. Those themes and their consequences continued to unfold in episode 5 – Viper (Spoilers Follow).
The episode revolves around the introduction of a new drug called Viper, a drug that grants its users incredible strength for a short period of time before their bones literally crumble and they collapse in a heap of muscle and skin tissue. Since Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock happened to witness the first instance of the drug’s effects, they get the case. As the investigation progresses, the duo are led to a former employee of a Wayne Enterprises subsidiary that was working on what amounts to a super-soldier serum for the military, for which Viper was a prototype. When the lead scientist finds out the military purpose of Viper and itsfollow up drug Venom, he prevailed on Thomas Wayne to shut the project down. With the death of the Waynes though the project was revived, leading the scientist to distribute Viper in order draw attention to some of the less savory activities of Wayne Enterprises.
While this investigation is going on, the young Bruce Wayne, troubled by apparent connections to the Falcone and Maroni crime families is also investigating his parent’s company, an investigation that reveals (to the viewer at least) that Wayne Enterprises is likely at least a corrupt aseveryone else in Gotham.
Concurrently, Fish Mooney and Penguin are both continuing their efforts to gain power in the criminal underworld.
As always, the acting the series is almost uniformly excellent. Ben McKenzie continues to portray Gordon with an intensity and frustration that fits well with the curveballs Gotham continues to throw at him. Donal Logue, is great as the cynical and world weary Harvey Bullock. The scene at beginning of the episode with he and Jim getting lunch, only to be interrupted by an alarm illustrates it perfectly. As Jim runs off to investigate, Harvey stands in the street shouting “but we’re on lunch!” My only complaint in the acting department is actually Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney. When she’s just in a normal conversation, she’s just fine but whenever she has to display emotion, especially anger, Smith channels her inner Travolta and really over acts. Every word is over enunciated, like she has to concentrate to get it out of her mouth and the bite down hard as soon as it leaves. This episode provides as excellent example of that when during a meeting of the bosses of the Falcone family, she rises to the defense of Falcone, getting all indignant when some challenges the elder crime boss and his way of dealing with Maroni. Not only is the scene overacted but it is also an obvious ruse since the viewer knows and even Falcone suspects that she is trying to take over. In fact, it is Falcone’s well known suspicion of Fish that makes the scene somewhat non-sensical. The sudden show of loyalty would be enough to increase those suspicions even more.
As for the Viper, it seemed clear even from the preview that Viper would eventually lead to Venom, the drug that powers well-known Bat-villain Bane. I was surprised when they said it already exists though and strikes me as a bit premature.
That is biggest thing this series will have to deal with, balancing the desire to rush into some of the major elements of the Bat-mythos while still leaving room for Batman to be relevant. After all, if we eventually get a Venom-powered Bane, a fully functioning Riddler or even a Ra’s Al Ghul, and James Gordon and the GCPD are able deal with them just fine, why would Gotham need Bruce Wayne to eventually become Batman. So far, the producers have been able to walk this tightrope but the sudden introduction of Venom and the forthcoming addition of Harvey Dent to the cast indicate that they may be wobbling a bit.
Gotham airs on Fox every Monday at 7:00PM EST