‘Gotham’ Review: “Viper”
FOX’s ‘Gotham’ detects its fifth installment in “Viper,” as a new strength-enhancing drug causes chaos on the streets, while Bruce detects something amiss with the Wayne board's shady dealings, and sets out to investigate.
Last week's ‘Gotham' installment "Arkham" saw the impending vote over a dilapidated city district bringing out a killer working for both sides of the mob, while Oswald Cobblepot continued his return ascent, and Fish Mooney prepared a move against Don Falcone, so how does FOX’s latest episode of Bat-prequel drama shine a light on the city's villainous beginnings?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Gotham’ episode 5, “Viper”!
'Gotham’ is a show I find continually fascinating, and for all the wrong reasons. On the one hand, I remember the baffling sentiment of critical peers lavishing praise on its pilot over the summer, where I had seen only a serviceable jumping-off point that still carried some fundamental flaws. And yet, five episodes into an extended first season, many critics have come to see the show for the hot mess it is, even as some of the more blunt aspects of the DC drama get some commendable sharpening.
Likely the largest of ‘Gotham’’s issues to date has been a heavy-handed need to wink at the show’s future mythology, which itself remains a long ways off, even by TV standards. It adds nothing to the story to feature a young Poison Ivy tending to plants in a bit role, making tonight’s “Viper” all the more successful by alluding to aspects of Bane’s history. Taking only the lore elements as a plot point gives the story freedom to introduce some genuine super-powered menace into the series, one that needn’t necessarily pigeonhole a familiar character, as have so many adaptations of ‘Gotham’’s to date.
It’s certainly telling that the series succeeds in incorporating Bat-lore when it ditches the human element, as WellZyn and Stan Potolsky prove significantly less intriguing by their execution in the plot, but the venom itself might at least expand the story going forward, resurfacing to play a part in whatever endgame the first season develops.
Another of ‘Gotham’’s key issues lies in the systemic flaw of Bruce Wayne’s presence, as despite David Mazouz’s commendable efforts to humanize the character, the audience knows Bruce will first need to spend time away from Gotham before developing any ability to affect real change. Granted, “Viper” at least provides the strongest usage of the character to date, as Bruce channels his grief away from heavy-metal doodling into uncovering the Wayne board’s corruption.
There’s a good reason Batman stories tend to skip over the period between Bruce’s orphaning and vigilante career, though his attempt to ingratiate himself among family corporate politics ranks among the first ‘Gotham’ stories to successfully capitalize on the show’s unique premise. Moreover, the story also marks a shift in Bruce and Alfred’s relationship from antagonists to partners, and all without leaning on Gordon’s inclusion in the dynamic, something the series has somewhat exhausted already in its first few episodes.
Gordon kept plenty busy himself this week, as we saw Penguin’s return continually unraveling the deception that keeps Falcone from coming after the young detective. ‘Gotham’ hasn’t proven particularly sturdy in its execution of the coverup aspects between Gordon and Cobblepot, so it was nice to see “Viper” stripping away at the dynamic a bit, allowing Penguin to assert his true identity once more, as Maroni’s awareness provides some meaty moral dilemma for Ben McKenzie to play as Gordon. The show’s criminal aspects have become increasingly compelling with each subsequent episode, as we get to see a bit of Falcone’s control over the ‘Gotham’ crime families slip, though Fish Mooney’s more isolated scenes again proved the weaker among tonight’s episode. If it wasn’t apparent last week, Mooney intended to use her young songbird protégé to catch Falcone’s attention from afar, so it only killed time to actually highlight their individual training, or Mooney’s manipulation of her fellow gangsters.
It’s hard to say if ‘Gotham’ would ever entirely get its act together (note that Barbara, the show’s most labored story avenue, only gets a passing mention), though “Viper” definitely seemed like another step in the vicinity of a right direction, for all its usual camp aspects. Our best hope lies in ‘Gotham’ gaining a sense of its premise’s strengths and weaknesses, to which “Viper” gave an intriguing spotlight to Bane’s history as a plot point, rather than a clumsily-introduced character, and also giving an opportunity for Bruce to involve himself in the story without straining the limits of a young Batman’s age. Gordon too, got a few worthwhile bits as Penguin shed his false face and firmly threw in with Salvatore Maroni, even if their counterparts Fish and Bullock still drive the series into campier territory.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- As always, I look forward to Mike Ryan's LOL take on the episodes, this week sure to include a guitarist panhandler downing milk as he waxes poetic about godhood, or an elderly man tearing apart his own walker, vexing Detective Bullock on the definition of "altruism" in the process.
- Hey, Selina Kyle turned up again for a minute. Remember when li'l Poison Ivy adorned all the show's promotional posters?
- Between Alfred questioning Bruce's activities as a waste of time, and Mooney's girl complaining of boredom, 'Gotham''s writers continue tempting critics with meta-statements on the series itself.
- It was at least good to see Sal Maroni acting a bit more imposing this week, rather than deliver criminal exposition to anyone willing to listen.
- So...why...did Stan Potolsky attempt to cut off his own ear? Other than to give Gordon another distinguishing trait to reference?
- Did the keg need to have a snake logo, if theirs was to be an undercover operation? And why did Stan leap to his apparent death, if the blast of "Viper" had given him super-strength?
- I don't know about you, but I am increasingly concerned by the omnipresent cloud over Gotham City, that somehow only shows up in establishing shots.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Gotham’’s fifth episode “Viper” help set the stage any further for Batman's beginning? How do you think the prequel drama fared in its latest attempt at Batman lore? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Gotham' episode 5, "Spirit of the Goat" on FOX!