In the fifth episode of season, Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller has chosen to broaden the canvas of his up until now, semi-realistic look at the fictional city. In the episode titled, “Viper,” detectives Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock confront a new drug that completely changes the landscape of the city and the show.
Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin, reveals his former allegiance with Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone to Sal Maroni, which nearly gets him killed. Maroni captures Gordon to test Cobblepot’s story, which checks out to be true. Cobblepot eventually gains the respect of Maroni, which will certainly have larger ramifications down the line. Fish Mooney simultaneously makes her own moves to get in position to make a power grab from Falcone as well. It is interesting how Mooney and Cobblepot have been set on parallel crash courses. They both are adept at playing people against each other and the tension looks to grow as the mob war approaches.
Up until this point, Gotham City has been presented as a realistic city, with real life physics. In this episode, a new designer drug hits the streets which give its users super-human strength. However, it kills the person within days or hours of inhaling the dangerous chemical. The drug, Viper, is the precursor to the mega-steroid Venom, that fuels Bane’s strength in the comic books.
Heller and his writers have found a way to successfully include the 12 year old Bruce Wayne into the fabric of the plot. Instead of force-feeding Gordon into Wayne’s life, which led to awkward conversations between the two. Bruce has found his own initiative and the writers have included a major sub-plot that involves corruption within Wayne Enterprises, which may involve the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. It is an ingenious development, that surprisingly has rarely been touched on in the comics and should fuel interest in the mystery in a more complicated manner.
This strand also allows viewers the chance to watch Wayne develop his detective skills. It is a little odd seeing a kid so young, with his intellect and maturity. However when you account for his genius level intellect as an adult and the notion that he will one day be known as the world’s greatest detective, it is logical he would act mature beyond his years. The relationship between Bruce and Alfred also deepened. Alfred begins helping Bruce in his investigation, forging the beginning of their life-long mission. There were a lot of concerns early on about the tough-love approach of the newest incarnation of Alfred. It’s a great sign to see that the writers are giving each character an arc, as they gradually move closer to the personalities that fans are familiar with.
This episode was the tale of two shows. It’s not that supernatural elements don’t belong in Gotham. This show is fleshing out the world that is in need of a Batman and super-freaks are certainly part of the mythology. The problem is that the mob and police drama is so much more compelling than the supervillain-of-the-week shenanigans. Hopefully they find a way to bring together the different elements of the show that are clashing in a more cohesive way. It’s clear that the show is still finding its voice and the correct balance between all of the ingredients that they want involved. It was still an enjoyable episode, but like the streets of Gotham, there is still a lot of work to do.