You will be pleased to hear that I actually enjoyed this episode. After last week’s loss of momentum, episode 1.5 delivers a nice self-contained plot that links back to the show’s larger mysteries while highlighting a great dynamic between the two main characters.
To summarize, the main focus of this episode is the distribution of a new drug called Viper on the streets of Gotham. The drug gives users super strength, but that comes with crazed delusions and rage, which is followed by a nasty death. Bullock and Gordon are on the case, and work to track down both the source of the drug and its creator. It is eventually discovered that the creator used to work for a lab that was part of Wayne Enterprises that was dealing in chemical warfare. The creator tries to release the drug to reveal the problems with the company, but fails, and then kills himself.
In the background of this adventure, we see quite a few things happening. We see Penguin moving his way up in the Maroni crime family, aided by the testimony of Gordon himself. We see Maroni making plays against Falcone with Penguin’s help. We see Falcone handling dissent in the ranks of his mob bosses. We see Fish working with a fellow member of Falcone crime family to plot against Falcone. We see the singer Fish hired start working her scheme of attracting Falcone’s attention. And we see Bruce researching the Arkham dealings not to enact revenge, but to learn how the city around him is working.
There was a lot being thrown at us in this episode. But it was handled well and delivered smoothly. I didn’t feel confused by the scene changes or overwhelmed with exposition. The high point of the episode, in my opinion, was the Bullock/Gordon dynamic. This episode showcases the two of them working together, but still at odds based on their personalities. Bullock got some well-written dialogue that highlights his more humorous attitude, and he delivered every line beautifully.
So far, this is the best episode of the series. It delivers a smart police drama with all of the elements of the background story settled firmly in the background. The nods to the larger mythos are subtle and work more as teaser, not a sledgehammer in the face of the viewers. If we were given this type of show consistently, I would be a much bigger fan of Gotham than I am now.
I also really enjoyed the Bruce and Alfred bits of the show. I am finally enjoying Alfred as a character. He’s not a dick anymore and is expressing real care and concern for Bruce. It was a little cheesy when he sat down to help Bruce search for clues at the final scene, but it was nice. And Bruce has ceased to be a whiney brat and is starting to reveal his clever detective mind as he digs into the Arkham project. Interestingly, during his investigation in this episode, he says that he is not seeking revenge, just trying to understand how Gotham works. This represents an interesting twist on the mythos. We typically see an early Bruce driven by revenge and anger as he develops his fighting skills, but then he learns to control his anger as he sees the larger picture. This Bruce is almost learning that lesson before he even starts working out.
Another related concern I have here is about Wayne Enterprises. Typically, the mythos has painted this corporation as the one bright light shining in the darkness of Gotham. In this story, however, we are starting to see a much darker version of things. As events unfold, we are seeing a Wayne Enterprises that may have more ties to the criminal underworld of Gotham, along with some other questionable business relationships. How will this play out? Will Bruce have to step in and reclaim his company while he saves the city as well? But maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe the Waynes were legit and the problems stem from the board members. This is par for the course with the mythos. We’ll have to see what happens.
With everything I enjoyed about this episode, there was still a lot I hated.
There is still way too much pointless and horrible CG. I don’t see the need to make a CG city when the world is full of so many great city locations. They aren’t doing anything unique with the skyline, so why do they insist on giving us a fake one?
I continue to hate every moment of screen time that has anything to do with Fish. Her style of acting and dialogue delivery is absolutely distracting from the content of her scenes. This episode showed her continuing to plot against Falcone, both with another of his underlings and with the girl she auditioned in the last episode. It’s mildly intriguing to watch the mob drama play out, but I just don’t care. I was interested in Falcone as a dynamic character back in the pilot, but now all we get is Fish fighting against him. I think this is a waste.
We are seeing more of the Maroni crime family now, and they seem to be nothing but one cliché after another. Furthermore, Maroni as a character seems out of place with the rest of Gotham as it has been established so far.
Penguin is trying to move back up in the criminal world, and we are seeing some small hints of his character growth. He is plagued, though, with that sledgehammer to the face problem of his end game character taking over his early development. Plus, he seems to switch wildly between personalities. In one episode, he’s a vivacious killer with complicated plans, and in the next he’s a sniveling snitch. We had opportunity for entertaining and interesting character development, and it’s being wasted.
We saw Selina in this episode. And that’s it. We saw her. She served no purpose to the plot or episode in any way. She was there for less than a minute for absolutely no reason. And I am still frustrated that she looks so slick and well-kept for supposedly being a street thief. Plus, why the hell is she wearing goggles over her sweatshirt hood? Everything from her presence to her appearance seems forced and pointless. It’s like she’s there simply because she has to be.
Lastly, the drug that is the focus of the episode was handled in a confusing way. I didn’t mind the predictable jump to Venom. It was subtle but still carried the importance of the concept. I’m hating the fact that every element of the mythos is being jammed into such a small time frame, but that’s what we have to deal with. What really bothered me about the Viper drug was how it was handled. When we first see it, the drug makes a user a super-powered madman who speaks like he’s a god. Later, it makes users simply rage out. There is no reason given for this. When Bullock and Gordon track down the people behind the drug, we are given piles of exposition that is handed out like candy at Halloween. This became laughable as the show progressed. Viper is a liquid that somehow converts to a vapor when it’s consumed. This is weird. But when Gordon releases a giant blast of the vapor into the air, it doesn’t seem to matter. And we were subjected to more horrible CG with the effects of the drug. Overall, I think the Viper concept just wasn’t fleshed out enough.
Even with all these problems, this was an excellent episode compared to the other four. The high point continues to be the Bullock and Gordon dynamic. There is a glimmer of hope for the future of Gotham.