Gotham Season 1 Review “Viper”

Gotham (Fox) Episode 5 Viper (1)

On the latest episode of “Gotham,” yet another villain reared his ugly head, in “Viper,” which derived its title from a deadly drug that hit the streets with literal force, as anyone who took it became super-strong, psychotic, and driven to the brink of utter madness, at least until they self-destructed and died, all within a matter of hours. Good times!

It was kind of reminiscent of the sort of plotline that auteur David Cronenberg might take on, especially in his early days, circa “Scanners” or his remake of “The Fly.” Only this being a comic book adaptation, a bit more on the cartoonish side- witness the scene in which one of the people on the drug lifted an entire ATM machine out of the ground, carried it down the street like a lunatic, and later held it above his head as the drug ran out of steam and proceeded to drop it on himself like a character in a Looney Tunes short under an anvil or what have you.

I halfway expected there to be a “splat!” sound effect, followed by a shot of the ATM being lifted and the guy being flattened like Kevin Bacon in “Animal House” or “Flat Stanley.” Obviously, this was along the same lines as the previous episode, “The Balloonman,” which like this, stopped just short of being silly by going for the gross-out instead. Though some of those bone-cracking effects came pretty close, mind you.

That said, that didn’t mean this wasn’t a reasonably entertaining episode overall. The scenes with Fish training Liza were intriguing, as were the ones with Fish holding her own with various gangsters, including new face Nikolai (Jeremy Davidson, “Royal Pains”), with whom she was engaged in a kinky sexual relationship in which her mouthing off to him in front of boss Falcone seemed to be foreplay for her to tie Niko up later. Let it never be said that “Gotham” was afraid to be edgy when it suits the situation.

The scenes with the Penguin and second-tier mob boss Maroni, and later on, with Gordon, who was brought in to verify Penguin’s story of being on the outs with Falcone and company, both brimmed with menace and were genuinely intense. That’s not easy to do when you basically know that there’s no way in hell the show is going to eliminate either one this early on, if ever. I also like the twist of Maroni now having something on Gordon, to the extent that he can call in favors when he needs to- and you just know he will eventually.

We also saw young Bruce Wayne coming out of the darkness and taking a pro-active stance on his parents’ company, looking into the Arkham project, and later on, the company Well Zyn, after it was revealed they were the ones who had commissioned Viper in the first place. Though the show pushed it a bit with Wayne tossing around terminology like “shell companies” and “subterfuge,” I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, as he does go on to be a technological genius and all.

That said, the scene where he was quizzing employee Molly Mathis (Sharon Washington, “Law & Order”) was amusing- especially given her reaction, which went from, “How are you, little man!” to “Houston, we may have a problem” in seconds flat. She might at that, given that it was later revealed that she was in on the whole Well Zyn thing, and wasted no time in making sure it was covered up and that Gordon and Bullock didn’t find jack at the warehouse main villain Stan Potolsky (Daniel London, “Manhattan”) pointed them in the direction of.

There were also some bonkers touches which helped make the episode a solid one, including the whole Viper side effect of needing lots of milk (!), Bullock suggesting that they put out a report to tell normal, upstanding citizens to stay indoors while the lowlifes on Viper picked off one another one by one (gotta love Donal Logue, who’s easily one of the best things on the show); the scene where the old professor took the drug and promptly kicked Gordon and Bullock’s collective butts; and the final scene where a scrubbed clean, stylish, remodeled Liza baited and hooked Falcone with little to no effort.

Good stuff all around, even with the inherent ridiculousness of the main Viper storyline. But then the “Batman” universe has always been a little wacky, from the old 60’s TV incarnation, to the borderline unwatchable Joel Schumacher films in the 90s. It takes a deft touch to keep this stuff from getting goofy, but while “Gotham” doesn’t quite achieve Christopher Nolan status, it does at least come within spitting distance of Tim Burton, which is something, I suppose. With a little fine tuning, it could have a nice vibe all of its own, which is more than I can say for some shows, least of all ones based on pre-existing material.

What do you think of “Gotham” so far? Do you like the overall vibe of the show? How about the main characters? Do you like the way the villains have been portrayed so far? Do you think they went too far back into the “Batman” timeline for their own good? How about the look of the show? Or the sense of humor- is it too dark, or not dark enough for your tastes? Do you like the new twists on the old characters? Sound off below and let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next week!