I mentioned last week how impressed I am with the photography and visual style of ‘Gotham’. In this week’s episode, I found myself really digging the overall vibe of the show. The city of Gotham has a very convincing, lived-in feel that helps to sell the outlandishness (and frankly silliness) of the comic book story. In short, I’m liking this show a little more with each episode.
The Case of the Week
In ‘Viper’, a mysterious man with a disfigured ear is spreading a dangerous new drug through the city. Users get a euphoric high and a feeling of invincibility, paired up with freakish strength. The first test subject is a street musician who robs a convenience store and walks out carrying an ATM on his back. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the results are short-lived. When the drug wears off, the victims’ bones crumble and they die horribly.
Even though this doesn’t start out as a homicide case (and I’m very glad that the show actually addresses that fact), Gordon and Bullock happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and get stuck investigating it. The trail of clues leads back to a pharmaceutical company called WellZyn, a division of Wayne Enterprises. The company president points the finger at a disgruntled former employee named Stan Potolsky, but Gordon suspects that there’s more to the story.
Searching for Potolsky leads the detectives to his Gotham University philosophy professor, who informs them that the Viper drug was actually developed by WellZyn as a pharmaceutical weapon for the military. The original name was “Venom,” which comic fans should recognize as the gas that villain Bane breathes. The professor admits to working with Potolsky and in fact being the mastermind behind their plan to expose the corporate conspiracy. He then huffs the drug himself (he’s a dying old man with nothing to lose) and attacks Bullock, but Gordon shoots him, proving that the users aren’t as invincible as they think they are.
Potolsky next shows up at a charity event hosted by big-wigs from Wayne Enterprises. He hooks the Viper gas up to the air conditioning unit on the building roof in order to pump it into the ballroom and dose all of the attendees at the event (which would include young Bruce Wayne). Gordon shows up to stop him. He shoots the gas canister, spraying Potolsky in the face. Feeling like a god, Potolsky then jumps right off the building to his death, wrapping that problem up pretty neatly.
Before he dies, Potolsky says something about a “Warehouse 39,” which was apparently the lab where the Viper/Venom drug was produced. By the time Gordon finds it, the place has been cleaned out – undoubtedly by the powers-that-be in Wayne Enterprises covering their tracks.
Maroni and the Penguin
In separate events, mobster Sal Maroni plots to rob a casino owned by his rival Carmine Falcone. When Oswald Cobblepot overhears these plans, he tries to ingratiate himself with Maroni by telling him that he used to work for Fish Mooney and was privy to the inner workings of the Falcone organization. He claims that he knows about a secret entrance to the casino that will allow Maroni’s crew to bypass security.
Rather than be impressed, Maroni immediately distrusts Cobblepot and smacks him around. He sends a goon to fetch Jim Gordon to confirm Cobblepot’s story, and threatens to kill the both of them if their stories don’t match. Luckily for Jim, Cobblepot actually told the truth about what happened between them. Maroni is thrilled to learn that he suddenly has a secret weapon against Falcone. He also assumes that Jim Gordon is now in his pocket, though I’m sure that Gordon feels differently.
Using Cobblepot’s secret entrance, Maroni’s goons successfully pull off the casino heist. Maroni is very pleased, and the Penguin advances further in the organization.
Young Master Bruce
In Wayne Manor, Bruce has become obsessed with investigating not just his parents’ murder, but figuring out exactly how the city works – how the corruption has spread and which parties are connected to which. He knows that Wayne Enterprises is infested with corruption and wants to root it out. He tries to corner a company exec named Mathis. She thinks she can just blow off the child with some platitudes, but when he’s persistent, she acts pretty sketchy.
At first, Alfred thinks that Bruce’s obsession is unhealthy, but by the end of the episode he sets to work helping him.
I really like that the series is trying to show the detective side of the future Batman (originally billed as “The World’s Greatest Detective”). That’s an aspect of the character almost completely lost in all of the feature film adaptations.
It’s no surprise that Fish Mooney has been plotting against her boss Falcone. In this episode, we learn that she’s sleeping with a Russian mobster and scheming with him on a power play. She also spends a great deal of time teaching her protégé Liza how to sing, how to act like a lady, and exactly the right tricks that will allow her to seduce Falcone.
At the end of the episode, she unleashes Liza into a carefully planned meet-cute moment at a public park. It turns out that what Falcone really wants is someone who reminds him of his mother. Fish has played her hand perfectly so far.
It’s early in the first season of ‘Gotham’, and the show is still evolving to find its voice. It may make missteps along the way, but I think it’s moving in the right direction and is in a better spot right now than, for example, Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ was in its first season.