'Viper' Review: What Do You Expect? It's Gotham
"Viper" wasn't necessarily the best episode of Gotham, but it was probably the most polished, and saw the show really get into its rhythm. It effectively linked its case of the week with the larger story about Gotham as a "sick" city, and smoothed over some of its more problematic elements.
Baby Batman, who has felt somewhat unnecessary and isolated until now, found his place in the larger narrative, as he investigates apparent misdeeds at the hands of his parents' brainchild, Wayne Enterprises. At first it seemed that the Waynes were a paragon of virtue, a symbol of hope whose death caused Gotham to tumble into despair. Now, it appears that Gotham was always sick, and the Waynes may have been altruistic in name only. It's possible that they weren't aware of the company's corruption, but wittingly or not, even the paragons of virtue were in bed with the criminal element. Gotham never really stood a chance.
Aside from Bruce, the case of the week was relatively well-done, although it had its cliched elements. The "new street drug" plotline is overused as it is, and the scene with the philosophy professor was melodramatic to the point that it made zero sense. Like every poorly written villain, he casually admitted his entire evil plan, sort of selling out his partner in the process. One could argue that it was his plan all along, because he had the drug at his disposal, but he could have just as easily lied a little bit better and saved himself the trouble. It was clearly a contrivance so the audience could see a superpowered old man beat up the cops.
Other than that, though, it was tightly written, and had plenty of potential for social commentary. Between this episode and "Selina Kyle," the writers are clearly aware that privilege plays a large role in Gotham's crime world; true to life, when drug addicts, prostitutes, or homeless children are kidnapped, murdered, or dosed, they slip through the cracks. To its credit, this episode explicitly commented on this injustice, but it didn't go far enough for my liking. I blame the show's general tendency to overstuff. They're trying to fit so much into each episode, they can only do the bare minimum of character development and theme exploration. They're clearly trying to trim the fat to some extent; several characters are falling by the wayside, most notably Barbara, who didn't appear at all this episode. But they'll need to cut even more extraneous characters and plotlines if they want to realize the series' full potential.
The show may still have its flaws, but the last scene might have single-handedly made up for all of them. The entire show is beautifully filmed, but this scene was beautiful in an entirely different way. Everything was brighter, cleaner, and more sentimental from the very first shot. The lighting was softer, making both the girl and Falcone look completely transformed. It looked like it was from an entirely different show, or even the beginning of a romantic movie where she's a manic pixie dream girl with cancer. And it makes sense, because only somewhere besides Gotham could someone like Falcone show that much vulnerability. But even as we watch this sweet, nostalgic scene, we know that the entire thing was orchestrated by Fish Mooney, giving it sinister undertones. This is perfectly encapsulated in the last shot, in which the beauty of the trees abruptly fades into the gritty darkness of the Gotham skyline.
-Mathis was the name of one of the "Dollmakers" from DC mythology. It was a man in the comics, but could this mean that Mathis of Wayne Enterprises is the Dollmaker?
-I hope that the introduction of Venom means that we'll see Bane at some point?
-It was interesting to see a little more of Edward Nygma's innocent sociopath. He's like Dexter without the social skills.
-Can we talk about how Gordon purposely released a ton of poisonous gas into the air around him and then saved himself by covering his mouth for about five seconds? And then didn't even warn Bullock that there might be poison in the air? Just saying.
-David Mazouz is doing a great job, he manages to convince us that Bruce is a highly unusual twelve-year-old who would be able to understand all of the complex dynamics of Gotham. I still could have done with a little more foundation that established his exceptional intellect, but that intellect makes his storylines much more interesting, so I can't really complain.