Caution: This review contains spoilers.
In the fifth episode of “Gotham,” Jim (Ben McKenzie) and Bullock (Donal Logue) investigate a new street drug called Viper. It’s a serum that gives a person ridiculous strength, which suggests a precursor to the Bane arc in Batman lore. The storyline of a dangerous new drug is not new, but “Gotham” manages to pull off a fast-paced and straightforward chapter.
There are a couple of curious side effects to taking viper. It makes people crave milk because they use a lot of calcium to metabolize the compound. The rate that the calcium breaks down is alarmingly fast, causing death. The CGI here could definitely use some work. The perp from the beginning, who carried an ATM down the street, tries to compensate by drinking (and spilling) milk. It almost calls to mind the internet craze among teens of “gallon smashing.” I thought we were trying to encourage kids to drink their milk. The other side effect is a euphoric high, adding a little of the Joker’s flare into the mix, you might say.
Meanwhile, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) finds his new position at Maroni’s restaurant is in jeopardy, putting himself and Jim in a dicey situation (quite literally for Cobblepot). At the other side of the mob war, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) is training Liza (Makenzie Leigh), preparing her for an encounter with Don Falcone (John Doman).
Jim and Bullock’s investigation follows the relatively easy trail to a disgruntled ex-employee, Stan Potolski (Daniel London), from a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises. Potolski wants to expose the evil of Viper (and ultimately the wrongdoings of Wayne Enterprises), but it looks like he has to raise the stakes and target the elite of Gotham. The more astonishing development is the role of Potolski’s philosophy professor, Isaac Steiner, who supplies so much about his former student. The old man takes the drug and gives Bullock quite a walloping! The scenario gives us yet another amusing moment when Gordon and Bullock question Steiner. Jim is focused on finding the next target while Bullock exclaims, “What’s altruism?”
The two detectives hurry to a Wayne Enterprises luncheon, where Potolski has already started sending Viper through the vents as a gas. Here we catch up with Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) who was only keen on attending the event to speak with the Board. Instead of the Board members, Bruce ends up with a manager named Molly Mathis (Sharon Washington), someone sketchy that we should look out for in future episodes. There’s a couple of small moments for Alfred (Sean Pertwee) to shine: 1) when he covers Bruce’s head with his jacket and 2) at the end when he joins Bruce in sifting through the paperwork to find connections with the Wayne murders. What dangers await the pair once the (thus far) unseen Board of Directors discovers their investigative activities?
What a relief to see the progress “Gotham” made after the dismal pilot episode. There are several threads going on at once here, but not enough to overcomplicate matters. Despite the unoriginal plot, “Gotham” provides a lot of fun and helps to carry the momentum as the battle lines continue to be drawn. Moving forward as we consider the sixth episode, one wonders how effective Fish’s protégé will be with Falcone. Also, now that the truth is out about Penguin’s supposed demise, what will happen to Jim Gordon?
“Gotham” airs Monday evenings at 8|9c on FOX.