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'Gotham' recap, 'Viper'

For The Baltimore Sun
"Gotham" offers a break from TV's trend of antiheroes.

Another day, another mass panic in Gotham. 

In the episode titled “Viper,” Stan Potolsky, a biochemist with the heart of an evil philosopher, unleashed a potent drug on Gotham. Viper induced euphoria and super human strength, followed by a crushing withdrawal — literally. 

If only the special effects lived up to the drug’s effect. The sudden morph into snake-like green eyes and silver skin isn’t what vexed me. How cheesy was the first druggie getting squashed like a cardboard box under the ATM?

If last week’s episode was the high, this week was the crash from coming down.

The episode’s most glaring flaw was its clichéd writing. “God help us if that drug gets out,” James Gordon says to Harvey Bullock. The next scene shows Potolsky passing out vials of the drug like it’s Halloween candy. Who didn’t see that one coming? 

The scene where Carmine Falcone overheard Fish Mooney’s fembot was another misstep that felt oddly paced. Falcone was too eager to chat to the crooner and reveal his life story. You’d think a man of his age and status would know how to play it cool.

What made “Viper” tolerable — other than Bullock’s zingers (they’ve grown on me) — is Gordon’s struggle to remain a clean conscious in a city as toxic as Gotham. 

Gordon is a fascinating character. With the flood of antiheroes on TV dramas, it’s refreshing to see a protagonist’s life fall apart from making a morally sound decision, rather than committing the typical infidelities, murders or meth-lab exploits.

His life is falling apart for doing the right thing and not killing Cobblepot, that’s for sure. His fiancé left him because he wouldn’t be honest with her — for her own safety, of course — and his safety has been threatened by Maroni.

But those mafia threats are far from over. Now he’s tied to two mob families: the Falcone, simply because he’s a cop, and the Maroni, all thanks to Oswald Cobblepot.

Even if saving Cobblepot’s life was a mistake — and more and more he’s beginning to realize that it was — he still wouldn’t have killed him if given the chance again.

That’s clear as he refrained from killing three suspects that a crooked cop like Bullock would have killed without mercy. I wonder how far the writers will push Gordon’s limits as the season continues.

Bruce finally kicked off the detective training wheels and did street work. Not that he ventured into Gotham’s dark alleys or went too far out of his comfort zone; he hit a cushy Wayne Enterprises charity luncheon. 

He began his investigation by chatting with Molly Mathis, who you can tell right away is up to something. When Bruce asked serious questions about Wayne Enterprises, she talked to him like he’s a 5-year-old.

“Your family created a company worth billions and billions of dollars! How awesome is that?!” Totes awesome, Ms. Mathis. 

She cut the patronizing tone when Bruce said he found “serious irregularities in the Arkham project.” Like a good detective, he keeps pushing the questions even as she deflects the answers.

That ended abruptly when Potolsky hijacked the event by pumping Viper into the air ducts.

We didn’t see Mathis again until she was spying on Gordon and Bullock as they investigated pier 39. See? Told you she was up to something. She cleared out the lab that Potolsky said would prove WellZin was behind Viper.

That won’t be the last of her. I suspect that Mathis and whoever she was talking to on the phone will reappear as Bruce and Gordon dig deeper into the Waynes’ murder. 

With Alfred’s stamp of approval for Bruce’s new hobby, getting around to solve cases will be a lot easier ... until he gets the Batmobile.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM “VIPER”

BEST ONE LINER: Tie. “You think we push a button, or does she just rewind automatically?” — Bullock, regarding the PR bot from WellZin. And of course: “What is ‘altruism’?” Oh, Bullock, you lackadaisical fool.

BEST COMEBACK: “Only difference [between our countries]? Ladies. Ladies are in kitchen or bed, depending on their talents,” said Nikolai. Fish Mooney shot back: “I bet your mother was a lousy cook.” Burn! Next time we see him, they’re both in bed, he’s tied up and Mooney’s on top.

BEST HAIR: Anyone who took Viper. Seriously, how does their hair stay perfectly coiffed when hoisting ATMs on their backs? Maybe Viper really did start as a project in the “dark moral corners of shampoo” and euphoria was just a side effect. For hair so healthy, you can do anything, man!

WORST SECURITY: Gotham City Police Department. Maroni’s main lieutenant just waltzed right into the precinct and no one reaches for their handcuffs. Sure, Gotham’s finest has mafia ties, but that’s with Falcone, not Maroni. Just how lackadaisical can you be?

LUNCH TIME: How many hours do you think Bullock bills when he’s really at street vendors? This is just begging to become a meme, like Walter White Jr. from “Breaking Bad and breakfast. I’m waiting, Internet.

CREEPIEST LURKER: This was a tough one. Selina Kyle stalks Gordon for sport and Cobblepot has an unsettling enthusiasm for washing dishes. (Wait, why is he still washing dishes? I thought he was manager now.) But the grand prize goes to Ed Nygma for watching a woman die horrifically and saying, “Fascinating! Fascinating.” Ugh, I realize why his coworkers normally tune him out, but this is precisely when they need to pay attention and order a psych evaluation. It’s only a matter of time before the Riddler debuts.

BEST EASTER EGG: Bruce Wayne watching “The Mark of Zorro” on TV before the news report about the Viper epidemic. Bob Kane, creator of Batman, admitted that he drew inspiration from the swashbuckling Zorro. Think about it: Both have wealthy parents who were murdered, both put on a shallow façade when they’re really heroic do-gooders, both have a cave where they stow their gadgets and both have a sweet calling card. That’d be a sword-etched Z and the Bat-Signal, in case you were living in a cave for the past century.

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