The full scope of the corruption in Gotham and the impossible task that Jim Gordon has taken on himself becomes clear in this fifth episode, where the series finally coalesces into full coherence.
Instead of unrelated quick cuts between the ever-growing cast, Viper pulls them all into one over-reaching plotline: take down Carmine Falcone.
Falcone controls the police, the courts, the mayor and the underworld. Fish and her bondage-loving new boyfriend want to replace Falcone, as does Maroni. Fish’s new weapon is her baby doll, a lethal lady trained to pull at Falcone’s heartstrings and something below belt as well. Maroni’s new weapon is the newly-dubbed Penguin, our old friend Oswald. (Oswald doesn’t kill anyone this episode. That’s a first. Still, I need to give the writers full credit for finding another fun but gruseome way for Gotham denizens to die: crushed by ATM.)
Caught in the middle of all this is Jim Gordon on his self-appointed and seemingly impossible task of cleaning up the city. Maroni knows his secret, that he let Oswald live and why, so now both Falcone and Maroni believe they own our hero.
Meanwhile, Bullock, in one of the funniest lines of the series, just wants to know what altruism is. That’s a question everyone in this show needs to ask.
Even young Bruce Wayne has a role now and it’s a better one than becoming addicted to pain. He morphs into Encyclopedia Brown, combing through all Wayne Enterprises paperwork to uncover the corruption in his own company. Alfred is just happy to see Bruce stop burning himself with candles. I’m sure the Wayne Enterprises corruption will tie into Falcone at some point.
The biggest Batman mythos call-out in “Viper” is, of course, the drug itself. I immediately pegged it as a precursor to Venom, the drug used by Batman’s arch-enemy, Bane, and that was later confirmed in the episode. It appears on the Gotham-verse that the man who nearly defeats Batman was created by Wayne Enterprises. There’s a certain symmetry to that. I wonder if Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Doug Moench, creators of Bane, will get any residuals from this mention?
There was another, more hidden, call-out when the first viper-drugged guy says “Do not vex me, mortal” and the storekeeper replies, “Suit yourself, Zeus.” That’s the second reference to Maxie Zeus, created by legendary Batman writer Denny O’Neil, the first being the Trident Corporation that was exporting kids.
And the quickest call out? Young Bruce watching Zorro, just before the channel switches to a news report. In the comics, the Wayne family goes to see Zorro together on that tragic night.
What happens now that all these plotlines are in full motion? The season finale ending in bloodshed and a small sliver of light for the city, at least, so I hope.
In the meantime, though Jim needs allies. Maroni and Oswald are the only ones who know the truth about his secrets. Maroni thinks he owns Jim, Falcone thinks he owns Jim, and Oswald is…grateful? (Hard to tell with Oswald.) I wonder what will happen when Jim realizes Oswald’s body count, well into the double digits now.
Jim needs to come clean with someone honest, someone who won’t use him as a weapon. Let’s hope the lack of Allen, Montoya and Barbara from this episode isn’t a trend.
Maybe Barbara was busy learning how to leave her clocktower. Or maybe Selina’s been hanging around with her, having tea parties. (Okay, probably not.)
What will next week hold?
Jim will get beaten up (again), Bullock will eat a sandwich, Selina will steal something, the mobsters will hit someone, and young Bruce will read the Hardy Boys and watch lots of Law & Order to see how it’s done.
Oh, and someone will die horribly. Because it’s Gotham.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.