Fox‘s Gotham The Viper TV Show Review. Gotham: Season 1, Episode 5: The Viper is a dramatic rebound with a good dose of steroidal nostalgia. In Episode 4, the show’s deficiencies had never felt so oppressive, but this time, though the issue of a “Villain of the Week” remains, at least it’s a more fun
villain, and there seems to be much more focus on the real meat of the story arc.
There’s almost no use warning of spoilers that this episode alludes to Bane, because many longtime fans will make that connection instantly upon reading its synopsis. Crucially, though, some newer ones might not. While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises gave the accented strongman his due as one of Batman’s most notoriously dangerous foes, it dropped all of his association with chemistry and drug-peddling in favor of yet one more philosophical approach to morality, to the chagrin of some who felt the trilogy had become entirely too grounded in reality and too obsessed with making statements. Here, and in light of the titular Balloonman of Episode 3, though Bane himself is absent, that Venom is back in canon is a positive sign that the Batman franchise can move back in a fanciful direction without giving immediate impressions of illegitimacy. (As, for example, it did when Joel Schumacher tried it.) While the purveyor of Viper (Efraiem Hanna), the unstable, deadly prototype for Venom is himself not so interesting a villain–as VOTWs are shallow almost by design–his misdeeds still provide for some good, unique action scenes.
The real draw of this episode, though, was its giving extra attention to the key plot points that haven’t always gotten so much. It feels good finally getting to see Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) get some smacks from Don Maroni (David Zayas) and his more trusted henchmen, after so long of him apparently not paying for his constant audacity and conniving. This also adds a new development to the increasingly scary arc spinning off of James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) refusing to kill Cobblepot, as he’s abducted to be his hoaxed victim’s advocate. Penguin can be quite the albatross, even when not trying to be, and now there are a few more people who can blow the whistle on the conspiracy Carmine Falcone (John Doman) maneuvered the law into, igniting the constantly portent war. As it turns out, Don Maroni is actually an entertaining villain in himself; David Zayas is essentially playing a friendly, charismatic boss, the likes of which we wish we had more of; who just so happens to be also a mobster who definitely knows how to get ruthless when he suspects a trap. Finally, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) steals the show as more of her conspiracy to overthrow (and probably kill) Falcone is revealed (to us), and unlike some things in this show, she’s still full of surprises. Mooney comes off as a tsundere, lusty, and more than a little twisted, but while she probably is genuinely all these things, she also plays them as a brilliant poker face, as scenes that originally seem like simply human-interest drama come out as all part of her plan–and five episodes in, it seems fine to admit, she looks great doing it.
It seems like an afterthought by comparison, but The Viper also continues to document the rise of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) to heroism, and more specifically here, detective work. As the heir to a billion dollar company, he has access to many records, but the corrupt segments of the company don’t expect a kid to take an interest in them. It’s going to be their error, and a fun battle to watch unfold. Mazouz’s performance sometimes comes off as a bit awkward and whiny, but it’s likely that if he exuded confidence, he’d just look fake. As it is, he’s not yet a figure villains should dread, but he certainly is more dignified than Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace.
In summary, The Viper has all of the best elements of Gotham so far firing on all cylinders, and this time the show’s worst element, the “Villain-of-the-week” syndrome, somehow doesn’t bog it all down…much.
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