Since its premiere last month, Gotham has seen its highs and more than its fair share of lows, often proving to be nothing more than a futile effort to be the new “spin” on Batman with occasional moments of brilliance to help balance out the heaps of crap it's clogged itself with. The first three episodes offered nothing but cheap laughs (not intentionally, either), the fourth wowed, and this week's addition, Viper, marks another step up for this bold new series and casts a bright new light over a show that was drowning in the shadows of its own incompetence. Exciting, intriguing, and fun, Viper manages to keep a leg up over Gotham's previous episodes, improving upon last week's stunner in unexpectedly brilliant ways.
After a mysterious man starts slipping homeless people a deadly new drug that makes steroids look like Flintstones' vitamins, James Gordon (a tired-looking Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (a floundering Donal Logue) quickly discover that this won't stop unless they stop it themselves. Bruce Wayne begins to obsess, spending hours poring over documents that he hopes will help him understand Gotham's criminals, and how this cutthroat city works. On the shadier side of the block, Fish Mooney (an increasingly annoying Jada Pinkett Smith) continues to plot and connive in her quest for power over Gotham's many gangs.
Viper not only establishes itself as Gotham's best episode to date, it poses new questions and actually propels the story forward in ways that its predecessors refused to do. Robin Lord Taylor continues to shine as the frequently underestimated Oswald Cobblepot, his charm, charisma, and energy breathing life into an episode that is otherwise bereft of any vibrancy. Ben McKenzie begins to lag behind Taylor, panting and spluttering while his livelier, more capable co-star runs laps around his first lacklustre performance in the show's brief lifespan. Donal Logue's Harvey Bullock bores and annoys, his sole purpose being to balance Gordon's tireless devotion to the greater good with laziness and a startling lack of commitment but not extending far beyond that. He's a useless character who does nothing for a show that can't afford any more fluff, and each successive appearance boils the blood and begs the question, “Why the hell are you even here?”
Angry ranting aside, this week's episode takes Gotham to new heights and really sets the stage for some truly exciting (and terrifying) events to come in the near future. Viper's final scene not only serves as a haunting harbinger of a violent gang war that will probably close out the season, it instils a genuine sense of awe in its viewers and renders them completely incapable of talking any more shit. The writers clearly saw that change needed to happen fast, snatched the scripts from the five-year-olds who were doodling on it before, and churned out some truly memorable television. Well done, Gotham. Well done. Now let's see what else you can do.