By: Darryl Frisbie
We enter the story with Bruce rummaging through crime files and tracing connections of crime in Gotham on a board. Alfred enters and suggests Bruce put things aside and eat. Bruce continues his research. Alfred questions Bruce’s motives and then asks the hypothetical question, “What if you never discover who killed your mom and dad? What if you never get to wreak revenge?” And then I love Bruce’s response when he says, “I don’t want revenge. I want to understand how Gotham works.” The writers seem to understand the psyche of Bruce Wayne. This young actor, David Mazouz portrays his role with very real and believable expressions and nothing is forced. Bruce is in very special circumstance and it’s understandable that the death of his parents have led him to a great degree of grief and obsession. I read one review that observed his actions were symptoms of autism and that he was of such high intellect that he cut himself off from social interaction with his peers. I do not believe this is the case, but this is what makes Bruce so intriguing as a character and especially for psychologists to study him. My personal belief is that Bruce’s only way to cope and reconcile the tragic loss of his parents is to expose any corruption that infects Gotham. We see Bruce attend a charity ball to inquire as to why his father’s company has certain irregularities in the system. He talks to Molly Mathis, who lets him know that the board is too busy for charity balls. Later we discover Molly Mathis is concealing something far more incriminating, a lab that produces the chemical Viper.
Viper is the central conflict of this episode and quite “fascinating” as Edward Nygma puts it. It is the byproduct of the ultimate drug, Venom! Venom which we all know is the steroid inducing, strength enhancing drug that Bane uses to crush the bones of his victims. A crazed biochemist who is out to expose a pharmaceutical company called Wellzyne decides to distribute the drug on the streets of Gotham. The drugs first victim is a street guitarist who inhales its green fumes and we see his veins and muscles throb. His mind and body is brought to a stat,e of euphoria. He feels invincible and endowed with great power. He breaks into a convenience store where he starts guzzling large amounts of milk, and then proceeds in his mayhem by ripping an atm out the wall and stealing it. Eventually Jim and Harvey pursue him and the man knocks them both clean off their feet. He tries to lift the atm but the drug backfires, and crushes his entire body. Soon more people are exposed to this drug and end up with the same effects. Nygma eventually enlightens the detectives to the symptoms of the drug. “It’s quite remarkable,” Nygma says. “Viper activates unused DNA. The body starts to burn calcium from the skeletal system as fuel…their bones crumble, and they suffocate and die.” They ultimately thwart this biochemist when he broadcasts himself on television, on the very rooftops of the charity ball that Bruce is attending.
A couple of the other subplots involve Penguin being once again victimized but this time by Maroni, while Fish Mooney trains her apprentice Liz to be a weapon of seduction to be planted in Falcone’s path. But the two great highlights of this episode for me were Bruce’s investigation and the foreshadowing of the drug venom. Thus far the show has taken a realistic and grounded approach, but with this episode the writers were not afraid to tap into the more grandiose aspects of the comic lore in which this case it was the superhuman inducing drug Viper. This episode got mixed reviews on rotten tomatoes and I’m willing to bet it’s because some critics are too hung up on grounding Gotham in a gritty reality. But with the introduction of the byproduct of venom they have opened the door to the resplendent aspects of the comic books. And for as much as I love the gritty reality that Nolan introduced us to, the downside was eliminating some of the grand fantasy of the Batman universe. I’m looking forward to more episodes like this one.
Overall Grade: 9/10