Review: ‘Gotham’ – ‘Viper’

Senior Television Writer
10.20.14 38 Comments


A quick review of tonight's “Gotham” coming up just as soon as I chug some milk…

The great thing about a character with 75 years of history across multiple media is the abundance of many stories, ideas and supporting characters to draw upon. The tricky thing is figuring out which of those stories, ideas and characters actually fit together. You wouldn't want to deposit the Mutant Leader from “Dark Knight Returns” into a story featuring the Adam West Batman any more than you would try to insert Bat-Mite into “Batman: Year One.”

There's no element of “Viper” that, in isolation, feels like it doesn't belong in the Batman mythos. The Maroni/Falcone gang war is familiar, the notion of Wayne Industries turning corrupt without Thomas and Martha to shepherd it has promise as a direction for Lil Wayne's corner of the show, and the Viper drug is tied to Venom, which gives Bane his amazing strength during different periods of the comic.

Put all together, though, and the pieces don't fit. Jim and Harvey battling a super strong busker whose bones collapse as he's holding up an ATM doesn't feel like the same show as the one where Fish is plotting against Falcone, nor where Bruce is enlisting Alfred in his investigation of the family business. Though the whole show is tied together by the city, and at times by the way Gordon moves from one group of characters to another, for the most part “Gotham” feels like a collection of vaguely-connected mini shows that operate largely independent of one another, with their own isolated settings (Bruce mainly at Wayne Manor, Fish mostly at the club, Selina popping up in street scenes) and often wildly different tones.

It seems like the Case of the Week material – which should, in theory, be right in Bruno Heller's wheelhouse from his “Mentalist” days – is where the problem is starkest. That's where Heller and company so often have to invent wholly new criminals who can be dispatched in an hour, and where we've gotten various strange ideas (Balloonman, the hitman's lame weapon last week, a superstrong philosophy professor here) that mesh not at all with the building gang war, tales of systemic corruption, and the very slow-cooking Batman and villain origin stories.

It's still very early (especially for a show that recently got its season expanded), but “Gotham” continues to feel like a project where no one's entirely sure what the show is – or, at least, how to make it function as a weekly TV series that has to offer some kind of episodic closure even as the different arcs build. Right now, it's a mess, but it's interestingly messy, and the parts that are good – Penguin, Fish and the McKenzie/Logue chemistry (if not the writing for Harvey – are good enough to keep me watching to see if they can make all the pieces eventually fit together. But Lil Wayne has a better sense of what he wants to be when he grows up than “Gotham” does.

What did everybody else think?

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