Recap: Gotham Episode 1.05, Viper

A man with a mangled ear gives a vial full of green liquid to a street kid playing guitar for drug money. The glass vial has an entwined snake printed on one side; “breathe me” printed on the other. The kid, Benny, snaps open the vial and inhales. His skin turns white and he gets a crazed look in his eyes. Benny rushes into a convenience store and starts chugging gallons of milk. The clerk threatens him with a baseball bat, and Benny snaps it in half like a chopstick. Jim and Bullock are on their lunch break down the street when they hear the alarm. Upon arriving at the store, there is a mess of dairy products on the floor, and the clerk is beaten but otherwise okay. He claims the kid ripped the ATM out of the wall with his bare hands and took off with it. The surveillance video confirms this story.

A sweep of the junkies, homeless, and hookers lead Jim and Bullock to a burned out warehouse where Benny is hiding out with his ATM and dozens of empty milk cartons. Rather than flee, Benny begs Jim and Bullock for “more.” “It felt so good at first,” he insists. The cops try to calm him down enough to get him into handcuffs, but this just aggravates Benny. He goes into a drug rage and lifts the ATM over his head. Before he can throw it at the detectives, the last bit of drugs leave his system. Benny gets weak, his face contorts, and he is crushed beneath the weight of the ATM.

The drug Benny took is known as Viper, a complex, high-end drug that activates unused DNA in the body to create super-human strength. It feeds on the calcium in the bones, which leads to the extreme calcium cravings. The user can’t replace the calcium fast enough, causing their bones to crumble and making the victim suffocate and die. The man with the mangled ear is doing another pass of the street people, handing out dozens of vials of Viper, causing havoc in the police station. The drug could only be made in a very high-end lab, which leads the detectives to Wellzyn, a lab that happens to be a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises. This leads them to Stan Potolsky, a former bio-chemist who, according to Wellzyn’s attorney, worked on shampoo but became unstable because he wanted to do more important work. He tried to cut off his own ear and was subsequently fired. After that, he disappeared, never even cleaned out his office.

Stan’s personal effects lead Jim and Bullock to a philosophy professor, Steiner, at Gotham University. He fills in the details that the attorney “conveniently” left out. Stan never worked on shampoo; he was developing biochemical weapons to be used by combat troops. Viper was specifically meant to strengthen our own troops so they could rip apart the bodies of their enemies, but it had the undesired effect of killing you within hours. The second version, called Venom, worked out all the kinks, but by this point Stan developed a conscience about his work. His bosses at Wellzyn ignored him, so he went over their heads to the Waynes. They shut the program down, but as soon as the Waynes were murdered, the board got the Venom program going again. In an absurd, cartoonish turn, Steiner reveals that he was part of the Venom conspiracy, takes a hit of Venom, and uses his walker to attack Bullock. Jim shoots him, but as he dies, Steiner mutters something about how “they must pay for their altruism.”

Bullock and Jim head to the Wayne Foundation Charity Luncheon, where they discover Stan with a drum of Viper on the roof. He taps into the luncheon’s video feed where he explains that since an epidemic of Viper amongst street people didn’t make the point, he would have to put it to work on the wealthy. Then he starts pumping the stuff into the ballroom through the vents. Bullock evacuates the room before anyone can get sick, then joins Jim on the roof, where he has Stan cornered. Jim shoots the canister, giving Stan a big face full of Viper. He is not afraid to die, tells them to look in warehouse 39, and jumps off the roof.

Bruce is trying to make sense of “how Gotham works,” and why Wayne Enterprises didn’t do anything to intervene in the splitting of Arkham between the two top crime families. His search for answers sent him to the luncheon, where he was hoping to speak to members of the board. He instead speaks to Molly Mathis, a woman who describes herself as “middle management” and speaks to Bruce like a kid. She is taken aback when he says he wants to speak to the board about “serious irregularities in the Arkham project.” Mathis promises Wayne Enterprises would not do business with criminals, but their little talk is interrupted by Stan’s video, which starts to undercut Mathis’s promise that he did not make Viper or Venom for Wayne Enterprises.

Clearly, everything Mathis says is a lie. When Jim and Bullock visit warehouse 39, they find it empty. What they don’t see is is Mathis, hiding in her car down the road, talking on the phone, telling whoever is on the other line that there is nothing there for the detectives, “let’s leave them alone for now.”

On the gang side of things, Maroni wants to rob the casino, just to piss off Falcone. Frankie, one of Maroni’s droogs, thinks this is a waste of time, but Oswald claims to have a friend who works there who can help get Maroni’s crew into the underground tunnels. He lets slip that he used to work for Fish, which sets off Maroni and leads to him beating up Oswald and kidnapping Jim Gordon. When Jim recounts the same story Oswald told about that afternoon on the docks, Maroni decides the kid is telling the truth and he is back in his good graces. The robbery goes off without a hitch, and Oswald is one step deeper into Maroni’s inner circle. Meanwhile, Fish is working in secret with one of Falcone’s men, Nikolai, to bring Falcone down, and she transforms Liza into a sweet, aria-humming angel and plants her so that Falcone falls in love with her.

So we have introduced Venom. Does that mean we can expect Bane soon? I find it a little disconcerting that they are making Wayne Enterprises so nefarious, but I guess that, while there is not a Wayne at the head of the company, it becomes another stereotypical evil corporation, bent on world domination (or at least higher profits). It just seems that one man, and one little boy simply cannot keep Gotham from sliding all the way into the sh*tter. The city was treading water as it was with the Waynes still alive, and their billions of dollars to try to keep the town afloat. It’s kind of how I feel about the show in general. Five episodes in and I still feel like Gotham is treading water, trying to figure out where it wants to go.