Super Recaps: Gotham (Episode 5)

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Once again we find ourselves with another episode of Captain Boring’s Adventures in Crime City.  So the last episode was a bit of a disappointment when compared to previous episodes which have steadily increased in quality.  So was episode four the beginning of the end for this series having any hope of quality, or will this episode make up for what we saw last time?  There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to keep on reading!!

The episode begins with Bruce who is in desperate need of a hobby.

“Yes!  All I need is some red string and that’ll PROVE that the CIA shot Tupac!”

“Yes!  All I need is some red string and that’ll PROVE that the CIA shot Tupac!”

Alfred once again comes by to passive aggressively tell Bruce that he’s wasting his time dwelling on this instead of dealing with what’s ACTUALLY bothering him, but it falls on deaf ears as always.  I’m starting to like these moments between Bruce and Alfred, but it’s depressing to think that Alfred is never going to get through to Bruce because we know what’s going to happen to the kid.  It’s odd how much this show has given us reasons to not want Bruce to become Batman.  We’re following a good cop who’s doing things the right way, the other vigilante is portrayed as misguided, and Bruce’s obsessions are not portrayed in a positive light.  I’m actually coming around to this aspect of the show because Batman has always been one of those characters who people woefully misunderstand.  That’s not to say I don’t like it when Batman is dark, but fetishizing the psychotic man on his war against crime gets really tiresome.  After Alfred’s failed attempt to get this kid a life, we get a brief scene with Maroni (one of the mob bosses in the city) trying to put together a plan to hit one of Falcone’s casinos as retaliation for Falcone hitting one of his restaurants in the last episode.  If you recall the last episode though, it was actually Oswald Cobblepot (who’s in good graces with Maroni) who organized the hit on Maroni’s restaurant.  If this attack on Falcone goes through, it could spark a gang war that will affect all parts of the city and will give some of the lower players in the city (Fish and Oswald) a chance to step in once the ashes have settled.  This is actually a pretty good episode so far.  Let’s see if it can keep it up.  We cut to a street performer who gets a mysterious vial from a passerby in a trench coat.

“Well… since you asked so nicely.”

“Well… since you asked so nicely.”

The guy is dumb enough to huff the mystery substance and almost immediately gets super powers.  Huh.  I thought the super solider serum was a Marvel thing.  He visits a local convenience store and starts guzzling cartons of milk which seems to upset the shop keeper.  Of course, our street performer (who I guess is evil now) shows off his strength we cut to Bullock and Gordon.  I’m sure the shop keeper is just fine!  Bullock and Gordon are on their lunch break and are getting some burgers when all of sudden Selina Kyle shows up to try and pick pocket someone across the street.

She’s not what you’d call inconspicuous.

She’s not what you’d call inconspicuous.

Gordon sees her and I absolutely love his reaction here.

“KKKAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!”

“KKKAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!”

With this moment here and the scene between him and Selina in episode 3, I think I finally know what this actor’s strength is.  He’s basically a younger version of Mr. Wilson from Denis the Menace!  Seriously, he’s way to freaking serious, so the moments where Selina is pissing him off are the only times he comes across as human.  Chasing down bad guys?  Meh, he’s got that.  Having to make tough decisions?  Trick question, because he NEVER makes bad decisions.  Here though?  Yeah, he’s just getting annoyed at a young girl who’s continually evading him despite his good guy status.  Gordon tries to cross the street to grab her, but a cab gets in the way of his chase.  The guy who’s pocket is getting picked tries to stop her, but she takes his sorry ass down without breaking a sweat and bolts before Gordon has a chance to get her.  Aw… I hope she shows up again later.  After his failed pursuit of a child, he hears an alarm going off from the convince store we saw earlier.  Gordon goes to investigate with Bullock (begrudgingly) not far behind and they stumble upon the aftermath of what has happened.  The shop keeper isn’t in too bad shape and tells them that some psycho with super strength came in, drank the milk, and then took the fucking ATM!

“DON’T STOP ME NOW!  I’M HAVING SUCH A GOOD TIME!!  I’M HAVING A BALL!!!!”

“DON’T STOP ME NOW!  I’M HAVING SUCH A GOOD TIME!!  I’M HAVING A BALL!!!!”

Admittedly, this is some straight up X-Files shit that doesn’t quite fit into the mostly realistic universe they’ve built up so far, but I’ll definitely allow this excursion into super powered insanity if it ends up working in the rest of the episode.  From there, we go to Fish Mooney who’s training her new secret weapon how to sing.  In the last episode, she’s finally found someone who she hopes to train into a super villain of some kind and will use her in the upcoming war between the mob families.  I’m not sure exactly what it was about this girl that made her “secret weapon” material, but Fish seems pretty convinced which is why she’s going to the trouble of training her how to sing (her cover is that she’s a performer at the bar).  I really want to see if this actually goes anywhere interesting because this is really the first time that Fish has had anything to do that I actually care about.

“Super villains need a gimmick, so you’re gonna fucking sing!  You got that, or do I need to smack a bitch?”

“Super villains need a gimmick, so you’re gonna fucking sing!  You got that, or do I need to smack a bitch?”

After a brief scene at Gotham PD (“Someone stole an ATM bare handed?  That shit cra.  Go investigate it.”), we get a scene where Falcone (the biggest mob boss in the city) is having a meeting with his captains, one of which is Fish.  He explains that what happened last week (the Arkham redevelopment plan will be split into contracts for both Falcone and Maroni) wasn’t a loss for the family or a win for Maroni.  One of the underbosses though (some Russian dude) isn’t buying it and considers the compromise to be a sign of weakness for the Falcone family.  Fish of course plays the Gríma Wormtongue role in this and steps in to defend Falcone.  Alright, so both sides (Falcone and Maroni) have their own reasons to retaliate against the other.  The mob war seems almost imminent, but I wonder what form it would take in the series.  Something that big can’t really stay relegated to a side story, and it seems a bit early in the show to have a multiple episode long story arc in lieu of the crime of the week format it’s currently using.  We cut back to Gordon and Bullock who are walking the streets trying to find the super man, and eventually get a tip as to his location.  They find the poor bastard in pretty bad shape and surrounded by empty milk cartons.  He starts begging the cops to find the guy who gave him the drug (he had a mangled ear) but ends up snapping and tries to throw the ATM at them.  Then this happens.

“Uh oh.  Down I go.”

“Uh oh.  Down I go.”

He just kind of crumples under the weight of the ATM, so looking at that on top of the fact that he keeps drinking milk leads me to think that the drug uses a SHIT ton of calcium to keep the super strength going.  Gordon and Bullock are befuddled by what the hell they just saw, but they are thankful that this drug hasn’t gotten into the hands of more people.  Um…

“Here you go.  And here you go.  And one for you.  Don’t be shy!”

“Here you go.  And here you go.  And one for you.  Don’t be shy!”

Well that certainly can’t be good.  Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce is all tuckered out from his criminal investigations.  Alfred wakes him up and informs him that he WILL get his ass out of this mansion and he will do so by going to a Wayne Enterprise charity luncheon tomorrow.  Alfred’s plan somewhat backfires though, because Bruce has a huge list of questions (i.e. accusations) to ask the board of directors about their connections to the Falcone and Maroni families.  Oh well, at least you tried.  Bruce notices a breaking news story on the television about the new drug (viper) which gives us a nice transition to the police station where the captain is trying to understand what the hell is going on.  The cops are trying to deal with super powered drug addicts and are frankly their doing a good job of it considering they have several locked into their holding cells.  Maybe the viper addicts are like ninjas; powerful as individuals, but weak as a group.  The Captain, Gordon, and Bullock, pull Edward Nigma out of the crime lab to explain what exactly this drug is.  His analysis has determined that viper somehow rewrites the user’s DNA so that they get super human strength.  This process though requires large amounts of calcium which is why the users drink so much milk and why they end up dying after a few hours.  Not enough calcium, the bones collapse, and they… suffocate.  I’m no doctor, so I assume that makes sense.  I mean, if all your bones are completely shattered, I can’t imagine death is far away.  Now, they fail to mention an interesting detail that would have made this calcium plot point much better and would have gone a bit further to explain why they all still seem to be dying despite drinking lots of milk.

We’ll be right back with our regularly scheduled dumb cop show after this message from SCIENCE!!

We’ll be right back with our regularly scheduled dumb cop show after this message from SCIENCE!!

It turns out that only about 500mg of calcium can be absorbed by the human body every few hours (source).  This means that drinking an entire gallon of milk (approximately 4800mg of calcium) in one sitting isn’t going to get the user as much calcium as they expect, and the same goes for calcium supplements.  If viper’s consumption rate of calcium exceeds that 500mg threshold, then there really wouldn’t be anything the user could do to stop their inevitable death.  See, I found all this out because I was wondering why the viper user’s weren’t taken to hospitals in order to give them calcium supplements to balance out the drug’s consumption rate.  If they told me about the 500mg threshold (or said “the body can only absorb so much calcium at any given time, even if it’s rapidly being depleted”), then I wouldn’t have felt like there was a huge plot hole.  There actually wasn’t one!  They just failed to let us know that.

Now back to the regularly scheduled recap!

Now back to the regularly scheduled recap!

So after Nigma explains what the drug is, the three cops try to figure out why it’s being put on the streets.  Bullock is as fucking stupid as ever saying that the supplier is handing out free samples to give people a taste for it before they have to buy it.  Good idea, except that EVERYONE WHO HAS USED IT IS DEAD!  For some reason, Gordon doesn’t slap the stupid fucker right away, but instead moves on to who could be making it.  Considering how crazy the effects are, it had to have come from some really sophisticated laboratory, and the biggest one in town is a Wayne Enterprise subsidiary (WellZyn).  Before we move on from this scene, it’s worth pointing out that they’re setting up Edward Nigma’s eventual turn to the dark side here by doing that whole “HE’S MORE INTERESTED IN THE SCIENCE THAN THE PEOPLE” thing that I HATE when trying to characterize bad guys.

“So science-y!!”     “A woman just turned to goo!”     “She sure did!”

“So science-y!!”     “A woman just turned to goo!”     “She sure did!”

After that, we cut to Maroni who’s still hell bent on hitting Falcone’s casino.  Oswald offers some advice as well as an inside contact that he knows (the janitor).  Throughout the course of the conversation, Maroni starts asking him some questions about who he is and what experience he has.  Oswald takes this opportunity to share his story about how he went from Fish’s servant boy to where he is today, and HOLY CRAP!!!

“Anything else you want to tell me rat boy?”     “Nope.  I think that about covers it.”

“Anything else you want to tell me rat boy?”     “Nope.  I think that about covers it.”

That scene is excellent because you do feel that Oswald is putting his neck out for Maroni (a calculated risk) and then all of a sudden it goes horribly wrong.  Despite Oswald’s intelligence, he’s still only human (and a rather scrawny one at that) so a screw up like this could really mean his death.  Obviously the show isn’t going to kill him off (they can’t) but the tension of that scene along with the payoff is one of the most engaging moments that this series has had so far.  Also, I think it was a wise move to show that Maroni isn’t an idiot and probably suspected Oswald from the start.  It’s hard to buy this guy as the don of a crime family if he can’t even suss out a rat this obvious, and whether or not he knew something was up or was only suspecting something, this moment defiantly goes a long way to making Maroni an actual threat.  Back at the police station, the lawyer for WellZyn shows up and acts all secretive and stuff before telling the cops that the guy with the banged up ear (who’s handing out the drug) actually worked for them a while ago.  His name is Stan Potolsky and of course he went crazy one day and hasn’t been heard from since.  Before Gordon and Bullock can move on this new evidence though, one of Maroni’s goons comes by to inform Gordon that his pal Oswald has shown up and that Maroni wants to have a word with him.  Oh goody!  One of my problems so far is that Gordon’s straight edge coda hasn’t really been challenged much.  So far he’s been able to get through every situation without having to do something he felt was morally reprehensible.  Oswlad though was always a dangling thread and now his actions are coming home to roost.  He goes with the guy to see Maroni who has done some serious damage to Oswald off screen.

“After this lobster, I’m thinking of having some exotic bird.  Isn’t that right Penguin?”     “Yes sir...”

“After this lobster, I’m thinking of having some exotic bird.  Isn’t that right Penguin?”     “Yes sir…”

All Maroni wants from Gordon is tell his side of the story to see if it matches what Cobblepot said.  If so, then Cobblepot really was disowned by the Falcone family and might just be useful for the upcoming war.  If not, Cobblepot and Gordon get to pay a visit to the Salami slicer.  Naturally Gordon tells Maroni what happened which corroborates Oswald’s story.  Oswald gets back in the good graces of Maroni (sort of) and Gordon gets to leave without a scratch.  After that we cut to Fish giving seduction lessons to her new minion.  Uh huh.

“The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”

“The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”

Look, I appreciate that they finally gave her something to do other than talk shit about Falcone and give vague hints to the heroes, but it’s too little too late.  The stuff with Maroni and Oswald are much more interesting in terms of a long running storyline, and the crime of the week this time around is a lot more interesting than it was in the last episode where this subplot began and had a chance to shine when compared to the lousy villain of the week.  I’m still not sure exactly what she’s grooming the young lady into considering the only lessons so far have been singing and dirty talking.  Gordon makes it back to the police station where Bullock for once is actually doing some work (kind of).  Gordon’s back for five minutes and already figures out where to look next.

“Did the big ass photograph not tip you off Bullock?”

“Did the big ass photograph not tip you off Bullock?”

The guy in the above picture with Stan is a college professor who used to teach him.  The two cops pay him a visit, and the guy is surprisingly knowledgeable and chatty about everything.  So WellZyn hired Stan SPECIFICALLY to create a super solider serum which is what viper was supposed to be, yet it had terrible side effects.  Stan got WellZyn to stop making the formula when he went directly to the Wayne parents, but after their death Wayne Enterprises’ board of directors restarted the program.  Since then, they’ve created a better version of the formula called VENOM (REFERENCES!!!!!!!!), and Stan decided that rather than go to the police or the media, he would grab up all the viper he can and show the world what it does.  Either he left before venom was perfected, or he wanted to expose the cruder version for maximum effectiveness.  At this point, it seems pretty obvious that the old man is in on the scheme, so the detectives try to get him to give up Stan.  The old bastard isn’t about to be a rat, so he grabs a vial of viper, snorts it, and becomes the SUPER SENIOR!!

“OCTOGENARIAN SMASH!!!!”

“OCTOGENARIAN SMASH!!!!”

Bullock once again gets his ass handed to him which forces Gordon to step in and actually put the old man down.  Before he dies, he alludes to Stan’s next target.  “Empty altruism will not erase what Wayne Enterprises has done.”  OH SHIT!!!  Remember that luncheon that Bruce is going to today!?  THAT’S THE NEXT TARGET!!!  Then Bullock has to ruin the scene…

“Where’s he going to release the drug!?”     “Also, what’s altruism?”     …     “Are you fucking serious dude?”

“Where’s he going to release the drug!?”     “Also, what’s altruism?”     …     “Are you fucking serious dude?”

I get that Bullock is there to be a contrast for Gordon, but for fuck’s sake writers, there’s a time and a place.  Throwing that joke in there killed the momentum of what’s just been revealed.  What’s next?  Is someone going to get kidnapped, and he’ll have trouble reading the ransom note?  Is there going to be a hostage negotiation, and he accidently farts into the megaphone?  Anyway, Gordon figures out the next target is the luncheon and the two of them head there.  We cut to the luncheon where Bruce is just arriving.  He spends most of the scene trying to figure out where the board members are (spoiler alert, they aren’t here) and then tries to get a middle management drone to get him in touch with the board.  While Bruce is doing this, Stan is dressed as a waiter and somehow got a giant fucking canister of the drug into the kitchen.  Wait, what?

“Hey, what’s that?”     “… Ranch dressing?”     “Alrighty then!”

“Hey, what’s that?”     “… Ranch dressing?”     “Alrighty then!”

Oh, he put a sheet over it.  Okay, it makes sense now.  He carts the thing up to the roof where he’s able to attach it to the ventilation system so that he can pump it into the ballroom where the luncheon is happening.  Before he starts pumping though, he somehow “hacks” into the video feed on the monitors in the ballroom and makes a little speech.

“They all thought I was crazy for making a super power formula out of ranch dressing!  WELL WHO’S CRAZY NOW!?!?”

“They all thought I was crazy for making a super power formula out of ranch dressing!  WELL WHO’S CRAZY NOW!?!?”

Gordon and Bullock show up to tell everyone to GTFO (like they needed someone to tell them that) and Gordon runs up to the roof to confront Stan.  Gordon shoots the canister to stop the drug from pumping into the building, but the hole caused by the bullet ends up spraying the drug all over Stan.  Gordon tries to arrest him, even though he only has a short amount of time left.  Stan refuses and instead of trying to attack Gordon, he just jumps off the roof, taking his own life instead of further perpetuating the cycle of violence that he himself created in an attempt to bring this horrifying substance to the public eye.  Before he jumps though, he tells Gordon to check a warehouse which should have lots of evidence to WellZyn’s misconduct.  After Stan goes splat, Gordon and Bullock head to the warehouse and finds…

Nothing.  Huh.  Well that sucks.

Nothing.  Huh.  Well that sucks.

It turns out that WellZyn or Wayne Enterprises got their first and cleared the place out.  While Gordon and Bullock are leaving, we see someone in a car watching them and reporting to someone over the phone.  The person in question is the middle management drone that Bruce was talking to at the luncheon.

“Yup.  Uh huh.  Oh don’t worry, they’re too stupid to figure anything out.”

“Yup.  Uh huh.  Oh don’t worry, they’re too stupid to figure anything out.”

So that basically covers the main plot, but now we get to experience the subplot roundup!  Hey, the subplots are getting pretty good, so this is a more than reasonable price to pay.  Bruce is looking through documents again, but this time Alfred joins him.  He’s either resigned himself to spending time with Bruce on his terms, or he’s actually onboard since what happened at the luncheon.  Maroni finally hits the Falcone casino and Oswald’s janitor friend proves to be useful.  Fish is appreantly sleeping with the Russian gangster who was talking shit to Falcone at that meeting earlier in the episode.  And finally, Fish’s new intern (I still don’t know her name) finally shows ups what she’s being trained to do.  She’s been groomed to catch the attention of Falcone so that she can get close to him and strike when the moment is right.  The episode ends with the two of them sharing headphones while listening to an opera that JUST SO HAPPENS to be one that Falcone’s mother used to sing to him.

“What a coincidence, right?”     “Yeah… let’s go with that.”

“What a coincidence, right?”     “Yeah… let’s go with that.”

I was genuinely surprised by how good this episode turned out.  The crime of the week was an improvement over the one in episode 4, and the subplots all shined as brightly as they ever had.  Gordon’s chickens coming home to roost gave the character a chance to show a bit of vulnerability and humanity which seems missing way too often in this show.  Normally he’s doing exactly what he believes he should be doing, so development on his end has been a bit weak.  Him being forced into a situation where there’s no easy way out gave us an opportunity to see him when he DOESN’T know what to do.  Hell, that’s why I like his interactions with Selina Kyle because of how incompetent he is at dealing with her shenanigans.  So where is the show going?  Well the fact that the episode ended with wrap ups of all the mob stories, it seems clear that we’re heading right into the war.  Maroni’s hit on the casino will probably be the catalyst, and it will probably focus mainly on Falcone losing a lot of ground right away.  That said, I doubt he’s going to go quietly into that good night, and will probably come out on top by the end, simply because of how much the show is stacking the deck against him right now.  Hell, he’s barely had a chance to flex his muscles considering how much time we’ve spent with the people who are trying to take him down.  But that’s a story for another time.  Overall, this is the best episode so far and I hope it’s a sign that the show is going to get MUCH better very soon.

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