Gotham Season 1, Episode 5: Sex, drugs and opera

Review: The season ramps up its crime narratives and finally fleshes out Bruce Wayne, the story's catalyst, as a fuller character.

A man sits on a dirty Gotham street corner, playing a guitar. Propped in his case is a cardboard sign that reads, "Why lie - I need money for drugs." A bewildered-looking but unflinching man approaches and drops in his case a green vial. The label reads, "breathe me."

This week's Gotham villain is yet another vigilante. A disillusioned ex-pharmaceutical worker, Stan Patulski, leaves the Wayne Enterprises-owned manufacturer WellZyn, taking with him a supply of a chemical weapon developed in the labs of the otherwise benign multibillion dollar corporation. While Patulski was supposedly developing shampoos, he was in fact -- under the direction of WellZyn officials -- working on a drug that would give its user unnatural strength and a "euphoric sense of power." The goal was to create an army of superhuman soldiers. (Isn't that always the goal in comic universes? See also: Wolverine, Captain America.)

Patulski unleashes the weapon, "Viper," on the "street people" of Gotham. Drug addicts and prostitutes wreak havoc on the city before crumbling (literally) to their deaths. It's a nasty side effect of the drug, which burns calcium from the bones for fuel.

In their search for the culprit, Gordon and Bullock show pictures to people, in a montage accompanied by some "we're badass cops" music, as per usual -- this time with baritone saxes instead of wailing guitars. They comb through Patulski's personal files, and come across a photo of a philosophy professor at Gotham University, to whom they pay a visit. Patulski, with the help of this professor, is seeking to expose Wayne Enterprises' true priorities: pharmaceutical weaponry.

Meanwhile, ever the brilliant and super-serious child, Bruce Wayne is mounting his own investigation. Alfred has supplied him with all of his parents' files on Arkham, and he is working to locate a connection between the asylum deal and his parents' deaths.

"I don't want revenge," he says. "I want to understand how it all works. How Gotham works."

Alone in the study in his mansion on the hill, the young brooder finds that, since the Waynes were murdered, Wayne Enterprises has been doing business with the Falcone and Maroni crime syndicates.

At a charity event, Bruce approaches a middle manager in the company. She agrees to connect him with the board for a discussion, as alarms are clearly going off in her head. Suddenly, an image of Patulski comes on the screen in the ballroom. He says that he has realized that he can only expose Wayne Enterprises by making bad things happen to "important people." He has hooked up a barrel of Viper to the ventilation system. As it begins to seep through the vents, Bullock and Gordon arrive and everyone is able to escape in time. But Bruce's suspicions are validated. Alfred joins him in the study, and in his search for answers.

It's nice to finally see Bruce as a character, though Gotham's primary focus is still its villains.

In fact, there's even more in the DNA of this story than creepy chemical weaponry and the deepening of a sociopolitical crisis. In the Batman universe, Venom is an important drug. It is the source of power for one of the more well-known villains, familiar to fans of the final film in Christopher Nolan's trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Venom creates superhuman, power-hungry strongmen. Sound familiar? If this connection amounts to anything, we may soon get a peek at a young fellow from Santa Prisca. Eventually, the Arkham Asylum that is now being rebuilt will be destroyed, and we've just seen birth of the drug that will enable the man who will do it.

Fish Mooney, who in last week's episode hired a "secret weapon" (a young, beautiful girl with a sultry singing voice) is trying to teach her to sing "O mio babbino caro." This aria, from Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi, is a powerful confession of love and desperation from a daughter to her father, begging for a chance to marry the man she loves. It's also a popular choice for poignant film and television moments.

"This is important," Fish says. At the episode's conclusion, she sends the weapon, Liza (Makenzie Leigh), out to cross paths with Falcone. As she hums the aria to herself, Falcone stops her. His mother used to sing that to him and Liza looks remarkably like… well, nevermind. Fish Mooney's weapon may prove valuable in her takeover of Gotham.

Meanwhile, Cobblepot is rising in the ranks of the Maroni operation. He confesses his former connection to Falcone and Fish Mooney, and how he ratted on them to the Major Crimes Unit and defected. Gordon, to protect himself from exposure to Falcone (since he was supposed to kill Cobblepot and didn't), corroborates the story to Maroni, and thus becomes beholden to him. Even boy scout Jim Gordon can't avoid being drawn into Gotham's corruption.

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