This is a rather important episode because it is the first one that even hints at the emergence of super-powered villains or anything resembling science fiction technology in Gotham at all. It's also the first episode to show us something is rotten within Wayne Enterprises. Apart from that it's so filled with comic book references I'm getting a headache even trying to remember them all.
Synopsis and analysis:
The titular story of 'Viper' is about a brilliant chemist named Stan Potolsky working for WellZyn, a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, turned insane terrorist over unethical experiments to create a drug designed to make super-soldiers. The first batch, called Viper†, has horrific side-effects as the drug is driving them mad with power while feeding off the calcium in their bones until they collapse into a puddle of goo. As usual, Gotham really pours it on in the body horror department whenever it gets the chance.
After trying and failing to blow the whistle on the project, Stan goes about distributing the drug for free to Gotham's downtrodden in a misguided attempt to create publicity about what the corrupt companies are doing behind the citizens' backs, and soon the police department has a city-wide disaster on their hands with people running amok and dying left and right.
Apart from that, this is the first episode where the gears of the overarching storyline are really set in motion, turning out the best installment thus far of the show. It's the first one where we see Bruce doing anything but moping about at the manor, answering a complaint I had about the previous outing, and the first to bring more than two of the major players into the same room.
Unlike most of Gotham's early fare, this storyline is very focused and told in an admirable no-nonsense way. It's got the Viper drug plot, it's got the plot between Oswald, Maroni and Jim, it's got the plot with Carmine attempting to calm the troops that's later revealing Nikolai to be Fish's secret lover, and that is that.
"You don't like that name, huh? Yeah, well, you're wrong. It's a good name. Works for you."
For me, this episode hinges on two character scenes - Maroni's meeting with Oswald and Jim to discern the truth, and Bruce's conversation with Molly Mathis at the charity luncheon as he's discovered Wayne Enterprises are actually in league with some of the shadier elements of Gotham, and they are both very well done.
David Zayas brings a natural, larger-than-life charisma to his role as Salvatore that lights up the scene to make Robin's Oswald and even Ben's Jim that much more interesting. As Penguin reveals who he is and his story checks out, he's rising another step in Maroni's organisation as his information proves solid enough to use to rob one of Falcone's casinos.
The conversation between Bruce and Mathis is significant because this is what forms the blueprint for all of his interactions with people trying to belittle him on the show. He doesn't react to her condescending attitude or her obvious attempts at babying him with outright defiance, he just looks vaguely disgusted. This is what the show will build on up to the fantastic conversation between him and Leslie in season 2's "A Dead Man Feels No Cold", where he's practically toying with her. This storyline concludes with Alfred joining Bruce in his research into Wayne Enterprises.
The case-of-the-week - being the 'Viper' situation - is wrapped up neatly at the end of the episode with Stan committing suicide, concluding the best episode so far of the show. Stan is telling Jim and Harvey to go check out "Warehouse 39", but when they arrive, it's been cleaned out by Ms Mathis.
†: "Viper" is explained over the episode to be the precursor of the drug "Venom", which was used to create Bane.