[This is a review of Gotham season 2, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
Gotham‘s explosive fall finale may have brought brought the reign of Theo Galavan (James Frain) to an end and prevented the Order of St. Dumas from going through with their plans for young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). However, as the final moments of the previous episodes reminded viewers, plenty of evil-doers are roaming the streets of Gotham. With two major members of the rogues’ gallery introduced, the show wastes no time in ramping up the prominence of its villains even moreso in this second half. Speaking of which, let’s discuss this week’s new episode, “Mr. Freeze”.
GOTHAM’S COLD FRONT
As far as new character Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow) is concerned, the show presumably picks up soon after the icy attack he carried out at the very end of the fall finale. The character — who, by the episode’s end, earns his famous nickname — is abducting people from throughout in order to test his freezing technology, which he aims to use to save his dying wife Nora (Kristen Hager). Of course, Batman: The Animated Series established decades ago that Mr. Freeze’s unconditional love for his wife is a key part of his backstory, and that has remained the case in most incarnations of the character ever since, including his role in the much-maligned Batman & Robin. However, the team behind Gotham follows suit because that approach really does work to humanize a character that would likely otherwise be too cartoonish and — for lack of a better term — cold to really work onscreen.
The show takes the classic Mr. Freeze backstory one step forward (or back, as the case may be), with the character struggling to finalize the reanimation process that will allow him to defrost his wife once a cure is found for her as-yet-unnamed condition. A particularly suspenseful scene sees Freeze attempt to refill Nora’s prescription, only to return later to collect another pair of subjects for his tests. When Nora discovers what he’s been doing, the cops collect her for questioning, and Freeze nearly turns himself in before realizing that the pharmacist he attacked earlier has survived reanimation, renewing his resolve to rescue Nora.
Considering that this is the first episode to feature Mr. Freeze, Gotham did a solid job laying the groundwork for his backstory. Moreover, his breakthrough regarding reanimation could be used to bring back a number of other fallen villains (Fish Mooney? Barbara? Jerome?!?) and lead Freeze to cross paths with a much more sinister scientific mind.
STRANGE THINGS ARE AFOOT
With so many villains already introduced and seemingly put on the backburner, the introduction of Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong) could be the catalyst to blow the villain quotient in Gotham wide open. Right off the bat, the episode provides subtle hints at what’s to come, with some Joker-esque graffiti adorning the Gotham streets and an ominous green light on Nygma’s face. Even more surprising is the revelation that Butch (Drew Powell) has apparently been named the “King of Gotham” in Penguin’s (Robin Lord Taylor) absence, a fact that Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) is all too eager to exploit to her own mysterious ends (as a curious Selina looks on).
Taylor continues to prove why he’s the breakout star of Gotham, making Penguin terrifying in one scene and sympathetic in the next. Even though he’s a calculating murderer, Penguin’s dejected response to his failed intimidation attempt in Arkham is enough to make viewers feel bad for his (latest) fall from grace. The character’s continuous rise and fall from power has been one of the show’s most consistent sources for good story; and that moment when, after being taken in by Barnes (Michael Chiklis), he asks Nygma to take care of his mother’s grave really underscores the humanity beneath the monster. Clearly, it’s the latter that Strange is interested in.
That chess game of a conversation between Penguin and Strange was probably the highlight of the episode. Wong brings just the right balance of poise and intellect to the role, and his character looks to be manipulating Penguin to confess that he didn’t kill Galavan. This is purely speculation, but the way in which he was pushing Penguin’s regret sounds targeted at the latter’s fury at not having the chance to eliminate his mother’s killer himself. Regardless, we’ll find out soon enough what treacherous “rehabilitation” Strange has in mind for Penguin. Since his suggestion led to one character tearing his own eyes out, brainwashing could play an even more pivotal role in the series than it ever has.
Bringing Freeze and Strange into the fold took up so much of this week’s episode that Gordon (Ben McKenzie)– the supposed leading man of the show — got a bit of short shrift this week. After lying to Barnes and Dent (Nicholas D’Agosto) about his role in Galavan’s death, Gordon gets quickly reinstated and jumps into the Freeze case without even blinking. Now that Leslie (Morena Baccarin) is pregnant and in the dark about Gordon’s latest secret, their relationship is looking less and less likely to have a happy ending. (At least Baccarin has this year’s best big-screen love story under the belt and the prospect of Deadpool 2 in her future.)
In fact, the most interesting Gordon moment in the episode centers more on Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Being berated by Bullock (Donal Logue), Nygma snaps back and crushes a frozen flower, the greatest indicator that he’s starting to crack and may be in his traditional green suit by season’s end. Afterwards, Gordon questions him about his involvement with Penguin, which Nygma naturally lies about. It’s a slick moment on the part of the show in the way it hints at how Gordon’s own underlying suspicion that even those closest to him are becoming a part of Gotham’s growing villain problem. Unfortunately, he may not realize just how bad it’s gotten until it’s too late.
What did you think of “Mr. Freeze”? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section below.
Gotham returns with “A Dead Man Feels No Cold” next Monday at 8pm on FOX.