Gotham returned to Fox this week with a season 4 premiere that caught fans up with the various villains and heroes that populate Gotham City. After the dramatic season 3 finale, Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) is feeling like himself again, and back in place as the new crime boss of Gotham. Not only is he opening a new club (the Iceberg Lounge, obviously) alongside Ivy (Maggie Geha), but he's running the underworld by handing out crime licenses; and getting the mayor and police force on board becuase his plan actually leads to safer streets.
While Jim (Ben McKenzie) and Bruce (David Mazouz) are unsurprisngly very much against this new way of controlling crime in Gotham, it looks like Penguin has the rest of the city on his side... for now. Even Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is on board. His licenses are bringing in others to work for him too, including Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) and Selina (Camren Bicondova), who sign up at the opening of the Iceberg Lounge. There's one more familiar face at the lounge this episode, too: Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Of course, he's frozen into a slab of ice and used as a centerpiece, but Penguin obviously still has feelings for his frenemy, so could Riddler re-appear this season?
How Riddler Got Frozen
Last season, Penguin and Riddler's relationship went on something of a roller-coaster ride through murder and betrayal, and Penguin came out on top in the end. The two became friends earlier in the show, and when Penguin ran for mayor, Riddler was his right-hand man. Quickly, he started to rely on his friend Nygma, and realise that his feelings for Edward weren't purely platonic. So when Ed met the girl of his dreams (a second time, having strangled the first), Oswald was heartbroken - and he's not the type to take rejection lying down.
Penguin orchestrated the murder of Riddler's love, and when Riddler found out about it, he vowed revenge on his former friend. Slowly, he started to drive Penguin mad, convincing him he could see his father's ghost, and losing him his seat as Mayor, before eventually shooting him at the docks. Penguin survived, however, and managed to play Riddler, luring him back to the docks, where he had Freeze (Nathan Darrow) blast him, trapping him in a block of ice.
The Iceberg Lounge
The season premiere revealed that Penguin is hanging on to his icy friend, and now has him prominently displayed in the middle of the Iceberg Lounge. In the season 3 finale, Penguin told Riddler "You were the one time I let love weaken me. I want you around as a constant reminder to never make that mistake again". It seems that he's kept his word, and this is a very straightforward explanation for Penguin's choice to make Riddler part of the decor in his new club.
A slightly different explanation was given in the premiere, as Penguin revealed the ice block to a group of reporters he invited to the Iceberg Lounge ahead of the grand opening. After having Ivy dramatically light the ice block to show Riddler inside, he told them "Turns out that Ed had a very rare brain disease, and there was only one option. To freeze him and wait for the cure. In his final lucid moments, he begged me, Oswald, do not hide me away. Put me out with the people. It was the least I could do". Of course, this is mostly just a show for the press and the people of Gotham, who believed that the two were close friends, and would need some kind of reasonable explanation for Oswald to display Nygma's frozen body in the middle of his club.
This may well be the end for Riddler, after an incredible arc that took him from working with the GCPD as a shy and awkward criminologist, to the green-suited villain we know and love... but it's more likely that Riddler hasn't made his last appearance on the show. Not only is it likely because the Riddler should, canonically, be around when Bruce becomes Batman, but the premiere also hinted at the possibility that the Penguin may un-freeze his friend in a couple of ways.
His story for the press clearly suggests that Riddler could physically be un-frozen, and is not dead, but merely in stasis. This could have been just part of the tale Penguin tells to make his actions seem admirable, but it's worth remembering that Freeze's original intention was to find a reversible way to freeze people, and it seemed to work. Theoretically, Nygma should be able to be resurrected. Penguin also made it clear that he still harbors some kind of feelings toward his former friend, as he speaks to the frozen Nygma while alone in the club with Ivy. He tells Nygma that he continues to shut off his emotions, but asks "at what cost? Which of us is really frozen?", showing that he may have some regrets over what he did.
With Ivy ending the finale sick and tired of Penguin's lack of gratitude for what she does, it seems that Penguin will be looking for a new henchman soon - and he may find that the best option is right in the middle of the Iceberg Lounge. But should Penguin unfreeze his former love, will the Riddler be willing to work with Oswald once more? We'll have to wait and see.
Gotham returns next Thursday with ‘A Dark Knight: The Fear Reaper’ at 8pm on FOX.