Title: Gotham: “Mr. Freeze”
Air Date: February 29th, 2016
Genre: Crime, Drama, Action
There is something to be said about how much Gotham has improved since its last season. With a greater focus on character development and not relying on the dreaded “Villain of the Week” formula, season two has clearly distanced itself from the far inferior season one. As Theo Galavan made his series departure (courtesy of Jim Gordon ) the mid-season premiere begins to show the ramifications of his death along with the introduction of several key villains. Though the Bruce/Alfred combo was notably absent, “Mr. Freeze” continued the momentum in largely positive ways.
As the name suggests, the introduction of legendary Batman villain Victor Fries (guest star Nathan Darrow) takes center stage in this week’s episode. Mr. Freeze takes up more time than you might expect on a guest villain, allowing us to see the beyond just another colorful bad guy. Victor has always been a tragic figure, but Gotham spends an ample amount of time really humanizing him. This isn’t just another cold blooded killer (See what I did there?) running around Gotham City, but a man struggling to save the only person he loves. Focusing heavily on this aspect adds much more weight to Victor’s story and to a degree gets you rooting that he will be able to succeed. That being said, I find it exceptionally hard to believe that Nora is so willing to break the one rule of never going into Victor’s basement. Nora willingly listens to Victor on everything he says, but jumps at the first opportunity she has to defy him? It seemed less natural and more of a way to push her involvement and the narrative about his work further, especially since the GCPD conveniently arrive soon after.
That being said, I find it exceptionally hard to believe that Nora is so willing to break the one rule of never going into Victor’s basement. Nora willingly listens to Victor on apparently everything else, but jumps at the first opportunity she has to defy him? It seemed less natural and more of a way to push her involvement and the narrative about his work further, especially since the GCPD conveniently arrive soon after. Also, the entire scene at the pharmacy while entertaining seemed off at times. Sure Victor isn’t a hardened criminal, but come on man! You can’t just leave evidence behind that has your wife’s name and home address on it, that’s crime 101. All in all, this was a fine showing for Mr. Freeze and it will be interesting to see how it develops now that he has a way to possibly cure his wife. Even if we have common knowledge that Freeze won’t cure his wife, it makes you wonder if Gotham is willing to stray away from the original source material to offer a more surprising twist.
Yet, Mr. Freeze wasn’t the only big named villain making his appearance as doctor Hugo Strange (played wonderfully by B.D. Wong) gave us a glimpse into the madness of Arkham Asylum. His interactions with Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) were both tense and calculating as it was fairly obvious that Hugo was trying to manipulate him to a certain degree. While Strange didn’t serve much of a purpose narrative wise this episode, it’s fairly clear he is going to have a bigger role… Even if the “big” reveal at the end wasn’t terribly surprising. Strange is one of those characters that will either end up fitting with the world or end up being to cartoonishly evil for his own good. I mean the man has a high-tech lab under an insane asylum, he couldn’t look more like a Saturday morning villain if he tried.
The best aspect of the Arkham Asylum arc was actually seeing Penguin in a state of powerlessness. Gotham had an awful habit of trying to shoehorn Penguin into every single story, yet this seems like the logical continuation for him taking the blame for Galavan’s murder. It’s rare to see any sort of vulnerability in Penguin, but his introduction into Arkham showed why he is arguably the best character in Gotham. Penguin is still very much learning and not that mob boss we will come to see him as so his emotional rollercoaster of being on the top of the world and now just a lowly inmate is a fascinating transition. Coupled with the fact that his empire was completely taken over by Butch, whose sporting a stylish drill for a hand, and it has to make one wonder how exactly will he claw his way back to the top.
Sadly the lowest point for the mid-season premiere was an actual lack of development came courtesy of Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis.) As someone who has always been rigidly by the books, he gave up his suspicion of Gordon being involved in Galavan’s murder quite quickly. It would have been nice to see his distrust of Gordon throughout the episode, but the entire event almost ended up being a teaser for what was to come in future episodes. In a way, it discredits Barne’s bulldog mentality, as he just begrudgingly accepts Gordon didn’t murder Galavan. Also, Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) was in this episode, but really only seemed to pop in case you forgot about him. I like Nygma, I really do. However, he seems stuck between going full on Dexter and the actual comic character The Riddler.
Truthfully, this was a great way to open up the mid-season. While some aspects seemed rushed or only there to set up future events, the smart inclusion of both Mr. Freeze and Hugo Strange adds more chaos into the mix. It would have been nice to see certain character’s story developed further, but the overall results of “Mr. Freeze” were largely successful. (With little to no cheesy ice related puns!) It will be interesting to see just how far the writers are willing to stray from the source material in order to surprise viewers. However, we here at The Nerd Stash believe all future episodes of Gotham should now have 50% more Butch, drill arm action.
- Characters: Though the introduction of Hugo Strange was fantastic, it was the complex and emotional inclusion of Victor Fries that stood out among all others. With solid development across the board, aside from Barnes, it’s good to see that Gotham has finally hit its groove.
- Cinematography: Special mention should be made to the smart use of blue tones throughout this episode. It helped sell the icy reality that all of the character’s new story arcs were in.
- Story: Though Victor Fries’ story is far from finished, the smart choice to focus on not just his actions but repercussions helped ground the character. Coupling this was the solid inclusion of the Penguin/Strange Arkham narrative.
- Acting: A solid showing from the staple cast once more, but it was B.D. Wong’s embodiment of Hugo Strange that stood out among all others.
What did you think of the mid-season premiere? Want to check out our exclusive interview with actor B.D. Wong? Most importantly, what’s your best Batman ice pun? Sound off below!
Gotham "Mr. Freeze" Review
- Great Introductions of New Villains
- Victor/Nora Fries Development
- Penguin in Arkham
- Barnes'Acceptance of Gordon
- Nygma's Personality Feels Forced