TV Review: Gotham - Season 2 Episode 12 "Mr. Freeze"
Episode 12: "Mr. Freeze"
Synopsis: Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) takes a hit for Galavan’s murder, but doesn’t let Gordon (Ben McKenzie) off easily. Meanwhile, Gordon and Bullock (Donal Logue) investigate the body-snatching spree of Victor Fries (guest star Nathan Darrow), one of Gotham’s preeminent cryogenics engineers.
Recap: The second season of Gotham definitely has been a vast improvement over the lukewarm first season. The smartest thing the showrunners could have done was splitting the season into two halves, each comprising eleven episodes and a self-contained arc. There are definitely plot elements that carry over from the first half of this season, but with a new subtitle, Wrath of the VIllains, and a couple of new foes, Gotham once again feels reinvigorated and ready to take this universe to the next level. But, with the introduction of Victor Fries to the Gotham universe, the series also takes a decided step away from the gritty, grounded reality that encompassed the show to this point and begins to join the science fiction ranks of The Flash and Supergirl.
Before we get into the new villains for the second half of the season, we should recognize the continued storylines from the first half. After killing Galavan in cold blood, Jim Gordon is covering his tracks this week while The Penguin takes the fall for his frenemy. There is clearly some mistrust built in the eyes of Captain Barnes who doubts Gordon's story, but the detective is back on the streets investigating the freezing deaths of several people around the city. We also get a look at Butch who is the interim criminal leader of the city who begins a romantic partnership with Galavan's sister. How far that arc will go remains to be seen. The biggest absence in this hour is Bruce Wayne. The future Batman is wholly missing from this story which is necessary in order to make room for the new blood.
In keeping with the comic book origin of the character, Victor Fries is a scientist who is investigating methods of cryogenics to save his wife from a terminal illness. He has been experimenting on freezing her long enough to find a cure and then bring her back. For now, Fries' experiments have ended up a bit messy. As he steals more and more of the supplies he needs to conduct his trials, Fries begins to let his emotions get the better of him as he kills cops and Gotham citizens alike. Nathan Darrow, better known as Agent Meachem on Netflix's House of Cards, brings a nice approachable nature to Fries. My favorite aspect of the character is that he is wholly distinct from the other villains on this series who all seem to be related to the criminal underworld. The only other character who has different motivations is Edward Nygma whose newly unified personality gets some minor workout in a contentious conversation with Harvey Bullock.
The other new villain introduced this week is Dr. Hugo Strange. Played by JURASSIC PARK favorite B.D. Wong, Strange looks very similar to his comic book incarnation. His menace is subtle but palpable and we now finally have a face to go with the mysterious experiments at Indian Hill, the Wayne Enterprises subdivision conducting experiments on everyone from Bridgit Pike/Firefly to Jerome and Theo Galavan. How Indian Hill and Strange will connect with the series mythology is still unknown, but I think the casting of Wong is both outside the box and spot-on at the same time. The man may not be as physically imposing as he is sometimes made in the comics, but you definitely do not want to mess with this mad scientist.
Fries has already garnered his iconic supervillain name by the end of the episode but it is hard to tell if the character will transform into his pale, icy form by the end of this season or if the most comic booky aspect of him will be his freezing weapon. What I do know is that there is clearly some thought given to building Mr. Freeze into more than just a gimmick with more of this episode devoted to his origin and introduction than anything else. I cannot say the same for Jim Gordon. Gordon was always meant to be the central figure on this show and it seems like the most anyone can do with him is have him waver back and forth between the darkness and the light. After a while, it just becomes tiring.
The new subtitle "Wrath of the Villains" seems a bit misleading as the only character who seems to be invoking any true wrath is Oswald Cobblepot. Stuck in Indian Hill with Hugo Strange feels eerily similar to the plight that Fish Mooney had last season and Penguin deserves so much more than that. I hope that the return of Bruce Wayne to the narrative next week doesn't dilute this growing roster of characters any more than it has. The focus should stay on Mr. Freeze as he is the new highlight of the show.
Episode Final Verdict:
Next Episode: "A Dead Man Feels No Cold" airs March 6th: As Gordon, Bullock and Barnes continue the search for Victor Fries (guest star Nathan Darrow), they are forced to look to his wife, Nora (guest-star Kristen Hager), for help. Meanwhile, Penguin is introduced to Hugo Strange (guest star BD Wong), and Alfred reveals some crucial information to Bruce about his parents’ murderer.