While the second half of Season 2 of Gotham is titled Wrath of the Villains, in many ways it’s a goodbye – Theo Galavan, Tabitha and Silver St Cloud are pretty much out of the picture, and there’s a new baddie on the block; the cryogenic killer we know is to become Mr Freeze.
With the connivance of Harvey Dent, Jim Gordon has pinned the death of Theo Galavan on Oswald Cobblepot. Penguin has been condemned to Arkham Asylum, where he falls under the tender care of Dr Hugo Strange (B D Wong). Hugo Strange is a familiar Batman villain (predating both Joker and Catwoman in the comics), and is usually portrayed as a ‘mad scientist’ type involved with inhuman experiments. Here, he’s in charge both of Arkham Asylum, and of Wayne Enterprises’ secret biolab Indian Hill.
As for Mr Freeze, the backstory of this first-line Batman baddie is very familiar, and there’s no real variation on it here. Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow) is a scientist whose wife Nora (Kristen Hager) is terminally ill. He has been experimenting with cryogenics to preserve her, but has been unable to revive experimental subjects without them dissolving into an unpleasant goo.
Gordon and Bullock investigate Fries’ kidnapping and murder spree, discover his home laboratory and take Nora into custody; when Fries goes to the precinct to turn himself in, he discovers that one of his experimental subjects has survived, so it should be possible to freeze and revive Nora. Fries leaves the precinct to embark on a further murder spree designed to make the cops hand over Nora. Hugo Strange, learning of Victor’s plans, plots to recruit him to help with the Indian Hill experiments.
There are several incidental pleasures in this action-packed episode. Tabitha and Butch have teamed up, she’s had his stump fitted with a power drill, and he’s drilling his way through the underworld to extablish his control.
Bullock won’t believe that Mr Freeze’s name is actually pronounced ‘Freeze’, and goes to great lengths to establish that it’s pronounced ‘Friesse’.
Penguin and Hugo Strange establish a relationship, but Penguin doesn’t seem to realise what he’s in for; he won’t be ale to dominate Hugo, and may end up like the other Indian Hill inmates, confined, abused, and tortured both physically and psychologically.
Nora Fries is presented as a fully rounded character, not a freezepop, so we get a real sense of the tragedy of Victor Fries – another good man driven to madness through grief, a bit like Scarecrow.
We enjoyed Mr Freeze’s freeze gun effects – a bit hokey, but engaging enough as part of the super-science trope running through Batman.
Our only worry is that with this cliff-hanger serving as the first part of a Mr Freeze origin story, it looks as if this villain may be around no longer than Firefly was. Will Mr Freeze end up the same way, swiftly defeated by Gordon, and destined to be put on ice in Indian Hill until he’s thawed out to fight Batman? If that’s going to become a regular plot line, Gotham is soon going to run out of eligible villains.
We need a more extended story arc to continue this season with any promise, and so far it seems like Mr Freeze may be as short-lived a pleasure as an ice-cream melting in the sun.
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