So from Rise to Wrath of the Villains, we return for the second half of Gotham’s more serialized season and meet a very tragic figure: Victor Fries.
The episode begins with Gordon giving a deposition to Harvey Dent, recounting the events of the previous episode. After confronting Galavan, Gordon says that he fled the city and evaded law enforcement for the safety of his now pregnant fiancé. Dent asks if Gordon was present at the time of Galavan’s murder, which Gordon denies.
When asked if he has any additional information and if he had anything to do with the murder of Theo Galavan, Gordon again denies any wrongdoing. After the hearing, Gordon meets with Leslie and tells her that the charges have been lifted. He’ll be reinstated soon. Leslie isn’t worried, since Gordon did tell the truth, right? She asks if this is what Jim wants.
Barnes believes that Dent’s investigation has found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, which isn’t saying that he believes Gordon.
Meanwhile, we learn that Penguin’s men have abandoned him, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s discovered. It’s day 27 into the manhunt for Cobblepot, so who is running Gotham’s underworld? Well, it’s Butch, who has a drill for his missing hand. Tabitha soon joins him, asking why he’s glum since he’s the king of Gotham now. The responsibilities aren’t as fun as Butch thought, but he’s not pleased to see Tabitha after what she did to him.
However, she claims her actions made him a free man. She’s a tad fond of him and his animal vitality. So what does Tabitha really want? She rests on Butch’s lap and says that she wants to be his partner. Butch isn’t looking for a relationship right now, but Tabitha counters that they have history. Deep down, whatever Butch wants, Tabitha wants as well. And Selina is watching this because the show needs a way to keep her involved.
Elsewhere, a GCPD officer tells a man that there’s been an abduction in the area. The man, Victor Fries, played by Nathan Darrow, hasn’t seen anything out of the ordinary, but when he refuses to give his address, the cop grows suspicious and asks him to open the back of his van. Inside is a frozen body. He takes out a gun and shoots a beam of ice at the officer. As officers arrive, the man flees.
Next day at GCPD, Gordon returns and meets up with Bullock, who tells him that there’s a weird case involving a psycho who froze a cop to death. The two head to the lab, where Nygma tries to freeze a rose in liquid nitrogen, which takes about five seconds.
Nygma explains that it takes a body longer to freeze, depending on mass and body fat, but the cop didn’t wait around to be frozen. So the suspect didn’t use liquid nitrogen, but super-cooled liquid helium. When Bullock berates Nygma, he crushes the rose in his glove, as he doesn’t like being called a dummy.
Anyway, such helium is rare and expensive, maybe home to one or two producers in Gotham. Nygma offers to do some research on manufacturers. When Bullock leaves, Gordon asks Nygma his friendship with Oswald. Nygma explains how he found Penguin wounded in the woods. He trusted Oswald when he said that he had changed his ways.
A commotion gets their attention. Barnes hauls in Oswald Cobblepot, but orders the officers to keep doing their job. He quickly silences the officers’ applause, which, I’ll admit, is kind of funny. As he’s hauled into a holding cell, Penguin finds Gordon staring at him from across the office.
Penguin then has a sit-down with Barnes in the interrogation room. He’s asked what happened after he knocked out Barnes, and Penguin says that he took Galavan to the river and slowly killed him. He’s proud of it, but he’s no criminal. Just insane. Penguin doesn’t say what Gordon did, though.
Following this, Barnes meets with Gordon and asks if he has something he wants to tell him, but Jim doesn’t. Cobblepot apparently backed Jim’s story, and Barnes is choosing to believe that. He’s glad that Jim is back, but also trusting Jim to not make a fool out of him.
Victor Fries returns home and meets with his bedridden wife, Nora, played by Kristen Hager. She soon awakens, saying she was having a dream about him where they were at a red cabin by the beach. Victor’s work is coming along well, but he’s having trouble with reanimation. Namely, need to find the correct ratio of liquid helium to glycerol cryo-protectant.
He can bring her temperature down to about 200 below zero to stop this disease from killing her, but he doesn’t have a way to bring her back for now. Nora is only upset because of the poor mice Victor is experimenting on, but he assures her that he just needs more time.
Back at GCPD, Bullock tells Gordon that Nygma did some digging and found that Wayne Enterprises makes liquid helium. Also, there have been three abductions in the past month, all tied to a blue van, but no discoveries as of yet.
Victor heads downstairs to work for a few hours. He heads to a cooler in the back of the basement, where we see three frozen bodies.
Nygma checks in on Oswald and offers his assistance, but Penguin wants Nygma to forget him, saying that he’s beyond help. He just wants Nygma to take care of and occasionally visit his mother’s grave, though. She likes lilies. Nygma agrees. A cop frees Oswald and prepares to take him to Arkham. You know, since he’s insane.
Bullock and Gordon meet with Lucius Fox, who confirms that Wayne Enterprises does indeed manufacture liquid helium, as it was part of the cryogenics program. There were promising experiments, but the project was shut down two or three years ago when Thomas Wayne killed it and other odd programs. No idea why, though, as it was all kept quiet.
So Penguin is brought into Arkham, where all inmates go quiet at his appearance. Oswald stands atop a table and tells the convicts that he’s not a man to be trifled with, as he is the all-powerful king of Gotham. But then, everyone else declares themselves to be the same and a wacky show begins. Penguin couldn’t be more miserable.
Meanwhile, Victor observes subject 014 and commences the reanimation experiment. The body’s core temperature slowly increases as it thaws and reaches 41 degrees. The test appears to be a success, but then the body decomposes and melts into goo. Am I watching The Super Mario Bros. movie?
Upstairs, Victor finds Nora coughing up blood. He finds the specific medication needed and gives her the oxygen mask. She says that this was the worst attack yet, but she just took her last pill. If she has another attack without medication, she’ll die, but she doesn’t think it matters.
Victor heads out and visits a surgical store for a refill, but the asshole clerk won’t refill because Victor only has the bottle and not the prescription. Plus, if the prescription has no refill order, the clerk can’t refill it. Victor pleads on behalf of his sick wife, but the clerk tells Victor that once the doctor writes a prescription, he’ll refill it. He refuses to budge. Victor leaves. For now.
Back at Arkham, Oswald meets Arkham Asylum’s Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Hugo Strange, played by B.D. Wong, who welcomes Oswald into his office.
That evening, Victor returns to the store and, after freezing a man, orders the clerk to hand over prescriptions. He does, but Victor freezes the man anyway. As customers try to flee, Victor tells them that he’ll need some help loading the drugs.
At the same time, Bullock learns about the recent robbery. He and Gordon arrive just as Victor flees. They pursue him, but they hit a frozen body that sits in their path and their chase comes to a screeching halt.
At Arkham, Hugo Strange explains that he makes a point to meet all of the inmates. He tells Penguin to avoid making speeches in the future and then asks about his adjustment. It’s gone fine so far, but Strange believes that this would be a traumatic experience for anyone. Penguin considers this a pillow fight compared to his encounters. Strange is no…well, stranger to Oswald’s escapades and threats on his life.
Strange would feel some strong emotions in Oswald’s shoes, maybe even regret for the murder of Theo Galavan. Penguin’s only regret is that he couldn’t kill Theo more than once. Hugo decides to leave it there and looks forward to working with Oswald. He’s confident that Arkham’s treatment programs will help facilitate Oswald’s rehabilitation. That’s why he’s in the asylum, after all- to be cured of his sickness.
Victor brings a heavy object into the basement. Upstairs, Nora awakens to the noise and heads to the basement. Downstairs, she finds several frozen bodies and starts coughing. After Bullock finds finds a prescription bottle with the name Nora Fries and an address, GCPD soon converge on the household and find Nora in the basement.
She tells the police that her husband told him the bodies were mice. Oh, and Jim finds one of Victor’s guns. As Nora is hauled into police custody, Victor watches from afar as the police leave.
We return back to Arkham where Penguin is brought to his cell. Before he enters, he finds Nigel, played by John Pirkis, with his eye sockets completely empty and his hands covered in blood.
At GCPD, Nora tells Bullock and Gordon the last thing she knew. She could be charged with obstruction if she doesn’t cooperate, but she won’t betray him. To her, Victor’s terrible crimes were for her sake. She’s dying and Victor wants to save her. Bullock also gets the correct pronunciation of Nora’s last name. Over in forensics, Nygma heads out, leaving the frozen body on the autopsy table.
Victor enters GCPD and asks Alvarez if he can speak with Detective Gordon to confess that he’s the man that’s been freezing people. Problem is that there are four others who have also confessed to this, so Victor, holding the prescription bottle, sits down with the other suspects.
As Nygma returns to the lab, he realizes that his operating table is empty. The reanimated clerk makes his way into the main area, much to Victor’s surprise. The man, recognizing Victor, yells out for him, but Victor heads out, now motivated to save his wife.
Hugo Strange heads into a hidden elevator and records information about his new inmate, Oswald Cobblepot, and potential treatment. Downstairs in Indian Hill, Strange with Miss Ethel Peabody, played by Tonya Pinkins, who updates him on the experiments. His meeting with Councilman Carter had to be rescheduled for the third time.
Miss Peabody then tells Strange that someone in Gotham has solved the problem of post-cryonic reanimation, which could mean wonders for the program. Strange looks over an article in the newspaper about a man. Seems that newspapers have already given him the nickname of Mr. Freeze.
Nice name. Perfect for a supervillain. So Gotham returns for the second half of its second season and it looks like the show is going through another transition, starting with the subtitle change. I don’t really get the change from “Rise of the Villains” to “Wrath of the Villains,” but it’s minor.
By the way, was there a reason that we needed to see Selina Kyle? How is she keeping track of almost everyone in the city?
Things are changing in Gotham City, starting with Gordon. He’s got yet another dark secret to keep under wraps, and like keeping Oswald alive, this could and probably will have serious ramifications on his personal and professional life.
Barnes and Dent already seem to suspect that Jim isn’t telling the truth, and since Barnes is such a straight arrow, it’s a given that he’ll be keeping tabs on Gordon. But then, Gordon’s secrets have a way of biting him in the ass, so I figure it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.
For now, it doesn’t look like Penguin is going to turn on him. First off, what a bummer that it’s been a few weeks since he escaped police capture, and he ended up being caught off-screen. I would think that Penguin took better care to avoid detection. No one else seems to know his connection to Nygma, so how the hell did he get caught?
At this point, Penguin lacks the energy and vigor that’s defined this interpretation. No fault on the writing, mind you. The guy did just lose his mother and his only revenge came from killing the man responsible. What was once the king of Gotham is a man who isn’t taken serious anymore, to the point that even Arkham’s inmates don’t treat him with the respect he feels that he deserves.
Robin Lord Taylor still does a good job with what he’s given, though. While Oswald won’t turn over Jim, he still relishes in killing Theo and playing games with the police. It’s strange how you only have to say that you’re insane in order to get sent to Arkham.
That wasn’t an intentional transition to talk about Hugo Strange, but let’s go with it. Hugo Strange is well-known in the Batman mythos, but it’s funny when you consider that this is the first live-action interpretation. And like most things in Gotham, he ties back to the Wayne family.
The first half of Season Two gave us our first look at Indian Hill and all of its many experiments. We get some lip service about how most of Wayne Enterprise’s stranger projects were shut down, only to learn that they’re being preserved in Indian Hill. And we got a brief mention of Bridgit, so she’s still alive and kicking.
So in the middle of this ongoing conspiracy of what happened and went wrong with the Wayne family, Strange appears to have been behind much of these experiments. As he mentioned that he’s been having trouble with reanimation, I get the sense that he’s been at work for some time.
I like BD Wong’s performance. He has this very calm and collected voice that makes everything around him seem at ease, even if there are problems abound. And you get the sense that he knows more than he’s letting on in conversation. But then, if you ever watched Law and Order: SVU, it’s a familiar, but still good performance. I expect Strange to keep tabs on the newly dubbed Mr. Freeze.
Which leads me to the Fries. Nathan Darrow and Kristen Hager both give decent performances as a couple that’s at the end of their rope. Nora Fries isn’t some pretty young thing with an hourglass figure. She’s at death’s door and believes that Victor is doing everything for her. He is, but he’s crossing that line into madness and criminal activity, so his motivation to help Nora grows to increasing desperation.
Victor Fries is an interesting one. The character’s backstory was redefined by the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Heart of Ice,” and the character needed it. Hell, that episode pretty much changed the character going forward to the point that many interpretations pull elements from “Heart of Ice.” As much as we detest Batman and Robin, even that had elements of Victor’s tragic past and his efforts to save his wife.
I say this because Gotham’s interpretation of Victor, right now, is pretty routine and felt like another case of the week. Granted, this is his introduction, but the robberies and abductions are something I’d expect from just about any Batman villain. We spend enough time to know that Victor has spent a lot of energy and bodies trying to find a cure for Nora’s disease and I’d like to see more. Maybe something like more failed experiments to show his mounting desperation.
He’s willing to kill and steal to save his wife, but I don’t feel as strong a connection with his plight as the show wants me to because we don’t spend a lot of time getting into his head. It’s the same issue I had with Gerald Crane during the “Scarecrow” two-parter. Interesting start, but when we’re spending an extended period of time with a character, I want to learn more about their motivation and know them deeper than a surface level of ‘Man’s wife is dying and he’s desperate.’
Why is he using human bodies? How did he develop the freeze gun? How many possible cures have he and Nora exhausted in order to find a solution that works? That’s the kind of stuff I hope to see with Victor, particularly given how the second half of the season seems to be built around him. But again, it’s an introduction, so I’m hopeful that we see and learn more about Victor.
And I realize how unfair it is to compare this iteration of Mr. Freeze to “Heart of Ice,” but that story set such a high benchmark for the character and reinvented him for all time. Not to say that Gotham needs to pull from the comics and cartoons for all of its characters, but for a tragic figure like Victor Fries, use one of, if not the best storylines surrounding him.
So all in all, “Mr. Freeze” was a decent return for Gotham. While the Fries storyline was nothing spectacular, it’s hopefully a good setup for what’s to come later when Victor has another encounter with GCPD.
The introduction of Hugo Strange allows us to learn more about the seedy activities in Indian Hill, and Strange himself is sure to come into contact with Fries at some point, I figure. Gordon’s troubles and Penguin’s stay in Arkham weren’t as interesting, though. And next time, Gotham, we don’t need a recap of the previous mid-season finale to bring us up to speed.