This latest entry in the Gotham series is one of the rare situations where a highly anticipated story arc actually meets those expectations exponentially. From the moment we were given that fun little tease of Mr. Freeze at the end of the season 2 mid-season finale, I was more than curious as to how they would incorporate the character in the overall story of the new season. So, with this new episode essentially wrapping up his big introduction to the show as well as his story arc involving his wife, how did Gotham do overall in its live action depiction of the character? First, let's break everything down in what I can officially call one of my top 5 favorite episodes of the show.
Before I talk about the different plot points and scenes that I really enjoyed in this episode, I have to bring mention to the amazing visual FX shots showcasing the carnage of Mr. Freeze's tech. The opening scene where Gordon and his squad infiltrates ACE Chemicals to find Victor was one of the greatest scenes in the entire series as we're treated to a horror show gallery of cops being found frozen to death in several horrific ways. Watching Gordon and Harvey confusingly inspect each frozen corpse as they stood frozen in mid fire was an incredible spectacle to see and one that I'll never forget. I especially loved the idea of having the bullet be frozen right out of the gun in an almost "frozen in time" fashion.
I was a little nervous that the show would never be able to fully show off what the character is capable of doing with his technology, but fortunately I was absolutely wrong in questioning how the producers spend their money as this week's episode presents more than a fulfilling amount of "Freeze carnage". It also shows how brutal Victor can be as an individual despite having his heart in the right place which is one of the reasons why I've always loved the character.
There is a sense of redemption within him, yet the massacre that he leaves behind him in his mission to save his wife almost completely washes that possibility over. These are the type of compelling villains that the Batman universe does an amazing job at delivering which is why I never gave up on sticking to this series despite how I felt about Season 1's questionable quality. One of the most wonderful things about this show is the fact that the mythology of Batman's rogue gallery is filled to the bone with potentially amazing story arcs in which the writers can completely mine through for several episodes worth of content.
Now, although this is a big Mr. Freeze episode, Victor isn't the only antagonist that gets a fair share of screen time as we're shown the continuation of Penguin's time at Arkham. Looking back at my reviews for Season 1, I realized how harsh I was on Robin Lord Taylor's performance of Oswald Cobblepot and how his level of campiness went a bit too far for my taste. I can safely say however that the actor has done an impressive job during this season at delivering both the psychotic as well as the vicious traits of Penguin. This episode for me was one of the highlights of Taylor's talents to bring forward the tipping point of Penguin's insanity during his conditioning at Arkham. It's arguably one of the most entertaining scenes in this episode and I'm more than curious as to how far they'll take this plot point of having him there as well as the ending point to it all.
Why have The Penguin locked up in Arkham? My theory stays the same from last week's episode which is the idea of him perhaps meeting another big villain there during his stay leading to a future alliance and prison break episode. We'll just have to hold out and see I suppose. There is also the idea of Hugo completely breaking him down which might have a significant ripple effect down the line for the character.
Speaking of The Penguin, we have to talk about that quick yet very significant scene where Hugo watches through his security cameras as The Penguin angrily tries to reveal Gordon's secret about Theo Galavan's death. Keep in mind that Hugo Strange is a cerebral villain that focuses on exploiting individuals for his own gain. This scene was definitely inserted for a reason perhaps foreshadowing a future story between Gordon, Penguin, and Strange altogether.
Last but not least in the non-Freeze plot points is arguably one of the biggest moments in the Batman story itself. Here we have Bruce finally discovering the murderer of his parents which if anyone is even remotely aware of the Batman character, will know that this is probably the most significant thing that has happened to Bruce Wayne so far on the show. Not only does Bruce find out who killed his parents in this episode, but he also reacts to the discovery with the direction of murdering him. Knowing the iconic ideal of Batman never killing really plays a major part in this scene especially giving the fact that it's Selena Kyle trying to talk him out of it.
I also really liked the moment where Alfred strongly suggests killing the man himself as Bruce would be psychologically altered from the experience. There's a lot of strong themes running through the Bruce Wayne story as I hoped for since Season 2 opened up the "Bat Cave" for the character to find himself. If there was any episode that reminded us of Batman being shaped by the people around him, this is definitely the one to keep in mind for future reference.
Now, let's get back to Mr. Freeze who actually gets an upgrade to the suit in this episode. I have to say that I wasn't fully onboard with the aesthetics of his suit here as I was with last week's, but I'm pretty sure that a future episode showing his return will hold a much better looking appearance. His outfit here looked a bit too bulky almost coming across as an astronaut costume more so than a powerful and threatening looking ice powered armor. I was also hoping to get that iconic voice alteration the character is known to have from the animated series, video games, and even that beyond cheesy Batman & Robin film, but alas, there was no awesome and menacing robotic voice present.
However, what we do get to see is a continuation of Mr. Freeze's onslaught to get to his wife as more cops are shown being frozen to death in his infiltration through Gotham. We learn in last week's episode that Hugo Strange is the man (or at least one of the members) running Wayne Enterprises Indian Hill division in which they perform several experiments with possibly mutated test subjects. When Hugo discovers that Victor's cryogenic technology is exactly what he needed for one of his projects, Hugo makes a deal with him during this episode in order to acquire his formula. It's one of my favorite Hugo Strange scenes so far as we get a good idea of how much of a mastermind this character can be as he gets exactly what he wanted while giving Victor a way to escape the cops in Arkham with his wife.
It was also pretty fun watching Strange operating the doors of Arkham to lock out the cops in certain areas so that he could isolate Freeze where he wanted. I'm hoping we get to see more scenes of Hugo manipulating other villains down the line and I must add that BD Wong's portrayal of the character has been spot on so far showcasing Strange's strategic, powerful, and creepy traits. Unfortunately, I do have to also point out the only nitpick in the entire episode which was also bugging me during last week's as well. The actress who plays Strange's assistant, Peabody, feels as though she belongs in Season 1's more overly campy cast as oppose to the more balanced performance quality of the current season. Every scene where she appears almost completely distracts from BD Wong's amazing performance almost to the point where I hope the show completely writes off very soon.
After Victor finally escapes with his wife with Lee captive as a doctor to help him save his wife, we're given what I would call one of the greatest live action TV adaptations of a comic book story arc where we finally get the iconic shot of Nora being frozen. Before we get there however, I have to point out the significant moment where Nora speaks to Lee about seeing a different side to her husband which of course perfectly parallels Lee's situation with Gordon. It's a great scene that perfectly intertwines the "villain of the week" story with one of the more ongoing plot points of the show.
When Nora essentially decides to commit suicide by switching out the formula without Victor or Lee watching, we get a very beautiful yet tragic scene of Victor watching as his wife's frozen body begin to crack. It's the visual representation of a "beautiful tragedy" as we see Nora putting an end to her own pain as well as saving her husband from his obsession of trying to rescue her. I was surprise to see them actually end off basically what makes Mr. Freeze the driven villain that he is in a two episode run, but I was more than satisfied with the overall execution.
What makes it even more impactful is the fact that Victor lets Lee go and attempts to commit suicide by utilizing the suit to freeze himself. Again, this entire scene is the perfect visual representation of a beautiful yet horrific situation as we see the couple frozen in time after all of the pain they've endured. However, this of course won't be the last time we see Victor as the episode ends on a very promising note for fans of the character.
In what I would consider arguably the greatest villain origin story of the series thus far, we see Victor waking up in a room specifically designed to keep him at a certain temperature. With the white hair, blue eyes, and blue veins, I remember thinking "Oh my god...we're actually getting Mr. Freeze in the future!". It was an amazing scene not just as a visual tease for the character's future endeavors as the iconic Batman villain, but also yet another look at Hugo Strange's character as the big mastermind behind some of Gotham's more science-fiction villains going forward. It was an incredible scene watching Victor question himself as to why he was granted the ability to continue living in which Strange perfectly manipulates him in making him think that he's been essentially reborn so that they can become partners for a secret project. What project? Just keep an open mind to the fact that Strange did say that he made adjustments to Victor's suit, so we'll just have to see.
Overall, alongside from the Firefly story arc (which also involves a tragic character transitioning into an element based criminal with the foreshadowing of Indian Hill), this has been my favorite story arc of the show telling the origins of a villain that will surely appear in the future as a threat to either Gordon or perhaps a cape and cowl wearing vigilante. The performances were great all around (minus the actress playing Peabody although her scenes are short), the action heavy scenes were entertaining, the visual FX were top notch, and the storytelling elements were exceptionally strong. This is the Gotham that I was anticipating and hoping to get in Season 1 and although I was highly disappointed then, I am happy to say that Season 2 of Gotham finally lives up to its name.