Episode title: Mr Freeze
Director: Nick Copus
Writers: Bruno Heller (developed by), Megan Mostyn-Brown (story)
Stars: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Morena Baccarin, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Nicholas D’Agosto, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, Michael Chiklis, Drew Powell. Jessica Lucas, Nathan Darrow, Kristen Hager, BD Wong, and more.
Duration: 42 minutes
As one of my top 5 picks for genre tv last year (http://www.scifimoviepage.com/sci-fi-nerd-tv-tuesday-nerd-picks-2015-the-top-five-genre-tv-shows-of-the-year/), this series has consistently earned a spot near the top of the shows on my weekly do-not-miss list. With the macabre fascination of a very creepy and unsavory carnival sideshow, this dark, grim, more grounded, and violent take on Commissioner Gordon’s early days on the Gotham police force is another surrogate substitute for the Batman series we would all love to see.
The series also includes some interesting new approaches to the origins of some of the mythical city’s most colorful and notable characters, the rise of the villains, as the subtitle of season 2 has become the focus of the series so far this year. It has mostly never disappointed in its portrayal of the cesspool that is the home of Bruce Wayne that results in the birth of the Batman, arguably the greatest comic character ever created. Delightful in its often overly melodramatic depiction of this corrupt city it is just plain fun to watch.
I have, for the most part, enjoyed the liberties the show has taken with the original mythology of the characters that populate this dark and gloomy urban place. The stories the show has so far used in the evolution of these characters has for me been quite enjoyable in its portrayal of the events, coincidences, and decisions that make them who they are, and who they will become. Here is a synopsis of last night’s show:
(* possible spoilers*)
Watching last night’s episode I was reminded of other qualities I like about this show. The episode develops methodically, like the pages of an expertly done comic book it emulates. It is never rushed. The show always develops at a measured pace, even when you sometimes wish it would move along faster. Each shot is like a frame from the page of this comic, a beautifully rendered succession of images, each as memorable and impressive as the the one that precedes it. Good stuff.
Mr Freeze begins with a collage of images that serves as a reminder of the events of episode 11 we saw months ago, and then the beginning of page one of this episode is depicted as taking place in a large room, occupied by a large table, with several people seated around it, where an official inquiry is taking place regarding the events surrounding the death of Theo Galavan, the former mayor/master criminal of Gotham.
This tribunal is headed by district attorney Harvey Dent (D’Agosto) who is questioning James Gordon (McKenzie) about the role he played in those events. Once again we are reminded that Gordon has gone over to the dark side as he lies repeatedly about what occurred, while we are shown flashbacks of what actually happened. Captain Barnes (Chiklis) is present, and he smells a rat, his intuition tells him he not being told the entire truth regarding this situation. While this is going on, we are shown a glimpse of Cobblepot (Taylor), who has fallen from his former status as crime boss, wandering the streets of one of the many seedier parts of this seedy town.
After this Gordon joins the now pregnant Dr Thompkins (Baccarin) who is relieved about the news Gordon has been exonerated, but still expresses doubts about his wanting to remain with the GCPD. Soon after, Gordon rejoins Bullock (Logue) at the precinct, who welcomes him back with the news of a recent arrest, and the question of what’s next arises.
The page turns, where we join Butch Gilzean (Powell) in his new role as the crime boss (or “King”) of Gotham with his recently amputated hand replaced by a metal drill he is using on some unfortunate fellow gangster who screwed up somehow. They still haven’t completely solved the age-old problem of making a severed hand look completely real, but they do a good job this time around and Butch’s “severed” hand is not too obviously fake. He is soon joined by Tabitha Galavan (Lucas) who shows little concern when he threatens to maybe kill her in return for the loss of his hand. She knows he is still under her spell. This scene is secretly witnessed by Selina Kyle (Bicondova) who is shown watching from the vent of a nearby ventilation shaft.
Meanwhile across town, the main focus of this episode, the future Mr Freeze, Victor Fries (Darrow) is shown packing his most recent victim into a van when he is interrupted by a police officer who begins to question him about why he is there and what he is doing. When he is asked to open the van he shoves her, and as she draws her weapon, he freezes her with the same device we were shown at the end of episode 11, before she can do anything else. This initial depiction of someone being frozen is not as impressive as those that follow which are enhanced by CGI.
Returning home Fries is shown moving the body into his cellar before visiting his wife Nora (Hager), who is seriously ill from some unspecified sickness. She’s the reason Fries is freezing people, he is experimenting on his victims in search of the right balance of ingredients to allow the frozen to be thawed without the process killing them. This is the same mythology regarding Freeze we are familiar with in earlier editions of his history. The role is well handled by Darrow, the melancholy, and quiet desperation he is suffering as a result of his wife’s illness, and what he has been forced to do as a result, to try to save her, is apparent in his face and manner without being overplayed. All of his experiments so far have failed, and one recent one he attempts to thaw is graphically depicted turning into a grotesque pool of goo.
When Fries later visits a pharmacy to get a refill for a prescription for his wife, who has had some sort of attack, he is confronted by a passive aggressive pharmacist (an asshole) who shows no compassion for his needs. This pushes Fries over the line, and he leaves promising to return. Retuning, he freezes the jerk and the bored security guard who is also present, and enlists the aid of the customers present to help him load his latest victims in the van.
As he is about to leave, Gordon, Bullock, and some other cops arrive after they are notified Fries has been spotted. They give chase but the chase ends when their path is obstructed by the frozen body of the bored security guard who they hit, causing his body to break up in the collision, launching his frozen head through the windshield of their car.
The police now know the identity of Fries and where he lives, so they visit his home and take Nora into custody also confiscating his most recent victims remains as evidence. Nora has just discovered the grim nature of her husband’s experiments as Gordon and Bullock arrive at her home. Despite being appalled at what she has discovered, she understands Victor has done all of this to try to save her, and refuses to sell him out to the police.
Meanwhile in another development Penguin has been captured and brought in by Barnes, who interrogates him, and Cobblepot confirms Gordon’s version of the events he was questioned about earlier. He claims insanity as a defense of his actions. Shortly after that Penguin is transferred to Arkham, which we and Penguin are reminded is not a pleasant place to be. He is mocked and harassed by his fellow inmates. who are shown to be nuttier as ever in this dismal place.
It is here we are introduced to Hugo Strange (Wong) who is suitably calm and professional on the surface but with still apparent menace just beneath his inscrutable surface appearance. Evidence of his menace is demonstrated in another inmate he warns about “see no evil, do no evil”. this inmate is later shown to have gouged out his own eyes graphically depicted with a shot of his bloody eye sockets and fingers as he laughs maniacally. This serves to raise questions regarding just what is Strange doing to these folks?
Edward Nygma also appears in this episode. Early on he serves as an exposition device when he explains how Fries freezing device works, this scene also serves to show Nygma has changed, his rage is now much closer to the surface, when he takes exception to rude treatment by Bullock.
He appears again later as he goes about his duties and the pharmacist comes back to life, and wanders out of the ME’s department where his appearance in the precinct causes a ruckus.. Fries who has come in to confess and surrender himself witnesses this, and now knows his latest formula works. He has finally succeeded in finding a way to freeze his wife and revive her safely. Mr Freeze is born.
News of this quickly reaches Strange as he visits a secret lab beneath Arkham, the fabled Indian Hill that was introduced earlier. Strange shows a lot of interest in this development as the episode ends.
Overall, this episode was a very good one, it was a satisfying extension of story lines introduced earlier in the season. The cast all did a good job in their respective roles, and Freeze was nicely introduced in a low key manner that belied his importance as a major character going forward. The episode managed to squeeze a lot in without seeming overly burdened, while keeping its focus on the events we all wanted to know the outcome of, and still introducing some new stuff we have been looking forward to seeing portrayed. A nicely balanced mix of ingredients.
Bruce (Mazouz) and Alfred (Pertwee) did not make an appearance in this episode,. I can only assume they will reappear next week. It was nice to see the show back on the air, like getting to visit some old friends we haven’t seen in awhile. Good stuff from a show that has consistently earned the right to be one of my favorites on tv.