Like just about every episode of Gotham so far, this one is a mixed bag. There’s a strong story, but some of the dialogue is trying to be as comic book-ish as possible, not realizing that it’s aping a style that hasn’t been commonplace for almost twenty years. This isn’t to harp on this episode in particular, though, it’s just a longstanding issue with the show and I think it particularly got to me because—if told right—this should be among the most emotional episodes of the entire series.
As he was originally conceived, Mr. Freeze is the perfect villain for a show like Gotham. He was over-the-top and cartoonish to an unbelievable degree. But the writers of Gotham wanted to prove that they could handle a serious note and so they chose to bring in Mr. Freeze as we know him now, a character totally redefined by his Emmy winning origin on Batman: The Animated Series. The problem with Freeze’s portrayal in Batman and Robin was that they were going for the characterization of the ‘60s TV series, but with the backstory of the cartoon, which doesn’t make any sense at all. Bringing Freeze into this show is a daunting task that will hopefully still prove to elevate it as a whole, but luckily we can say that the character himself is at least treated seriously.
While there is some corny dialogue, Victor’s story is handled pretty well for the most part. It begins, more or less, as the story we’re very familiar with from the animated series. As the stakes get higher and the episode unfolds, however, we wind up in a very different place than we were expecting. Freeze’s origin changes in a drastic way.
Still, this drastic change manages to keep his motivation more or less the same. Victor Fries was planning to die with his wife, and he failed, and that will lead him to become Mr. Freeze in the Gotham timeline. We’re teased a new suit, and that’s a good thing because what he wears in this episode is atrocious. I think that’s the point, though.
B.D. Wong continues to do a good job as Hugo Strange, although the character has leaped right into extreme cartoonish villainy after appearing as a subdued, more mysterious evil just last week. His experiments are interesting and now we know where his secret lab is actually located, which should help contextualize things moving forward. There were also a few little teases in these labs. Whether these are foreshadowing upcoming villains or just random Easter Eggs remains to be seen. Either way, the main focus of this plot will clearly be the resurrection of Theo Galavan, but I’m hoping some other villains get to shine while the arc heads in that direction.
The more villains we see pop up on Gotham, though, as great as they are, each one makes Batman less and less of a necessity. If the GCPD is actually standing up to characters like Mr. Freeze and the Penguin and Firefly and other larger-than-life villains, it actually eliminates the need for Batman altogether.
Everything between young Bruce and Alfred is great until they get to the topic of Bruce taking revenge for his parents’ murder. There’s some great stuff in that conversation, particularly from Alfred, but no great Batman comic would ever talk about the idea of Bruce killing someone in such a passive, nonchalant manner. It’s like someone who either didn’t know what murder was or why it was wrong just came into write this one scene. Alfred says that a young Bruce shouldn’t already have a death on his conscience, so Alfred is going to do it himself. That’s a crucial turning point that’s completely glossed over like it’s not even supposed to be the focus of the scene. The lack of attention to this point is just reaffirmed when Bruce tells Selina—again, in a completely nonchalant manner—that he is going to kill Malone even though he promised to let Alfred do it.
So while that scene was handled in a very bizarre way, there were a few really great character moments surrounding it. The discussion between Lee and Bruce was easily one of my favorite scenes of the episode, especially the major Batman hints that are laid out. Gotham is always at its best when it shows us Bruce taking steps forward on his long journey toward becoming the legend he is one day going to be.
It’s an episode with both strong highs and lows, but ultimately succeeds at delivering us the one thing we were promised: Mr. Freeze. That part of the story constantly had me interested and I’m very curious to see where his character goes next, particularly now that he looks a lot closer to the man we’re all used to.