Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gotham: Mr. Freeze Review


We're back to Gotham's second season, and we get a new subtitle (Wrath of The Villains) and a new villain: the title character, Mr. Freeze.  The other times we've been introduced to future villains with their names in the title (Selina Kyle and Harvey Dent) they weren't particularly great.  Now, we get Mr. Freeze, and we break from the curse of weak Gotham episodes bearing a villain's name.  Mr. Freeze gives us a strong beginning to what could be a strong second half.  It also gives us a surprisingly gruesome amount of violence (though nothing can ever top a man literally being blown up).

The committee investigating the murder of former Mayor Theo Galavan, headed by ADA Harvey Dent (Nicholas D'Agosto), Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) has been cleared of any involvement.  However, Gordon's superior officer, Captain Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis) is not convinced Gordon is not somehow in cahoots with Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), who is on the lam.  Cobblepot is found and he gets himself committed to Arkham Asylum, where he attracts the attention of Dr. Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong).  Dr. Strange is working on his own sinister experiments both at Arkham and Indian Hill, the secret entity that is attempting all sorts of nefarious plans.

Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) have a new case: a series of people being frozen to death.  With the aid of GCPD Forensics Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), they learn that this is all connected to one Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow). Fries has been working with cryogenics in order to save his wife Nora (Kristen Hager), who is dying and unaware of Fries' criminal acts.  She believes he has been experimenting on mice and is shocked when she discovers he has been working on people.  Nora is taken into custody, and Victor is going to turn himself in when he discovers that his newest experiment actually worked in bringing a frozen person to life. 

Said subject of freeze, however, is not pleased.  Victor hightails it out and the Gotham press has a new villain: Mr. Freeze (in case you didn't get it, a variation of Fries' last name).

Mr. Freeze stays close to Victor Fries' origin story (or at least the origin story that I am aware of): a good man who freezes people in order to save his dying wife.  In that respect, it's nice to see that Gotham is not venturing into outlandish territory when it comes to its newest villain.

So far, I am highly impressed by Nathan Darrow's performance as Fries/Freeze.  Darrow makes him sympathetic and not truly evil without making him pathetic and weak.  His motives are good, and he certainly has a strong moral code (for example, while it's understandable that he freezes the jerk of a pharmacist he doesn't harm the pharmacy patrons).  However, Darrow does show the menace and danger Mr. Freeze will grow into, his rage at times clouding his judgment.  I am liking Darrow and hope he continues to do great things with the character. 

Mr. Freeze actually gave us quite a few moments of really good acting.  Taylor continues to be one of Gotham's greatest draws, running the full gamut of emotions as Cobblepot/The Penguin.  When he is arrested and manages a quick conversation with his buddy Nygma, Cobblepot's main concern is that his mother's grave be tended to.  He asks Nygma to visit it when he can and place lilies (her favorite flower).  Cobblepot is all arrogance when he is put into Arkham, but let's the mask slip when he is taunted by the other inmates, a tear revealing his fear and anxiety.  When he sees the effects of one of Dr. Strange's sessions, the horror and terror are palpable.

With this one episode, RLT shows us again just how perfect he is in the role.  He may be the Best Penguin of All Time (sorry Danny, sorry Burgess).  His partner in crime Smith also shows us his tremendous talent (even if Nygma's role is smaller).  He is cold and perfunctory when explaining to Gordon why he helped "Mr. Cobblepot" (always so formal or Ed is), the staccato delivery so well-done; when he reprimands the loutish Bullock when he snaps at him, it takes Bullock so by surprise he actually backs off, a rare moment.  It also takes us by surprise as well, and gives CMS a chance to really shine.

You have to give it up to Logue as Bullock, a cop who isn't usually shocked by what he sees.  However, when his police chase of Freeze ends with a frozen head landing in the windshield, the genuine shock of it stuns even the blasé Bullock.

Wong now enters as Dr. Strange, and it is a cold but excellent performance as well.  It's a bit reminiscent of James Frain's performance as Galavan: all courtly and pleasant outwardly, but right underneath the surface the menace and malevolence so clear.  Strange never raises his voice (and you don't think he ever does), but his villainy comes from the darkness within.

It is unfortunate though that others, like Morena Baccarin's Dr. Thompkins is given one scene (at least topping the absence of Bruce Wayne).  Also, the one scene between Jessica Lucas' Tabitha Galavan and Drew Powell's Butch Gilzean (who is the new King of Gotham despite his drill hand) is a set-up for future stories that actually could have been removed altogether without affecting anything in Mr. Freeze.

Another aspect that was quite troubling is how Gotham does not shy away from being as violent as possible for a network program (and I suspect probably more so if it were on pay cable/satellite).  In this episode alone, we saw a man literally melt, a decapitated head on a windshield, and another man after he gouged his eyes out (after Dr. Strange prompted him to 'see no evil, do no evil').  Each of them on their own would be too ghastly to allow my children to watch Gotham, but we got all three.  I worry about the amount and nature of violence on this show, particularly since I imagine many children watch due to the Batman connection.  I find the at-times graphic nature of the show very unnerving.  

Still, if I look at the episode on the whole Mr. Freeze is a strong opening to Season Two of Gotham.  Darrow and Wong gave excellent performances and the story moves quickly.  If only the violence were toned down...

Nathan Darrow makes us
forget this horror...


Next Episode: A Dead Man Feels No Cold

No comments:

Post a Comment

Views are always welcome, but I would ask that no vulgarity be used. Any posts that contain foul language or are bigoted in any way will not be posted.
Thank you.