Gotham – Season 2 Episode 13
“Wrath of the Villains: A Dead Man Feels No Cold”
Gotham finishes Mr Freeze’s origin story in ‘A Dead Man Feels No Cold’, possibly departing slightly from the Batman cannon as I know it whilst still getting all the key elements in throughout. I didn’t realise how literal the episode title was going be until right at the very end after Fries’ apparent suicide triggers his transformation into an ice albino. I’d thought it was going be more of a play on the metaphor where Fries struggles to care about the damage he’s causing to Gotham’s inhabitants in the numbing pain that is the threat of his wife’s horrible death. To be fair that happens too, so I must say that we get both interpretations.
In the short time that I’ve seen them the Frieses have been such a nice couple. I would definitely have had them round for tea and been sad when they moved away. Yeah, so he was a bit dismissive of the value of human life beyond his beloved Nora but I bet that’s really not the worst trait you’ve ever had in a neighbour? Fries was definitely falling further this episode, now having no qualms freezing any police officer or security guard that got in his way, and not above freezing and so permanently destroying some poor janitor’s arms just because he was conveniently available. He claims not to hurt anyone unless it’s necessary but his definition of necessary is completely lost in his desire to save Nora.
Despite this inhumanity though, Nathan Darrow’s Dr Fries still has a childlike innocence about him in the face of Nora’s pain. This and Nora’s love for her husband defying his downfall created a touching finale for the couple when I thought them both dead. I broke out of myself slightly when I saw Nora’s choice of weapon for her suicide though, as Dr Fries had shown such cleverness in working out his opponents’ strategies up until that point that I couldn’t help but wonder: if you’d put that much effort into the plan so far wouldn’t you check your gun before you pulled the trigger that last time? I know he was distraught and completely trusting of Nora but Lee was in the room; would he trust that she wouldn’t do something, just because of the “I’m a doctor” line – she could have been a police officer plant?
It’s a tiny thing and nothing that stopped my enjoyment dead in its tracks. Perhaps I’m just sad to see Nora go. I was so impressed with the Frieses’ plotline last week that I think I fear their loss. What will Mr Freeze’s motivation for crime be? Hugo Strange says he should just be a new man but that comes across more as: I will value you as an employee / living experiment; can’t you find a way to be happy with that? Perfectly reasonable from Strange’s perspective of course.
Small concerns aside though, I found the emotion of the Fries plotline nicely coupled by the intelligence displayed by both centre-stage villains. I love to see writers dodging tired storylines and characters using the full intelligence that we’re asked to believe they have. Dr Fries knows he’s been lead into trap. Hugo Strange would quite happily take Fries’s formula but switches to a ploy to bargain for it when the opportunity presents itself. Moreover on that score, I struggled to think in the moment how Strange was going to convince Gordon how the Arkham doors trapping the police was an accident – improvising around Fries’s attack though is perfect: His ice grenades lock up our old equipment’s systems don’t you know; no money in looking after the insane you see. And then there’s Gordon: of course Fries is going home; it’s the only place he has access to cryogenic storage for Nora. It’s great to see this: characters following the internal logic of the show and not doing things because the plot demands it. I want to applaud this whenever I see it.
A clever point of note, too, is the development of Fries’s suit. Gotham tries to get Batman comic lore in wherever it can and why not? There’re probably lots of references I don’t get but I did notice Nora’s necklace and clearly there’s the cryo-suit. Last episode it was a costume to protect his identity, little more than a disguise placed around his gun and pack, though with the googles for some protection. This week he has evolved the suit to account for the splash damage his new ice grenades are liable to do. He needed more protection and the torso guard he now wears is pretty much armour. The next time we see him he’ll no doubt be sporting the full thing, thanks to some ‘minor modifications’ provided by Strange.
This was a nice on-screen evolution. A really fast evolution – how do scientists work this fast? But a nice evolution nonetheless. Not least because the music that plays over Fries’s scenes this week lost the hammer horror feel of last episode, replaced by something that has more of a Terminator feel to it – fitting given his assault on mental-health institute perhaps?
I was also very much a fan of the interaction between Nora and Lee this week. Sometimes the parallels you see in shows seem so crowbarred in you feel that, again, the coincidence only happened because the story universe needed it. How often can two people with pretty much the same problem meet in a time of crises when it’s just in time to help one of them avoid the failings of the other? Nora and Lee’s coincidental parallel though, I did not see coming. I’d believe you if you said you did but I didn’t.
They both have someone in their life that they could have saved from walking too far down a dark path. Nora’s guilt is that her love for her husband let her override her better judgement and she sees it’s not too late for Lee to intervene in Gordon’s fall. Perhaps I found it fitting because Lee has been watching Gordon for some time and has been back and forth with this choice for a while already. To date she has been accepting of Jim’s problems and not thrown a soap-opera hissy fit just because life or her partner is ‘so unfair’. She’s been an intelligent and mature character but even people with such traits make mistakes and having another character make her question her choices was not of place. And as well, Victor and Nora’s setup has been one of my favourite character introductions of the show. All things considered, Nora and Lee’s conversation landed very well with me.
Twice in a row then now, the villains have really stolen the show. Not that Gordon’s plot was bad this week. He is always the glue that holds the plotlines together and this week his plot is delivered through Lee. He had a good outing last week too, so no harm, no foul, as people say. Bruce on the other hand was a left a bit in the shadows perhaps though.
…Yeah, I was definitely trying to lead up to a Batman joke there. Couldn’t quite get to it though, so I’ll instead go with: his Batman skills are definitely on the up, having learned how to notice Selina sneaking around. Good to see Bruce and Selina back together. Perhaps the odd will-they, won’t-they is necessary in TV these days but I like their partnership so much I prefer it when they’re working together.
I usually like Selina’s attitude around Bruce too. Camren Bicondova always plays a lovely angle on proving how Selina is much more grown up than Bruce. I think this week she was asked to push Selina out a little too far though, and it didn’t quite hit home for me. Certainly Selina is more streetwise than Bruce and I know she killed Reggie Payne without a second look but has she really become so hardened a killer that she can believably give Bruce the “killing changes you more than you can know” speech?
Despite this minor difficultly I was glad to see Bruce give a few hints as to what’s going on in his head this week, ones that are probably quite important for us trying to work out what type of Batman he’ll become. He felt alive when his life was under threat from Galavan and he might tell himself he’s always honest but really he lies with the best of them. But then came the one extra line: “that must be the other Bruce”. Are Bruce Wayne and Batman going to separate personalities? Lee didn’t really push it too far, so we’ve no more to go on yet, but it could be an interesting way to go.
Either way, Bruce, Selina and Alfred’s plot now takes them after Matches Malone. Not a character I know but what I read on the DC Database makes me wonder if Matches is a patsy that will give Bruce another chance to examine his morality. I could go for some of that, certainly.
To finish, I feel I now need to keep track of the puzzles stored under Indian Hill.
Hugo Strange answers so far:
- He’s playing with Firefly
- Galavan is in fact in formaldehyde – sweet victory will be mine when he comes back to life.
Outstanding Hugo Strange questions:
- Who the hell is that four-fingered person?
- Is Galavan going to come back as some clone-based villain?
- What’s the connection to Councilman Carter about?
- How will Barbara come out of her coma and what has Strange done to her?
I liked this episode even more than the first of this second half-season, mostly again because of Victor and Nora Fries but also because the villain intelligence level is up. Even better, Lee is still a strong character and her relationship to Gordon is adding to the plot rather than being some ‘romance because we thought we should have one’.
Add to that the fact that the show is giving us answers and resolutions whilst still raising more questions – not just with Indian Hill but with Bruce too – and there’re a good many reasons to come back next week and find out what’s going to happen. This is an all-important quality for those of us not watching the box set but still viewing in the seemingly old fashioned way of week-by-week.
- Nora and Victor Fries together in any scene: all their scenes together are charming to some degree and often to a great one
- clever characters who actually use their intelligence, so we don’t have to take someone’s word for it
- the reasoned evolution of Fries’ cryo-suit
- Nora and Lee together: I didn’t see their parallel coming and found it a welcome one
- so many questions still to be answered and with just enough hints thrown in here and there to get me thinking about them
- Selina is not old enough be a hardened, experienced killer – I hope!
- I can’t make up my mind: would Fries have not checked his gun first…?