Gotham – Season 2 Episode 12
“Wrath of the Villains: Mr. Freeze”
Gotham’s villains have risen; now we’re to see their wrath. In truth, though ‘the rise’ has now given way to ‘the wrath’, the season’s existing top villains are defeated, or well on the descendant, and episode twelve gives us two new main villains to watch in Dr Hugo Strange (B.D. Wong) and Dr Fries (Mr. Freeze of course). Perhaps they are associated with wrath because they’re going to be even nastier than those that came before? I believe it already with Strange, though Dr Fries is still in his origin story; we’ve yet to see quite how far he has to fall.
Nathan Darrow’s Dr Fries is a driven but pitiable character at the outset. Sticking to the back plot we’d expect, he’s only committing crime to save his beloved wife Nora (Kristen Hager), who’s suffering from an unnamed but clearly highly-unpleasant disease that’s on the verge of killing her. What’s nice about this Freeze delivery is that the origin story doesn’t need to flash back to their past and show how happy they were together beforehand, managing to give you enough of their personalities in the present such that you can put their history together for yourself. I thought it very slick.
Nora’s personality is well shown in three scenes / lines alone: “I feel sorry for the mice you’re experimenting on”, her discovery that they weren’t really mice and when captured by the police her sorrow at her husband’s actions but loyal understanding of his motives. Fries himself likewise: his shock at discovering he is capable of killing a policewoman who interrupted his plan, his panic as Nora’s coughing fit is almost fatal and his abject defeat when the police find his laboratory and take away his wife – his dejection was quite heart breaking, in fact.
As for Dr Fries’ scientific past, that’s introduced through two other characters that don’t even need to mention Fries by name; they both give just enough information about previous cryogenic research in the city that you can put everything you need together yourself. As I say: very slick.
I wasn’t quite sure at first about some of the music choices that went with the Freeze scenes, by contrast however. I got a really strong Frankenstein vibe from his laboratory scenes, a vibe I was expecting more from Hugo Strange, but then, Strange’s parting comments might suggest that he and Fries will be teaming up in future episodes, so it could all come out then.
Listen out for the music that plays in the scene where Fries stands over his floodlit operating table and that plays whenever people die horribly after having been frozen. Maybe it’s not quite hammer horror but it’s close on some occasions; and stylistically I do think this hangs together nicely with the 40s style of Gotham in general but sometimes that style – that over the top music – made it feel a bit like having someone yell in your ear: “YOU NEED TO BE SCARED NOW!” I just found it less powerful that Hugo Strange’s creepiness.
Now though, is that a purposeful choice? Dr Fries works with the body – very Frankenstein, physical word stuff, more in your face – whilst Hugo Strange works with mind – more subtle, darker, creepier… Just a shame I can’t think of an evil psychologist from legend to parallel him with but never mind. Bad parallels aside, B.D Wong’s Dr Hugo Strange is just as powerful an addition to the villain roster as Mr Freeze. Where Dr Fries is just finding his way as a villain, Hugo Strange has clearly been at it for some time now, presumably with the approval of Wayne Enterprises.
Everything about Hugo Strange worked for me: He was careful and deliberate in action, camera shots taken right up to a smug, superior face, and a subtle music played over his scenes. Gotham has really done everything needed to make you wary of him, fearful even. He is the very epitome of gothic horror, being the twisted evil that lies hidden beneath the dark beauty of Arkham Asylum’s exterior. Even just that little shot of him opening the door for Penguin knowing full well the attendants will be there waiting, staring at where Penguin will be, shows us the character’s cruel power.
I think I already like Hugo Strange more than I liked Galavan as a villain: I always felt Galavan needed a moustache to twirl, whereas Strange is evil because it suits his scientific purpose and goals. I know Galavan was supposed to be theatrical – he said as much himself – but somehow Strange’s more subtle malice has already been more enticing.
Did anyone catch all that was hinted at in that conversation between Strange and his assistant scientist? I got that they were still experimenting on Firefly and I’m still convinced that Galavan is going to come back as some undead horror, so I’ve attributed the formaldehyde comment to that. I didn’t work anything out from the comment about Councilman Carter though – answers on a postcard if you can help me there.
So, those are the new villains; anything else on show here? Yes, now you mention it: a certain James Gordon. ‘Rise of the Villains’ finished with Jim and ‘Wrath of the Villains’ opens with him; and I stand by my previous: rightfully so.
Jim’s next chapter begins with an investigation into his whereabouts at the time of Galavan’s murder. Captain Barnes is clearly concerned about Jim’s behaviour in Galavan’s last known hours and Harvey Dent is paid to be suspicious. In an opening scene that blends past and present together with that nice film-reel camera work that the show always uses well, Jim sticks to his lie that he was nowhere near Galavan when he was killed. We see Barnes’s clear concern but his strong loyalty to his men as he refuses to be drawn by Dent’s questions. It sets up a confrontation still to happen where Barnes’s and Jim’s differing beliefs in the law will be at odds. I always like that stuff and am glad to see the promise of more of it. It was even quite touched by Barnes’s last shot, where I thought I read on his face: “I want to believe”, as he considers what Jim may have done.
Other characters in this episode likewise appear to setting up future plot; but that’s a good thing and just as promising with it. The others might not get so much camera time but I don’t think anyone was poorly used.
Bullock was front and centre of the supporting cast: His dark humour is the very humour of Gotham itself; and I liked the way they went with the whole Fries / Freeze pronunciation joke – it must be difficult to find a Freeze joke that hasn’t already been done already.
Penguin and Nygma continue their friendship, which was also nice to see. In the first half of the season they seemed to really bond and I wasn’t sure that this would go anywhere, that they might be forced into conflict as fellow villains. Nonetheless, here there’s a promise of future collaboration, as both show they have a quality possibly running through this episode as a theme: loyalty. Nygma approaches Penguin in jail to offer his help, despite the danger this puts Nygma in, as Jim at least knows of their connection. Penguin in turn remains loyal to his deal with Jim, taking the fall for Galavan’s murder.
Even Tabitha shows promise for the future in the episode. I didn’t think she was really given anything important to do in the first half of the season, never felt she was given any extra dimensions to work in. At the start of season two though, she pushes for a team up with Butch, who’s been left to run whatever remains of the Penguin’s empire. It could have been a forced get together of two people last to be picked but there is a little history between them already – even if a somewhat strange one – and it’s nicely topped off by a moment of insight from Butch as he realises that Tabitha cannot stand to be alone. Again, a good foundation upon which to build something more.
The speed Gotham moves its plot along you could easily consider each half season to be a season unto itself. In turn this makes you fear that they’re going to run out of plot or that they’re in a rush to get somewhere before it’s too late. However, the second half of season two opens with promise of great things still to come.
Strange and Fries have the potential to offer a splendid horror – I just hope it goes more gothic that hammer – and Jim’s twisted ideology could happily play compliment to that. We’ve still to see how Bruce will fit in to it all but given how well everyone else has been set up I have every confidence of a great second half season.
- Nathan Darrow’s Dr Fries: so much sad face – actual on camera sad face – in one episode is heart breaking
- BD Wong’s Dr Strange: creepy as all hell!
- Mr Freeze’s origin story: done so efficiently without need for any back plot at all
- Bullock’s humour: even if just for the jokes about how to pronounce ‘Fries’
- The shape of things to come: Jim and Barnes’s ideologies coming to a head; Dr Strange and Mr Freeze in everything they do
- Hammer horror: the really over the top music trying to force me to be horrified at the melting and exploding frozen bodies