(The following article contains spoilers for the Gotham episode "Wrath Of The Villains: A Dead Man Feels No Cold.")
Previously on Gotham ... Victor Fries literally melts people, BD Wong figuratively melts our hearts, but Gotham itself is actually pretty ... solid. Get it?
Now on Gotham ... the show is so good that it's almost not fun to write about. Almost, but still fun. Let's do it!
There are actually four stories happening in this episode, mostly because one of them is so removed from everything else that it feels like it belongs on another show entirely. It's a bonus story! But it's peppered throughout the episode. We'll, uh ... we'll talk about that later. But in the meantime!
- Penguin is still trapped in Arkham, and it's not going super awesome for him. Hugo Strange leaves Ethel Peabody in charge of Oswald's "treatment," which consists of him wearing some funny-looking glasses that cause intense pain? That's weird. They seem to be programming him in ways we can't quite qualify yet, but suffice it to say Penguin feels strangely motivated to play a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. Literally. That happens. He also tries to enlist the aid of Jim Gordon, but Jim's still jelly that Penguin had a tryst with Nygma. And who can blame him? Back to the creepy pain glasses for Oswald it is!
- Lee and Jim are fighting because Jim is a terrible boyfriend who lies constantly and treats the women he's with like they're a hindrance rather than a partner. But that's almost every episode! In THIS episode, Lee is trying to protect and care for the dying Nora as Jim uses her as bait at Arkham to lure in Victor. After insisting she be there to administer what little aid she can to Nora, Lee and Nora develop a surprisingly deep and engaging rapport. Nora tells Lee how she blames herself for not acknowledging the path her husband was going down. She ignored Victor's questionable behavior because she was afraid and because she loved him. Lee, unsurprisingly sees a parallel between Victor and Jim. Nora warns Lee to do something before it's too late.
- And now... a series of events involving Victor Fries. Victor kills to get more of the frozen gas he needs to freeze and protect Nora. Victor freezes people at Arkham to get to Nora. Victor gets help from Hugo Strange to escape Arkham with Nora and Lee in exchange for some of Victor's formula. Victor brings Nora back home, freezing and killing people along the way. Then, finally, after Victor being in the driver's seat for most of her story, Nora swaps out the effective formula for a failed early version so that, when Victor tries to freeze her, she cracks apart and dies. Victor, overcome with grief, freezes himself to death. Almost. It turns out that his body has been absorbing his formula for so long that now he's just got an extremely low body temperature. Trapped in one cold room of Arkham, Strange reveals that he's repurposed Fries' suit so that he'll be able to move around in the outside world safely.
- Meawhile, Bruce Wayne finds out the name of the man supposedly responsible for his parents' death -- Matches Malone. Bruce makes a deal with Alfred that they'll work together to find Malone, but that Alfred will be the one to do the revenge killing. Naturally, that's a fat lie and Bruce goes to Selina to get a gun so that he can kill Matches first.
One of these kids is not like the others! Did you figure out which one? Sure, I knew you could. It's the plot thread that involves an angsty tween instead of an angsty, frozen, zombie guy.
This was almost entirely good, and oddly the baddest bad part of the episode is that it didn't have much in the way of "Oh, Gotham" moments. But let's talk about what we did get.
- BD Wong and Tonya Pinkins as Strange and Peabody are camping it out so hard every week. Drawing out syllables, chewing scenery, and no wonder Gotham's such a dark place to live -- these two throwing are throwing much shade around I don't know how it ain't always night!
- Balancing the camp, we've got a surprisingly deep story for Nora Fries, whose parallels with Lee are really affecting. If there's one good thing about this Jim Gordon being such heartless, murdering danger magnet, it's that we can really see how he's not so different from the villains he's supposedly protecting Gotham from. But, more importantly, it was really profound seeing Nora sacrifice herself. Yes, she was probably going to die anyway, but seeing her husband in pain, knowing that he'll keep hurting himself and others so long as she's alive, and then sacrificing herself? That was powerful. And it was nice that her death was her decision and not just a thing done to her in order to push Victor's story forward. Felt like a really neat subversion of that trope to me.
- Matches Malone, who is supposedly the killer of Martha and Thomas Wayne, is an alias that Bruce sometimes uses when he goes undercover. Weird, but a neat twist on an established aspect of the Batman mythos.
- While Nora's story was really stellar, I'm not sure I like where Lee and her pregnant belly are headed. Yes, she's starting to realize that she should probably get the heck away from Jim, but it's frustrating that one of the few female regulars on Gotham is defined almost completely by her relationship with a man. Either write her out or give her something of her own to do. Gotham, take note --we just watched Moreena Bacharin be more than a damsel in Deadpool. We expect you to do better.
- Gotham is always going to feel like it's caught between worlds and styles, but Bruce's story this episode is so far removed from the rest of the episode that I almost wonder why Bruce is still on the show at all. The GCPD stuff is really starting to work, but there isn't exactly a lot of room for emo Richie Rich.
- For some reason Mr. Freeze has flowing white hair. With Hugo Strange already in the picture, I guess two bald villains is too much? Regardless, Victor looks borderling Super Mario Bros. movie level ridiculous. Oh, Gotham.
- While Lee should be caring for Nora, she discovers a still-comatose Barbara Kean, slaps her in the sleeping face and calls her a bitch. Oh, Gotham.
- Victor tests out a bomb that seems to freeze over an entire lake, but nobody at the GCPD saw a huge chunk of the river turn to ice? Or they just thought, "Huh, some weather we're having..." The Gotham City Police Department -- keeping you a little less safe every day. Oh, Gotham.
And that's season 2, episode 13. Pretty darn bleak stuff, but a marked improvement from the first half of this season. Seems like Gotham is becoming the dark horse hit of DC TV. Never thought I'd say that last year.
Next week... Bruce kills somebody? Nah! But something's gonna happen. Be sure and follow me on Twitter where I'll be live-tweeting EST.