Previously on Gotham ... Jim Gordon helps Penguin kill Theo Galavan.
Now on Gotham ...
"Hey, Jim, did you help Penguin kill Theo Galavan?"
"No ... ?"
"Okie-dokie. Carry on."
No, it's not quite that simple for Jim Gordon to get away with murder (again), but it might as well be. Heading into the second half of the second season, it's pretty clear the writers at Gotham are treating the last story arc's ending the same way SNL writer's treat 96 percent of their sketches' endings -- badly.
How do you wrap up Theo Galavan and his secret society's attempt to take over Gotham and murder a young Bruce Wayne as part of a near-Satanic ritual? I have no idea, and neither does Gotham, so the whole thing gets, at least temporarily, swept under the rug.
But the good news is that dumping all that weird, middling baggage means Gotham can theoretically move forward full steam ahead with Victor Fries and Dr. Hugo Strange. That's precisely what Gotham aims to do in its latest episode, "Mr. Freeze," and does so with reasonable success.
"Mr. Freeze" is split across three surprisingly well-connected plotlines. Hey, I'm used to The Shannara Chronicles, folks. Even the most remote attempt to keep the threads kind of tied to one another is a pretty big deal for me. Anyway, fire up the recap-signal, here's the fast and dirty of what went down:
- After a fellow officer turns up frozen solid, Jim and Harvey take up the case to figure out, ya know, how that happened, why that happened, and whodunnit (it's Victor Fries, duh). Nygma does an autopsy on the officer's body, and discovers she was frozen using a very expensive substance, super cooled liquid helium. Eventually, Team Gordon hits paydirt, tracking down Fries' home and his sick wife, Nora. Nora, having just discovered that her husband has been murdering to save her life, isn't feeling particularly pressed to give him up, leaving Jim and Harvery, momentarily...frozen in their tracks HAHAHAHAHA.
- Meanwhile, Penguin spends a very brief time on the run from Johnny Law, on account of Penguin can't actually run. After Captain Barnes fails to get Penguin to implicate Gordon in the murder of Galavan, Penguin gets shipped off to Arkham Asylum, where we finally get to meet Dr. Hugo Strange properly. Strange says he wants to help Penguin deal with his violent nature and his unhealthy attachment to hs dead mother, but mostly Strange is just collecting all the crazies in Gotham into his evil psycho basement for some healthy experimentation. And by "healthy experimentation," I mean "intense body horror, probably".
- The main event, though, is Victor Fries, who is desperately looking for a way to freeze and, more importantly, safely unfreeze his wife, Nora, so that she can remain safely in stasis while a cure for her terminal condition can be discovered. The problem is twofold -- he is freezing people against their will, and any attempts to thaw them out causes their flesh to ooze off the bone like an even grosser version of The Incredible Melting Man. When, due to his own sloppy criminal activity, his wife is taken in by Gordon, Fries decides to turn himself in. Or he would turn himself in if one of his thawing methods hadn't just been successfully used by Edward Nygma on a frozen body in custody. The papers label Victor "Mr. Freeze" and, as Hugo Strange reads about Fries's accomplishments, he vows to track both he and his cryogenic technology down for his own nefarious purposes.
All in all, it feels like Gotham is hitting the ground running, with way more hits than misses at the start of the second half of Season 2. Let's talk about what worked, what didn't, and all the ways Gotham is still, well, Gotham.
- BD Wong is slaying it as Hugo Strange. He's exactly the right blend of scary and campy. It's been a hard row to hoe since we lost the divine ridiculousness that was Fish Mooney, but if you can't have Jada Pinkett-Smith for a while, you could do a lot worse than boss queen Wong. Can you believe these two will eventually be on screen together? On that day, Gotham will exceed Supernatural as being the gayest show on TV that mostly stars dudes growly-voicing at each other.
- Victor's experiments-gone-wrong are truly a sight to behold. Never let it be said that Gotham goes halfway on the gore. Not only do we see these poor, freezer pop people's bones snap as they melt, but we also witness their flesh slop onto the floor and pool around Victor's feet. Show, you nasty! I LIKE IT.
- Nora Fries's emotional dilemma is executed incredibly well. On the one hand, her man is straight murdering folks, but on the other hand, he's straight murdering folks in order to save both her life and the lives of countless, potential others. A less morally grey show would have Nora give Victor up, but she doesn't. And it's not like Nora's gleeful about what Victor is doing. Nora isn't evil, she's just emotionally ravaged by both her husband and her own fatal illness.
- When Victor turns up at the GCPD to confess for his crimes, he isn't immediately arrested or asked to sign a written confession because there are already six or seven other lunatics that are already there taking credit for the actions of Mr. Freeze. Considering how consistently psychotic the citizens of Gotham have proven themselves to be, this development is both totally believable and absolutely hilarious.
- It's getting harder and harder to sympathize with Jim Gordon with each passing time his murderous escapades get swept under the rug. Remember when Gordon was going to be the moral, thin, blue line that kept the Gothm City Police Department honest? What happened to that guy? I liked that guy! These days Gordon is intentionally pitched as a dangerous thrill-seeker who has an unpredictable-at-best regard for who lives and who dies.
- It's also hard to accept that Captain Barnes doesn't see right through Gordon's lies. Even harder to accept is the fact that Penguin is still covering for Jim. What's the benefit here? I know Oswald isn't all good ideas all the time, but even he has to know that protecting James Gordon isn't going to do him any favors as he's carted off to Arkham.
- And while we're talking about things that are hard to believe, why is Victor Fries freezing people against their will, exactly? Nora thinks he is experimenting on rats and...WHY ISN'T HE EXPERIMENTING ON RATS??? Or, here's a crazy thought, he could be experimenting on people who are terminally ill and have no hope left. Imagine a Mr. Freeze origin by way of Dr. Kevorkian? What he'd be doing would still be unethical (or, at least, unlawful) but it would still have an element of empathy. Instead, the way Victor heartlessly strips innocent people of their right to live leaves me...cold.
- Butch is the defacto king of Gotham and, as such, has traded up from his hammer hand to a drill hand. Why? Who cares, it's cool looking! Also, Tabitha (aka the woman who tortured the $#%@ out of Butch) shows up for a make-out sesh. Oh, Gotham.
- Gordon wonders why Harvey hasn't given him "a hug, a kiss or a welcome back" and Harvey just says "you don't deserve these lips". Then, later, Gordon asks Nygma what the nature of his relationship is with Penguin. Remember, Gordon had a little something something going on with Penguin way before Edward did. And now Jim can't even get some love from Harvey? You know my girl ain't got no calm about that right now. So much homoerotic subtext. So much growly man voice. Oh, Gotham.
- Jim and Harvey have a hilarious argument over the correct way to pronounce "Fries". In the scene immediately following that, Penguin runs into a guy at Arkham who Hugo Strange manipulated into shredding out his eyes with his own, bare hands. Because Gotham is the TV show equalivalent of pure, concentrated whiplash. One second we're all laughing and having a good time, the next we're serving up mystery organs at the body horror cafe. Oh, Gotham.
That's it for this week. Next week it looks like we'll find out how Victor truly becomes Mr. Freeze. Sadly Freeze's origin story will probably not be "Fish Mooney shades him so hard he needs a protective suit from the cold". But I can dream!