Gotham mid-season premiere, while flawed, ultimately entertains

Jack Stenglein

Gotham returned to Fox with a mid-season premiere Feb. 29 that, while not incredibly exciting for a premiere, did reintroduce the show in a satisfying manner. The episode, “Mr. Freeze,” focuses on two main issues: the aftermath of Theo Galavan’s (James Frain) death in the mid-season finale and the emergence of a new villain.

The show starts about a month after we left off, and former detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) is now suffering for his moral decay during the first half of the season. He is being investigated for his part in Galavan’s murder but lies and manages to be reinstated in his original job. Besides these lies, Gordon mostly keeps his hands clean during this episode, and it will be interesting to see whether the show continues to push his moral boundaries as the season progresses.

On the villainous side of the aftermath, Penguin (Robin Taylor) has been deserted by his men, and a manhunt for him is currently in its 27th day with no results. Butch (Drew Powell), Penguin’s previous right-hand man, has taken control of the criminal empire, although Galavan’s sister Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) appears to fight for power as well.

Towards the middle of the episode, Penguin is finally captured and — after he corroborates Gordon’s lies — sent to Arkham Asylum, setting up what seems to be one of the season’s main plotlines. We are introduced to Dr. Hugo Strange, the asylum’s psychologist and a villain from the original Batman comics. Although we do not discover exactly what he is up to, he exudes creepiness and has a secret lab beneath Arkham.

The episode’s main success is the newest villain, Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow). As Mr. Freeze, he uses a sort of ice gun to almost instantaneously freeze people and then abduct them. His wife is slowly and painfully dying from an unspecified disease, and Fries is using the abducted people for experiments. His goal is to discover a way to freeze his wife, stopping her disease, and then unfreeze, or reanimate, her.

Darrow does an excellent job in the role and the character himself is well-written. Furthermore, his experiments in reanimating people were both gripping and shocking. In one such experiment, Fries uses some heat lamps to slowly raise the core temperature of a body, and when it reaches the mid-40s, the body melts into a puddle of oozing skin and half-melted blood.

However, the villain is also a failure in a pretty major way: Fries feels a little ridiculous. His ice gun is laughable more than anything else, and his plan to save his wife makes literally no sense. For a show about a detective hunting down super villains, Gotham has generally tended to stay away from over-the-top ridiculous plot devices, such as a gun that can freeze people within five seconds, so it was disappointing to see the show incorporate one into this episode.

All in all, though, Gotham still made a strong showing with its return to TV, and I’m excited to see what it has in store next. The next episode, “A Dead Man Feels No Cold,” will air March 7.