This Gotham review contains spoilers.
Gotham Season 2, Episode 13
Another day, another Arkham break-in. Tonight’s Gothamwas a bit of a snooze after the solid midseason premiere, but what the relationship drama between Victor and Nora and Jim and Lee lacked, the psychological intrigues of Dr. Strange and Ms. Peabody more than made up for…
Mr. Freeze completes his transformation, while Hugo Strange plays puppetmaster.
For me, the Fries storyline fell apart in this episode. Maybe it was because the storyline was being asked not only to pull off some tired tropes, but also to serve as a metaphor for the doomed Jim/Lee relationship. Whatever the reason(s), the character beats that were cliche, but effective in last week’s introduction of Victor and Nora, couldn’t be sustained under the weight of Victor’s Mr. Freeze reveal.
Rather than let Victor freeze her, Nora switched out the working formula for the freeze gun at the last minute. Her logic? She’d rather die than risk being without Victor when she wakes up. Lame. I would have bought that she was in so much pain she wanted to die. Or that she didn’t want to risk the potentially terrible side effects of getting frozen in what is a highly experimental procedure.
But I would really, really like for the “If I can’t live with you, I want to die” trope — exhibited here by both Nora and Victor — to die a slow, painful, experimental freeze gun death. Feel free to replace it with a new, fresher trope. Might I suggest the “You killed a bunch of people in my name, and I maybe still love you, but I am also very confused, hurt and very, very angry, and would like to survive regardless of how my relationship with you turns out” trope. Just think about it, TV gods.
Speaking of tragic relationships, the Jim and Lee saga is getting really difficult to watch — and that’s saying something because it was never particularly exciting. You know your relationship is in trouble when your reaction to seeing a man kill a bunch of people to try to save his dying wife is envy. But that’s how Lee reacted to her time spent with Victor and Nora, telling the former seconds after the death of his wife, that she envied the connection that they had with one another. Did this ring false for anyone else? Yeah, it’s time to start thinking about couples therapy (or, you know, separation) when you look at the Mr. Freeze origin story and think: #RelationshipGoals.
That being said, I liked how Lee stood up to Jim when he wanted her to steer clear of Arkham. Obviously, Barnes’ plan was a terrible one that was probably going to end up with lots of people as human popsicles (seriously, how are there any police officers left in the GCPD?), but Lee had just as much right to be there as Jim did, and the decision to use Nora as bait was pretty callous, irresponsible, and executed with unconcerned incomptence. Which is to say: seemingly in line with the GCPD’s overarching principles.
While the second half of the Mr. Freeze backstory didn’t work for me in terms of the Victor/Nora relationship, I was one hundred percent on board with Hugo Strange’s manipulation of their love (and the asylum’s security system) for his own gains. Strange continues to be the best part of this half-season’s arc, followed closely by sociopathic dogsbody Ms. Peabody, then by Ms. Peabody’s hairdo. So, to recap, the list of episode highlights goes:
- Hugo Strange
- Ms. Peabody
- Ms. Peabody’s hair
Penguin’s current predicament — as Strange and Peabody’s most challenging lab rat — is definitely a case of You’ve Made Your Bed, Now You Must Lie In It, but it was still hard to watch Penguin’s reconditioning/torture. I would have liked to better understand what exactly was going on in that chair, but — per the usual — Robin Lord Taylor’s performance was more than enough to sell Penguin’s pain and desperation.
Presumably, the fact that Jim didn’t help Penguin despite Penguin’s decision to lie about the full circumstances of Galavan’s death, is going to come back to haunt him. But, frankly, at this juncture, I can drum even less sympathy for Gordon than I can for Penguin. This is what you get when you shoot unarmed (albeit terrible) men, then try to keep your job as police officer.
A greater complication to the Jim Gordon is Lying About Killing Galavan situation is the fact that Strange overheard Penguin deperately pointing the finger at Jim while the Arkham guards dragged him away. With his cold calculations, his apparent respectability, and Ms. Peabody at his side, I’m not sure how Dr. Strange hasn’t already conquered the world.
Elsewhere in Arkham, Barbara is still taking a nap at Arkham. I’m taking bets on how long it is before she wakes up, somehow aligns herself with Strange, and convinces him to let her recondition Lee, Jim, or both. She could also become besties with Mr. Freeze who is also nursing a broken heart, though at sub-zero temperatures in Indian Hill.
Bruce is tired of being the only character on this show who hasn’t murdered anyone.
Meanwhile, on what is basically a completely different show, Bruce and Alfred are back from their month-long visit to the Wayne Swiss chalet. Because they went on a month-long visit to a Swiss chalet. Didn’t you know that?
There was probably a bit of skiing and Alfred probably found at least one child to slap, but I’m going to assume that most of the time was spent with Bruce perfecting his new proto-Batman attitude change. This basically consists of double-speak and not changing his facial expression. I have to admit: it’s kind of working for him. It also makes those inevitable moments when the people he is closest to — i.e. Alfred and Selina — break through that much more powerful.
Of course, given that the only other person besides Selina and Alfred that Bruce talks to is Lee (in a nod to the comic books, she is seemingly stepping in as a therapeutic mother figure-type for Bruce), she may become the chief test subject for Bruce’s proto-Batman mask. Poor woman. She has enough misguided, uncommunicative dude energy in her life when she goes home to Jim. She doesn’t need it from Bruce, too.
Which brings me to a larger point: Bruce’s isolation continues to be a problem for this storyline. I’m not a Bruce Wayne Storyline Hater. Quite the contrary, actually. Bruce’s storyline is often times my favorite part of this show. Partially, because he Bruce is basically the only leading character on this show who hasn’t murdered someone in cold blood and, partially, because he has the good sense to recognize that Selina is the best.
That being said, one of the central tensions in the Batman character is the way his public persona clashes with the person he really is. On Gotham, Bruce has almost no public persona — at least not one that we are aware of. We hardly ever get to see him out and about. When he was at school earlier this season, it was only to develop the relationship with Silver. When he goes to public functions, it is generally to get almost-killed in a fake magic show. If Gothamis going to continue to explore Bruce’s wavering identity between kid and vengeance-seeker, then I’d like to see them explore what the people of Gotham actually think of young Bruce Wayne.
Or, we could spend an entire episode with him at Wayne Manor, getting in spats with Alfred and Selina, as we did in tonight’s episode. With so much else to juggle on this crowded show, this may be GothamBruce’s true destiny…