Gotham: A Dead Man Feels No Cold

Gotham returns to the screen with an episode mired by slight pacing problems but featuring far stronger plot and dialog and elevated to new heights by a fantastic performance by David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne.

After a mid-season opener which felt mostly like a “setting-the-tables” type of episode lacking Gotham’s usual charm, the show decides to get to work in “A Dead Man Feels No Cold”, with great results.

The show is split up into three substories which have nearly nothing in common - the Freeze situation, the trials of Oswald Cobblepot under the loving care of dear Hugo, and Bruce Wayne preparing for his first murder. This creates an episode with erratic pacing, which is one of my few gripes; the other being the forced and hamfisted parallels between the Jim-Leslie and Victor-Nora relationships.

The Freeze part of the episode is much played according to the villain-of-the-week format and ends up with him handily wrapped up at Indian Hill, ready for reintroduction whenever the plot demands so. Still, it did a solid job cementing the back story of the character and unlike the rest of the rogues’ gallery, who are either temporarily dead or involuntary prisoners, Freeze - with his extensive scientific background - will be able to play a more active role at the facility.

The Ozzie side order did not offer up much apart from him being tortured and it remains unclear how his time in the care of doctor Strange will change him. The most notable and powerful scene is where he meets Gordon, who immediately and unhesitantly betrays him, with Oswald screaming at him - “You owe me, Jim Gordon! I lied for you! He killed Galavan!” - conveniently overheard by Hugo.

This development came as no surprise to me. I was never quite on-board at the Jim-Oswald friendship train or a real fan of the so-called “Gobblepot” moments - for me, Ozzie was always doing all the heavy lifting in those scenes on all levels, and the main reason they were good was because of Ozzie. I never bought that Jim saw Oswald as a friend, and their entire relationship felt terribly one-sided. When you compare it to the strong bond between Oswald and Edward it really is no contest. That said, it is clear that the writers of the show are selling their duality as the protozoic version of Batman and Joker, and in that sense it works rather well.

Hands down, the strongest of the three plots is the one centering on young Bruce Wayne’s vendetta against his parents’ killer. This is because it is a running theme throughout the show which is now coming into fruition, and because it is by far the most well-acted. In comparison, none of the other developments in this episode have as far-reaching implications.

David Mazouz is fantastic. He cannot receive enough praise for this episode, which is leagues beyond anything he’s done on the show so far - and he was already stellar. His talent when working with subtle changes in facial expression has no equal. One second he’s a young teenager. The next he’s a Sith lord.

The first conversation, with Leslie, was what showed us how strong this character had really become. Here, Bruce controls the discourse of the conversation to such an extent that Lee doesn’t even understand it for the most part. She’s constantly retreating to employing adult domination techniques to absolutely no effect. This is also the show’s first open admission of his dual personality. “I guess that’s the other Bruce” is the defining line of the entire episode.

The second conversation, with Alfred, is noteworthy for how Bruce unhesitantly and effortlessly lies. Leslie served as training wheels for him, and as the truly brilliant mind he is he immediately stores all information to apply on the very next encounter. As he says to her, “this conversation has been very useful.” Gotham does not do dialog with no meaning. It’s one of the show’s great strengths.

In the third and final conversation, with Selina, we see how much their dynamic has evolved, and it’s as sweet as it’s heartbreaking. They have an easy, natural connection and have achieved what amounts to an equilibrium - there are few secrets left between them. At times, Selina plays the child to Bruce’s adult, and at times it’s the reverse.

You can see how Selina’s disappointed that Bruce doesn’t want to play with her - she wanted the “other Bruce”. Her final words to him and his answer - “You won’t ever, ever be the same” - “That’s what I’m counting on”, gives voice to her deepest fears. More than anything else, she’s scared of him changing beyond recognition, and afraid that his innocent side will die, because she loves him.

Selina loves Bruce for being fractured, while Bruce loves Selina for being whole. This is one of the most important characteristics of their relationship.

Part of Bruce’s portrayal during this episode was legitimately scary. That’s another testament to the acting skills of a boy who looks like the sweetest kid in the world.

Nora deciding to commit suicide is a pretty significant departure from the most popular canon iteration, where Nora is frozen but at least still alive. Now, before some genius struts in to explain all about how “problematic” the show is for killing off yet another female support character in service of what sexists call “man-pain”, please do note that Nora Fries is the literal definition of the “woman in the refrigerator”, and there was only so much the show could do with the character. That said, the show is now tasked with finding a new motivation for Mr. Freeze, as the most known version simply did all the evil things he did “for his dying wife.” I have no objection to that.

Our trailer for the next episode features the scene which David Mazouz has described as his favorite of the entire series, where Bruce confronts his parents’ killer.

The most important thing, I feel, is that after last episode, what motivated me to watch this one was mostly my love of the franchise and not some overwhelming sense of anticipation. After this one, my Gotham fever has returned with a vengeance.

It’ll be a long six days.

{Credits for post-episode discussion go to @sterolinetheories and @tylily @ tumblr}

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