Batwoman continues to root through Batman’s history, mining it for ideas and struggling to find anything to do with it. We’ve been through the Mad Hatter and Killer Croc, and now it’s time for Mr. Freeze. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 3, Episode 3, “Freeze.”
LEFT OUT IN THE COLD – An unfortunate incident in downtown Gotham alerts Batwoman (Javicia Leslie) and the Bat Team that another missing trophy has made its way into the wrong hands. Meanwhile, a new member of the Jet family surfaces when Marquis Jet (Nick Creegan) makes a not-so-subtle entrance, interrupting a very personal moment between Ryan and Jada (Robin Givens). Back on the streets, cryogenics is the name of the game and Sophie (Meagan Tandy) reminds everyone she’s a badass, especially in the middle of life-threatening situations. Batwing (Camrus Johnson) must decide if he’s ready to suit up again, and at Mary’s (Nicole Kang) clinic, the Hippocratic Oath forces a strained sisterly moment between Alice (Rachel Skarsten) and the new doc.
Batman stories are known for their compelling villains as much as they are for the Dark Knight himself. As cool as Batman is, he needs villains like these to give him someone to bounce off of. Batwoman, meanwhile, dares to ask the question, “What if boring, crappy people had similar powers?”
This week, our story begins with a kid on a bus handling a canister of Mr. Freeze’s cryogenic fluid. When he mishandles it, it freezes the whole bus. Somehow, no one is hurt despite the bus being literally encased in ice. Or at least, that’s implied. It’s a really weird start. Batwoman is so interested in the consequences of our past actions, but it doesn’t even pause for a second to consider the kind of tragedy that could come from a child handling dangerous chemicals on public transit. Just last week, Renee Montoya was hassling Batwoman and the mayor of Gotham about exactly this kind of thing.
Instead, it’s just a cold open to tell us that there’s a Mr. Freeze episode coming.
That’s what they went with?
It’s not that there’s nothing interesting in this episode, it’s just that you really have to dig for it. Here’s the short version: After being frozen for something like 20 years, Nora Fries’ cryogenic chamber ran out of freeze juice and she ended up wandering around, disoriented. Gotham saw fit to put Nora, a person who was frozen due to chronic illness, into Arkham. She escaped during Elseworlds a couple years back. Since then, the side effects of the cryogenic freeze have made themselves apparent. Nora, aged 34 when she went in for two decades, now looks and moves like a senior citizen.
I’m into the idea of the cryogenic freeze aging her rapidly; that there is a terrible price for what Freeze thought would be a way to stave off Nora’s illness is delicious irony. He should’ve valued the time he had with her rather than locking her away. However, it feels like the writers backed into the story we got. In what world do the authorities find a person wandering around disoriented and put them in the same place that held the Scarecrow and Harley Quinn? Police mistreatment is pretty believable in 2021, but this is such a stretch that it breaks the story before it even starts.
Thug #1, Thug #2
But this rapidly-aging Nora is living with her sister, who works for the Gotham PD. Like Vic, Nora’s sister seems to be putting the length of time instead of quality, as she comes home with the canister, which she pilfered from the Gotham PD evidence locker. They lose it just as quickly when a bunch of thugs show up to take the canister for their “client.”
Even up through the end of the episode, though, we never learn who their client is, and the story doesn’t even treat it like a big mystery. The thugs, meanwhile, receive absolutely no development. I don’t even think they get names, let alone anything resembling pathos. They’re just crappy, mean people who want to steal a can of magical ice for a mystery person, whom the show spends literally zero time dwelling on.
There is a cool moment when they’re chasing the thugs, who blow up a bridge, and Luke flies up in the Batwing suit and uses the canister to make a temporary bridge. But that’s the only thing that resembles some Mr. Freeze-style action.
This is not Batman’s legacy
Instead of feeling like Batwoman is exploring Batman’s legacy, what we end up with feels more like early-seasons Arrow. DC liked how profitable the show was but didn’t want it to interfere with their movies, and thus would force the show to dance around the idea of using known villains. It sure seems like that’s what’s happening again here, and it’s disappointing, to say the least.
It makes it hard to care about the rest of the stuff happening in the show. There are potentially interesting threads here: Luke’s arrogant denial about his PTSD, Alice’s apparently disintegrating mind, and Ryan’s family issues. Instead, they end up playing second fiddle to the least interesting possible use of Batman history.
The final moments of the episode hint at the season’s star villain, though, when some vines snake out of the bushes, wrap around Mary’s ankle, and pull her in Sam Raimi style. This part was legitimately cool, and I’m hopeful that Poison Ivy will bring some fresh life to the show. If the show continues tearing through Batman’s best villains with these D-grade stories, though, we’re in for a rough season.