Gotham: Who Is Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze?


“Mr. Freeze” saw the introduction of future Batman supervillain Mr. Freeze, played by Nathan Darrow, in the mid-season premiere of Fox’s Gotham.  This is the first live-action incarnation of the frigid bad-guy since the 1997 debacle known as Batman & Robin.  Yep, no more puns involving low temperatures paired with a heavy Austrian accent.

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The introduction was also a bit “un-Gotham-like.”  The series has been known to have a heavy hand when introducing Batman’s future rogues gallery.  “Over-the-top” and “ridiculous” are sometimes the terms I would use.  However, Gotham actually showed Victor Fries as your everyday run-of-the-mill Joe who’s doing desperate things because he’s faced with a desperate situation — the impending death of his wife, Nora.

Gotham, in this respect, is very much respecting the lore that was established in Batman: The Animated Series, the first foray into the DC Animated Universe.  Although I do have my complaints about introducing Mr. Freeze this early on — long before Bruce Wayne is even an adult — the episode focused more on character and had some bearable character interactions that didn’t seem silly.  So I’ll take what I can get.  But was Mr. Freeze always such a gloomy character of tragedy?  We will now explore the origin and various incarnations of Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze …

Created by Bob Kane, David Wood, Sheldon Moldoff, and Logan Sowadski, the character of Mr. Freeze made his first appearance under a different moniker — Mr. Zero in Batman #121 (February 1959).  In Detective Comics #373 (March 1968), the character was formally introduced as Mr. Freeze.

Mr. Freeze first started out as a joke character among Batman’s rogues gallery.  In modern interpretations (Post-Crisis), the character has been given some more dramatic weight, and is now one of Batman’s deadliest foes.  The most famous and most often used backstory for the character has been the one inspired by Paul Dini.

Dr. Victor Fries was a cryogenicist who had an obsession with cryonics ever since childhood.  Later, in college, Fries would meet a woman named Nora, fall in love, and get married.  It wouldn’t be long before Nora became critically ill.  Fries, working for GothCorp and having developed a freeze ray, used the device on his wife to keep her in stasis until a cure could be found.  However, Fries’s boss, Ferris Boyle, after telling the mob about the device, tampers with the experiment — resulting in an explosion that kills Nora.  Fries survives, but due to being exposed to the device’s chemicals, now requires the use of a cryogenic suit to keep his body temperature low.

Other future interpretations all root from this backstory with a few slight changes.  Some have Fries originally working for Wayne Enterprises, and others have Fries being obsessed with cryonics due to his mother surviving a fall through a frozen lake.

In live-action, the character of Mr. Freeze has appeared in the 1960s Adam West Batman television series.  The role was played by three different actors: George Sanders in the first two-part episode; Otto Preminger in the second two-part episode; and Eli Wallach in the third two-part episode.  Later, Arnold Schwarzenegger would portray the villain in the critically panned Batman & Robin (1997).

So far, the best incarnation of the character has been in the 1990s critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series.  As a testament to Paul Dini’s storytelling expertise, the character’s debut and origin story in the episode titled “Heart of Ice” won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.

I guess it’s wise that Gotham is taking its queue from award-winning source material.  The character seems smart enough and driven enough to be a deadly force in Gotham City.  The writing, as always, needs to be spruced a bit.  I do like the direction they’re taking Nora — as someone who will not betray her husband, and an obstacle to Jim’s and Harvey’s investigation.  From multiple released pictures, we know that Victor Fries’s transformation into the glass-dome-wearing Mr. Freeze will be relatively quick (no more than two more episodes).  I’m just hoping that this arc is handled a little bit more smoothly than other villainous transformations we’ve seen on the show.

Next: Catch up on Gotham with a review of 'Mr. Freeze'

Fox’s Gotham airs on Mondays at 8:00PM EST.