Batman The Animated Series: Heart of Ice

"I failed you. I wish there were another way for me to say it. I cannot. I can only beg your forgiveness, and pray you hear me somehow, someplace... someplace where a warm hand waits for mine."

If 'Two-Face' was the show finding its voice, 'Heart of Ice' is where it learned how to sing.

This was one of only four episodes that Bruce Timm directed himself and the first to be entirely written by Paul Dini, who would go on to write many of the series' best episodes and played a huge role in shaping the DCAU. Dini's episodes typically centred around the show's villains and often showed them in a very sympathetic light. And they don't get more sympathetic than 'Heart of Ice'.

A tragically beautiful tale, 'Heart of Ice' is one of Batman: The Animated Series' greatest successes. It won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Programme and is regularly voted as the show' all-time best episode. It was so good, in fact, that the producers didn't dare do a follow up. There wouldn't be another Mr. Freeze until the end of season two. It's also partially responsible for Batman & Robin, but please try not to hold that against it.

Prior to this episode, Mr. Freeze was just another one of DC's many ice-based villains. Seriously, they have a ridiculous amount of bad guys who have freeze rays or ice powers. I'm starting to think someone got a fetish or something. Anyway, the only thing that made Freeze stand out from the crowd was that he'd been on the Adam West series so he was more of a household name than, say, Captain Cold. Apart from that there wasn't really much to Mr. Freeze. He was a bad guy with a gimmick and not much else.

Then 'Heart of Ice' came along and changed everything.


This episode re-imagines Victor Fries as a kindly scientist and loving husband who is experimenting with cryogenics to save his terminally ill wife, Nora. When his greedy boss tries to shut down his experiments because they are too costly, it results in a lab explosion (because science labs in comic book stories are always highly combustible) that leaves Nora dead and Victor unable to survive outside of subzero temperatures. Renaming himself Mr. Freeze (he obviously decided his doctorate died with his wife) he sets out to take revenge on the man who took everything from him.

Freeze is one of the series' most paradoxical villains. The accident has turned him into a cold, emotionless, almost robotic figure, one almost completely indifferent to the collateral damage of his vendetta. And yet he is also one of the most passionate. His love for his wife burns so brightly you never forget that there's a broken human soul trapped beneath all that cold, hard ice, screaming to get out. This reminds me of a line from Doctor Who:

The Doctor: "Why do you have to be so... human?
Rory: "Because right now I'm not."

That's Mr Freeze. The explosion took everything from him, turned him into what some people would class as less than human, but because his love for his wife is so strong, he's never been more human.


Comic Book Connections 

The character that became Mr. Freeze was created by Dave Wood and Sheldon Moldoff from a concept by Bob Kane and first appeared in Batman #121 (February 1959). Originally called Mr. Zero, he was renamed Mr. Freeze for his appearances in the 1960s Batman show, where he was played by George Sanders, Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach.

I Know That Voice 

Freeze was voiced by veteran actor Michael Ansara, best known for playing Cochise in Broken Arrow, Kane in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Klingon commander Kang on Star Trek as well as spin-offs Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Bruce Timm's first choices for the role was Anthony Hopkins. Can't say he didn't think big. Mark Hamill voiced Ferris Boyle and it was this role that helped him land the job as the Joker.

Notes and Quotes

--Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, came up with Mr. Freeze's design.

--Love that Batman saves the day with chicken soup without it coming across as silly.

--The Batcave includes an escalator.

--Batman says "My God!" while watching the tape of Freeze's experiment. This was unusual as the censors considered any mention of religion or any expletive inappropriate in cartoons.

--Batman denies Freeze his revenge, but ensures there is justice for Nora by making sure the evidence of Boyle's crimes get into the right hands. Batman really isn't big on actual revenge. He only says he is vengeance because it sounds better than "I am justice".

--Okay, I'll admit that Freeze's reworked origin isn't the most original. Even in 1992 it was rather cliched to kill off the bad guy's love interest as a motivation for turning them into a supervillain.

Alfred: "With all the compartments on your belt, you'd think there be one for tissues."

Mr. Freeze: "This is how I shall always remember you: surrounded by winter, forever young, forever beautiful. Rest well, my love. The monster who took you from me will soon learn that revenge is a dish... best served COLD."

Mr. Freeze: "Tonight, I mean to pay back the man who ruined my life... our lives."
Batman: "Even if you have to kill everyone in the building to do it?"
Mr. Freeze: "Think of it, Batman. To never again walk on a summer's day with the hot wind in your face and a warm hand to hold. Oh yes, I'd kill for that!"

Alfred: "If you're going out like that, I'd suggest you take this."
Batman: "Knockout gas?"
Alfred: "Chicken soup. Only way to fight a cold."

Four out of four Doctor Who quotes.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr Freeze also gets a fantastic Batman Beyond episode, which highlights the tragedy of the character.

Iceman said...

"Heart of Ice" is one of the best stories featuring Batman, period. As Mark pointed out, it's not really the concept for the character-on paper it sounds like any other villain. It's the execution-the script is fluid, the animation is gorgeous, and Freeze's cliche backstory is tied into his character in a very organic way-it's just so well done.

sunbunny said...

I had no idea the backstory was invented for this episode! I always learn something reading your reviews, Mark. I just wish the next two episodes were half as good as this one...