September 5 marks the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest shows ever – Batman: The Animated Series. BTAS introduced a generation to the world of the Dark Knight. The series marked the beginning of “The Timmverse.” To celebrate this historic occassion, the DKN staff will review our favorite episodes.
“Heart of Ice”
Director: Bruce Timm
Writer: Paul Dini
Actors: Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Efrem Zimbalist Jr (Alfred), Michael Ansara (Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze), Mari Devon (Summer Gleeson) and Mark Hamill (Ferris Boyle).
During the hottest August on record in Gotham City, a number of GothCorp facilities are victims of a string of cold related robberies that leave their facilities covered in ice and snow. With little to go by, except that the assailant uses a “freezing gun”, it’s up to Batman to figure out the connection between these robberies and “The People Company”.
“Heart of Ice” is considered to be one of the, if not THE, greatest episode from Batman: The Animated Series. While Victor Fries, aka Mr. Freeze, was a long time gimmicky, silly, joke villain in the rogues gallery, this episode gave him a completely new origin and turned him into one of the most tragic villains.
Originally known as Mr. Zero and made popular by the 1960’s Batman television series staring Adam West, he was simply a mad scientist obsessed with the cold. In “Heart of Ice”, Victor Fries’s beloved wife Nora comes down with a terminal illness, so he uses his knowledge in cryogenics to freeze her until a cure can be found. When GothCorp CEO Ferris Boyle finds out that Fries is using his equipment without his permission, costing company money, he orders it to be shut down, but an accident causes cryogenic chemicals to spill. After being exposed to the chemicals, Fries can no longer survive outside of subzero temperatures. He develops a suit to survive in, and a freezing gun, to get his revenge of Boyle, all while trying to save his wife.
This reworked backstory and episode was so good, and so well received, it earned the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program. This also marked the very first, now legendary, team-up of Paul Dini as writer and Bruce Timm as director.
Much like how Harley Quinn was created for the show and was later introduced into the comics, Dini’s backstory for Freeze was so well done that a similar origin was written into the comics and stayed that way all the way up to the New 52 relaunch. It is because of this episode that Mr. Freeze became a fan favorite villain for many.
Even the Joel Schumacher film Batman & Robin used this episode as inspiration for their adaptation of Mr. Freeze, but unfortunately it turned more into writing ice puns and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stardom than telling a good story.
While Kevin Conroy is his usual, amazing, self as Batman/Bruce Wayne in this episode, a huge shoutout has to go to Michael Ansara as Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze. His cold, monotone, chilling delivery is unforgettable. His icy delivery on the opening monologue immediately let’s you know this isn’t the silly, gimmicky Freeze of old.
Speaking of great voice acting, this was technically Mark Hamill’s first voice role in Batman: The Animated Series, as Ferris Boyle. Tim Curry was originally cast to voice the Joker, but dropped out. Hamill then got the part and the rest is history.
Since they made Mr. Freeze such a relatable and tragic character, the writers certainly made sure not to overuse him. In the original Batman: The Animated Series, Freeze would only appear in one other episode (“Deep Freeze”) and would star in the series’ second animated film Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero. He would also show up in The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond for one episode each.
Thanks to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, Mr. Freeze is one of my favorite Batman villains. He’s doing everything to save his dying wife and will not let anything or anyone stand in his way. He’s one of the few villains Batman genuinely feels bad for and would rather not fight, but will do what he must if innocents are getting hurt.
Timm and Dini produced a perfect episode of television with “Heart of Ice”, and is recommended for anyone looking to introduce new fans of Batman to what great storytelling is. And let us not forget the lifelong lesson this episode taught us. “Chicken soup, the only way to fight a cold.”
Images Courtesy Of DC Entertainment.