Episode 14: Heart Of Ice
Written By: Paul Dini
Directed By: Bruce W. Timm
Original Air Date: 09/07/92
“Batman: The Animated Series” is remembered for doing a lot of great things for Batman and his supporting characters. Whether it was giving the characters great voices that would stick with you for a lifetime and you would continue to hear them in your head while you’re reading comic books, or how it gave certain characters new origin stories and characterizations that would end up being better than what their original origin stories were in the comics. While the series did this for several characters of Batman’s rogues gallery, there is probably no greater example of this, then how it created the definitive characterization and origin story for the villain Mr. Freeze in the episode "Heart Of Ice."
Before the episode “Heart Of Ice,” Mr. Freeze was a minor Batman villain who I only knew from the 1960's show at the time, where there was really nothing interesting about the character, and was really considered to just be a joke villain with a gimmick. But when writer Paul Dini and director Bruce Timm took the character who was mainly just played for laughs in the past, and gave him a compelling and tragic back story that is emotionally captivating, as well as sympathetic, they truly created something special. Bruce Timm’s concept for the character when he was developing the series was to make Mr. Freeze as someone who’s emotions were dead and frozen due to his tragic past. While the character was portrayed like this, it was Paul Dini’s great script that gave the character his tragic origin story, which is really what makes this episode a true classic. It's an origin story that was so good, DC Comics took what Bruce Timm and Paul Dini did for Mr. Freeze in this episode, and officially made it his definitive origin story in the comics as well. Now that’s high praise!
The main plot for “Heart of Ice” is pretty much a revenge story, where Mr. Freeze is planning to take revenge on GothCorp CEO Ferris Boyle, the man who made him the way he is now, but more importantly to Freeze, the man who took away his beloved wife Nora, the only person he ever truly loved, and in turn, the only person who ever really loved him. Before becoming a criminal, Victor Fries was a scientist and cryogenic researcher at GothCorp. But when his wife Nora became terminally ill, Victor built an experimental cryogenic chamber to keep her in, so she can stay alive until a cure could be found. But GothCorp CEO Ferris Boyle had already cut off Victor’s funding for his research, and he’s not too happy that Victor is still using his equipment without authorization, which is costing him money. Though we don’t see the scene that shows the tragic event that transformed Victor Fries into Mr. Freeze until later in the episode, it is really a moving and powerful one, as you see how one man’s greed destroys two lives.
I love how the episode begins with Freeze talking to his dancing ballerina in a snow globe, which is supposed to represent his deceased wife, where he promises her that he will get revenge against the monster Ferris Boyle for what he did. Paul Dini gave Mr. Freeze a bunch of great dialogue in this episode, and it started in this first scene. The way he described the dancing ballerina as how he last remembered his wife was very poetic, and was the perfect way to open the episode. I also have to mention Michael Ansara’s great voice work for Mr. Freeze. The way he played Mr. Freeze as someone with a robotic personality, who says he’s dead to emotions, but yet at the same time playing him in scenes with great emotion, was done perfectly. Next to Kevin Conroy’s voice as Batman, Mr. Freeze probably had the coolest (no pun intended) voice throughout the whole series. I can’t imagine any other voice for the character being better than this performance. I know I’ve been saying that a lot about the voice actors in these reviews, but it’s just a testament to the high quality of voice talent that this series has had throughout it’s run, and how it set the standard for all voice acting in animated series.
After Batman sees a news report about some robberies to GothCorp, where witnesses say they were committed by someone with a freezing gun, Batman figures out that the items stolen would make a powerful freezing weapon if they were all put together. But there is still one item that hasn’t been stolen, which is needed for the weapon to be fully completed. Batman knows where the last target will be, and he races off in the Batmobile to confront this new criminal. Here is where we see Batman’s first encounter with Mr. Freeze, and it was a pretty cool action sequence. We see Batman show off his driving skills by maneuvering the Batmobile through a road covered in ice, and we see him take out Freeze’s men with some cool moves. In particular the roundhouse kick he does that takes down three of Freeze’s men. Another thing l liked about the scene was how it showed us that Mr. Freeze really has no compassion for anyone. As he accidentally hits one of his men in both legs with his freezing gun while trying to shoot Batman, he orders his other men who were trying to help him, to just leave him be, or they would share the same fate. As the man pleads and begs for them to stay and help him, Freeze and the rest of his men just drive away, leaving him to die. But once Batman breaks out of the sheet of ice he was trapped in by Freeze, he takes the man back to to Batcave while he is unconscious, to help him recover in a hot chemical bath that melts the ice.
Now fighting a literal cold, Batman decides to have a meeting with Ferris Boyle as Bruce Wayne, to see if he can give him any leads as to why Mr. Freeze would want to keep robbing GothCorp. Ferris tells him that there could only be one man he can think of that would hate GothCorp enough to do this, but he thinks that person is dead. Ferris tells Bruce about how he had to take action against an ex-employee who was using his equipment without his authorization, and that things got messy with security, there was an explosion, and they lost him. As he’s telling Bruce this, you can see how greedy this guy is, as all he was concerned about during that incident was his money. Bruce can tell that this guy is no good, and when hears that he’s going to be receiving a humanitarian award, Bruce has to excuse himself, as he suddenly started to feel more sick. It should also be noted that this episode was Mark Hamill’s first voice over work for the series as the character Ferris Boyle. After he played this part, he told the producers that he would love to play a main Batman villain, in particular he asked about the Joker. They told Mark that they had already cast the Joker, but when they decided to recast the role, they gave Mark a call, and they eventually got the greatest voice actor who would ever play the Joker. But he also did a great job here playing Ferris Boyle as a greedy business man.
Back in the Batcave, Batman remembers a headline from a newspaper last year that told of an explosion at GothCorp. There was no reason as to why there was an explosion in the story, so Batman decides to go see for himself, suspecting what Ferris told him was a cover up story. But before he leaves, Alfred, being the good father figure that he is, gives him some chicken soup in a canister to take with him for his cold. I liked how when Alfred hands him the canister, Batman just thinks it’s some knockout gas, but Alfred just tells him, “No, it’s chicken soup. The only thing to fight a cold.” Batman is able to sneak into GothCorp disguised as one of it’s security officers, and finds a classified file along with a video tape. Here is where Batman, and us viewers, finally see what happened to Victor Fries, and why he hates Ferris Boyle so much.
The video starts with Victor explaining his experiment of how he’s going to keep his wife alive until a cure can be found. But as he’s still explaining, Ferris Boyle bursts in with two security guards, telling them to shut down this experiment. Victor begs and pleads with him not to stop it, since Nora will die if they do. But Ferris just screams at him saying that the equipment is his, and that he has every legal right to shut it down whenever he chooses. Desperate, Victor grabs one of the guard’s guns, and points it at Ferris telling him to stay away from his wife. But Ferris calms Victor down, telling him he just lost his temper, and that they can still talk this out. But as soon as Victor calms down and drops the gun, Ferris kicks him into some chemical coolants, leaving him and his wife for dead. Even though Victor does survive this incident, the chemicals he fell into made it so he can’t survive in environments that are above sub-zero temperatures, which is why he now needs to wear a cryogenic suit, and became the villain Mr. Freeze. As I mentioned in the intro of this review, this was a very powerful scene that was both directed, and acted perfectly. It also did a great job of making you feel sympathy for Mr. Freeze, and makes you actually want to see him succeed in carrying out his vengeance. Both Michael Ansara and Mark Hamill did a great job voicing their characters here. Michael Ansara did a fantastic job bringing out Victor’s desperation as he pleaded with Ferris to leave his wife alone, and Mark Hamill’s performance made you really hate the character Ferris Boyle. The way the video footage ended was perfect too. Juts showing Fries’ hand reaching onto his wife chamber, screaming her name. A very effective way to make you feel bad for these two characters, which was exactly what this scene was supposed to do.
As Batman finishes watching the tape, all he can say is, “My God.” A fitting response to what he just watched, but as he says this, Mr. Freeze enters from behind and says the great line, “Yes, it would move me to tears. If I still had tears to shed.” After saying this to Batman, he blasts him with his freezing gun from behind, capturing him. We next see Batman hanging upside down in Freeze’s hideout, which looks like an Ice cave. I loved how this setting looked with the snow falling down and with the snow spikes up on the ceiling. Being a huge Star Wars fan, this scene reminded me of the Wampa cave from “The Empire Strikes Back,” where Luke was also hanging upside down in an ice cave. But Batman didn’t have the Force to help him get free like Luke did. Instead he had to use his acrobatic skill to bust out of Freeze’s hideout, and to stop him before he uses his new weapon to kill Ferris Boyle, along with countless others as he receives his humanitarian award. I really liked how they had Batman show sympathy for Mr. Freeze in this scene, as he tells him he’s sorry for what happened to his wife. You got the sense that he knows exactly how Freeze feels, but knows that he still has to stop him from killing Ferris Boyle.
While Ferris Boyle is about to receive his humanitarian award, Freeze interrupts the ceremony by freezing the whole building with his new weapon, preventing anyone from getting out, and finally confronts the man who ruined his life. During this whole sequence, it’s really hard not to be rooting for Freeze to carry out his revenge, as we see him freeze Ferris Boyle from the waist down. You kind of hope that Batman doesn’t show up to stop him here, but as Freeze has Ferris right where he wants him, begging for his life before he delivers the final blow, Batman enters the room and knocks his freezing gun out of his hand. Batman and Freeze next have a short scuffle, but Batman’s attacks don’t have much of an effect on Freeze thanks to his suit, which triples his strength, and he then finds himself being lifted up by Freeze unable to escape his grip. But Batman remembers he has the one thing in his utility belt that can fight a cold. He grabs the canister of chicken soup that Alfred gave him, and smashes it on Freeze’s helmet breaking it, which causes Freeze to collapse on the floor, rendering him helpless. But Batman wasn’t going to let Ferris get off without paying for what he did to Freeze and his wife. He hands reporter Summer Gleason the video footage that he saw of what Ferris Boyle did to Victor Fries and Nora, which will no doubt put him away for a long time. I loved how Batman showed that he really doesn’t like Ferris Boyle here, as he walks by and tells him, “Good night. Humanitarian,” in a very sarcastic way, and doesn’t even bother to help him break free from being frozen.
The episode ends with the now classic scene of Freeze being locked up in Arkham with his ballerina snow globe, apologizing to his wife, and begging for her forgiveness since he couldn’t carry out his revenge. This was such a great and emotional way to end the episode, as the last shot we see of Freeze is of him shedding some tears for his wife. Showing that not all of his emotions are dead like he says they are. If you don’t find yourself feeling for the character after this scene, you might actually be someone who’s emotions are frozen dead. It was a very moving scene that was a great ending, to a great episode.
“Heart of Ice” is and episode that has received numerous critical praise, has won several awards, including an Emmy, and it deserves every one of them. Never before have I seen an adaption of a character on an anitmated show be so well received. I think it’s such a complement to what Bruce Timm and Paul Dini did with the character, in that their version of Mr. Freeze was incorporated into the main comic continuity, and also, though it was done horribly, their origin story for Mr. Freeze was used for the “Batman & Robin” movie. Even though that is the worst movie of all time, it’s still kind of cool to know that the writer of that movie wanted to use a story that was from an animated show, for a major motion picture.
For me personally, this is the episode that I saw where I first knew that this show was special. It was actually the third episode to air, but the first episode to air in it’s normal weekday time slot, and it was the second episode that I ever saw for the series. It was the first day back to school for me when it first aired in the fall of 1992, and I remember vividly waiting for the school day to end so I can watch it. These were the days before the internet, where you didn't know what the episode was going to be about before it aired, and I was really excited to see what villain would be appearing in the first weekday episode. But what I remember most about watching this episode for the first time, was that how it was not only me and my brothers that loved the episode, as kids being big Batman fans, but also by how much my parents thought the episode was great. As a 9 year old kid at the time, I was pretty much just excited to see new Batman stories on T.V. everyday, not really worrying about how good the stories or writing was. But I did think at the time that it really said something about how good this show actually is, if two adults were both raving about how great the story and writing were for this episode that is supposed to be geared towards kids, and also by how they really took to the character of Mr. Freeze and his story. To did this day Mr. Freeze remains my Mom's favorite Batman character, and it's all because of "Heart of Ice."
There are a couple of episodes that I consider to be my personal favorite over “Heart Of Ice,” and there are a few things you can nitpick about the episode, like some animation mistakes where the colors on Batman’s chest logo are reversed, but no other episode from “Batman: The Animated Series” has had a greater positive impact for one character, and for the series itself than “Heart Of Ice.” But Mr. Freeze’s great story didn't end with this episode, his arc continued to be captivating not only in "Batman: The Animated Series, but as well as in "The New Batman Adventures," the movie "Sub-Zero, and even all the way up to “Batman Beyond.” The fact that other mediums have also used this story for the basis of Mr. Freeze’s motives, truly makes “Heart Of Ice” not only a classic “Batman The Animated Series” episode, but a classic Batman story period.
Batman: The Animated Series-Heart Of Ice:
Reviewed by Tim Geraci