Welcome to another edition of Saturday Morning Cartoons. This is our weekly feature in which we highlight an episode of a cartoon series, on Saturday mornings. Because when else should we do it? Saturday mornings are a time that should be set aside for enjoying cartoons.
For this week’s installment, I am returning to Batman: The Animated Series. The episode we’ll be discussing is “Heart of Ice,” written by Paul Dini and directed by Bruce Timm. This episode is the introduction of Mr. Freeze into the animated series, starting what is one of the best stories in the series, and would later lead to an animated movie, Batman: Sub-zero.
The episode opens with Mr. Freeze, waxing poetically while looking at figure of a ballerina, promising revenge on the “monsters” that took her from him. It’s a real ominous opening and introduction to Mr. Freeze. In the cartoon, we know nothing about him, but in less than 30 seconds, we’ve already learned that he has a love interest that was taken away from him.
Gotham, in the middle of a warm Summer, there have been a rash of “cold” related crimes involving a freeze gun. The target of the crimes is always Goth Corp, run by their chairman, Ferris Boyle, who’s being voiced by Mark Hamill. In the Batcave, Batman quickly deduces, because he is the world’s greatest detective, that the 4 items stolen can be used to build a massive freeze ray, but it’s missing a fifth item. It is a bit of a stretch that he could so quickly discover that this the only possible thing these four items can be used together for, and only with a fifth item that hasn’t been stolen, yet. It’s a good thing that the fifth item isn’t being developed in secret. Or is it?
Mr. Freeze and Batman arrive at the warehouse storing this last component at roughly the same time. However, Mr. Freeze gains the upper hand by icing the road, causing the Batmobile to spin out. Eventually, Batman makes his way into the warehouse, takes out the henchmen, and tells Mr. Freeze to “freeze.” Mr. Freeze responds with “that’s Mister Freeze to you.” And this is how you add some levity to Batman. This exchange is not out of character for either of them. It’s a common exchange that you’ve undoubtedly seen many times before. The good guy, usually a cop, tells the criminal to freeze. Also, where someone demands that the title be put before their name, demanding respect. Here, those two moments are combined because the wordplay works. It’s naturally humorous.
But anyways, Mr. Freeze tells Batman that this is a personal matter and he should just stay out of it. Of course Batman isn’t going to do that. After a brief fight, Batman gets trapped in some ice. But also during the fight, one of Freeze’s henchmen’s legs get encased in ice. In an oddly humanizing moment for henchmen, this one is begging his friends to not leave him, and they were going to stick with him and get him help. That is until Freeze demands that they leave him. So here we have a villain that we know is capable of love, even motivated by it, but no longer has any compassion in his heart for others. Batman, rather than chasing after Freeze, decides to help the henchman.
After thawing out the henchman and turning him in, Bruce Wayne goes to meet Ferris Boyle. Here, we get a look at the real Ferris Boyle. He tells Bruce that there is only one one person that could hate Goth Corp that much, but he’s dead. There was someone who was using company money and resources on a personal project, so he sent security to shut it down. The end result was an explosion. Ferris said he had do to something because the guy was wasting money, and when the “wage slaves” start acting like they run the place it’s time to pull the plug. Bruce is not amused by this at all. Even less so that Boyle is getting a Humanitarian award later on that night.
Mr. Freeze is also not amused by this, blasting his TV during an interview with Boyle at the awards ceremony. Here, we get a quick moment into his motivation. He comments that there was no humanity, charity, or compassion when she needed help. So, we now know that not only did Mr. Freeze had a love interest that was taken away from him, but she needed help that was not given to her. Since Mr. Freeze is angry that she didn’t receive the necessary help, we can assume that he was not the problem that she needed help with, and perhaps he’s upset because the help she needed was the experiment that was shut down. This would explain the motivation behind the attacks, combining everything we know so far.
Back in the cave, Batman says that Boyle mentioning the explosion reminded him of the headlines he saw about it a year ago, but that there was a cover up. So, Batman, disguised as a security guard, sneaks into Goth Corp’s classified file section. Here, he finds the files on Victor and Nora Fries, his wife. In a video, Victor is explaining that he has created this cryo chamber to hold patients with inoperable conditions, until a time that they could be cured. In busts Boyle and the security guards. Victor tries to explain to them what is going on, but Boyle doesn’t care. It’s his money and resources, so he can do whatever he wants to with it. Boyle ends up kicking Victor into some chemicals, causing him to become Mr. Freeze. In walks Mr. Freeze.
Mr. Freeze captures Batman. Batman offers his condolences and guesses that the suit is worn because of the chemical reaction, but Mr. Freeze says he is incapable of compassion, and he feels no remorse at the thought of killing many just to get back at the man who took away his ability to enjoy a warm, summer day. Mr. Freeze takes his henchmen and leaves, leaving Batman the opportunity to fairly easily escape his ice shackles.
Mr. Freeze is encasing the building the awards ceremony is being held in, when he is interrupted by Batman. Freeze goes into the building to finish this himself, and confronts Boyle. As Freeze starts to freeze Boyle, he starts to beg. Freeze is explaining that he constantly sees Nora begging for him from behind the glass. This speech is interrupted by Batman. Batman isn’t winning the fight, because Freeze’s suit also triples his strength. As Freeze has Batman by the throat, Batman pulls out a thermos of chicken soup that Alfred gave him.
So, now I have to back up a bit. You see, over the course of the episode, Batman has been developing a cold. It didn’t seem like much. Not remembering how this episode ended, I hadn’t thought to really include that detail. Before Batman left the cave the last time, Alfred gave him a thermos of chicken soup, because that’s how you fight a cold.
Anyways, Batman takes out this thermos, and bashes Freeze’s helmet with it, cracking the helmet. Freeze becomes immobilized, unable to handle the heat. Not wanting to let the other villain of this story go, Batman hands over evidence of what Boyle did to Victor and Nora Fries. The episode ends kind of like how it began, with Freeze talking to the spinning ballerina figure that is a stand-in for his wife, this time asking for forgiveness that he wasn’t able to save her.
There we have have the shows introduction to Mr. Freeze. Michael Ansara, who voices Mr. Freeze, does a phenomenal job giving Mr. Freeze that cold, calculating voice, while still adding in that subtle hint of emotion when dealing with his wife. This complex story of Mr. Freeze makes him one of more interesting villains on the show. He truly is the hero of his story, but he is willing to do some pretty evil things to do what he feels must be done.
Hope you enjoyed this journey through “Heart of Ice.” I encourage you to go watch it. I think the first two season of the show are being put on Blu-ray soon, so they should be easy to find. This episode is one of the best in the series. See you next week.