Batman: The Animated Series

Episode 14 - Heart of Ice
harkovast at 9:23AM, Oct. 18, 2009
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posts: 5,198
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Pointless Trivia
After the creative pits of Tyger Tyger, I need to purge myself by talking about a good episode!
And what could be a better way to do that then with what has been voted the all time greatest episode by fans of series?

Plot Synopsis
Batman investigates a series of robberies which are the work of Mr Freeze. These are reveal to be part of plan by Freeze to construct a massive freeze ray in order to exact revenge on the man who ruined his life, Ferris Boyle.
Mr Freeze fails due to Batman's intervention, but Ferris's crime is exposed.


Highlights

Villains

Mr Freeze was always a favourite villain of mine. Even on the old campy 1960's series, the idea of a man who can't live outside of the cold fascinated me (that and freeze guns are cool!) I always remember fondly the line “lucky we wore our Bat-thermal underwear!” great stuff!
For the animated series, Freeze underwent perhaps the most drastic redesign of any villain.
Due to a freak accident, Freeze cannot survive outside of the cold, and wears a special robotic suit in order to move around in public.
Mr Freeze is effectively entombed in his suit, unable to make contact with other people physically. This idea of seperation and coldness is reflected in his personality. His is unemotional, uncompromising and lacks any compassion or mercy for those around him (even his own followers, who he casually abandons when they are are peril.) This characters personality and abilities really do mirror each other wonderfully, he is “cold” within, as well as without. The title “Heart of Ice” really couldn't be more apt.
Mr Freeze speaks in a strange, echoing, robotic voice, again reflecting his deadness to emotions.
Freeze has a wonderful “retro” look to his costume, with its domed helmet and red goggles. Though a man in a robot suit with a freeze ray is quite a sci fi concept, here it seems to fit seamlessly into the dark deco Batman setting.
Even the Freeze ray (a pretty silly concept when you think about it) is made to seem credible.
Here it is presented as a very serious and powerful weapon. People hit by it are not simply rendered still until someone decides to let them go, they are left trembling from the terrible cold and it is made quite clear that a man with frozen legs is in serious danger of death. Batman manages to break free from the ice, but exposure to the cold causes him to come down with a cold (an amusing metaphor for the episode, where Batman must “fight the cold”. Batman ultimately uses the heat of some chicken soup to shatter Freeze's helmet to defeat him, completing the “fighting a cold” metaphor)
Mr Freeze is also granted great strength by his robotic suit, as well as armoured protection within it.

It is important to realise though, that while Freeze is a monster, he is a very sympathetic one. He was originally the scientist Doctor Victor Fries (I should start doing a whole section of meaningful names in each review!) who worked studying Cryogenics at Gothcorp.
He secretly used company funds and equipment to conduct experiments to keep his wife Nora alive due to her terminal condition, putting her in suspended animation.
His work was discovered by the company CEO Ferris Boyle (Boil being the opposite of Freeze. See? The names are always meaningful!) who demanded he shut down his experiment, even though it would certainly kill his wife. Boyle is voiced by Mark Hamil, better known on the series as the voice of the Joker.
Fries, in desperation, grabbed a guards pistol and threatened Boyle. Boyle appealed to Fries that there was no need for violence and they could talk about the situation. Fries lowered his guard and Boyle kicked him, knocking him into some of the chemicals held nearby and filling the room with freezing gas.
This resulted in Fries becoming only able to live in subzero temperatures and thus becoming the cruel villain Mr Freeze.
So Dr Fries lost his wife, and his ability to live outside of a robotic suit.
Is it any wonder he has become twisted by a desire for revenge?
Boyle is in many ways the real villain of the piece, showing he cares only for money and his own advancement. He is entirely callous and shows no remorse for what he has done to Mr Freeze. However, interestingly he never actually breaks the law. As he points out, he is legally within his rights to shut down Fries experiments and when he kicks Fries, he is attacking an armed man who was threatening him moments before.
Of course, just because he could argue his actions were legal, they are clearly utterly immoral.
By comparison, Mr Freeze, cruel and violent as he is, has some sense of a righteous mission to what he is doing. He is willing to break laws and even kill, but he is doing out of a perceived injustice he is compelled to correct.
In this way we see that the worse villain is the one within the law. In this sense Boyle is very much the opposite of Freeze.
At the end of the episode, evidence of what Boyle has done is given to reporter Summer Gleeson. We don't see Boyles eventual fate, but a rich man like him can easily hire enough lawyers to get away with his crime and avoid jail time.
But has Boyle got away with it? Note that Batman gave the tape a reporter, not to the police. Boyle has built his reputation on being a great humanitarian and doing a great deal of charity work (clearly only as a way to boost his own reputation of course.) But now his hypocrisy has been exposed, showing his as the selfish, money grabbing bastard he is. With his reputation in ruins and footage of his cruel actionts replaying endless on the news, Gothcorp will wish to dispense of their CEO as quickly as possible.
Just as Boyle robbed Mr Freeze of the things that meant most to him (his wife, human companionship), Boyle has now been robbed of all the things he cares most about (his reputation, his fortune, his position in Gothcorp.) Though not killed, Boyle's fate is actually just as cruel and ironic as anything Mr Freeze had planned for him.

Batcrap Crazy
Mr Freeze has become devoid of compassion and care for other people, he makes it quite clear he no longer cares anything about the fates of others. He is would readily kill an entire building of people to get at his enemy and he does not think twice about leaving behind one of his followers (who he clearly expects to die from his frozen legs.) The only emotion he expresses is his terrible hatred and thirst for revenge against Boyle.
Freeze is separated from other people not just physically now, but emotionally as well. Just as he cannot touch them, he is no longer able to connect with them emotionally, leaving him entirely isolated within his own rageful thoughts.
Interestingly, Fries ends up becoming Freeze because of his compassionate actions motivated by love (attempting to keep her alive using resources that were not his) and Boyle was able to kick Fries into the chemicals that changed him by appealing to his compassion and their friendship and suggesting they talk about it (an appeal to compromise). It makes sense that Mr Freeze would want to turn his back on these concepts, leaving him uncaring about any appeals for mercy or any compromise of his extreme and absolute solutions.
Mr Freeze uses the beauty of snow as a metaphor for his world view -“Clean, uncompromising…” and as Batman adds “Cold.” Clearly this exchange is a metaphor for the harsh way in which Fries now sees the world.
But despite his suit and his strange voice, Mr Freeze is not just a machine. At the end of the episode he openly weeps and begs forgiveness from his dead wife for having ‘failed her’ by not killing Boyle. Here we see Freeze for what he is, a sad and pitiful individual, who has become monstrous only by the cruel hand fate has dealt him.
Like many of the best Batman stories, we see that the real villains are the corrupt individuals in positions of authority (Boyle, Ruppert Thorne, Roland Daggett, among others), and the “rogues gallery” villains are often the powerless individuals that have been driven to evil by their powerlessness in the fact of this corruption in the system.

Once again Batman shows how absolute his code against killing is. Mr Freezes initial plan is to kill everyone in the building with a giant Freeze ray. When Batman steps in to stop this, Freeze goes in to kill Boyle in person. Batman stops him despite knowing full well just what a dreadful person Boyle is.

GAS!
An icey cloud of gas transforms Dr Fries into Mr Freeze.

BAT BLOOD!
While it doesn't contain any spilling of blood, the episode goes include some surprisingly harsh language.
Batman states “My God!” in shock at seeing what happened to Fries, a rare religious exclamation in a childrens cartoon.
Also Mr Fries states “Oh yes, I'd kill for that” with regard to his intentions to kill Boyle and everyone else in the building. Normally cartoon shows tend to avoid using the word “kill” (preferring statements like “destroy them”.) When Mr Freeze says this, it makes his threat doubly frightening.

Holy Shitty moments Batman!
Okay before I get lynched for criticising this episode, let me just say these faults are very minor!
Firstly, a couple of times the symbol on Batman's chest inverts its colours (changing to a yellow symbol on a black background), a very minor error in the animation.
The only other fault is that when Batman watches the footage of Dr Fries and sees his origins, the camera angel keeps changing. While this makes things look really dramatic, it doesn't really make sense when we are just watching a recording Fries made. There was only one camera present and there was no camera man there to operate or move it.

Summary
This episode is basically awesome. It is dramatic, exciting, has great actions, great dialog, a great villain, great visuals, moral complexity and a bitter ending where Batman succeeds, but there is nothing to celebrate in this victory.
This really does demonstrate everything that is wonderful about the series.

Final Bat Score
5 out of 5

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:17AM
Wordweaver_three at 2:40AM, Oct. 29, 2009
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This is an awesome episode.

Not only does BAS manage to revive a long-forgotten villain, they made a previously lame villain one of the coolest (pun intended). The freeze-gun was used in the old 70's show because the censers at the time only allowed the villains to use weapons that either stopped them without harm, moved them gently, or otherwise incapacitated them without injury. Which is why you had so many shrink-rays, freeze-rays, float-rays, force-field-rays, stun-rays, sleep-rays, slow-rays, gravity-rays, anti-gravity-rays, etc. Although technically if you encased somebody in ice they're gonna die. BAS pretty much made the freeze ray what it should have been all along, lethal. Given how quickly the ray works, you have to assume that it's using some form of sub-freezing gas that causes water vapor to instantly condense around the subject. So the temperature of the ice could be well below zero. Even if only your legs got encased, you could die of hypothermia in minutes.

You're right that cartoons rarely use the word “kill”, they also rarely show death. Freeze's wife dies pretty much on screen. Sure, she's in cryostasis and passes away fairly peacefully, but Fries is screaming her name the entire time. This entire sequence is way beyond what usually passes for children's entertainment. No wonder Batman's reaction to it is “My God!”

Yes, the security cameras that are all placed in perfect position to get all the best dramatic shots is a bit annoying. That's pretty much par for the course in cartoons and shows. What's really annoying is when they do that using identical shots from earlier in the show, just fuzz it up a little or turn it black and white so we can tell that it's security footage. La-zy!
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:17AM
harkovast at 2:55PM, Oct. 30, 2009
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I love the way this show was always pushing against the accepted limits of what a childrens show could do.
I remember as a child watching Batman and thinking “Wow! People might really die here!”
You knew when you watched Batman, it was all on the line every week!

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:17AM
Abt_Nihil at 3:49AM, Jan. 5, 2010
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posts: 1,230
joined: 8-7-2007
The concept of whether or how Freeze really has a “heart of ice” always seemed quite interesting to me. Instead of giving a pseudo-scientific explanation about how his emotions froze within him (which is obviously absurd - dropping your body temperature isn't likely to change your cognitive and emotional apparatus, assuming it'll continue to work) it's been turned into a very poetic metaphor. Just like you pointed out, Freeze seems to WANT to be emotionally dead rather than actually being un-emotional. He has a sort of normative ideal for how he thinks he should live, but at his core, he's struggling with it. (I guess today you'd say he's a very EMO character :P)

Needless to say that BTAS is probably my favorite TV show, and this episode is probably my favorite of the whole series.

As for stretching TV broadcasting limits: The “feat of clay” episodes were broadcast before the “heart of ice” episode in Germany, and witnessing both the physical horror associated with Matt Hagen's transformation (combined with a metaphor for drug abuse, no less!) and the psychological horror of his realization that he isn't “even human anymore” profoundly changed my view of what cartoons are capable of and what they should be.

Also needless to say, these dramatic heights have never again been reached on TV.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:17AM
harkovast at 7:32AM, Jan. 5, 2010
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posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
abt_nihil oooh I am feeling inspired now to do a review of feet of clay and mudslide!

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:17AM

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