“Heart of Ice”
Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Bruce W. Timm
“Heart of Ice” would have to be regarded as the best episode of Batman: The Animated Series season one, especially considering the creative team involved. Featuring a script by Bruce Timm and marking the first episode of Batman directed by Bruce Timm, we get our first interpretation of Mr. Freeze since the 60’s television series. It’s an excellent episode and when viewed alongside yesterday’s “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement”, you notice an immediate change in style and tone. As a fan of Bruce Timm (his work with DC is my favorite) “Heart of Ice” is a great episode on so many levels.
Before we see Mr. Freeze become more villainous and evil as the series progresses, and long before Scott Snyder reinvented the character in his New 52 run, he was not such a bad guy. While many may disagree with the following (I’m going to say it) Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance wasn’t all that bad when judged alongside this episode. While many hated Batman and Robin and the film was responsible for sending Batman to an early grave, there were certain ideas that came from a genuine place. The film, while campy, did present Mr. Freeze as a more sympathetic villain, especially when compared to the likes of Two-Face and The Riddler. “Heart of Ice” brings to mind Schwarzenegger’s performance and may have possibly influenced the 1998 film as the episode came six years before.
The Gotham City in “Heart of Ice” takes place in August. There’s a startling number of cold related crimes that Summer Gleeson is reporting on for Gotham Insider. One of particular notoriety is that of a break in at Goth Corp. The corporation is run by Ferris Boyle who appears to be a titan of industry with a heart. He’s drawn with similar cheekbones to that of Ra’s Al Ghul so we should know he’s going to be the true villain of the episode. We learn that Dr. Victor Fries was working for Boyle and using his technology and equipment to save his wife Nora. Victor Fries, as always, is working on cryogenics and Boyle complains that he’s in 3 million dollars worth of debt. In a heated argument he shoves Victor and the cryonic chemicals he falls into transform him into Mr. Freeze.
There’s a tragic element to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s revamped Mr. Freeze. Creating him as a scientist longing to cure his wife captures the tone of the series perfectly. Many comic and cartoon fans consider “Heart of Ice” to be the best episode of the entire Batman: The Animated Series and after watching, it’s not hard to see why. The balance between producing an episode that reflects the spirit of the comics while providing an engaging experience for fans works so well. There’s a sense that Bruce Timm’s disappointment in “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” provided this remarkable drive in him to readdress everything that he envisioned his Batman to be.
“Heart of Ice” is expertly layered and provides a story worth telling. We get a few scenes featuring Batman fighting Mr. Freeze; while flashy, each scene maintains a dignified relationship with each character. Mr. Freeze doesn’t necessarily want to kill Batman, but it’s the Dark Knight’s constant meddling in his motivation to revive his wife that places both men as opposing forces. By the close of the episode, Mr. Freeze is stopped by the Batman and sent to a specialized unit inside Arkham Asylum. However, while Freeze cries over not being able to make good on his promise to the comatose Nora, we see Batman watching him from a rooftop afar. It’s a remarkably somber tone to end on, but then Batman’s series never ended in the triumphant way each Fleischer Superman short would. It’s possibly for this very reason that Bruce Timm’s name is so heavily regarded as the man that redefined and gave the modern day a Batman for the ages. Timm, along with Fleischer, is a true pioneer when it comes to the craft of storytelling through animation. He has a self-taught knowledge of artwork and it’s his love for animation that has allowed him to present work with a special kind of romanticism.
- Batman says “My God!” while watching the tape, which was unusual in a cartoon, as the censors considered any mention of religion or any expletive inappropriate. Timm mentioned on the DVD commentary for the episode that he considers it strange they never caught it.
- At one moment in “Heart of Ice” Mr. Freeze says “I’d kill for that.” It’s another line that, for whatever reason, was overlooked.
- There are several moments within the episode that helped inspire the 1997 Batman and Robin version of Mr. Freeze. There are similarities shared with his vehicle, his lines, and the more sympathetic portrayal of the villain. He also has a giant freeze canon in the episode which was used during the 1997’s film’s climax.
- “Heart of Ice” won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.
Stay tuned for more Batman: The Animated Series.