BOF RETROSPECTIVE: "Heart of Ice" Author: Chris Clow (Follow @CHRISCLOW)
Date: May 21, 2017
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Production Order: 14
Airdate Order: 6
Original Airdate: September 7, 1992
Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Bruce Timm
Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as Alfred
Bob Hastings as Commissioner Gordon
Michael Ansara as Mr. Freeze/Victor Fries
Mari Devon as Summer Gleeson
Mark Hamill as Ferris Boyle
Batman has been around in many different forms since he was first created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in 1939. Over the past 78 years, he's become one of the single biggest American cultural icons in existence, carrying a popularity and longevity that his creators likely could've never imagined. In that time, hundreds of talented storytellers across radio, television, comics, cinema and more have all contributed scores of stories to his legacy, and only a very small percentage of Batman's totality of stories have managed to be held in the highest regard as the most definitive, representative and powerful tales told with the enduring icon that is the Batman.
In the estimation of this writer, "Heart of Ice" from BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is one of those very best stories.
When it was first broadcast early through the first season of the now-definitive series, "Heart of Ice" played with a lot of preconceived notions about some longstanding characters, turning them on their head to radically redefine one of Batman's most powerful enemies. If you look at Batman's full history, few of these kinds of redefinitions of any character — hero or villain — have rarely managed to stick in the ongoing and growing canon of Batman stories. With writer Paul Dini's refresh of Mr. Freeze, though, a previously "silly" character more fit for the sixties TV series than the hard-hitting stories of the comics was commonplace. After "Heart of Ice" aired, though, Freeze had become not just a better, more identifiable villain, but an infinitely more interesting one.
In the episode, prominent Gotham City millionaire and philanthropist Ferris Boyle is enduring a series of strange thefts at his corporation, GothCorp, by a very strange figure who has the ability to freeze objects into solid ice even though Gotham is undergoing its strongest heat wave in years. Questioning Boyle about who may be pulling these technology thefts off, Boyle claims the only man he can think of is a former research scientist who's now dead.
When Batman infiltrates GothCorp and watches a security video showing the accident that turns Dr. Victor Fries into the villainous Mr. Freeze, he understands that the desperate scientist was only trying to save his terminally ill wife's life by using proprietary cryogenic technology from GothCorp. When Boyle finds out these experiments are costing him significant amounts of money he callously shuts down the machinery, and when Fries tries to stop him, Boyle kicks the scientist into a table of cryogenic chemicals, changing his body and transforming him into a being requiring constant, intense refrigeration.
It's then up to Batman, horrified at Boyle's treatment of Fries and his wife, to stop the new Mr. Freeze from making sure innocent people aren't caught in the crossfire of Freeze's desire for revenge, while also bringing Boyle — set to receive a "Humanitarian of the Year" award — to justice.
"Heart of Ice" is one of the most effective and significant changes to a longstanding Batman character in the long history of the character's existence. It helped show fans of all stripes just how wonderful and capable BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES was at telling wonderful, worthy stories of the characters, and solidified writer Paul Dini's now-legendary status as one of the best scribes to ever tackle the Dark Knight and his expansive world.
All of these factors combine to create one of the absolutely purest, most transformative Batman stories told in any medium, and make "Heart of Ice" an easy stand-out among the full count of wonderful episodes found in this groundbreaking series (and an episode we at BOF once called the best of all animated Batman in 2014).
If you've never watched it, then you owe it to yourself as a Batman fan to absorb this episode, and to witness a pivotal moment in Batman history that would reverberate through the character's future for decades to come. Seems hard to get better than that. - Chris Clow