I’ve been writing these weekly reviews of Batman: The Animated Series episodes for just about a year now, and we’ve only got five left after this one. While I didn’t do every episode, I have done quite a lot. This is why it’s particularly amazing to me that it took so long to bring back one of the series’ best characters. In terms of airdate, there were 78 episodes and a feature film in between the appearances of one of the series’ best-realized, most iconic, and frankly baddest-ass villains – Mr. Freeze. After appearing in the very second episode, “Heart of Ice,” Freeze remained in Arkham this whole time, content as none of the other baddies were to serve his time and mourn his beloved Nora. But a villain as cool as he is couldn’t only be a one-off, surely! Not when there’s a lot more zapping to do. He finally returned in the final aired episode of the third season, “Deep Freeze.”
The fans of this program had to wait such a long time to get another episode with Mr. Freeze – 26 months to be exact, which is forever to a kid. Was it worth the wait? How do you top as amazing an episode as “Heart of Ice?” Did they succeed? I will say, seeing that the character of Mr. Freeze is one of the more sci-fi in the TAS canon, they really upped the sci-finess of this episode so it definitely gets a lot bigger than the last one. But, again, we’re nearing the end of the whole thing, so I think it’s justified.
One night at Arkham, a giant robot with ice-blasting ability breaks in and kidnaps Victor Fries from his cell. After watching the security cam footage, Batman and Robin determine that Fries must not have had any knowledge of the breakout beforehand, judging by the scared look on his otherwise stoic face. They go to speak to Karl Rossum, the inventor of HARDAC, a giant sentient (and eventually malevolent) computer from an episode I didn’t cover. Rossum has turned his attention to making toys at this point and one of them, weirdly, is Batmite. Just because, I guess. But, they learn from Rossum that the design of the robot looks very similar to one made for Grant Walker, the amusement park magnate.
The Dynamic Duo head by boat to Walker’s newest park, Oceana, which is a domed city off the coast of Gotham. Walker has something special in mind for it, though, and when the robot arrives with Freeze, the old and feeble millionaire reveals that he’s had Mr. Freeze’s suit rebuilt exactly how it was and has determined that in such a frozen state, the man will live many decades longer than he normally would, making him effectively immortal. Walker, who is dying, wants Freeze to do the same experiment on him and prolong his life, even though Freeze says he would much rather be allowed to feel, touch, and die like normal. But Walker has an ace up his sleeve…he’s found Nora Fries’ suspended body and brought her to the island. If Freeze helps Walker, Walker will aid in awakening Nora from her cryosleep.
But even these aren’t enough for Walker; he’s got other plans. When Batman and Robin get passed Walker’s robot sentries, they see him giving a speech to the young and beautiful people in the park: he’s going to freeze all of Gotham, and indeed the world, with a massive cold cannon, for five years of Ice Age, and only the people in Oceana will remain alive. The good guys get caught by more robots and are taken to the laboratory where Mr. Freeze zaps them, holding their arms together. Freeze thinks Walker’s mad also, but he has no choice if he wants to revive Nora.
They watch as Freeze performs the experiment on Walker, making him stronger and no longer in pain. He is delighted and goes up to see his kingdom. Batman tries to plead with Mr. Freeze to help them stop Walker. Batman plays dirty, using logic (the fiend!), saying if Nora is awakened, how will she react when the whole world is in ice and her husband is unable to comfort her because of his icy condition? Freeze angrily zaps them again, but ultimately sees Batman’s words are true. He frees them and all three head up to stop Walker’s plan.
Freeze begins zapping everything in sight, including the cannon’s controls and the robots who control them. Freeze then chucks Walker into a vat of coolant while the Caped Crusaders begin clearing everyone out. Freeze traps Walker in an ice cube and prepares to meet his fate. Batman doesn’t want to leave Freeze there, but the king of cold zaps Robin, forcing Batman to take him to get warm. Freeze remains with Nora while the whole city begins to explode around him. Later, once Robin is thawed, he and Batman muse about the fate of Walker and Freeze. Walker, we see, is still trapped in the ice cube underwater, and alive and trapped, while Freeze and Nora are alive and frozen in a bubble protecting them from the glaciers around them.
There’s no two ways about it, this episode is not as good as “Heart of Ice,” but then again it couldn’t be. There’s a reason Mr. Freeze hadn’t shown up in that whole time in between – he was done too well, his story was too definitive, and he’s ultimately kind of a single note villain. Even here, he’s much more of an anti-hero than a villain, a rational man who is simply amoral and doesn’t care about anyone but Nora. He still sees logic, he isn’t insane; he’s just sad and embittered. The rest of the episode is pretty much just the same plot as Moonraker, with Walker attempting (for no discernible reason besides “the plot”) to kill the world and restart a society using only people he’s chosen. It’s more just a means to bring Mr. Freeze back. There are worse conventions, and the character is engaging enough that it doesn’t rattle too much.
All right, friends, we’re down to the wire. We’ve only got five more episodes of Batman: The Animated Series left to cover. These are ones I don’t remember that well, because I think I’d become hooked on other programs like Gargoyles at this point, so these watches will be an experience. First up is an episode many people seem to hate. Oh goodie. It’s “The Terrible Trio.”