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BATMAN Reanimated – Mr. Freeze Gives Some ‘Cold Comfort’

BATMAN Reanimated – Mr. Freeze Gives Some ‘Cold Comfort’

Batman: The Animated Series was a renaissance for many of Batman’s cadre of secondary villains, but none more so than Mr. Freeze. He was a laughable, gimmicky bad guy in the comics and effectively silly on the 1966 Batman TV show, even when played by serious actors George Sanders, Otto Preminger, and Eli Wallach. But in the 1992 episode “Heart of Ice,” he became a tragic, richly drawn character and favorite among Bat-fans everywhere. In 1997, Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin came out and the character became a joke again, so later that year in The New Batman Adventures, the writers had to go even darker to make up for it.

“Cold Comfort” sets up this next evolution of Mr. Freeze by making him even colder (pun intended) than he was before. While in his initial appearances in TAS, he was a scorned scientist endeavoring to save his terminally ill wife, losing his humanity in the process, this episode finds him in full on “freeze the world” mode. Whatever modicum of reasoning he had seems to have flown out the window. He’s simply cruel and vindictive. But, of course, because this show is incredibly well-written, we find out why, and it makes his sadness and anger all the more understandable, if still unconscionable.

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The episode opens at a history museum event where a scientist named Margaret Madsen is unveiling her discovery of a rare dinosaur skeleton, the culmination of her life’s work. Just then, Mr. Freeze and some of his Freeze Ladies break in, wanting neither hostages nor cash and jewels. All Mr. Freeze does is shoot the skeleton with his freeze ray, and destroy it. When asked by a tearful Madsen why he’d done it, Freeze says only “Why not?” A few days later, Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon are at an art gallery, discussing the strange and seemingly unmotivated Mr. Freeze attack, when Mayor Hill has an artist dedicate his new mural “Twilight in Gotham,” to the city. Again, this is the artist’s crowning achievement, and Freeze breaks in to destroy it. He also attempts to freeze a woman’s beloved dog, saying the city should fear for the things they hold dear. Batman arrives to stop the dog murder, but the damage to the painting is done, and Mr. Freeze tosses Batman aside like a rag doll.

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Mr. Freeze has some scientists holed up in a frozen warehouse, forcing them to stabilize his condition. They do this, but the villain refuses to release them. Later, as part of his desire to destroy the beloved things of the city’s wealthiest, Mr. Freeze and his henchladies show up at Wayne Manor, where Freeze debates which of Bruce Wayne’s loved ones he should take, the surrogate son (Tim Drake) or the surrogate father (Alfred), ultimately choosing the latter. Luckily, Batgirl was down in the Batcave training is was able to stop Freeze, but Alfred needed a long soak in a chemical bath to save his life.

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Batgirl and Batman track down Freeze in the warehouse, where Freeze shares with them the sad truth…He had managed to save his beloved wife Nora after all, however his condition slowly eroded his body until he was incurable himself. Going into hiding and driving Nora away, knowing he could never love her as a husband again, she eventually remarried, while Victor had become nothing but a living frozen head. His freeze suit opens up to reveal his head on a set of robotic spider legs, all that is left of the brilliant scientist. He wants to see the world freeze and promises to destroy Gotham with a reverse fusion bomb, which Batman is able to foil in the air before it’s too late.

Mr. Freeze actually only appears in four episodes and a movie in the whole of the Timmverse DC Animated adventures, the aforementioned “Heart of Ice” and “Deep Freeze” in TAS, the spinoff feature film Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, this episode of The New Batman Adventures, and the Batman Beyond episode “Meltdown.” That’s a very small rate of appearance, but that’s because each one is so tied to his tragic story arc and personal loss. He’s not like Joker or Penguin or Poison Ivy who can pop in and out whenever because they’ll never quit being baddies. Mr. Freeze is entirely about trying to save his wife, at the loss of his own humanity in the process.

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This episode also touches nicely on the burgeoning Bat-Family I talked about last week in “Sins of the Father.” Here we see Bruce training Barbara/Batgirl, and both being supportive but a difficult taskmaster, turning up the difficulty on a laser training device even after she got zapped on a lower setting. This leads almost immediately to Mr. Freeze nodding to the fact that Bruce Wayne has surrogate family members around him, and he sees Tim as his son and Alfred as his father. It’s a pretty functionally dysfunctional family at the best of times, and it took Freeze threatening to take a member of it to shake Bruce out of complacency a little bit.

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And, just for funsies, let’s talk about Mr. Freeze’s redesign. This might be the only design change that makes sense from a narrative standpoint. His face is far more gaunt and angular, and his eyes are way sunken in… cuz he’s effectively dead, yo! His suit looks way different and bulkier, but that’s because it’s a robotic body that has to house a set of retractable spider legs attached to his head. I don’t think he looks as awesome in this version, but he does look scarier, and that’s perfectly in line with what he is in this episode. So I fully stand by this one, really.

Speaking of redesigns I can get behind, next week we’ll talk about “Never Fear,” which shows us the brand brand new version of the Scarecrow, and damned if he doesn’t look even more nightmarish than before. In the meantime, share your opinion on “Cold Comfort” in the comments below!

Images: WB Animation


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He’s written the animation retrospectives Batman: Reanimated, X-Men: Reanimated, Cowboy Rebop, and Samurai reJacked. Follow him on Twitter!

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