We now come to the episode that changed everything, this, as a lot of people will tell you, is the episode that made people really look at Batman: The Animated Series not just as a kids cartoon but something much more than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
This is Heart Of Ice, first broadcasted on September 7, 1992 with a script by Paul Dini and directed by Bruce Timm.
Bitter scientist Victor Fries, as Mr. Freeze, attacks several divisions of GothCorp, each time stealing a piece for a secret weapon he intends to build. Batman investigates the connections, and discovers that the start of Freeze’s vendetta against GothCorp was a bitter falling out between Fries and GothCorp’s CEO, Ferris Boyle (Mark Hamill), during which Boyle almost killed Fries (mutating him into Freeze) and presumably killed Fries’ terminally ill wife, Nora. Batman must find a way to bring Boyle to justice before Freeze carries out his revenge.
Not only is this my second favorite Batman: The Animated Series episode of all time but it’s also one of the best episodes of television ever made.
What makes this one of the best episode of television ever is that this episode is just absolutely perfect.
It has a perfect mix of writing, action, drama, comedy, and brilliant voice acting from Michael Ansara’s Mr. Freeze and of course, the rest of the main cast of the series.
The writing is top notch, Freeze’s final line in the episode is one of the most brilliantly written bits of dialogue ever brought to TV screens. For an animated series to pull this off is a massive feat. But not only that, Paul Dini did such an amazing job of giving this character that was created during the campy 60s Batman series a complex story that’s both brilliantly written and incredibly tragic.
The dramatic moments in this episode are absolutely spectacular, the scene where we see how Freeze became what he is today is so chilling, no pun intended, to watch:
It also helps you have such an amazing performance from Michael Ansara as Freeze to give a performance that if this was done in live-action, he would’ve won an Emmy for it.
A lot of interesting tidbits about this episode exist. One of those things is that Bruce Timm originally was looking to get Anthony Hopkins to do the voice for Freeze but again, going back to what I said about how Al Pacino was being considered for Two-Face, it would’ve been an interesting choice but it would’ve been too distracting considering Hopkins had just played Hannibal Lecter, a role that won him an Oscar, and that’s all you probably would’ve heard so I am glad they went with Ansara as Freeze.
Another interesting tidbit is that when Toon Disney aired this in reruns years later, they actually took out the part where Batman said “My God!”, which at the time was considered daring for a kids’ cartoon as the censors considered any mention of religion or any expletive inappropriate but then again, Warner Bros.’ animation department was pretty clever about getting around the censors back then, just go back and watch some of the jokes in Animaniacs. Toon Disney also cuts out a pivotal line from Freeze when he says “I’d kill for that” when he’s talking to Batman when he’s hanging on the icy ceiling.
Probably the most interesting thing about this episode is Mark Hamill, who in this episode plays Ferris Boyle, the man who caused Freeze’s accident, it’s a great role and in that scene where the accident happens, you can see Hamill’s Joker slightly coming out when he lashes at Victor. What’s interesting was that when Hamill came on to the show, he was given the chance to not only be Boyle but play one of the villains. Of course, that villain would be the Joker when, of all people, Tim Curry dropped out. Imagine that, Tim Curry as the Joker, that’s an idea that could’ve gone either way, it could’ve been great or it could’ve been disastrous but luckily they did go with Hamill for Joker.
The animation is once again phenomenally and honestly, this is the best animation I’ve seen done with the show thus far, this is Spectrum Animation Studio that did a lot of the animation for the episode and they did a phenomenal job with it. The opening chase scene where Freeze freezes the road to stop the Batmobile looks amazing with the shimmers of ice in plain sight.
The final fight is one of the show’s best climaxes, brilliantly animated with great action and great voice work all around:
Can I just say that the first time I watched the episode I never thought that the thermos of Chicken Soup that Alfred gave to Bruce would be the thing that would stop Freeze in the end. But then again, hot liquid against the cold glass would cause it to shatter so that does make sense.
But yeah, the overall final fight with those great lines from Ansara and the animation blend together so well with the excellent score running in the background.
Hell, the final scene alone is excellent. Like I said, Freeze’s final line in the episode is one of the most brilliantly written bits of dialogue ever.
What more can I even say about Heart Of Ice, it’s absolute perfection, it does a spectacular job of taking a character that could’ve been relegated to the 60s show and give him a fascinating storyline the audience can relate to, brilliant writing, brilliant voice work, brilliant action, brilliant animation, Heart Of Ice is the first true episode of Batman: TAS that set the series ahead of its’ time and create not only one of its’ greatest episodes but one of television’s greatest accomplishments.