Mr. Freeze: I’m beyond emotions. They’ve been frozen dead in me.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Mr. Freeze is a Batman villain that hasn’t had much luck in a world full of Batman live-action adaptations. Batman and Robin completely butchered any depth the character had. Gotham’s version was light years better but its story was rather run of the mill. Both versions of the backstory for their character stemmed (and neither have been able to match) from this Emmy-winning 1992 episode due to outstanding writing.
The story is that a man in a powerful suit and freeze gun named Mr. Freeze is pulling off a series of heists as various GothCorp offices. Upon investigating the incident as Bruce Wayne by questioning GothCorp CEO Ferris Boyle, Batman learns Freeze’s backstory: Mr. Freeze was once a man named Victor Fries who had his terminally ill wife Nora placed in a cryogenic stasis while in search of a cure for her disease. Boyle attempted to shut the project down and by extension kill Nora as the project was draining his company’s funds. Fries begged Boyle not to but Boyle merely kicked him into a vat of cryonic chemicals and Fries was presumed dead. Of course, however, he survived as Mr. Freeze but could no longer live outside of sub-zero temperatures without his suit and could never again feel the warmth of the sun or the touch of a human hand. Freeze vows revenge and will kill anyone who stands in his way.
Michael Ansara’s voice acting is one of many aspects that make this character. His emotionless delivery gives a metallic touch helps signify the cold emotionless shell that’s left of the man he used to be and gives every word he speaks a sense of weight and menace. Even though he claims to have no emotions Ansara’s performance does a good job of hiding the character’s emotions deep which makes it all the more believable when he does cry. His backstory is some very heavy stuff, and we learn it through Batman’s perspective, which allows both characters to develop. It perfectly justifies Freeze’s desire for revenge but also combines it with how cruel and bizarre his plan is. It comes to the point that stopping or helping him tears even Batman.
Both Batman and Bruce are emotionally frozen through the losses of their families. Their actions are motivated through the loved ones they lost. But both of them lack justice in case of emotion to reflect on whether or not their loved ones would have wanted them to do what they are doing.
Ferris Boyle can in many ways be seen as an opposite to Freeze. Boyle gives the appearance of a friendly, suave, and rich man but has no real compassion for anyone. Freeze may be quite cold (pun intended) towards his fellow humans but has a deep-running love for his late wife. Boyle is also a great villain and the perfect foe for a vigilante like Batman to fight. His actions may have been legal but they are immoral. Even though Batman spends the episode trying to stop Freeze’s schemes, upon learning the information of his past he clearly develops more care for Freeze and makes no attempt to help thaw a half-frozen and fully terrified Boyle.
If there is one nitpick it’s that the action is rather goofy. Not 1960s goofy per se, but with all the heartfelt emotion that the episode has put it does get rather distracting in everything else the episode showed the audience.
Heart of Ice has an amazing story with a complex conflict and a compelling hero and villain. It pretty much framed the backstory for virtually every future version starring the character. The episode made the character much more tragic rather than just a guy with a cool freeze gun. And while no version has come close to matching it, this backstory knew how to make a profound impact through just the imagery of an ailing loved one. And that is something that carried through to all incarnations of the character.