“Cold Comfort” (season three, episode three; originally aired 10/11/1997)
In spite of his complete emotional paralysis, Mr. Freeze is one of the most sympathetic characters on this series, a tragic villain who wants to see the world experience the same suffering he’s endured. Following the events of Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, Nora Fries is alive and well, but Victor chooses never to see her again and she marries her doctor. To make matters worse, Victor’s body has frozen to the point where it’s begun breaking down, leaving his head as the only functioning part of his old self. With nothing left to fight for, Mr. Freeze goes on a rampage through Gotham City, destroying the life’s work of other notable Gotham figures so that they can feel the cold sting he lives with at all times.
The character of Mr. Freeze is one that changes drastically with the revamp, and not just in terms of his visual representation. He’s a much more traditional supervillain in “Cold Comfort,” with two wise-cracking snow bunny sidekicks and an unwavering stream of anger pointed at anyone who has a better life than him. He starts by going after Gotham scientist Dr. Madsen, who has just unveiled a complete Ultrasaurus skeleton. When Madsen tells Freeze that the bones are worthless to him, he says with his signature chill, “I did not come here to steal bones, Dr. Madsen. I came to steal hope.” It’s a great line that counteracts the goofiness of his henchmen: two sexy women in snowsuits with no pants.
Despite the changes in his character, Michael Ansara’s voice work for Mr. Freeze is as spot-on as ever, and this episode wouldn’t be as successful without his hollow, haunting readings. The absence of emotion in Ansara’s voice reveals the desperate loneliness of a man trapped in a cage of his own creation. When he was fighting to save Nora, he took strength from the cold, but now that she’s permanently out of his life, the cold has begun to consume and destroy him. He’s lost his heart and his body, and all he’s left with is his icy mind, which is telling him that Gotham’s elite needs to suffer as he has.
After destroying a new painting at the Gotham Tricentennial, Mr. Freeze targets Bruce Wayne, someone important who feels safe and untouchable in his city. We get to see some of that cocky ignorance when Bruce is talking to Commissioner Gordon at the Tricentennial, acting dumber that he really is so that he can potentially get some information. Bruce is a perfect target for Freeze, who is longing to establish a family of his own and despises Bruce for being able to create a new family after having his life destroyed by personal catastrophe. He storms into Wayne Manor and puts Alfred on ice, but there’s one member of the family that Freeze doesn’t know about, and she’s about to kick his butt.
The New Batman Adventures tried to appeal to a broader audience of children, and Batgirl is given an expanded role to grab the attention of all those little girls that might be willing to stick around for some superheroes after Pokémon. This is the first episode where we’re given a sense of Barbara Gordon’s talents as Batgirl, through an expertly choreographed sequence that shows off the Batcave’s impressive training facilities. Barbara introduces some romantic tension into the mix by flirting with Bruce, who just ignores her advances. When she suggests they call it a night and Batman agrees, a huge grin appears on her face as she ponders the possibility of a night with Bruce. Then he tells her that she still needs some training time, prompting her to stick her tongue out because she’s barely an adult. There’s a big gap in maturity between Bruce and Barbara that makes their coupling hard to swallow, but her schoolgirl crush adds extra dimension to their relationship.
When Batman and Batgirl go after Freeze, they discover his new form when his spider-legged head comes clicking down the hallway in a wonderfully creepy sequence from director Dan Riba. I’ve always been a big fan of walking-head Mr. Freeze because it’s such an unnerving visual, and the huge changes in Mr. Freeze’s character give him one of the strongest arcs of any of the Batman rogues. His plot to drop a reverse fusion bomb on Gotham and freeze the entire city may not be the most inspired, but his need for vengeance has grown to a point where he holds the entire world accountable for his suffering. When Batman attaches Freeze to the bomb and sends him hurtling out of a helicopter and into the ocean, it seems like a merciful act that hopefully sends Freeze to his grave. It does seem like Batman is totally fine with letting him die, but maybe our hero already sees Victor Fries as the walking dead. Strapping him to a bomb and dropping him out of a helicopter is just the Dark Knight’s way of helping Mr. Freeze find his eternal rest.
- Batman Beatdown: When one of Freeze’s snow bunnies points her ice gun at Batman, he slaps her with a cooking pot, causing her to freeze her own leg. Kitchenware for the win!
- This episode features the first appearance of Jack Ryder, the TV reporter who will become the oddball hero known as the Creeper. Man, the Creeper is such an awesome superhero.
- Bruce has no response when Tim calls him out for not following due process and basically undermining the entire justice system. It’s not the first time he’s heard that, so he should really come up with an answer at some point.
- Hey, look! Bruce is bleeding out of the side of his mouth when Freeze throws him against the helicopter windshield. I wonder what the strict blood rules are for children’s network television?
- “Not bad, for a corpse.” Buffy The Vampire Slayer used this exact line during the Giles/Buffy training montage in “Once More, With Feeling.”
- Batman: “Don’t lose that signal.” Batgirl: “As if.” Could Barbara’s Clueless quoting be a reference to Alicia Silverstone being cast as Batgirl in Batman And Robin?