CREDITS: Written by Hilary J. Bader; directed by Dan Riba.
REVIEW: Okay, did we miss something? Mr. Freeze's wife was saved and she left him? Well, we did miss something, as all that probably happens in the SubZero movie, which won't be released for months! An odd quirk of the the show's broadcast schedule, which I find annoying. That said, I do like where this has left Freeze. His new agenda, driven by loss, is nihilism. If he can't have her, or any semblance of humanity (as we'll see), then no one can have anything they care about. He essentially peddles despair, destroying people's life's work, and ultimately, tries to destroy the city itself. He attacks Bruce Wayne's "surrogate family" to prevent him from restoring balance to his life, but is mistaken in thinking Batman doesn't know loss. In fact, the episode turns Freeze into a warped mirror image of Bruce Wayne, whose loss sent him in the wrong direction.
And there is a LOT of loss to deal with. It's not just his wife, his body has fallen prey to freezer burn too, and he's now - shockingly! - just a head, with various possible bodies (including a spidery one). That's a very intense redesign for the character, pushing the science fiction element of the show more strongly than was usual on the original series, but thematically coherent as well. Freeze is more disconnected from humanity than ever before. The head will survive the huge climax, which features a giant plane, a freeze bomb, and some fine animation, so will we get a rematch? And will that iceberg stay in Gotham harbor permanently?
The episode also continues the thread begun in the previous one, with Bruce as a harsh parent remorselessly training his kids. It's not just Robin, but Batgirl too, who though the preferred sidekick at this point - stay at home, Tim - still can't seem to ever be good enough for the Caped Crusader. But then Batman knows what can happen if he brings a young hero on his adventures, the death of loved ones has always haunted him. It's tough love and a responsibility he takes all too seriously. And that brings us back to the theme of loss, and why the Batman Family must be prominently featured in this episode.
IN THE COMICS: Spoiler - Jack Ryder will become the Creeper, if the comics formula holds up. In the DCU, he is the host of the sensationalistic Hot Seat, a Jerry Springer-type program. Mr. Freeze never suffers such an extreme redesign, but it's worth noting this one is signed Mike Mignola, whose Hellboy series does have a couple of similar characters whose heads are divorced from their shoulders. His Ice Maidens share a moniker with the Global Guardians' Ice Maiden, i.e. Ice from Justice League International.
SOUNDS LIKE: Jack Ryder is voiced by Jeff Glen Bennett, previously heard as the evil computer HARDAC, and was the Gargoyles' Brooklyn.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Interesting redesign for Mr. Freeze, both from within and from without; now if only it didn't seem to spoil an important chapter yet to be released.