The Matt Signal – Episode 84: Deep Freeze

Plot summary: Walt Disney Grant Walker breaks Mr. Freeze out of prison in the hopes of living forever through cryo-tech and presiding over a new world order.

Site Banner

Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

Follow The Matt Signal on Twitter!

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Deep Freeze’

Original Air Date: November 26th, 1994

Directed: Kevin Altieri (22)

Written: Paul Dini (24) & Bruce W. Timm (3)

Grant Walker is clearly based on Walt Disney, being a theme park mogul who wants to be cryogenically frozen to live forever (allegedly, please don’t sue me.) Plus Walker’s use of the term “visioneer” seems a play on ‘imaginer.’

Speaking of Walker, he shows up a few times in the tie-in comics which you can read all about later in this column.

Karl Rossum once again has little robot versions of Bat-Mite, Krypto the Superdog, Mr Mxyzptlk and Streaky the Supercat.

Recap

A strange robot walks out of the sea and casually smashes through the walls of the prison housing Mr. Freeze, shrugging off gunfire from guards before snatching the villain by force and bailing.

Noting the use of a robot, Batman takes Robin to see Karl Rossum (and his group of “friends”), who states he built a smaller version of the culprit for Grant Walker once upon a time…

Talk of the devil, the robot escorts Victor Fries to Oceana, Walker’s underwater utopian vision of the future. [Insert Bioshock references here]. Walker presents Fries with an exact replica of his cryo-suit and cold gun, which is promptly used to destroy the robot.

Walker expresses his envy that Fries is functionally immortal thanks to his accident, begging Victor to try and repeat the process. Fries calls him a madman as he is trapped in a living nightmare, but changes his tune when Walker reveals Nora and claims he can help cure her.

Batman & Robin approach by boat while discussing how men like Walker like to get their way, regardless of the law. Like, for instance, ripping off a whole bunch of generational folk tales and then having copyright law changed so you can legally own them forever.

Infiltrating Oceana, they look on as the theme park’s employees are indoctrinated by Walker, who reveals his plan to make a better world by freezing it while “the good” shelter with him. Yeeeeesh.

More robots discover and capture the trespassing Dynamic Duo and escort them to Walker so they can witness his transformation. It works flawlessly, and the crazy coot stomps off to get ready for ‘Project Deep Freeze’.

Batman eventually manages to reason with Victor by playing the Nora card, and he frees the pair. The unlikely trio unleash the fury on Walker’s robots and disable Deep Freeze by overloading the power core.

Fries refuses to leave, resigning himself to death by Nora’s side. Batman pleads with him not to, so he freezes Robin, forcing Bruce to get his sidekick to safety and leave him behind. Damn.

Back at the Batcave, Bruce and a recovering Dick contemplate Fries’ fate as we witness him drifting the ocean alive and well inside an iceberg with Nora.

Best Performance

Michael Ansara sounds a little different here. I’m not sure if they didn’t revisit his work from ‘Heart of Ice’ to help him match it, or they deliberately changed it up. Outside of the suit he displays a little more mania (despite allegedly experiencing no emotion), and inside it, the vocal effects are toned down a little, making Fries easier to hear. Unfortunately that again means he’s far more emotional, even before he learns of Nora’s involvement in the fiasco.

All of that being said, just because it’s different and arguably strays from their own brief, it’s still the most compelling acting performance in the episode by a comfortable distance. His sense of existentialism is both palpable and crushing.

Daniel O’Helihy gets close at times as Grant Walker, but there’s just a hint of ‘older actor sounding lost reading dialogue that makes no sense to him’, which is fair given he was almost 80 years old at the time.

I can’t decide how I feel about William Sanderson, who has appeared a few times as Karl Rossum now. At times he’s distinct and has sense of charm. At others, he sounds wooden. Hey, maybe he’s meant to, given his obsession with robots! It’s like poetry, it rhymes.

Ranking

‘Heart of Ice’, this is not. It’s a case of the whole being a little less than the sum of its parts for me. Victor Fries’ characterisation remains really strong, the underwater city locale is dope, and it’s a relatable old school villain plot.

But my biggest gripe is that we’re set up for an equally matched Fries vs Walker… only Freeze’s cold gun completely debilitates him in one shot. One could hypothesise the new gun is stronger, Walker’s suit is weaker or that it was never intended for the suit to be able to withstand the gun in the first place, but to me it’s a little sloppy. I could have gone for the two superhumans wailing on each other for a couple of minutes, with Fries only winning because of his superior intellect. Instead, Walker is dispatched in seconds and left an afterthought in an episode he dominates up to that point.

I’m not sure what you’d trim to allow for a more protracted final fight, but my instinct would be to lose Karl Rossum, even if he makes for a cute continuity nod. Or slightly shorten the prison break at the start. Or both.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Almost Got ‘im
  4. Heart of Ice
  5. Harlequinade
  6. The Trial
  7. Riddler’s Reform
  8. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  9. I Am the Night
  10. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  11. Baby-Doll
  12. The Man Who Killed Batman
  13. Perchance to Dream
  14. Two-Face Part I
  15. Bane
  16. A Bullet For Bullock
  17. Joker’s Favor
  18. Read My Lips
  19. Feat of Clay Part II
  20. Catwalk
  21. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  22. Harley and Ivy
  23. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  24. House & Garden
  25. Beware the Gray Ghost
  26. Second Chance
  27. Mad as a Hatter
  28. Heart of Steel Part II
  29. Appointment In Crime Alley
  30. Two-Face Part II
  31. Pretty Poison
  32. Deep Freeze (NEW ENTRY)
  33. Harley’s Holiday
  34. Lock-Up
  35. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  36. Feat of Clay Part I
  37. His Silicon Soul
  38. Off Balance
  39. Vendetta
  40. Birds of a Feather
  41. Heart of Steel Part I
  42. On Leather Wings
  43. See No Evil
  44. The Clock King
  45. It’s Never Too Late
  46. Make ‘Em Laugh
  47. Joker’s Wild
  48. Eternal Youth
  49. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  50. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  51. Zatanna
  52. Day of the Samurai
  53. Avatar
  54. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  55. The Mechanic
  56. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  57. Terror in the Sky
  58. P.O.V.
  59. Christmas with the Joker
  60. Fear of Victory
  61. Be a Clown
  62. The Worry Men
  63. What is Reality?
  64. Fire From Olympus
  65. Night of the Ninja
  66. Mudslide
  67. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  68. Nothing to Fear
  69. The Lion and the Unicorn
  70. Prophecy of Doom
  71. Tyger, Tyger
  72. Blind as a Bat
  73. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  74. Dreams In Darkness
  75. The Last Laugh
  76. Cat Scratch Fever
  77. Moon of the Wolf
  78. Paging the Crime Doctor
  79. Time Out of Joint
  80. Sideshow
  81. The Under-Dwellers
  82. The Forgotten
  83. Showdown
  84. The Terrible Trio
  85. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Mr. Freeze (Michael Ansara) (second appearance)

His animation isn’t as impressive, but I won’t hold that against them given the company who handled him in ‘Heart of Ice’ went bankrupt in their efforts to make him look so dope. Ansara’s voice work isn’t quite as effective either, despite being the best performance in the episode.

If you’re super into Fries as a nihilist, simultaneously dead to emotion and devoted beyond reason to his wife, then there’s still plenty to enjoy here. This appearance shifts him more towards the category of villain who has no real beef with Batman, and can be talked into temporary alliances, but is by no means a good guy, which is always fun and incredibly useful as a long-term continuity tool.

I previously moved Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy ahead of him, and while I won’t drop him any lower, I don’t think this second outing is strong enough for him to reclaim his former ranking.

Grant Walker (Daniel O’Herlihy) (first appearance)

More crazy old rich white dudes as comic book villains, IMO. And bonus points for the Walt Disney pastiche.

In all seriousness, he’s too shallow to place too high, but I do dig his Bioshock vibes and given the need to devote some screen time to Mr. Freeze, he’s pretty okay. As mentioned at the beginning, he’ll be back in a tie-in comic, which I read before watching this episode, meaning I didn’t remember him at all.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Poison Ivy
  4. Mr. Freeze
  5. Two-Face
  6. The Ventriloquist
  7. Catwoman
  8. The Riddler
  9. The Phantasm
  10. Baby-Doll
  11. Bane
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. Penguin
  14. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  15. Clayface
  16. Ra’s al Ghul
  17. Lock-Up
  18. Lloyd Ventrix
  19. Killer Croc
  20. Rupert Thorne
  21. Count Vertigo
  22. Clock King
  23. Nivens
  24. Josiah Wormwood
  25. Scarecrow
  26. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  27. Talia al Ghul
  28. Sid the Squid
  29. Queen Thoth Khepera
  30. Maxie Zeus
  31. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  32. Tony Zucco
  33. Man-Bat
  34. Hugo Strange
  35. Red Claw
  36. Arnold Stromwell
  37. Mad Bomber
  38. Tygrus
  39. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  40. Kyodai Ken
  41. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  42. Grant Walker (NEW ENTRY)
  43. Gil Mason
  44. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  45. Cameron Kaiser
  46. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  47. Mad Dog
  48. Ubu
  49. Professor Milo
  50. Romulus
  51. Arkady Duvall
  52. Sewer King
  53. Boss Biggis
  54. Montague Kane
  55. The Terrible Trio

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, just finished coverage of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. To fill the time before Loki begins, I’ll be going back to WandaVision, with two episodes per week. Injustice corrected!

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s