Episode title: Meltdown
Original air date: February 14, 1999
For those of you wanting to know what happened to Batman’s original rogue’s gallery who we are left to assume were either killed or retired especially when no real information has until this point as it would seem they have been considered to the past. Still for those of you who wanted to know what happened to these memorable villians you can consider your prayers answered this week, as this episode sees the return of “Mr. Freeze”.
Okay before we get into this episode it’s probably best that we do a quick flashback to the original Batman animated series or more specifically the episode “Cold Comfort” from “The New Batman Adventures”. Here we saw a version of Mr. Freeze whose condition had destroyed his body bar his head leading him to kidnapping scientists to build him a robotic body. At the end of the episode Batman discovered that Freeze’s head had mysteriously vanished, a mystery which remains unsolved until now as we finally find out what happened to the head of Mr. Freeze.
The return of Mr. Freeze is unquestionably an exciting aspect of this episode, more so seeing how he is one of the few villains who still works within this futuristic setting. The reason for his return brought about by Derek Powers growing increasingly frustrated by his synthetic skin which he uses to hide his true appearance constantly breaking up due to his levels of radioactivity continuing to grow ever more stronger. He is however presented with a unique solution to his problem by his doctor, Dr. Stephanie Lake who proposes cloning Powers’ body so that his mind can be transferred across and in turn freeing him from his mutation. Powers while interested in her ideas obviously knows how fringe science tends to work out and proposes that Dr. Lake tests her theory first and hence we are introduced to Mr. Freeze….or more precisely the head of Mr. Freeze who somehow in the fifty years which have passed since “Cold Comfort” ended up in the Wayne-Powers vault.
Frustratingly it is never revealed how exactly he ended up in there, much like any information regarding how he ended up as a disembodied head, which proves to be equally baffling to those who never saw that episode of “The New Batman Adventures”. Still this it could be argued is a lot better than the original idea they had, which would have seen Freeze’s head turning up in Bruce’s fridge as Terry would randomly discovering while getting a soda. The producers would ultimately scrap this decision and create this episode instead while leaving us to only wonder if the alt scene would have worked, especially as it perfectly suits the darker edge Bruce we see on the show.
The missing background information is really just a minor quibble seeing how the episode chooses to focus more on Freeze seemingly trying to make up for his past crimes, especially now that his cloned body he is free from his condition which required him to constantly wear his suit. At the same time Bruce having fought him on numerous occasions refuses to believe he has changed and sends Terry to spy on him. Due to this the episode is different from most of the other episodes in the series as Terry spends most of the episode lurking in the background reporting back to Bruce, while the main focus is kept largely on Freeze or Dr. Lake as she reports back her findings to Powers.
Obviously knowing what Freeze is capable of from his previous appearances, it is griping to see if it is really all part of a new scheme or if he is actually a reformed criminal, which also leads to see Bruce’s set opinion of Freeze being challenged by Terry who only knows the now reformed Freeze. More so when his old life frequently confronts him as seen when a sniper turns out to be one related to one of his former victims. Needless to say it is really only a matter of time before Freeze returns to his former ways as his mutation returns to his new body and Powers decides to double cross Freeze which its hard to tell is due to Powers being naive of Freeze’s past or just plain ignorance on his part, but its safe to say that it’s a decision which doesn’t end well.
While Freeze might be the main focus here, we also get the bonus of seeing Powers finally unleashing his “Blight” alter-ego which until this point Powers has spent most of his time trying to keep hidden, so it is unquestionably a real treat to see Blight unleashed. More so when he has seemingly gained a whole bunch of powers since we last saw him. At the same time the fact that Blight’s powers are based around radioactivity and heat makes him the perfect contrast to the ice based powers of Freeze as only further emphasised by the soundtrack listing for the confrontation between these two villains being listed as “Fire and Ice”. Equally this confrontation only emphasises the until now unseen powers of Blight, especially when he easily bests Freeze at the start of their fight and leaving a weakened Freeze to sit out the fight between Terry and Blight.
While Freeze might start off as a head in a jar, it’s nice that by the finale that they didn’t just reuse one of his suits from the original series but instead give him an upgrade to match the futuristic setting and replacing his ice blasters with a pair of ice generating gauntlets. The only downside to the finale is that Terry is essentially pushed to the side lines for the most part and only really gets to brawl with Blight, which is something of a shame as it would have been fun to see Terry taking on one of Bruce’s old foes which he will eventually later in the series but sadly its not to be the case here with the largely downbeat ending proving for now to be a permanent one.
Another strong episode for the show and one which actually takes a bold direction with the character of Mr. Freeze and one which closes another chapter in the Batman saga, as this would be the sole appearance frustratingly he would make in the series. Elsewhere the episode really teases the potential of Blight for whom sadly this episode really is as good as it gets as we will find out in the later episodes of this season, but if I were to compile a list of my favourite episodes this one would unquestionably be included.
Next Episode: Heroes