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Original Airdate: August 20, 2005
Writer: Joseph Kuhr
Director: Sam Liu
Okay, first things first: yes, as far as I can tell, “Joseph Kuhr” is his real name. No word yet on whether he has to support a wife and unborn child on a pitifully small salary, but just in case, he’s legally forbidden from coming within fifty feet of any chemical plant. [Citation needed]
Anyways, I guess there’s a crumb of novelty to this episode’s teamup that’s not completely arbitrary like “Pets” was, but mostly it just makes me disappointed that the episode isn’t about JLI lesbian shenanigans. As for the comics connection, well… apparently James Robinson liked the basic enough idea to give it a double-page spread in “Face the Face”-
-but I’ll leave it to you to decide if getting publicity from the second-worst Batman story of 2006 is anything to be proud of.
By the way, “Face the Face” never gave the Freeze-
Firefly Firebug teamup any explanation aside from “we thought fire and ice would make a badass crime spree”, and this episode, if anything, gives even less. But then, The Batman has never pretended either Firefly or Freeze is anything besides a gimmicky, money-hungry thug, so it’s all good.
Okay, something more positive to start us off: the visuals are amazing. I know you’re probably sick of hearing that and/or convinced by now that The Batman is That Other Show’s pretty-but-brainless sibling, but this is its first episode to take place in winter, and the way the snow blows across the city, well… after three exhaustive weeks of research, I have discovered that it is in fact legally possible to take a .gif as one’s significant other.
Granted, she has some interesting ideas on how the police should keep under budget…
… but nobody’s perfect.
Incidentally, Kuhr is really living up to his name in one important way: the script’s absolutely stuffed with puns. Seriously, I counted about five or six in the first minute, and Freeze hasn’t even shown up yet. Anyone who hates their liver: feel free to start another drinking game.
So Batman and his Arctic Adventure Suit (missile launcher sold separately) come out to clip Firefly’s wings, except he doesn’t have much of a plan beyond “hitch a ride, wait for the gas to run out”. Which gives our friend all the time in the world to do this:
Boom goes the Batman, and Firefly lives to burn another day. Yay!
The explosion actually leaves Batman in fairly bad shape, which I’m sure has nothing to do with how Mattel wants a battle-scarred variant on the shelves by December. No worries – a few Band-Aids and he’ll be right as rain.
The GCPD then drop by to fuck things up even more, since apparently, Batman is still Public Enemy Number One and that guy going around blowing up parts of the city is just a minor inconvenience. For those of you who care, this is the first time The Batman‘s GCPD has opened fire in the series proper, so… hats off to Kids WB, I guess.
Now for something slightly more interesting: the dynamic between Firefly and Freeze. Despite their fairly similar motivations, Kuhr actually manages to strike some sparks between them, mostly by exaggerating Firefly’s jokey demeanor and firmly lodging a giant stick up Freeze’s rectum. I’ve been told that the result looks surprisingly like an abusive gay couple, only played for laughs and with every other line of dialogue some hideous pun.
Case in point: Firefly handing his partner a snow globe because Freeze wants Gotham “in the palm of his hand”. Ha. Ha ha?
Seriously, though – there might be a bit of truth to the couple thing. Firefly is all gushing about how he killed Batman, only when he admits he never looked for a body, Freeze goes from mild interest to ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME I OUGHTA KILL YOU in zero seconds flat. Then he reels Firefly back in by promising him that they’re totally going to loot Gotham together when they’ve frozen it over. Like, really.
It might not sound like much on paper, but Clancy Brown’s purr during this scene is just… creepy. To say nothing of Firefly pet-naming him “Boss Frost”.
Back at Wayne Manor, we get another important look into Bruce’s character: he’s a Space Invaders fan. I can only assume that in this world, Adam Sandler vanished under mysterious circumstances the moment he thought to make a deal with Patrick Jean.
Oh, and he’s hosting a GCPD gala at the manor, too. Alfred actually touches on a fairly insightful reason for this – that deep down, Bruce genuinely wants the police’s approval. Whatever differences they might have, they’re all working towards a better, safer Gotham – and was it not a cop who first comforted li’l Bruce after That Night in the Alley?
Then again, maybe he just wants to gather intel on the GCPD’s latest anti-Batman sting. Or “accidentally” spill something on Rojas.
Anyways, Freeze breaks into Wayne Industries to steal a canister of liquid nitrogen for… reasons, and Batman swoops down and instantly gets his ass kicked because he apparently forgot to make spare Arctic Suits. The first act closes on – of course – another shitty pun, though to be fair, Freeze stalking towards the screen with his sonic icepick remains a pretty intimidating visual.
But before he can give Batman the Trotsky Special, our hero pulls the fairly creative tactic of freezing him with a blast of nitrogen, before grabbing that icepick and shattering the whole floor. This lands Freeze in a pitch-black room, which inexplicably makes him beat feet, even though this is the perfect setup for an ambush.
So Bruce goes back empty-handed again, and we get some passably funny moments of him trying to duck the police gala by pulling the snow day card. These “Bruce is really just a big kid” moments are going to be in short supply come Season 3 and beyond, so I’m savoring them while I can.
Meanwhile, Freeze and Firefly have just finished up their Cryo-Accelerator-inator, with which they can shut off the heat to every building in the
Tri-State Area city. The execution is pure Silver Age cheesiness, but the idea behind it is actually surprisingly gritty and realistic for this show; you have to admit, fucking around with the heating system of a major urban center is a lot more grounded than the weather machine technobabble that usually comes up whenever Freeze wants to plunge Gotham into an eternal winter.
Their first target, naturally, is that big police gala Bruce is holding. Let’s check in on them, shall we?
Okay, honestly, this is one of my favorite GCPD moments in the whole series. I’m kind of a sucker for seeing any member of the GCPD off-duty, but more than that, Rojas actually manages to verge on likable here. Sure, he’s still ranting about Batman to anyone who’ll listen, but at least his chat with Bruce is sober enough to sound sincere, and he’s got the good grace to laugh when Bruce starts talking about how he’d totally beat up Batman if he had the chance.
Also, Bruce/Yin ship-tease. I live for moments like these.
Okay, so maybe I’m reading too much into it, but Kuhr sets up a legitimately moving moment when he pulls another “I know your secret” fakeout with Yin, only without the smug anti-reveal that usually comes with these things. Instead, it’s used to show how Yin genuinely believes Bruce cares about the GCPD, instead of just throwing the gala for PR – and even though Ethan’s name doesn’t come up once, he’s got to be weighing pretty heavily on both their minds.
Well, that’s enough character stuff for one episode. Gentlemen, if you’d do the honors?
Fortunately, it turns out that the Bat-Wave’s super-special power this episode is to thaw its owner out, and in a matter of seconds Bruce is free to de-ice the others. The sight of Bruce kicking ass in a tuxedo is always welcome, but it ends far too quickly so we can get to the big showdown.
The fight itself is pretty well-choreographed, and I suppose Kuhr ought to be given credit for all but putting a “Press to Save Gotham” button out in the open. No babble about reversing the polarity of the Cryo-Accelerator-inator or whatever, though whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you.
But far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t really come to life until Batman tricks Firefly into blasting the -inator. First, there’s just the guy’s face.
Then Freeze immediately calls off the partnership, and they pretty much start whaling on each other. While still hurling about ten puns a second. It’s utterly predictable, yes, but it’s also strangely… playful in places.
While they’re duking it out, Batman hits the Reset Button and instantly activates the boilers, which I’m sure will be just peachy for a network of machines that’s probably decades if not centuries old. Then he mops up the terrible twosome, tout suite.
The GCPD, as usual, play cleanup. But wait, what’s this? Seems Batman’s not going to just stalk off into the shadows this time while
Bob Kane Chief Rojas claims all the credit.
It’s a sweet little tribute to one of the most iconic Batman covers of all time, sans Robin
as it should be, and however Chief Rojas sputters and roars for his men to cuff the “real” criminal, all they can do is applaud along the gala’s other guests. This time, there’s no way to weasel out of it; since all the cops were frozen into the gala for most of the night, no one but Batman could’ve saved the day.
More than once I’ve suspected that this episode was originally meant to be a Christmas special (indeed, you can still see the word on Firefly’s snow globe), and I’m kind of torn on whether that would’ve enhanced this ending or just made it cheesier. There’s little doubting the public’s approval would be a perfect gift for Batman
short of Arkham suddenly falling into a sinkhole one day, and that public would be equally gifted, knowing the “menace” the GCPD has hunted for so long is really a guardian angel. As a certain other Gotham Christmas noted, things change – but they don’t always have to change for the worse.
Yet… maybe less is more holds true in this case. Sure, we don’t see any sidewalk Santas or hear any carols, but that hardly means we can’t see this as a Christmas episode if we want to. And in that light, it might be that rarest of all beasts: a Christmas special that’s actually… subtle.
Whatever the case, this episode was a lot more memorable than it had any right to be. I’m certainly not denying it had more flash than substance, but what of it? The snow effects are gorgeous, the Freeze/Firefly bantering is jolly good fun, and status quo-wise, it’s actually fairly important. Just… just make sure your pun/alcohol tolerance is up to snuff before watching, ‘kay?
Next: The return of the Batman’s Greatest Enemy. Be there.