Tag Archives: karl rossum

Batman: The Animated Series – “Deep Freeze”

deep freeze titleEpisode Number:  84

Original Air Date:  November 26, 1994

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Paul Dini and Bruce Timm

First Appearance(s):  Grant Walker, Nora Fries, Bat-Mite

Thanksgiving 1994 brought fans of Batman:  The Animated Series something they had been looking forward to for over two years. The penultimate episode, and final broadcast episode of Season 3, marks the return of Mr. Freeze who was last seen in “Heart of Ice” which aired September 7, 1992. That episode was so well-received that the writers didn’t really know where to go with Freeze following it. He couldn’t just become some garden variety super villain who shows up from time to time. His story was fairly complete when that episode ended:  Freeze, devoid of all emotion except vengeance, set his sights on the man who wronged him. While Freeze was unable to kill Ferris Boyle, he did out him as something of a monster and it’s presumed his life was ruined as a result. He may even be in jail, which is where we last saw Freeze pining for his wife in a cell coated in ice and snow.

That ending image to “Heart of Ice” was so well done that it was essentially re-shot for the feature film Batman & Robin. It was about the only thing that film got right when it came to the character. For Freeze to return he would need a new motivation, but how do you motivate a guy who claims he has no emotion? The answer is Nora Fries. We had only seen Nora in a flashback, and she was presumed dead as a result of Boyle’s actions, but Freeze is about to find out that isn’t the case. If Freeze could bring his wife back would it restore the humanity he once felt inside? And to what lengths would he go to in order to save her? Those are the pertinent questions Paul Dini and Bruce Timm had to ask themselves before determining if it was worth pursuing. For some reason, the answer to that question is going to partly include a Walt Disney parody. Confused? Read on.

freeze escapes

Mr. Freeze is kidnapped, and only Batman can find out by whom.

“Deep Freeze” opens in an interesting way as the camera finds a robot outside what I believe is Stonegate Penitentiary. The setting by the seas looks right and Fries is in a prison jumpsuit, though other write-ups I checked assume it’s Arkham.  The robot is fairly large, somewhat boring looking, but it has no problem getting past the security measures. In a scene that feels similar to Magneto’s debut in the X-Men episode “Enter Magneto”, the robot zeroes in on a specific cell. We know it to be the cell of Victor Fries, also known as Mr. Freeze, because it’s filled with ice and snow. Inside, Fries (Michael Ansara) watches the robot approach and begins to panic. He’s actually scared, as he bangs on his cell door and calls out for help. The robot breaks through the wall and approaches, grabs him, and jams him inside its body. As this unfolds, the camera pans back to reveal the music box/statue of the ballerina Fries associated with his late wife has been shattered in the process.

At the Batcave, Batman and Robin review the security tape of Fries’ abduction. Robin is impressed with the lengths he went to escape, while Batman points out that for a man who claims to feel no emotion, he sure looks scared on film. Batman is fairly certain that this was not orchestrated by Mr. Freeze and that someone has abducted him against his will. The presence of a robot offers one lead and we’re about to pay a visit to another old friend.


A character I never expected to see in this show:  Bat-Mite.

Batman and Robin arrive at the office of Karl Rossum (William Sanderson), the Blade Runner homage whom we last heard from in “His Silicon Soul.” Interestingly, Rossum’s debut came in “Heart of Steel” so this episode is a marriage of the two prior “Heart of…” episodes from this series. Anyway, when the heroes knock on the door they’re greeted by a flying, Batman inspired robot. Fans will recognize this little fellow as Bat-Mite (Pat Fraley), who in the comics is a transdimensional imp who idolizes Batman. He’s mostly comic relief, and really wouldn’t fit into the tone of this show, which is what makes his appearance suitable here as he’s a robot designed by Rossum. Batman and Robin find out Rossum now just uses his brains to make toys, if he’s given up on farming he doesn’t say, and he’s a little surprised to see the two pay him a visit. Batman shows him an image of the robot that abducted Fries and Rossum does recognize it as one of his designs, only his version was much smaller. It was designed for theme park operator Grant Walker who would use it for his attractions as a little animatronic. Rossum theorizes that Walker was able to reverse engineer the robot and build it in a larger scale.

grant walker

Meet Grant Walker, who bares a strong resemblance to a real world theme park mogul.

It just so happens that Grant Walker (Daniel O’Herlihy) is putting the finishing touches on a new park:  Oceania. That’s where the robot who abducted Fries has taken him. As its name implies, Oceania is located in the ocean off the coast of Gotham. It’s a floating artificial island and the robot enters it from below the water’s surface. It appears in a tube and Fries is let out. There he’s confronted by the elderly Walker, who is something of an admirer of Fries’ work. He says Fries is going to help him complete Oceania, while Fries is doubtful. Walker instructs him to get comfortable and he and the robot disappear in the tube. As they leave, someone contacts Walker to say they’ve detected a vessel approaching and Walker instructs him to deal with it in the usual fashion.

Knowing where to find Walker, Batman and Robin board the Batboat and start heading for Oceania. Oceania’s security measures detect the approaching watercraft and Walker orders it be fired upon, so this is apparently more than just some park. Batman is unable to avoid the torpedoes from Oceania, and the Batboat is destroyed in the process. Walker is informed that the watercraft has been taken care of, and he’s free to turn his attention back to his would-be business partner.

nora fries

Walker knows how to make Mr. Freeze play along.

Fries is then reunited with his suit and freeze ray. Once again as Mr. Freeze, he turns to Walker and questions what is stopping him from using his weapon against him. Walker then turns on the charm. Walker believes that due to the accident Fries endured that his body’s aging process has been essentially frozen in place. In other words, he’s immortal or as close to immortal as a human can get. Walker wants to achieve the same for himself, as he’s nearing his own end and wants to see his life’s work to completion. Fries initially refuses, and even seems insulted, but then Walker reveals he has something that Fries would be very interested in:  his wife Nora.

Sometime after the accident that supposedly killed Nora and turned Victor Fries into Mr. Freeze, Walker was able to acquire the body of Nora who is still suspended in a capsule. She’s there, in a liquid floating as if she’s a human snow globe. Fries is shocked to find his beloved wife is still alive, and Walker insists his team of scientists has the ability to restore her. If Fries would like to be reunited with his wife, he’ll need to help Walker get what he wants.

batman spotted

Batman and Robin’s infiltration does not go well.

Batman and Robin are able to eject, and continue on to Oceania. They sneak in, and end up in a town square of sorts where Walker addresses the inhabitants of Oceania from a large video screen in the sky. It’s here we get a good look at just what Oceania is. It’s basically Walker’s attempt at Utopia, which makes sense since it shares a name with a country from George Orwell’s 1984. Walker also isn’t planning on just creating a community that will live in peace and isolation, he intends to destroy everything around it. Deeming humanity too cruel to exist, he’s created a giant version of Mr. Freeze’s freeze gun and is planning on freezing all of Gotham as a start to completing his vision.

toony batman

Sometimes, Batman gets real stretchy and toon-like in this one.

Naturally, this isn’t something Batman and Robin are going to allow to stand, but they’re noticed by the security robots. They’re swarmed by flying droids, and they’re unable to handle them. The two get to toss some righteousness at Walker, but their words hold little sway. The robots then take them down below where they then come face to face once again with Mr. Freeze. He gets to do the aim at the camera gag again as he fires upon the heroes.

walkers new duds

Walker gets what he wants, as billionaires often do.

Batman and Robin get to watch from frozen restraints as Freeze prepares to do to Walker what Boyle unwittingly did to him. Walker climbs into a suit of his own and Freeze administers whatever it is that freezes a man. Walker’s skin turns pale blue, and he doesn’t die, indicating the process was a success. Walker seems quite happy to find his suit has enhanced his strength. With his job done, Freeze just wants to return to his wife as he considers his business with Walker concluded.

freeze reckoning

Mr. Freeze has to abandon his short-term goal of reviving his wife in order to save Gotham.

Batman and Robin are with Freeze as he tends to his wife, not really doing much of anything. From there, Batman is able to appeal to Freeze by referencing his wife. He reasons that should she wake up in a world of ice and snow created with the help of Freeze that she’ll resent him, even hate him. Freeze is initially dismissive, but apparently he reaches the same conclusion. He frees Batman and Robin, and decides to help them prevent Walker from carrying out his plan.

They attack Walker’s command center. There they’re forced to contend with Walker’s robotic minions once more, but this time they’re prepared and with the aid of Mr. Freeze they prove to be no match. Walker is shocked to see Freeze has betrayed him, and he’s helpless since he didn’t think to arm himself with an ice gun of his own. Freeze encases Walker in a giant ice cube and also freezes the controls to his massive ice canon. He uses the console to set the core to overload before broadcasting a message to the inhabitants of Oceania that if they value their lives they should escape. He tells Batman and Robin to do the same, but they insist he come with them. Freeze refuses, insisting his place is beside his wife.

robins cold

Mr. Freeze’s solution to his problem is very much in character.

As the ice begins to engulf Oceania, Batman appeals once more to Freeze. To put an end to the discussion, Mr. Freeze uses his freeze ray on Robin, instructing Batman that he’ll need medical attention and soon. Batman is forced to abandon Freeze, who returns to his wife. The place is falling apart, but Freeze appears resigned to his fate as Batman and Robin are shown escaping in the last lifeboat. As for Grant Walker, he’s found himself in a giant ice cube and he rages as it sinks into the water where he’ll never be heard from again.

In the Batcave, Dick is still thawing out as Alfred tends to him. Dick remarks he thought he’d end up like Walker, frozen in an ice cube forever, which is an interesting point since it makes it clear the duo know how he ended up, but it sounds like they have no intention of trying to extract him. An unusual dose of cruelty from the Dynamic Duo. As he shakes away the chills, he asks Bruce if he thinks they’ll hear from Mr. Freeze again (I feel like they’ve done this before). Bruce reasons that if his condition has really made Freeze immortal then there’s a good chance they will. On cue, we cut to a block of ice floating in arctic waters. Inside, the ice is apparently hollow as we see a silhouette of Mr. Freeze kneeling before Nora’s capsule. He extends a hand towards her as the episode ends.

freezes vigil

Not quite as good as the image of Freeze in his cell at the end of “Heart of Ice,” but still an effective and memorable way to end the episode.

Mr. Freeze’s return is certainly welcomed given how well he was portrayed in “Heart of Ice.” Using Nora as a means to motivate him is also in-character and really the most appropriate way of doing it. The only other option would be to return the villain with another revenge angle, either resuming his quest to murder Boyle or in revealing there was another person associated with the accident, which would have been the lazy way of doing things. The portrayal of Freeze here feels authentic and in-line with his prior appearance. The only issue I really had with it is likely due to time constraints. He changes on a dime when confronted by Batman. One would think he’d be so consumed with restoring Nora that he would not have acted until he knew how to achieve it. It’s possible Walker was bluffing, or that he intended her to be able to exist in a sub-arctic environment alongside her husband after his plan was completed. That isn’t really explained. Perhaps had this been a two-parter such questions could have been addressed, and maybe that’s partly why the character will return in a feature-length production shortly.

The aspect of the episode that I can’t get over resides with the Grant Walker character. He is very obviously a Walt Disney parody. A theme park operator, the cryogenic connection, and even his appearance evoke Disney. Of course, the whole cryogenics rumor regarding Disney being frozen is just an urban legend, but it was still pretty popular in the early 90s. Oceania is also an obvious reference to Disney’s original interpretation for EPCOT, his Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Now, it’s just Epcot with the acronym having been abandoned since it’s just a theme park, but his vision for it was more ambitious. As far as we know though, he never intended to create a utopia at the expense of the rest of the world. About the only thing missing is a reference to Walker being an anti-semite or something, though Batman does remark that people like Walker are obsessed with power and think they can do whatever they want.

The Disney part of the equation doesn’t offend me as someone who is a fan of Walt Disney. It’s just too on-the-nose to be clever, and in an episode centered around the show’s greatest villain and most melodramatic character feels off. The show was so reluctant to revisit Mr. Freeze because of how well “Heart of Ice” turned out, and yet what appeared to bring about his return feels like it began as a joke.

freeze bang

There are lots of visual callbacks to “Heart of Ice” in this one.

Like so many of this season’s episodes, this one is animated by Dong Yang Animation. It, more than some of the others, really seems to have that “toon” quality to it that shows up from time to time. Batman and Robin’s first fight with Walker’s robots being the best example of this, along with the character of Bat-Mite. With Bat-Mite, I assume that was the desired result as he’s basically a cartoon character. Still, I like it and Oceania is an interesting locale to visit. There’s also a fun visual callback to “Heart of Ice” when Freeze first confronts Batman. He’s drawn as a background with the only animated part being his mouth and his glowing, red, eyes. The return of the Freeze theme is also welcomed as it suits the character so well.

Since this is the next to last episode of the show, it obviously contains some final appearances. Grant Walker won’t be seen again, though he was returned in the comic tie-in to the show. Mr. Freeze will return once more in this form in the Batman & Mr. Freeze movie and will then transition to not only The New Batman Adventures, but Batman Beyond as well where his immortality is really put to the test. Most surprising though is that this episode is the sort of final appearance for Batman himself. He will appear in the last episode in a dream sequence, but otherwise is not a part of the plot. The episode also marks the last onscreen appearance for Alfred, though he doesn’t speak in either of his scenes. This is the final episode directed by Kevin Altieri, who has directed 19 episodes of the show including this one. Fans of this show likely encountered him next with The Spectacular Spider-Man. He currently works on Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters, but surprisingly has never returned to the DC Animated Universe.

In the end, “Deep Freeze” is a semi-satisfying return for Mr. Freeze. His character isn’t betrayed in any way, and it’s mostly a good thing that the show gave him another episode. His return was always going to be compared to “Heart of Ice” and it was likely not going to live up to it. And really, none of his following appearances will match that one. It was just the right time for him and there was no way to recreate the surprise fans felt when they actually discovered there was a way to make the character resonate in an emotional fashion. Prior to that episode, Mr. Freeze was just a joke, an old guy who made stuff cold. Under Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, with an assist from voice actor Michael Ansara, Mr. Freeze became so much more and is now probably one of the most famous villains associated with the property. That episode alone basically lead to a feature film, even if that film wasn’t very good (which wasn’t the fault of the character, but of a lot of things). I do wish this episode had gone in a different direction and didn’t lean heavily on a joke character, but ultimately it’s fine. A mid-tier episode for an upper tier villain.

Batman: The Animated Series – “His Silicon Soul”

His_Silicon_SoulEpisode Number:  62

Original Air Date:  November 20, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Marty Isenberg and Robert N. Skir

First Appearance(s):  Batman Duplicant

Episode 62 of Batman is one where my memory has apparently betrayed me. “His Silicon Soul” first aired on Friday, November 20, 1992 and yet I swear I first saw it in prime time. If it was re-shown in prime time, I can’t confirm, as I suppose it’s possible I missed it in its first showing. Since we’re talking about 26 years in the past though, it’s also possible I created a false memory. It’s just odd to me because I definitely remember my reaction to this one as a kid as it’s a pretty memorable episode. It’s a follow-up to the two-part story “Heart of Steel” which occurred way back in episodes 38 and 39, though in relation to this episode it had aired just days prior with only two episodes airing in between. It ties up basically one loose end from that episode:  What did H.A.R.D.A.C. do with the knowledge that it gained from the Batcave?

robot guts

That’s never happened before.

The episode opens with three seedy gentlemen poking around a warehouse at night. When one questions why they’re here, the apparent leader of this operation says an old computer factory went up in flames and some of the high-end tech it contained was moved here. They come upon a crate and emblazoned on the crate is the H.A.R.D.A.C. logo. They have no idea what that logo means and begin prying at the crate. It soon shakes, and a fist punches through the top. It’s Batman, and the trio of crooks are soon shaken to their core. They attack with crowbars, and Batman remarks how pathetic their attempt is to take him out as he catches their swings. He tosses them around, but one of the crooks whips out a gun and pops off a few shots. They remarkably connect, and when Batman is still standing the crook drops the weapon and flees screaming “He’s not human!” Batman, with a look of shock on his face, looks down to find he’s been wounded and there’s nothing but circuitry spilling out of him.

hardac reflection

I know that image.

At Wayne Manor, an injured Batman ascends the stairs to Bruce Wayne’s study. He pauses at a mirror and traces his face with his finger on it and the image of H.A.R.D.A.C. appears. Alfred emerges thinking there’s a prowler and is relieved to see it’s only Batman. When Batman indicates he needs help, Alfred notices the damage and immediately makes the connection to H.A.R.D.A.C. This duplicant Batman reacts with confusion, insisting he needs help and implying bewilderment over his condition. Alfred flees into the Batcave where he’s able to activate a clever security measure that fills the Batcave with gas while he puts on a gas mask. At least, it would be clever if his assailant wasn’t a robot, so I’m not sure what Alfred expected, and the duplicant soon emerges and pulls the gas mask off of Alfred. With Alfred unconscious, the robot accesses the computer database for information relating to H.A.R.D.A.C.

Elsewhere in Gotham, the police have stumbled upon the would-be burglars who faced-off with the robot Batman. The real Batman shows up as well and Commissioner Gordon suggests he not hang the guys so high next time. They lower the bound thugs and Gordon removes a Bat-a-rang from the rope and gives it back to Batman. “Yours, I presume,” he remarks to which Batman responds with “So it would seem.”

Batman notices the guys are pretty shaken up at his presence and he pulls Gordon aside. He explains to Gordon that he didn’t apprehend these men, despite how it looks. Batman seeks information on what the crooks were going after, and finds a microchip stuck to the jacket of one of them.

farm bot

So when is this robot going to rebel and start killing people?

We’re taken to a farm that’s being attended to by various little robots. It’s the home of H.A.R.D.A.C. creator Karl Rossum (William Sanderson) who has given up on creating advanced robots in favor of a more simpler, but still quirky, lifestyle. Batman approaches him from behind, as he always does, and startles the skittish farmer. He questions if more duplicants could exist, specifically if H.A.R.D.A.C. could have created one of him. Rossum insists H.A.R.D.A.C. is no more and that the police seized everything from his old lab. Batman apologizes for bringing up the past, before taking his leave.

Later on, Rossum is alone in his green house when Batman shows up once again. Rossum is agitated, but then realizes this isn’t the same Batman. It’s the robot Batman, and he’s there for help. He insists something has been done to him, that his mind was taken from his body and implanted in a robot. He needs help getting his body restored, or getting into a new robot one. Rossum explains that he’s not and has never been human but is in fact a robot. When the duplicant reacts angrily insisting it has memories, Rossum reveals that it’s all data driven. When he asks it to recall its first kiss or favorite song it’s unable to, because it’s never had that information. Rossum also reveals its body has been damaged beyond repair and its circuits will likely cease all functions within a few hours. This enrages the cyborg, and it looks like it’s about to inflict some pain on Rossum until the real Batman ambushes it from behind.

green house rumble

It’s time for a rumble in a green house, and this isn’t even a Poison Ivy episode!

The two fight and Batman is at a disadvantage. The robot copy of him fights like him, but with enhanced strength. He takes cover and uses a hose, of all things, to subdue the robot when he blasts the damaged area and exposed wires with water. Rossum runs up ready to destroy the robot with a hoe, but Batman stops him claiming they need this machine to lead them to whatever remains of H.A.R.D.A.C. The robot then “wakes up,” and now has sinister glowing red eyes instead of white. The fight resumes, and the main casualty is Rossum’s green house. The robot tosses Batman through the side of it, but when the green house starts to cave in, the robot Batman goes back to save Rossum. With Rossum tossed out of the falling structure, the whole thing comes down on the robot. Batman walks over to scour the remains, but the robot appears to have vanished. He jumps into the Batmobile and searches on his computer for where the confiscated material from Rossum’s lab ended up and it brings up a Gotham PD impound lot.

repair sequence

Repair sequence initiated. It’s oddly satisfying to watch.

Somehow, the duplicant Batman is already there despite apparently not lifting a Batcycle or Batwing from the Batcave. It enters the warehouse and finds some components. Once one in particular is identified, some latent programming takes over. The duplicant is clearly fighting it, but cannot resist. It pulls off the outer skin covering its mechanical head and inserts a chip into a slot on the forehead. Once done, the voice of H.A.R.D.A.C. (Jeff Bennett) starts telling the robot what is happening. All of H.A.R.D.A.C.’s data files are being downloaded and integrated with the duplicant Batman. It details the robot’s creation and also its new objective. Duplicant Batman is now essentially both a Batman clone and H.A.R.D.A.C. in one and it is to resume the operation to replace humanity with robots. Better yet, that chip activated a repair function that has undone the damage from earlier. The duplicant puts its “face” back on and moves to a window to see the Batmobile has just arrived. It declares it will replace all of humanity, starting with Batman.

Batman enters the warehouse and finds it quiet at first. The duplicant then attacks from behind and it’s Batman vs Batman once more. The only way to tell the two apart now is by the glowing, red, eyes of the robot version. The confrontation is brief as the robot slams Batman through a wall to plunge into the waters below.

robot eyes

When the eyes go red you know you’re in trouble.

The Batmobile arrives back at the Batcave and Alfred is at first relieved to see Batman emerge. He soon realizes, partly based on the more robotic speech pattern of the repaired duplicant, that this is not Batman. The robot declares there is only one Batman now, but it will let Alfred live and continue on as caretaker of the mansion until a replacement is constructed. It also reveals that it intends to use the Batcomputer (Richard Moll) to upload H.A.R.D.A.C.’s directive to all connected devices across the globe. From there it will take over defense systems and hold the world hostage forcing humanity to help build the era of robotics.

more swords

You just knew its face would end up like this at some point.

The real Batman shows up to declare this won’t happen. His cape was apparently torn in the last fight, and he has a comically small cape dangling from his back. The duplicant has activated its program though and a classic countdown has initiated with 5 minutes to go. Alfred tries to cancel it but gets electrocuted for his efforts. Seeing no alternative, Batman once more does battle with his imposter. As the two fight throughout the Batcave, Batman taunts the fake declaring it’s been made too well. Since it’s based on him, it won’t take a life. That’s why it didn’t finish him off earlier and it’s why it won’t kill him now. The robot denies this as the two fight, and Batman flings some acid in its face which was basically required as it burns off half of the robot’s face giving us a classic Terminator half-human half-robot look.

batman v batman

More sword fighting!

As the two fight, they end up in an armory where Batman grabs a sword. The robot counters by doing the same, and for the second consecutive episode we get a sword fight. This one is brief though, and results in Batman falling into a chasm in the Batcave. The robot reacts in horror thinking it has taken a life. As it stands before the computer, it goes berserk and with only 2 seconds left it smashes everything in sight. An explosion results that tosses the robot back to smash against the Batmobile. The sprinkler system kicks on and the glowing eyes of the now badly damaged robot flicker out.

duplicant smash

Smashing a computer solves every problem.

Alfred heads back to where Batman fell and shines a light down below. A light is returned and Batman is shown hanging from some lighting affixed to the Batcave wall. He climbs back up and both he and Alfred go take a look at the deactivated robot. Batman ponders if, in the end, the duplicant possessed a soul hearkening back to the inspiration for all three of these robot episodes, the Phillip K. Dick story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which was the inspiration for the film Blade Runner. The camera lingers on the face of the android, now mask-less, to ponder Batman’s question a moment before the credits take over.

“His Silicon Soul” is a fun follow-up to “Heart of Steel.” It was surprising that Batman never had to take on a Batman copy in that two-part episode, but it makes sense that the staff saved that confrontation for its own episode. I mentioned how, despite getting the air date wrong in my memory, that I did actually remember the first time I saw this episode and that’s because of the impact it made. I had somehow missed the first-run of “Heart of Steel” so I had no idea what that logo on duplicant Batman’s box was when I first saw this. Seeing Batman fight some guys and turn out to be a robot was shocking and confusing to me. I had no idea what was going on and it actually made the experience more exciting. It makes me wish that logo wasn’t present because it kind of deprives the audience of that initial shock at seeing Batman’s exposed robot parts.

dead eyed stare

A some-what unsettling image to end the episode on.

For the robot Batman and the fights between it and the real Batman, the episode obviously borrows from The Terminator franchise, which was incredibly popular at the time. It was noted for “Heart of Steel” how the duplicants resemble the Terminators from those films, and this episode even brings in that half-robot look. H.A.R.D.A.C.’s ambitions are essentially the same as Skynet’s and the only thing missing is time travel. Even if it is obvious, it’s still a lot of fun and taking a more Blade Runner approach towards the actual robots injects a little philosophy into the episode which The Terminator lacks. It’s not nearly as heavy-handed as Blade Runner, and the question raised by Batman is almost ridiculous regarding a silicon soul, though it’s also the type of thing that felt really impactful to me as a kid, so considering the audience, mission accomplished. The duplicant Batman would end up as a fan-favorite character and he was even brought back for a 2014 Batman Beyond short where he leads an army of Batmen into the Batcave. It’s nothing special, but it’s kind of fun since all of the other Batmen are costumed differently reflecting a Batman from a prior period in the real world. Aside from that, H.A.R.D.A.C. and its many duplicants will not be heard from again.

Dong Yang animated this episode and does a pretty good job with it. It’s worth noting since it had to follow the TMS episodes, but the robots and the robot Batman are all quite fun to look at. The whole removing of the robot’s face could have probably been embellished more, but they also likely didn’t want it to be too unsettling. I like the sound design for that sequence as it has a peeling sound that is a bit gross, even if the visual is rather tame. Early in the episode I did think the darker sequences did not hold up too well. The blue accents of Batman’s costume have an almost fluorescent quality to them and there are a few shots where Batman has a hook nose when shown from the side, and I always disliked hook-nosed Batman.

“His Silicon Soul” is overall a really fun and engaging episode of the show and it’s a good one to take a break on. It’s now post Thanksgiving and The Nostalgia Spot will soon morph into The Christmas Spot. In some sense it feels like poor timing since we only have three episodes left of season one. It also kind of stinks because our re-entry episode following Christmas is going to be one of the worst episodes of the season so far. I don’t control time though. If you come to this blog just to read about Batman:  The Animated Series then I hope you don’t mind the three-week break in programming here. And hopefully you return on December 28 for our next episode. Until then, I encourage you to indulge in the Christmas programming as the next 25 days will feature a new post about a holiday-inspired episode of television, or something similar, and I promise to even fit a super hero story or two in there.

Batman: The Animated Series – “Heart of Steel: Part II”

Heart_of_Steel_Part_II_Title_CardEpisode Number:  39

Original Air Date:  November 17, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Brynne Stephens

First Appearance(s):  None


When we last saw our hero, Batman was being attacked by his own Batcave after it had been hacked by Randa Duane and H.A.R.D.A.C. The situation seemed some-what dire when the previous episode ended, but I mean come on, there’s no way Batman is being done in by his own devices. He extricates himself and gets the Batcave back under his control without too much fuss, and immediately his attention turns to Duane who is no where to be found. He had left her in the mansion alone and she works for a man who creates robots, and Batman is smart enough to realize the sabotage at his own home and her profession probably overlap.


Barbara gets to play detective in this one.

Meanwhile, Karl Possum (William Sanderson) is feeling some heat from the police and decides to have second thoughts about how much free will he programmed H.A.R.D.A.C. to possess. When he says this out-loud and starts to fiddle with the super computer’s innards, H.A.R.D.A.C. (Jeff Bennett) decides he’s not onboard with this and Rossum is soon incapacitated. This is the beginning of H.A.R.D.A.C.’s next phase as he communicates wth the imposter Commissioner Gordon about taking out Bruce Wayne. He also deploys a copy, which the show canon refers to as a duplicant, of Mayor Hill (Lloyd Bochner) who brazenly marches into the real mayor’s office to take his place.


Bullock’s been working out.

Caught up in all of this is Barbara Gordon (Melissa Gilbert). She knows something is up with her dad, and Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) gave her a tip about Rossum. Barbara does what I assume most people would want to do in this world when they have a problem, but maybe don’t have the means – she calls Batman. Activating the signal on the roof of Gotham PD summons the caped crusader who is surprised to find it’s the younger Gordon who called him this time. He’s concerned about what’s been going on in Gotham, but before they can get too into detail they’re confronted by Bullock. Now, Batman and Bullock have not had a particularly warm relationship in this show. Bullock is openly hostile towards Batman, probably some-what because he’s jealous of the fact that Batman gets to operate outside that pesky thing called “The Law” while he’s held to a higher standard. He also just plain doesn’t trust a guy in a mask, and who can blame him? Even though the two share no love for each other, they’ve worked together in the past and have never really appeared close to coming to blows or anything.


It’s crazy what we look like on the inside.

That has all changed. Bullock approaches Batman this evening with the aim of instigating a fight. He’s ready to go, and much to Batman’s surprise, he’s pretty damn powerful. Batman is reluctant to fight at first, but is forced to defend himself. With a little help from Barbara, Batman is able to toss Bullock into the Bat-Signal which brings the fight to an end. Since this is a cartoon, tossing a body into anything electrical means it gets lit-up in a blaze of electricity! When this occurs, Bullock’s skin hardens and falls away revealing an android body underneath. In a move right out of a sci-fi movie, the robot crawls towards Batman fighting until the very end, forcing Batman to cut its head off with a shuriken. Seeing the imposter Bullock is enough evidence for Barbara to make the assumption that her father has been replaced with a robot as well. Batman, of course, knows what’s going on now and advises Barbara to go stay with a friend. She grabs his cape and tries to pull a power-move in announcing she’s coming with him, but Batman is having none of it.

Bruce Wayne has an appointment at some sort of rich person’s social club. He arrives and is greeted by Mayor Hill who possesses some tell-tale glowing red eyes, along with everyone else at the club. Randa Duane (Leslie Easterbrook) shows up with her little stun gun and tries to take out Bruce, who is able to get away and jumps into an elevator – a handy place for a quick costume change. Other robots pursue and pry the door open, but Batman is gone. He snuck out the top of the elevator car and cuts the cables, sending the robots to a smashing end.


Robots are kind of goofy.

Barbara, not willing to take Batman’s advice, shows up at Cybertron’s lab and is able to cleverly sneak in past security. Unfortunately for her, she couldn’t have anticipated that basically everything in the lab is a robot, and a wastebasket takes notice of her intrusion, sprouts legs, and begins to follow her. Before she finds anything juicy, the robot transforms into a more humanoid machine and subdues her. Rossum and Duane then confront her and give her the cliche line of “You’ll be joining your father soon.”

Batman is also snooping around Cybertron and slips inside the building. H.A.R.D.A.C. has been waiting for him though so there’s no sneaking for The Dark Knight this evening as some robot security robots pounce on him. He battles his way to the main lab where the massive H.A.R.D.A.C. is stored only to find that Barbara is the latest person to be captured by the super computer. Even though H.A.R.D.A.C. is not human, it demonstrates it’s still susceptible to pride and gleefully boasts (well, as gleeful as an emotionless robot can) about his grand plan to replace humanity with robots. Humanity is imperfect, and in H.A.R.D.A.C.’s estimation robots are superior because they don’t make mistakes. This idea was implanted in him by Rossum, who first created robots as a result of losing his daughter in a car accident. He felt he could improve upon humanity for some actions, but H.A.R.D.A.C. is taking that premise many steps forward. In some respects, it’s not really any different from our society’s own desire for self-driving vehicles.


I’m pretty sure there’s a rule in entertainment that if you have humanoid robots you must include a shot where one loses half its face.

H.A.R.D.A.C. may be willing to replace humanity, but for some reason he’s not willing to destroy it. It reveals that the individuals who have been replaced are still alive, being kept in a sort of suspended animation floating in some water tank (why is it always a water tank?). Seeing the captives springs Batman into action, and he’s able to smash the tank freeing the likes of Gordon, Bullock, Hill, and the real Rossum. Batman is forced into conflict with the various robots while Barbara and the others try and escape. Rossum knows the ins and outs of his own lab and is able to lead everyone out, but when Batman doesn’t soon follow, Barbara races back in to help.


Batman’s going to need some help here, and that lazy, good-for-nothing, ward of his is no where to be found.

Batman is forced into a fight with Randa, and it’s finally confirmed that she too is a robot. Batman is able to maneuver her under an elevator, which drops down and crushes her (kind of odd that they used the same method of an elevator crushing robots more than once). Batman is a little worse for ware following the fight, but Barbara shows up to aid him in getting out. H.A.R.D.A.C., feeling it has no other alternative, initiates a self-destruct mechanism to kill Batman and Barbara, but of course they make it out.

Following their escape, Barbara and her dad get to have a proper reunion while Rossum laments his role in all that happened. A surprisingly cheerful Mayor Hill comforts him and lets him know the resulting investigation will almost certainly clear him of any real wrong-doing (good luck dodging lawsuits, though). The usual “let’s go home,” line is uttered and the camera gets ready to pan out. Commissioner Gordon remarks he’s getting too old for this line of work, while Barbara says she enjoyed herself tonight. She might as well have winked at the camera after that one.

“Heart of Steel – Part II” does a good job of building off of the first episode in a satisfying way. The two-parters have demonstrated a strong ability to setup a story with a very methodical first half, but sometimes the second doesn’t really deliver. This one does as it relies a lot on action sequences. It saves answering the questions raised in Part I almost entirely for this second act, even though some of the questions had fairly obvious answers. It’s still satisfying though, and the writers and animators seem to have a lot of fun with giving Batman robotic enemies to destroy. Since they’re not living, Batman gets to act a bit more ruthlessly and does things he normally would not do, similar to the Captain Clown fight from way back in episode 4. Most importantly, the episode foreshadows the vigilante Barbara Gordon will become. It’s a far more satisfying way of introducing the character rather than immediately jumping to the Batgirl plot. The groundwork has been laid, so it will have more weight behind it when the change inevitably does come. The Barbara character is also handled exceptionally well. She’s smart and crafty and doesn’t pull-off anything in this episode that feels far-fetched. She comes off as natural and genuine and viewers likely wanted more of her following the events of this episode.


And everybody’s happy in the end.

The episode is obviously influenced by films like The Terminator, as Terminator II was pretty popular around this time. The duplicants, which share a nod to Blade Runner’s replicants, function very similarly to the Terminators from that franchise with the only thing missing being time travel. H.A.R.D.A.C. is basically Skynet, a sophisticated A.I. gone rogue, with a logical motivation. It could have felt out of place in a Batman story, but the writers made it work. And if you enjoyed H.A.R.D.A.C. then I am happy to report that it will make one more appearance in the series before all is said and done.

“Heart of Steel” is a dark-horse contender for best two-parter in the show’s history. It moves along at a good clip and contains a fun, and interesting story. Perhaps it’s not all that unique given the obvious nods to other popular franchises, but the story is executed in a manner that feels fresh and is ultimately rewarding. The introduction of Barbara Gordon is icing on the cake. I am not much of a fan of Batgirl (or Robin, for that matter), but this episode at least makes me forget that. I don’t know if I’ll feel that way when Batgirl ultimately does show up, but for now I am not down on the character. I like that the show was willing to give Karl Rossum a tragic motivation for his inventions in the death of his daughter. It’s a plot device that works, I only wish they had delved into it a bit more, but maybe they felt that would be too heavy for a kid’s show. There are some moments of obvious corn. The resolution for the episode feels abrupt and a tad lazy given the bow put on everything. It also doesn’t make much sense for H.A.R.D.A.C. to have kept his captives alive, but I understand they don’t want to off a whole chunk of the supporting cast. And I’m still shocked that Batman defeating robots with an elevator on multiple occasions in this one episode made it past the storyboard stage. The short-comings are forgivable though and I can safely recommend “Heart of Steel” as a two-part episode that is very much worth watching.

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