How Bungled Is Batwoman Season 2?

Although it was off to a tentatively good start, Batwoman season two is on track to be as bad as Arrow season 6. Every time I think I’m ready to blog about how aggravating it’s been this season, they release more episodes. I suppose I might as well publish it now to keep the season finale review shorter. If you enjoy SPOILER complaints, this blog’s for you!

Starting off on a positive note, Mary Hamilton-Kane & Luke Fox remain a delightful duo. I’d watch a show about Mary & Luke being Flamebird & Batwing. Alice remains a scene stealer even as pulls enough focus to have the series renamed after her. I’m gradually warming up to Ryan Wilder. (Neither iteration is as charismatic as the lead ought to be though, especially compared to the Superman & Lois doubleheader.) The suit redesign looks rad. Now the negatives:

We can now add rats, bats, & toxins to the the list of things Batwoman’s writers don’t understand. Last season, Mouse told Alice “Bats eat rats.” I let that remark slide until the writers insisted it was factual. Alice duct tapes a rat to Mouse’s corpse to lure a whole colony to nibble him. Somehow these bats can now spread the poison she killed Mouse with & their eyes glow yellow. (His cadaver with a lone bat bouncing inside is brought to Mary’s clinic despite it not being a morgue.) Aside from Bats not eating rats or humans, wouldn’t ingesting this very efficient toxin just kill them? Even if it didn’t, you can’t spread poisons as if they were diseases. That’s not how biological magnification works! Alice lures the bats to a pro-Batwoman rally with a sonar device she stole from Year One, Batman Begins, & Gotham. Rather than just swarming the beacon, the bats attack everyone in the general vicinity. At least the CGI of bats swooping at citizens’ heads was of better quality than Birdemic. Gothamites would only need to worry about rabies shots, but an antidote to the poison is synthesized from the Coryana desert rose in Mary’s blood anyway. Batwoman lures the cauldron of bats into a Crows bus & blows it up. It’s more merciful than making them starve yet still inhumane. You’d think this series would be above bat-fearmongering. Save bats!

One of my concerns about changing Batwomen was that the narrative momentum would need to start from scratch. Season two echoes the first three season one episodes very closely. New heroine dons the outfit of missing predecessor. She thwarts a terrorist attack by Alice. The media wonders whether predecessor has returned or been replaced. Rookie has learning curve with gadgets in field. She personalizes costume to fight somebody that knew Batman in episode three. Wilder does learn firsthand Crows can’t be trusted on team-ups much quicker than her predecessor. The episode with the Candy Lady was the best showcase for Ryan as distinct from Kate, although it paralleled Alice’s backstory.

Ryan’s suit customization was less overwrought than Caroline Dries made it out to be. It begs the question when she had time & resources to do it behind Luke’s back since he’s very protective of this sophisticated armor. The overhaul was pretty complex when you actually compare the two suits. It seemed like Zsasz would’ve done Mary in by the time Ryan put in on & got over to her clinic. How far away is it from Wayne Tower?

Zsasz

The iodine aftermath is even more harrowing.

Alex Morf as Victor Zsasz is surprisingly great. He feels like what Gotham’s Zsasz would’ve developed into. He’s definitely got the best scars out of all the live action adaptations. They better keep him in circulation since he’s easily the best villain the show has had since Alice.

Safiyah claims she abducted Kate Kane before her plane took off but had nothing to do with the explosion. She did it to punish Alice for stealing the Coryana desert rose. Safiyah is paranoid about the Coryana being colonized to exploit the rose’s universal panacea. She has a valid point. On the other paw, it’s arbitrary that she should decide who gets life-saving miracle drugs. I can understand her sending Zsasz to kill everybody who had it in their system to keep the secret, but once again environmentalists are portrayed as mass murderers. Why didn’t she have her Many Arms Of Death (this sounds offensive to Hindus) finish the job after he was thwarted? Her paranoia is accurate as Hamilton Dynamic doctors use mercenaries to uncover Coryana’s location, but they’re swiftly slain the next episode before they can even depart Gotham.

Safiyah was jealous that Alice shacked up with her adopted brother, Ocean, instead of her. So she gave them both incredibly specific amnesia (that vanishes when they touch each other) & exiled them from Coryanna. Quit being such a heterophobe, Safiyah! She didn’t confiscate the desert roses either of them were smuggling, so great work safeguarding the island’s secret natural resource. YOU HAD ONE JOB!

Everybody including Ryan being focused on retrieving Kate from Safiyah’s clutches makes it seem like Ryan is merely a temporary replacement. That’s not the case, yet it’s the distracting message this arc is sending to make it harder to invest in Ryan as the permanent Batwoman.

Kate didn’t enter the Justice League’s contact info in the Batcave Rolodex. She probably went missing while Supergirl was stuck in the Phantom Zone. Even if Covid concerns kiboshed crossovers, it could at still reference the wider Beeboverse. Kilovolt (should’ve gone with  Killervolt) had an electricity rifle but they didn’t tie it into the DEGs in Freeland.

Jacob Kane is running the Crows more like the GCPD than a private security firm. This could only confuse casual fans who mistook Batwoman for Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon. (Batwoman’s costume was originally designed for Barbara.) Jacob could’ve easily been police commissioner & still had a fancy command center thanks to donations from Wayne Enterprises & Hamilton Dynamics. The only times the GCPD is relevant was when the current commissioner wouldn’t turn on the Batsignal to save his son because of homophobia & when the False Face Society offed him. The series actually said “All Crows Are Bastards!” before I could. It is odd that they’re using a surrogate to tackle the issue of police brutality when the notoriously corrupt GCPD is right there! For a security firm, the Crows headquarters is terrible unsecured. Both Julia Pennyworth & Jacob are attacked in their own cars in its parkade. Neither learned to check their backseats?

The series is still tackling social injustice hamfistedly. A few bad eggs in the judicial & penal systems are undone in single episodes. This leads to a better sense of achievement than Black Lightning, but these simple solutions to systemic problems are underwhelming. If you’re not well versed in the real issues, its superficial approach can be confusing. The False Face Society tries to pin its murder of the GCPD’s commissioner on Defund The Police activists like Sophie’s sister. Gotham City isn’t the ideal setting to discuss this topic as its crime rate is monstrously higher than real US cities & half its crimesters have doctorates. In this series it needs regular city police, a militarized security firm, & a highly equipped vigilante to keep it safe. Consolidating those three parties (into Batman Inc?) might be somewhat analogous, but it’s a stretch the series doesn’t commit to.

Whenever Sophie Moore has to deliver exposition she should do it whilst tearing off her sleeves & flexing. That’d make her much more engaging. Tatiana got very meta with Sophie by asking what is her purpose & telling her “Nobody cares what you need.” Even when Sophie is giving Ryan reasonable dating advice or dissing the Crows to her superior’s face, she sounds like a wooden buzzkill. (Mary gives Ryan a superior speech about how Angelique will eventually become Alice if she keeps getting free crime passes.) Meagan Tandy strains to make the role less thankless. Maybe instead of trying to make her more sympathetic, she’d feel more lively if she went full heel turn?

Ryan, your new roommate is a doctor whose family business has advanced medical technology. Ask her to look at your festering Kryptonite bullet wound. She does eventually, but it shouldn’t have taken her that many episodes. Ryan is definitely dying of radiation poisoning rather than becoming a Meteor Freak. (Its radioactivity is even more malignant than I feared.) This feels like the writers implying that Ryan is the worthier Batwoman because she prioritized being Batwoman over her own health. Ironically it reminds me that Ruby Rose was nearly paralyzed during the pilot & filmed her season in discomfort.

Mary took ownership of The Hold Up during Kate’s absence. She also attends med school, runs an unlicensed clinic, & often assists Batcave mission control. Ryan got as job as a bartender as a cover story for her parole officer. Does anybody else actually work at The Hold Up? This is Verdant all over again!

Roy Bivolo & Paul Dekker are better artists than Jack Napier. The Joker coincidentally splattered human blood onto the only extant map to Coryana during a home invasion. The dried blood impasto burns off, improbably leaving an undamaged map behind. It turns out to be a forgery, as Ocean has the real deal. Was the map the Joker defiled a forgery to begin with? Or did Ocean recently transfer the encrusted gore from the original onto the fake?

Episode seven begins with the Kryptonite poisoning entering Ryan’s brain! That’s seriously bad news! Her life is only saved by Mary’s experimental drug cocktails. So she should be bedridden until they get her a cure, right? Nah, Ryan insists on Bawomaning for her remaining lifespan & surprisingly only behaves as if she has a massive hangover. She only pauses temporarily when her ex-girlfriend pushes her off a balcony onto a car. Then she holds her own in battle with a non-impaired Alice & still has the wherewithal to plant a tracker on her. She’s even livelier next episode from a shot of adrenaline.

Luke Fox says putting shark repellent in the utility belt would be stupid. You used to be cool, Luke! Writer Natalie Abrams shouldn’t have come for the Bat-Shark Repellent! You made a powerless enemy that day!

Coryana is Lian Yu merged with Nanda Parbat. It looks suspiciously like British Columbia. There’s no reason for to have electronic cuffs aside from Batwoman’s EMP conveniently unlocking them.

Tatiana slaughtered Alice’s Wonderland Gang without orders from Safiyah, who punishes her by stabbing her unrequited lover in the heart with a blade coated in desert rose juice that she just used on Ocean. Safiyah claims she can revive Tatiana by pulling out the knife at any indefinite point in the future. Even if its flower juice restores her heart on the way out, she’s still gonna be brain dead from oxygen deprivation within ten minutes. I say leave the knife in & pray Tatiana isn’t officially Whisper A’Daire.

Safiyah lied about keeping Kate captive to mess with her twin. Alice spitefully burning the unguarded & highly flammable rose field was good but it could’ve been better scored with “White Rabbit.” Supposedly Ryan’s personified plant was a Coryana desert rose the whole time because Angelique got it from Ocean? So Ryan unknowingly left her cure at home. That is some O Henry level irony! So the first half of the season is arguably a waste of the whole cast’s time.

Why did an an enraged Safiyah not kill Jacob, Sophie, & Alice to protect Coryana’s whereabouts? How did they get Ryan all the way back to Gotham in time for her to get the desert rose antidote for the radiation eroding her brain before it killed her? We don’t know because the cliffhanger immediately leads into Kate’s “internment.” (Are Mary’s boots too sexy for the occasion?) It feels like they skipped a whole episode. Apparently viewers are supposed to fill in the gap for themselves. If Gotham is on the American east coast & Coryana is in the Mediterranean, it’d take at least eight hours to return by plane. That’s assuming there any planes immediately available. (Alice escaped by boat.) Then somebody would need to get Ryan to the Batcave without Jacob & Sophie following. Of course there’s nothing that would’ve stopped these Crows from unmasking her while she was incapacitated for the return trip. We shouldn’t need fanfics to patch these plotholes!

Kate Kane got blown up in a plane! No, Safiyah kidnapped her before the plane took off! No, Kate is really dead because chunks of her surfaced in Blüdhaven! No, Kate’s alive in the sewers beneath a barber shop with a full face bandage! This is kinda like the mystery of whether Sara Lance was dead in Arrow season one but more exhausting. I can’t shake the feeling that the writers are so incensed that Ruby Rose quit that they’re taking it out on Kate Kane. If you were invested in the character, this season is unrelenting misery porn.

Wallis Day will be the new Kate Kane. Why didn’t they just do that to begin with? It’s just going to undermine Ryan as Batwoman now. Day is probably the replacement candidate who looks closest to Rose. Despite that, the series has made it explicit that Kate’s face got messed up. So even though they cast someone who wouldn’t be jarring, they’ve added an extra hurdle for viewers accepting this recasting. Now that they’ve drawn attention to Kate looking different, there’s the issue of why she won’t just get reconstructive surgery to restore her appearance. If Alice can perfectly recreate faces with a minimum of resources (It’s still insane that this a skill rather than a metahuman power.), imagine what wonders this universe’s plastic surgeons can do.

“Bury your gays” can be an incredibly hurtful trope, so I understand not actually killing off Kate. (That doesn’t mean it’s never acceptable for them to die in a narrative, however, especially if it has multiple gay characters like this one.) The writers were emotionally torturing viewers with the possibility for weeks, which is arguably more cruel. After zigzagging so much, the reveal that Kate survived lands with a shrug. The storyline was at its most impactful during the moments when it was believed Kate was actually dead. Assorted characters wrestling with her dying in a senseless tragedy was one of the more resonant explorations of grief in superhero adaptations since WandaVision. Just like that series, it removes all the poignancy by having the dead characters be alive again. Safiyah’s special dagger not actually killing anybody further eroded the gravitas of mortality.

Peter Outerbridge as Black Mask is unexpectedly great casting. (Now the Beeboverse is officially Canadian!) Whereas most of the series villains are sadly nondescript, this sadistic entrepreneur’s costume lives up to his cryptonym. He doesn’t pickle anyone’s face like his movie counterpart, but he has a classic saw mill death trap! While Ryan hates him for trapping her ex-girlfriend in the Vertigo Snakebite drug trade, he’s another villain whose true beef is with the Kanes not the current Batwoman. This show could really use some foes that are specifically anti-Ryan.

Making Black Mask the culprit behind Kate’s kidnapping is a cop-out. The audience didn’t know he existed in this continuity until the season premiere, plus he had no prior involvement with the Kanes. Safiyah was at least foreshadowed through Alice. She had the means, motive, & opportunity but was just a red herring. Roman Sionis claims Batwoman killed his daughter, which wasn’t a thing we saw in season one. It’ll have to retroactively add this in a flashback just like when Arrow forgot to establish Prometheus’s motivation.

So Sionis kidnapped Kate, faked her death, & is torturing her until she goes bad. That could be compelling, if we didn’t already have Alice. New Kate hasn’t debuted yet, but this isn’t the series to subvert the heroine (temporarily) becomes a villainess trope. Alice may even hold the key to snapping Kate out of it be reminding her she has dibs on this trauma.

The hypnotist moonlighting for Safiyah & Black Mask is Enigma. Is this Riddler’s daughter? Dr. Evelyn Rhyme wears green & has a cane (like Riddler should’ve had in Gotham) yet doesn’t ask riddles. Enigma is a character vaguely developed enough for reinterpretation, but this nefarious psychiatrist feels much closer to Spellbinder. They were in Batman Beyond & The Batman so they can’t be too deep of a cut. No way they were deemed important enough to embargo for another project either. A female version of Spellbinder even exists in the comics.

Although Gotham City is supposed to be analogous to the heavily congested NYC, there’s still plenty of of open asphalt to do Fast & Furious stunt driving. (Replacing Batcycle with Batmobile compounds the unrealism.) From where does one just steal huge canisters of fear toxin? Doesn’t Scarecrow control the secret recipe? Is the Mister Bloom florist truck foreshadowing or as much as we’ll see of this rogue? Crowphie figures out Ryan is Batwoman, not through keen detective work, but because she left Luke’s gizmo inside Mary’s borrowed & banged up ride. It even helpfully contains a recording of Luke & Ryan discussing her being Batwoman.

Javicia Leslie has more range than Ruby Rose, although I still find her performance & the writing aren’t gelling into the character of Ryan Wilder enough. Nonetheless, episodes three & four showcased the series can still work with her as the lead. Unfortunately most of her episodes were about Ryan just keeping the suit warm for Kate & trying to rescue her. (Contrast this with how The Falcon & The Winter Soldier handled legacy without suggesting Steve Rogers would return.) We didn’t even get a half season of Ryan solo before they revealed her predecessor lives. This must be extra irritating for Ryan fans that never liked Kate. I don’t understand why the writers went out of their way to make Kate  fans dislike Wilder by positioning her as a replacement usurper. Then they overcompensated by showing she’s more badass because she can Batwoman through radiation poisoning. Why not begin the season with recast Kate welcoming Ryan as her partner? I’m really not looking forward to brainwashed Kate battling Ryan for the cowl.

~

Legends Of Tomorrow returns next! Now that’s a show I like! (I hope I didn’t just jinx it.)

7 thoughts on “How Bungled Is Batwoman Season 2?

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