Batwoman aired its third mid-season finale last week. I could’ve gotten it up sooner, but I had to contend with reviewing Masters Of The Universe Revelation Part 2, cooking for Thanksgiving, & getting a Covid booster. (I’m thankful for vaccines this year! They’re free, which is the best healthcare value for your money possible. Get vaxxed already!) Rather than saving these thoughts for a season finale overview, it became apparent that it’d be absurdly long like my Supergirl season six recap. So this is either a bit late or a lot early if you’re a binge watcher.
I knew working conditions on Batwoman were bad but HOLY FUCK! Even if Ruby Rose is exaggerating somewhat, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt over the conglomerate that tried throwing Ray Fisher under the bus.
Season three is continuing its theme of legacy. (Thus far Stargirl is better at it.) The overall storylines are less muddled now that they’ve finished with the back & forth over Kate Kane. Unfortunately the writing still isn’t the series’ forte.
Killer Croc-itis is contagious? Apparently Waylon Jones started off as a fully human wrestler who mutated due to a mysterious infection. Then the GCPD killed him by dropping a bunch of thermite down the sewers. Some kid mutated into a new Killer Croc after getting poked by his lost tooth on a fishing trip. (Since there weren’t multiple crocs, that implies Batman was very unsuccessful at rescuing the original’s prey.) Both Crocs are white so it loses the subtext about being pushed to crime by racial expectations. Rather than being a compelling horror story about the kid wrestling with his ravenous transformation, he’s just a one-note maneater with paralytic spit. He’s anticlimactically defeated with a net gun. This spin on KC was supposed to be grounded in science? The prosthetics skewed more toward the gnarly Jim Lee redesign than Suicide Squad’s Oscar-winning classic take.
Remember how Wayne Enterprises barely existed in the first two seasons? Legally dead Kate Kane unilaterally gave Ryan the top position to a company that suddenly matters again? WE being important again would’ve been an easy Post-Crisis fix, yet they never established that in the season & a half prior. So is Ryan no longer a bartender or youth center martial arts teacher? Wayne Tower remains mostly vacant, now with one-off appearances by a publicist & a security guard.
Rich elites like Batman & Green Arrow dishing out vigilante justice has uncomfortable implications. Ryan Wilder was an aspirational character because she’s a successful superheroine without coming from wealth. Revealing that her mother was already a billionaire when she gave her up undermines that. Rather than earning access to Wayne wealth through her good deeds, now it seems like this lifestyle was her birthright. Ryan wasn’t raised in privilege, so the
Jezebel Jada Jet plot twist feels like it simultaneously does & doesn’t make a difference.
Will Ryan’s biological dad be Lucius Fox or Bruce Wayne? Those seem like the two most obvious soap opera choices. Hints point more towards Lucius being her dad (When have clues mattered on this series?), which would make this supposedly original character Tamara or Tiffany Fox in a very roundabout way similar to Diggle being John Stewart. Making either her dad would compound the trope that all orphans must have a secret important lineage to justify their later independent achievements.
Nora Fries from Elseworlds is finally explained! She was frozen for twenty years due to McGreggor’s syndrome & was cured after her husband died. She was never a supervillainess but still got locked up in Arkham Asylum For The Criminally Insane because she was struggling to cope with her lost time. (So Gotham City’s mental health services are even more abominable & it’s even more embarrassing she defeated Killer Frost her first time using her husband’s cold gun.) Once she was defrosted, Nora began aging rapidly to catch up to her natural age. So there’s a dubious in-story reason for recasting Stephen Amell’s wife. Nora’s sister is a reference to Gotham Girls? Nora Fries claims “They didn’t even offer science to women when I was at university.” Bitch, you were thirty-five when you were frozen in the 1990’s!
Jennifer Cheon Garcia is cool as Sloane the kidnapper merc. (She was previously the forgettable Midnight in Supergirl.) While fleeing the Batmobile, she throws a bomb onto an underused bridge that blows up a huge chunk of it. (The explosive seemed too powerful, but weigh in if you’re a demolition expert.) Rather than speed over the bomb before it detonates, Ryan back up the Batmobile. Then Batwing makes an ice bridge for her to drive over by pouring out the canister. (They keep referring to Mr. Freeze’s canister as containing liquid nitrogen despite it not behaving like that.) The kidnappers patiently wait on their side of the bridge while this is playing out rather than continuing to zoom off. I keep saying I want this show to lean into superhero spectacle, but it still doesn’t satisfy when it switches gears from gloomy violence. Sadly Sloane doesn’t become a supervillainess.
The Batwing suit keeps freezing up because Lucius Fox put a failsafe into it the makes it inoperative if the wearer isn’t at a healthy baseline. This seems like a good safety precaution before going on patrol, but Luke Fox’s PTSD causes its sensors to shut it down mid-mission. So Luke removes the failsafe to avoid being constantly being beaten up by henchmen every time he goes out. He has huge falling out with Mary once she decides that informing Ryan of the risk to the overall Bat-team overrides patient-doctor confidentiality. (Nicole Kang’s mom really graduated from med school.) Mary notes that Ryan doesn’t have gunshot PTSD, which you think she would given her introductory story. Luke removes his deceased dad’s override, but then moans his dad’s AI recording won’t talk to him anymore. This doesn’t help him against the new Poison Ivy either.
Like Laurel Lance & James Olsen before her, Sophie Moore was the designated love interest for the protagonist despite dubious chemistry. When Ryan acquired the position, Sophie came with it. Having had arrested her twice, she had no respect for Ryan before discovering she was Batwoman. So I don’t think their relationship has a good foundation. (I don’t like enemies to lovers much anyway.) I was somewhat interested in Ryan & Julia Pennyworth, whom got exiled to England under hypnosis. The teaser for 3×4 was about WildMoore shipping not stolen Mr. Freeze tech. (Keeya King’s traps stole that episode.) Sophie & Renee could have legs beyond a one-night stand, although it seems like Renee being used as a diversion from another relationship has carried over from Gotham. I prefer matching Ryan with Imani.
They’re just copying Gotham’s Professor Pyg homework. In both series, Lazlo Valentin poses as a chef & tries to kill the guests of a ritzy dinner party. Pyg is not a Hannibal-inspired gourmet chef in the comics, so this is Batwoman adapting Gotham rather than the source material. Furthermore this mask is also a realistic pig’s head stitched together rather than the cartoony rubber mask from the comics. In both shows his story ends when he’s killed by the untrustworthy ambitious child of a wealthy family. No Dollotrons for either! The big difference is Batwoman’s version is a vengeful chef who lost his family after getting fired & not played to hammy perfect by Michael Cerveris.
A cop lampshades that Renee Montoya’s Rogue Unit authority is expansively vague. Since she hadn’t shown up previously, does her remit only cover supervillains who fought Batman & not any brand new ones? Apparently the GCPD collecting the rogue weapons is insufficient. (The GCPD being corrupt, raised late last season, hasn’t resurfaced though.) She’s not allowed in the Batcave, so how is she confirming Batwoman is accurately checking them off the list? Batman defeated these baddies years before Alice came on the scene, so her consultation rightly seems generalized. So why does Renee insist that Batwoman use her help to complete the mission she’d already decided was her responsibility? Alice is even returned to Arkham mid-mission for threatening Nora’s life, but this doesn’t have any consequences for Ryan obviously being unable to control Alice as terms of her blackmail. Then unemployed Sophie has to babysit Alice when she’s checked out for the next mission.
Catwoman, Captain Cold, Talia al Ghul, Marc Legrand (his big moment in the sun!), Flamingo, Hush, Swamp Thing, & Harley Quinn get namechecked. The Swamp Thing namedrop made me sad that it didn’t even finish its first season whereas this is still going. You were supposed to have resurrected it by now, The CW or HBO Max!
Trying to recontectualize Jada Jet’s actions as non-villainous is laughable. If she had a moustache in her earlier appearances, they would’ve had her twirl it. She just wants to cryogenically preserve her sociopathic son until until a cure for homicidal tendencies is found. Surely there were better ways to convince Ryan not to talk to Marquis rather than tank Wayne Enterprise stock (How was this the first time the company was in the red given its season one portrayal?), thereby endangering so many livelihoods. Even if she didn’t order The Black Glove Society, which acts more like The Court Of Owls & less like Satanic swingers, to kill anyone, she had to know that’s what’d happen. You don’t get secret scientific breakthroughs on a tight deadline without illegal & probably lethal experimentation. Plausible deniability doesn’t make her an ethical person. She could’ve cut out the cryo-stasis completely & had him committed to Arkham Asylum if she really cared about people not getting hurt. While the care there is laughable, it still seems like she’s acting more of of concern for Jeturian Industries’ public image than her son’s welfare. Why not just ship your killer kid off to a reputable secret facility abroad like a normal billionaire?
My favorite Ryan showcase was her third episode where she cunningly uses her experience as an ex-con to con Zsasz. It’s a shame her subsequent characterization has let her down. As a survivor of Gotham City’s extra lousy foster care & penal systems plus child trafficking, she’s extremely naive. (It’s a remarkable feat that she didn’t become an utterly broken pessimist.) Since she did have a loving foster mother it doesn’t seem as believable that she’d yearn for the approval of a biological mother who treats her like dirt. Ryan is supposed to be the Batwoman of the people. Why isn’t she disgusted by Jada abusing her wealth & influence to protect a psychopath? She ought to be driven to take down her mother for cavalierly getting three (almost four) regular people killed. Ryan covering for her doesn’t seem natural & justifiably pisses off Sophie. Rather than seeming like an organic character flaw, it’s completely undermining Ryan’s moral fiber. She’s not been upholding her three foundational rules of 1. Legacy (“We stand for something bigger than ourselves.”), 2. Accountability (“We hold each other accountable.”), & 3. Support (“We have each other’s backs.”). It’s about ethics in vigilantism! Ryan belatedly realizes she’s a lousy friend to Mary & Sophie.
Sophie taking a blowtorch to the Black Glove dude’s face show you can take the girl out of the Crows but you can’t take the Crows out of the girl. (To be fair, he did try to immolate her first.) Before they can get much usable intel out of this dastard, he somehow manages to hang himself with the chains keeping his hands out of his neck’s reach.
Marquis Jet is basically James Gordon Jr. He became a murderous sociopath because The Joker gave his noggin a shock with a joy buzzer when he hijacked the school bus the day Beth & Kate were separated. (All that work rehabilitating electroconvulsive therapy’s reputation down the drain!) Or would he have poisoned his father anyway? Since The Black Glove Society was founded as a support group for rich parents of psychopaths, perhaps Marquis is also Owlman (Thomas Wayne Jr.). Why bother naming your son Marquis if you’re just going to pronounce it Marcus?
When written well, the Batman/Joker dynamic is incredibly compelling. Unfortunately it’s been diluted by overexposure. Alice was supposed to be Kate’s “Joker,” but the archnemesis relationship didn’t carry over as well to Ryan. So now they’re positioning Marquis as Ryan’s Joker. He’s a self-admitted Joker fanboy in case you thought they were being too subtle. Rather than being driven mad by a life of systemic racism as some proponents of a black Joker had suggested, he’s just a privileged rich kid who thinks murder is funny. Plus they just did the superheroine’s long absent sibling is a cuckoo killer. (It would’ve been a more novel dynamic to keep him a sincere ally since Ryan still doesn’t have friends outside of Kate’s Bat-circle.) While Alice has layers, Marquis seems to be just plain evil so far. I think it would enrich Batwoman more for Ryan to gain a unique archenemy than to have a Joker wannabe thrust upon her in an attempt to recreate bottled lightning. If Marquis had become a new supervillain like Owlman, it’d seem less desperate & rife for negative comparisons. Maybe I’d be less cynical about this if if I thought Ryan having a secret rich family was worthwhile to begin with. Will they be allowed to call him Joker unlike Gotham?
The Black Glove figure out how to safely defrost frozen people from Dr. Mary Hamilton-Kane saving Jordan Moore’s life. Poison Mary later tracks down the main Black Glove guy by herself despite other characters claiming it’s impossible. It’d make sense if the two were working together, but how they got info on each other is confusingly unclear.
Poison Ivy’s escaped vines yoink Mary after she drops off Mrs. Fries in the park. She wisely informs her friends right away that she has a big memory lacuna, yet they’re bizarrely unconcerned. Ryan & Luke not caring about Mary’s missing hours is especially crummy since they live in supervillain central. Only Alice notices that she’s been under Ivy’s sway, not that it was particularly subtle. Even when Mary cuffs herself & explains it to Ryan & Luke, they don’t take her seriously. Poison Mary is Homer. Is Mary going to become Bat-Girl, Flamebird, or Hawkfire once this arc is over?
Poison Ivy’s vines are established as being a means for Dr. Pamela Isley to remotely control people. Since Renee said Batman entombed her ex-girlfriend over a decade ago, it seems like the vine took Mary as a tool to free Pam. Except it doesn’t look like Mary does anything to rescue Ms. Isley during her fugue states? If untreated within a limited timeframe, someone infected by a vine also permanently becomes Posion Ivy?
Alice is the only one to notice Mary’s infection, & preys on her transformation anxiety to convince her to help her stepsister. It’s almost unfair to the rest of the show to partner up its two best characters. (Kang drew her own Poison Mary & Alice team-up.) It’s funny to see Mary slowly be pushed toward criminality while still being wholesome. Mary decides to reject the cure & become the new Poison Ivy. (This puts Sophie as the odd woman out with neither job nor alter ego.) Luke & Mary not listening to her is frustrating yet it still doesn’t seem sufficient for her to become a full-on supervillainess. Why can’t she use her new powers for good? So what was the point of the vine singling out Mary if she wasn’t going to do anything to benefit the original Ivy?
Mary fears Ryan will lock her up in Arkham & cleanses Alice’s blood of her tracking nanites (not courtesy of Ray Palmer?). So once they get away from Gotham City, the mid-season premiere promo makes it look like they’re going to turn right around. So what was the point of becoming fugitives if they’re just setting themselves up to be sent to Arkham & get injected with fresh tracking nanites?
Mary’s Poison Ivy costume looked good in the promo photo (Announcing Bridget Regan as the original early was a clever way to distract that this would be a major change … that releasing this photo in advance negated.) but hews closer to Party City onscreen. It’s the glitter pantyhose plus lighter corset & boots throwing it off. The extra pointy shoulder pads & trellis corset are nifty way to make it unique to fashionplate Mary whilst evoking the original. Why did Mary have budding odango like Uma Thurman’s Ivy during the interstitial phase only to lose them once the infection went full bloom?
Jada’s plan to freeze her son fails when he escapes. He trades the cure for Poison Ivy-itis to Ryan (If WE is a functional company again, why did she have to outsource Mary’s cure to Jeturian? Couldn’t Hamilton Dynamics have done the job without strings?) in exchange for her making him Wayne Enterprises CEO. Marquis even laughs at her apology for betraying him & admits he doesn’t care abut building a sibling relationship because he’s a stone cold psychopath. With his hair dyed purple like Manchester Black, her brother is going to clog Wayne’s corporate social feeds with “Joker was right” memes.
Putting on the Batsuit isn’t necessary to defeat him at this point. Ryan could have the contract voided for duress plus have Marquis arrested for murdering a security guard & assaulting Luke. If she can get the home video of Marquis gleefully poisoning his father & security footage of him stabbing Jeturian Industries’ scientists, that’d help even more. Instead she sheepishly acts like there’s nothing she can do to thwart her half-brother. (This is frustratingly similar to the refusal to obviously counter villain moves in The Dark Knight Rises & portions of Arrow.) Marquis doesn’t even know he can blackmail Ryan over being Batwoman. He implausibly becomes CEO effective the next morning & instantly revokes the Bat-team’s security access, meaning they can’t get to the Batcave. How does Luke not already have any backdoor contingencies to work around this?
Although I liked its version of Black Mask, doing new spins on Batman’s less grounded foes is refreshing. It’s appropriate that they be legacies like Batwoman herself. On the other paw, it’s a cop out they they’re not the original versions of these characters on Prime Earth. There’s no reason why The Poison Ivy & The Joker couldn’t just be Korean & African American. Poison Ivy II & joker II will probably get more development than most of the show’s villains, but it still feels less groundbreaking than it could’ve been. Nick Creegan looks like he’s having a ball following his heel turn, & I’d rather have him than Leto. Whereas Mary breaking bad lacks believability, Marquis could use more nuance. Maybe they’ll tie it together in the back half of season three?
Batwoman & Batgirl are oft mistaken for each other, so this section won’t help.
How come Batgirl only had ears on her mask when she rode her motorcycle & not the rest of Batman & Robin? Kenner’s Icestrike Cycle looks better scaled to Mattel’s New 52 Batgirl.
Gotham Knights Batgirl action figure looks like Jane Levy. I am okay with this.
Black Canary, Batgirl, & Blue Beetle are getting HBO Max movies because WB thinks their names make them B-tier. Somehow Black Adam & The Batman escaped this trend. (Zatanna’s movie is streaming too.) Batgirl stars Leslie Grace as Babs Gordon with JK Simmons returning as Commissioner Gordon & Doom Patrol’s Brendan Fraser as Firefly. But I wanted Brendan Fraser to play Killer Moth!
Will next week finally feature my annual cats blog?