NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Batwoman” are present in this review
After a rather rocky start to Season 2 over the past couple of episodes, Batwoman thankfully saw some welcome improvements this week. Granted, the show still hasn’t completely ironed out its revised vision surrounding new lead, Ryan Wilder, and that remains an area of concern for the time being, but at least the overall season arc is slowly starting to go in a more interesting direction. “Bat Girl Magic!” is also further bolstered by the addition of a fan-favourite minor Batman villain, with Alex Morf debuting a new take on Victor Zsasz in this episode, who will supposedly be a new recurring antagonist to Ryan Wilder’s Batwoman in the Arrowverse. Considering that FOX’s legacy Batman Family-inspired series, Gotham got a great amount of mileage from Zsasz as a recurring antagonist, I think it’s a good idea to groom him for a similar role on Batwoman.
Beyond Morf’s entertaining and memorable Zsasz portrayal, “Bat Girl Magic!” also better refines other elements of Batwoman’s storytelling, while continuing to benefit greatly from a Safiyah/Alice plot that seems to get better every episode so far. Even Ryan saw some improvement in her character arc here, facing the inevitable struggle of her double life getting in the way of both her parole and her attempts to break out as Gotham’s new vigilante protector. Ryan nonetheless hasn’t completely shaken off her growing pains as a lead though, especially when she basically extorts Mary into giving her a job at The Hold-Up (a job that she should be ineligible for, since it involves handling alcohol), before complaining about her wage in the very next scene, despite not having proven herself as a bartender, and not being in any position to demand a higher work station. Ryan’s not wrong about the wage gap, but the way she went about literally forcing Mary to employ her by lying to her P.O., then forcing Mary to corroborate the lie without her consent, makes Ryan come off as shady and unlikable. Those aren’t really good traits for a superhero lead, especially when they transparently force an unbelievable excuse to keep Ryan in Mary’s social circle, and out of jail.
Zsasz being exploited as an unlikely emotional cheerleader for Ryan is also just weird, despite the fact that Zsasz himself seems to nonetheless be a kooky, psychotic delight in the Arrowverse. Morf is not only a lot of fun in the part, but Zsasz’ character also provides another effective reminder that the Arrowverse’s Gotham has a long line of vigilante superheroes, considering that Zsasz is running out of space on his body to make his characteristic tally marks for every murder, and openly mentions at one point that he’s previously battled Batman. The only chink in his metaphorical armour is the fact that Zsasz inexplicably struggles to kill Mary during this episode’s climax, despite the fact that she’s unarmed and helpless. This is meant to complete a previous story turn, wherein Zsasz tells Ryan to embrace her new identity, allowing Ryan a chance to drop in with a new wig, and further alterations to Kate’s old Bat Suit, which now better fits Ryan’s style and character. Okay, so Zsasz of all people is the one inspiring Ryan to be her own woman? Really? That seems both confusing and unlikely. Not only that, but how the hell did Ryan covertly make alterations to the Bat Suit without Luke at least being aware of it?!
On another note, Zsasz also ties into another major storyline this week, when he breaks into Hamilton Dynamics, and steals a list of names, which Ryan eventually pulls from his phone as a civilian, with some help from Luke. While it initially appears to be a kill list, the names are soon after revealed to belong to the people that received Desert Rose treatment during Alice’s rally attack from the previous episode. Mary even witnesses one such woman, a cancer patient, become completely cancer-free after being treated for the Coryana toxin. This is a nice twist that further cements Coryana as becoming a major point of importance on Batwoman this season. The fact that a new street drug, Snakebite, also happens to be laced with Scarecrow’s fear toxin, while Kate was supposedly looking into the art of Jack Napier (a.k.a. the Arrowverse’s Joker) before she disappeared, another longstanding Batman Family villain that favours poison, appears to indicate that Batman’s old Rogues Gallery is about to become a problem for Gotham again, even indirectly, and that Safiyah and the Desert Rose are probably going to be the only way to stop this big villain plot.
Oh, yeah, Safiyah may not be as crooked as she initially seemed! We actually meet the Arrowverse’s Safiyah in the flesh this week, when Alice and Sophie wake up on the shores of Coryana. Why is Sophie there? I guess as some sort of witness/pawn? Yeah, why Sophie had to be dragged to Coryana with Alice is not well explained, especially when Coryana’s agents appear to be able to operate in Gotham with little difficulty. Why didn’t they just corner Sophie on her home turf then? Regardless, Alice’s tense interaction with Safiyah is fantastic, detailing a little more of how Alice came to receive deadly training and unexpected family with Safiyah on Coryana, and how Safiyah actually has no real motive to kill Kate. Safiyah’s hands aren’t necessarily clean though, since she happens to have Kate’s necklace, and seems to imply that Kate is in the custody of Coryana somehow! Does this make Safiyah a hero protecting the old Batwoman, or a villain that’s toying with Alice, and has much worse designs for Gotham as a whole? I legitimately don’t know, and this is a major reason why the Alice/Safiyah storyline is surprisingly soaring at this point!
Another better subplot this week ends up being shared between Mary and Luke, who predictably clash over their differing opinions of Kate’s fate. Mary is determined to move on and embrace Ryan as Gotham’s new Batwoman, but Luke remains committed to being prepared for Kate’s return, believing that she can’t actually be dead. The emotional scene shared between these two characters when their feelings finally boil over is actually quite moving, as is the surprisingly mature resolution to this subplot, where Luke and Mary agree to co-exist anyway, despite not successfully changing the other’s mind. Yeah, turns out Batwoman is still capable of some mature, thought-provoking story resolutions every now and again. They’re much more rare than they should be, but it’s good to see that they’re still possible in Season 2.
Batwoman still isn’t meeting the standards of the best Arrowverse content by any means, but at least the show appears to be taking more steps in the right direction this week. “Bat Girl Magic!” represents some marked improvements in Batwoman’s storytelling, working to pull the series out of freefall, even if it still hasn’t gotten onto a steady, reliable course yet. Ryan herself still hasn’t been fully nailed down as a new lead heroine, and that’s before considering that pretty much everyone in Gotham is still accepting a new Batwoman with an unrealistic shrug, when many citizens should be asking a lot more questions about where the old Batwoman went. Still, Zsasz proves to be a great recurring villain addition here, and the storytelling surrounding Safiyah and Coryana remains exceptional. It would seem that there’s hope yet for The CW’s struggling superhero drama, so, while it’s taking a week off next week, I’ll be interested to see if Batwoman can keep improving when its next episode airs on Valentine’s Day.
- Morf's entertaining, memorable Zsasz portrayal
- Unexpected, ambiguous debut for Safiyah
- Luke and Mary confronting their differences over Kate's fate
- The show still struggles to portray Ryan in a consistent, appealing light
- Some questionable story applications for Zsasz's character
- Why was Sophie dragged to Coryana?