NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Batwoman” are present in this review
Oh, for God’s sake, Batwoman! You found yourself on the right track last week, presenting a legitimately good storyline for new lead protagonist, Ryan Wilder, one that finally helped to better merge her in with your existing ensemble of Kate Kane-era characters. Then, this week, you fell right back into old habits. Indeed, “Gore on Canvas” is a particularly frustrating episode of Batwoman, one that sets off with a legitimately strong idea that effectively calls back to the unseen adventures of the Arrowverse’s Batman, only for said idea’s execution to wind up slamming face-first into the cringe tree, before hitting every branch on the way down.
This is also before considering that Ryan has heavily backslid as a character this week to boot. Despite starting to find her groove as a lead during Batwoman’s previous episode, Ryan has gone back to being a whiny, inconsistent and unlikable character this week, as Batwoman once again finds itself struggling to shoehorn Ryan into a connection with a particular faction in the storytelling. in this week’s case, that would be the Crows, specifically the differing professional styles of Sophie and Jacob, along with Luke and Mary still operating as a united front with a Crow tolerance that Ryan doesn’t always agree with. That’s all well and good on paper, but Ryan’s childish behaviour this week constantly undermines the storytelling, forcing an overdose of Gen-Z-baiting, performative-woke bullshit that’s too often been both a central marketing point and stubborn Achilles’ Heel in The CW’s modern programming lineup.
Compounding this frustration is the fact that the premise behind this episode’s core plot is great! A painting that supposedly shows the way to Coryana ends up in an underground auction overseen by a shadowy group of rich folks called ‘The Collective’. Not only that, but the painting was also vandalized and turned into a twisted new piece several years ago by The Joker, who broke into the home of the person that owned it, violently hacked them to pieces, and then tossed the victim’s gore and viscera all over the canvas, calling it, “Modern art.” All the while, a Banksy-esque art thief called, “Wolf Spider” has recently surfaced in Gotham City, and is also making a run for Joker’s ‘revised’ painting. It’s great stuff, and it’s a fairly smart way to bring a Joker storyline into Batwoman, even when the show can’t directly feature The Joker himself.
Sadly though, what begins as a promising, highly tense alliance between Team Batwoman and the Crows eventually devolves into a particularly eye-rolling, irritating mission into the Collective’s auction, overseen by Kate’s apparent homosexual, genderfluid buddy, Evan Blake, who is so obviously Wolf Spider (even if you don’t know this from Blake’s brief stint with this mantle in DC Comics lore!), that it completely sucks all of the intrigue out of this episode’s core narrative. The climax is the worst part of Wolf Spider’s lacklustre Arrowverse portrayal as well, because, not only does Wolf Spider somehow avoid being cut to pieces by hails of gunfire after a comically terrible scrap with Batwoman (seriously, why was the choreography so terrible this week?!), but he later gets sideswiped by a Crow SUV, leading to Ryan becoming furious with Sophie, after the two Crows agents driving said SUV unrealistically leave the seriously wounded Wolf Spider to bleed out. Okay, there’s a whole lot of stupidity to unpack here, so I’m going to do my best.
First, I get that leaving an art thief, even if he is a criminal, to bleed out, is appalling, but it’s not the Crows’ fault that Wolf Spider is both A: Resisting arrest, and B: Too stupid to get out of the way of a swerving SUV after unrealistically dodging a hail of bullets! This entire storyline just didn’t make sense at all, and felt like a cheap excuse to force a conflict between Ryan and the Crows, especially Sophie. Second, Ryan’s bratty, self-important attitude this week was both cringeworthy and insufferable! Even worse is that the show doesn’t call her out on this at all, and even paints her as the victim because she had to make some personal compromises for the greater good of rescuing Kate! Ryan specifically throws a tantrum about having to work with the Crows towards the end of this episode, after Wolf Spider’s injury, because Luke and Mary insisted she work with them so Team Batwoman could find their way to Coryana and save Kate before Alice kills her (this is a mistaken assumption, but their evidence does indicate that this will happen if Alice finds Kate first), and that’s before Ryan orders Sophie to destroy the entire Crows operation because Wolf Spider got hurt, as if Sophie has the authority to do that anyway! Get the hell over yourself, Ryan! What do you want from these people?! This behaviour makes Ryan look extremely immature, self-absorbed and painfully unaware of how the world works, which is the complete and total opposite of what her humble-beginnings, troubled character is supposed to represent!
Finally, the cherry on top of this godawful core story execution is that all of this mess with the Collective and Wolf Spider, which has inexplicably roped in Angelique to boot (why?), ends up being pointless anyway, because the all-important Joker painting turns out to be a forgery! So this entire storyline accomplished nothing beyond making Ryan look bad! Where’s the real painting, you may ask? Well, it’s in the grip of Ocean, who finally encounters Alice this week, in a subplot that’s thankfully much better than this week’s main plot. Alice poses as a regular civilian and goes to a bar outside of Gotham’s city limits, a preferred hangout of Ocean, which provides an inspired reminder that, despite all of Alice’s outward insanity and childishness, she’s actually quite cunning and devious when she needs to be. After Alice is knocked out by Ocean and tied up in his hotel room however, Ocean starts recalling the same weird memory fragments that Alice has been seeing, shortly before they’re both interrupted by some agents of the Many Arms of Death, which they do manage to overpower and kill on the way out. At the very least, the Coryana storyline continues to highly benefit Alice at this point, even if Team Batwoman would likely be better served focusing more exclusively on Snakebite and the False Face Society at this rate.
Alice once again proves to be the saving grace of, “Gore on Canvas”, a botched episode that stings even more when one considers how well Batwoman was doing last week. Even the fundamental premise behind this episode’s core storyline contains similarly solid potential, but it’s nonetheless ruined by a terrible villain-of-the-week, the worst writing and direction that Season Two of Batwoman has offered so far (Alice/Ocean subplot notwithstanding), and Ryan once again failing to be a cool, legitimately well-developed superhero. The opportunity to invent a more distinct, lower-class take on Batwoman should be exciting, but it continues to be woefully uneven so far, especially when Batwoman keeps trying to punctuate its filler episodes with infantile faux-woke rhetoric that only serves to embarrass the show, and DC in general.
Batwoman has proven that it can theoretically make Ryan Wilder work as a new lead personality, but the show still doesn’t seem like it’s anywhere near the required consistency to make Ryan truly, reliably appealing yet. Well, in that case, I guess it’s back to waiting for the writing to catch up with the sudden changes that have been necessitated by Ruby Rose’s abrupt departure from the eponymous mantle.
- Great premise of hunting for a Joker painting
- Alice's devious undercover efforts
- Ocean stealing the path to Coryana from Ryan and the Crows
- Ryan once again being an infuriating, infantile heroine
- Especially cringeworthy writing and direction throughout
- The entire core storyline is ultimately pointless