NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Batwoman” are present in this review
After quite a few episodes of directionless, ill-conceived plotting, Batwoman actually managed to deliver a solid episode a couple of weeks ago, before the series took a week off during the move to its new Sunday 9:00 PM ET timeslot. Refreshingly, the show made a solid impression in its new timeslot this week to boot, delivering another surprisingly solid episode! I think we’ll need one more good episode in a row before we can acknowledge that the especially troubled sophomore season of Batwoman is finally turning a corner, but perhaps the series really is starting to formulate how best to utilize its Season 2 story arcs.
“Initiate Self-Destruct” is also a significant episode because it finally reintroduces a disfigured, confused Kate Kane back into the series, albeit with a recast. Krypton’s Wallis Day has now succeeded Ruby Rose as the Arrowverse’s original Batwoman, and I must admit that the way Kate returns to the show’s ensemble is legitimately unexpected and interesting. Kept in a mask and taken hostage by Roman Sionis/Black Mask, Kate is hypnotized by Enigma into thinking that she’s Black Mask’s dead daughter, Circe, no relation to the Wonder Woman villain of the same name, of course. Now a brainwashed agent of the False Face Society, and with her scarred visage hidden under a fancy oak mask, Kate has become a lethally insane right-hand enforcer for Black Mask, which may fill in some important blanks regarding why Kate, as Batwoman, would have even indirectly taken the life of Circe Sionis over a year ago.
Another nice bit of tragic irony here is that the mask on Kate’s face prevents even her own allies and family from recognizing her. This becomes important when Ryan, as the new Batwoman, is forced to team up with Alice, in order to rescue both Angelique and Ocean from Black Mask. That’s not the only ticking clock either, since Sophie is struggling to run interference with the Crows, who are on the verge of uploading Ryan’s secret identity to the public DNA database, ensuring everyone in the world will know Batwoman’s real identity. It’s really satisfying to see Batwoman finally become legitimately exciting in its current story arc, presenting reasonable challenges and good character development, and no longer wasting its storytelling on forced, juvenile drama, nor insufferable ‘woke’ storylines that take the show’s social justice commentary to infuriatingly insulting fantasism.
Once again though, not everything is perfect here. One thing that’s especially laughable about this episode is the fact that Ryan’s and Alice’s tense team-up is mostly wasted on the two inexplicably talking about their love lives. Not only does this have Batwoman wiping its ass with the Bechdel Test, which seems pretty counter-productive for a girl-powered superhero drama, but it also doesn’t make sense on any level. Ryan and Alice are bitter enemies! They have no reason at all to discuss their personal lives! Granted, Alice trying to impress advice on Ryan that she can’t save everyone, only for Ryan to later leave Alice to be captured by Black Mask, is an appropriately cold result that somewhat makes up for the inexplicably juvenile plotting behind what’s otherwise a pretty interesting story device.
On this note, the major subplot behind this week’s episode also ends up working to mixed effect. Sophie racing against the clock to try and protect Batwoman’s secret identity is good at least, as is Luke and Mary being roped in to help. Hell, Luke and Sophie having to wrestle with the prospect of wiping numerous high-profile criminal records in order to ensure the database containing Ryan’s information is erased is especially awesome, particularly when they avoid the temptation! There’s even a legitimately smart secondary solution presented here as well, after Sophie decides to wipe Ryan’s prior criminal history, which takes her out of the prison system, and effectively renders Ryan’s DNA unreadable to the Crows just the same. Damn, that’s a legitimately smart solution! What’s gotten into you, Batwoman? Did you find the good writers underneath your couch cushions?!
Admittedly though, there are still a few contrivances that don’t feel believable here, even if they still tease a promising story turn for later. This comes by way of Sophie pulling double duty in a separate subplot with Mary, after Mary reopens her clinic, and shows Jacob a more legitimized operation as a way of removing him from his office, so that Sophie can erase Ryan’s identity evidence. It’s through this storyline that Sophie and Mary are both led to discover that Jacob is doing Snakebite, with Sophie showing Mary the evidence after she stumbles upon it in Jacob’s office, in turn leading to Mary having to reckon with Jacob’s surprising approval of her new clinic being motivated by drugs. Considering the known effects of Snakebite however, it seems a bit unlikely that Jacob would suddenly bend on Mary’s clinic, even if he was high as a kite. It’s not like there was an actual tragedy that occurred at the clinic, plus I have a hard time believing that Jacob would flout the law just because he’s in a better mood than usual.
Regardless, Batwoman finally seems to be approaching the right track in its strained Season 2 narrative. The show’s drama is finally starting to take better shape, and while the dialogue and some story turns are still way too juvenile at times, overall, Batwoman’s storytelling is starting to get noticeably better. “Initiate Self-Destruct” somewhat wastes the full potential of a Ryan/Alice team-up, but it still delivers a legitimately clever, cool way to re-introduce Kate’s character to the show, while also presenting a legitimately compelling challenge for Sophie at Crows HQ. I’m also very interested to see how Sophie and Mary ultimately approach Jacob being addicted to the very drug his outfit is trying to get off Gotham’s streets, possibly suggesting that Sophie could end up taking over the Crows for next season. These positive developments are probably too little, too late, especially considering growing reports that The CW is just going to give up on Batwoman and cancel it after next season, but at least Season 2 of this struggling series is hopefully, God willing, starting to find its feet.
Better late than never, right? Let’s hope it lasts.
Batwoman delivers another surprisingly solid episode this week, as Ryan is forced to team up with Alice in order to rescue Angelique, while Sophie races to prevent the world from learning Batwoman's secret identity.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Exciting race to save Angelique and Ocean
Sophie's legitimately clever method of protecting Ryan's identity
Kate returning to the series as a brainwashed Black Mask enforcer
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Ryan and Alice inexplicably sharing their personal lives with each other
Jacob signing off on Mary's new clinic feels too convenient