NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Batwoman”, including a major character death, are present in this review
Welp, Batwoman had a good run over the past three weeks. Oh, no, the series isn’t cancelled at this point. It’s just gone back to its regular old habits, and highly disappointing storytelling. Even worse is that Batwoman is off the air for three weeks after this episode, leaving the series’ brief Spring hiatus to unfortunately kick off after a questionable cliffhanger that builds off of another ‘woke’ storyline, one with a decent idea within it, but infuriatingly messy execution. I doubt that will be a shock to anyone at this point however, because as much as Batwoman wants to be both a social justice powerhouse and a female empowerment anthem, it’s never been all that great at achieving either of these ideals.
“And Justice For All” revolves heavily around Ryan and Luke, and eventually Sophie, all being wrongfully imprisoned during and after a fundraiser for the new community center. Why are some random cops hassling these three in broad daylight, surrounded by hundreds of witnesses in Ryan’s and Luke’s case? Who the hell knows. Yes, I’m aware that this is Gotham City, and the cops are corrupt as hell, but there’s a difference between deep-rooted corruption and irrational racism. As much as this episode clearly has lots to say about the plight of Black Americans and the racism they face on a frustratingly regular basis, especially at the hands of law enforcement, its narrative unfortunately ends up being an ‘idiot plot’, namely one that’s only moved forward because characters unrealistically act stupid and/or out-of-character for the sake of forcing a storyline along. This immediately undermines whatever well-meaning message that the show wanted to convey here, especially when it comes to the somewhat tasteless way that it all comes together.
Now, to be fair, Batwoman’s latest social justice narrative is a little better than most that the show tried to spin in the past. The series does, to its credit, attempt a more layered, complex debate between its Black leads here, one that doesn’t provide easy answers, nor an unrealistic understanding. It even leads to a legitimately unexpected, and fairly promising evolution for Sophie’s character in the end, namely her decision to leave the Crows. This is the complete opposite of what I initially predicted would happen with Sophie’s character by the end of this season, and unless she changes her mind, Sophie abandoning the Crows could be an even better direction for her character during Batwoman’s upcoming third season. Does this mean that Sophie will eventually join Batwoman on Gotham’s streets in earnest as the John Diggle-type character at Ryan’s side?
As interesting as that potential turn for Sophie is however, another major drawback to this episode’s ‘woke’ storytelling is the fact that it’s inexplicably paired with a ridiculous zombie-style plotline, wherein a bad batch of Snakebite starts turning drug users across Gotham into ravenous cannibals. Uh, what the hell? Not only is this, what, the fifth or sixth zombie storyline that the Arrowverse has used so far (albeit the first on Batwoman), but it’s also way too over-the-top, and meshes rather poorly with the otherwise heavy-handed social justice narrative this week, especially when both Ryan, Sophie and Luke being in jail, and Gotham’s drug zombie epidemic, is all quickly solved before this episode is even over. Thus, in the end, Ryan in particular being in jail serves no other purpose than giving the bad Snakebite epidemic a head start. Oh, and I suppose it also motivates Ryan to break up with Imani, but who cares? Imani hasn’t been around long enough to make a real impression as a character yet, so this dramatic turn for Ryan ends up falling pretty flat.
A better dramatic turn once again comes by way of Alice in this case, after she’s realized that ‘Circe’ is her thought-dead sister, Kate. Alice hides this knowledge from Black Mask, but she’s nonetheless ejected from Black Mask’s custody, as a reward for repairing the face of his ‘daughter’. This instead leads Alice back to Enigma, with Alice tying Enigma up in her office and holding her captive, in an attempt to force Enigma to reverse Kate’s hypnosis. Despite Enigma initially protesting and claiming that things aren’t that simple as well, she eventually relents, and suggests that Alice find a memento that’s crucial to Kate’s psychology.
Alice eventually decides on Kate’s bike keys, but happens to pick up Ocean along the way too. This is where things get… Unfortunate, both for Alice, and for the show’s overall narrative. Once Alice confides in Enigma that Kate values freedom above all else, and that her bike keys represent that, Ocean takes it upon himself to snap Enigma’s neck, before she can give Alice the code word that can reverse Kate’s hypnosis. Oh, bullshit! This is yet another instance of Batwoman’s ‘idiot plot’ cropping up this week. Despite Ocean denying that he murdered Enigma out of jealousy, his justification is piss-poor, essentially amounting to Kate being, “Toxic”, and seemingly abandoning Alice last season. Yeah, that’s not only stupid, but it pretty much does amount to simple jealousy. Essentially, Enigma got killed off so that Alice couldn’t just immediately get Kate back, and Batwoman wouldn’t be written into a corner regarding how to balance both Kate’s and Ryan’s presences on the show at this stage.
Finally, this brings me to the most controversial element of this episode, and that’s the… Difficult way that it ends. Again, in concept, I commend Batwoman for at least trying to present a more thought-out and complex debate regarding its latest social justice narrative. Even that ultimately goes out the window however when the show funnels all of its social justice rhetoric down to a bit of a tasteless conclusion. That conclusion comes when Luke inexplicably takes it upon himself to deter a car thief that was briefly in jail with him, Ryan and Sophie, despite Mary telling him not to, only for Luke to provoke Tavaroff, the Crows’ village idiot. This leads to Luke getting shot during the final seconds of this episode, as he reaches for his phone. Okay, this would be appropriately dramatic, if Luke wasn’t inexplicably acting like a dumbass, and practically begging to get shot in an ending cliffhanger! This sounds horrible from a knee-jerk reaction standpoint, but think about it; There is no reason why Luke needs to intervene in a carjacking, fully unarmed and without backup! Not only that, but after Luke’s big show of telling Ryan that growing up around rich kids taught him how to keep his head down around cops and the like, he just abandons that wisdom immediately by making sudden moves around an obviously unhinged Crow! What the hell did Luke think would happen?!
Thus, in the end, Batwoman sacrifices some smart ideas in favour of more Gen-Z-pandering social justice narratives that feel half-baked, and are too often pushed forward by characters acting like idiots, and not rational adults. “And Justice For All” does at least succeed in terms of trying to flesh out its latest social justice debate a bit more than average however, as well as paving the way for a legitimately good character evolution for Sophie. Unfortunately, that’s nonetheless undermined by the rather forced shooting of Luke by Tavaroff, even if I imagine Luke will pull through in the end. Likewise, Ocean killing Enigma is done purely in the service of plot, and not as a believable way to further Ocean’s relationship with Alice. Even before all of those issues though, this episode immediately trips over itself by inexplicably combining a starkly grounded police racism plot with a ridiculously over-the-top drug zombie plot, two things that really don’t go together!
I really thought that Batwoman was finally turning a corner over the past three weeks. I guess I was wrong though, because we’re back to the same old failed ‘woke’ storytelling and juvenile melodrama, two things that have only ever poisoned the Arrowverse’s storytelling whenever they’ve cropped up in any of its shows.
- Commendable effort to provide a more impartial social justice debate
- Alice trying to coerce Enigma into restoring Kate
- Sophie deciding to leave the Crows
- Tonally mismatched core plots that don't work together
- Ocean murdering Enigma for idiotic reasons
- Shocking cliffhanger is undermined by Luke's stupid behaviour