Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 14
“And Justice For All”
Batwoman deals with feral zombie like drug users and prejudice in law enforcement as Alice wrestles with information that she recently gained.
The returned and recast Kate Kane has so far amounted to very little beyond her being brainwashed. That in itself is inherently a bad thing because it represents a violation and a loss of identity. The implications of this are undeniably massive and it remains unclear if the show is equipped to fully explore them. For now the focus is on Alice and her reaction to learning that Kate is alive but far from being herself. For now this makes sense given the setup and the fact that Circe Sionis isn’t a “real” person since a version of her personality has been overlaid onto Kate.
Alice tasks herself with getting her sister back and goes after Doctor Rhyme since she was the one who put this in place and has the ability to stop it. There’s a convoluted plot around finding a meaningful possession of Kate’s that can be used in conjunction with a trigger word in order to restore her identity though that isn’t all that important in comparison to the emotional implications. Naturally the chosen possession has meaning for Alice as well as Kate since her perspective is the one being explored. Alice chooses Kate’s motorcycle keys because it represents Kate’s freedom as well as riding a bike being the only thing Kate managed to do first where Alice achieved other milestones like walking and talking before she did. Alice understands that Kate felt free when riding her motorcycle so recognised it as a powerful attribute that will enable her personality to be restored.
Restoring Kate’s personality comes with a warning. There’s a strong suggestion that Alice is allowing herself to remember an idealised version of Kate that never actually existed for her. Doctor Rhyme points out that many clients who have asked for the same thing to be done have gone on to regret it because the person that is restored is rarely the person they remember. Alice will be getting back the version of her sister who tricked her and allowed her to be locked up in Arkham rather than the twin she was inseparably close to. When loved ones are no longer in our lives there is a tendency to only remember the good things and disregard everything else. This seems to have happened where Alice is concerned but despite the warning she is fully committed to following through on this plan. Whether that counts as acceptance of a relationship never being what she wants it to be or continued denial remains unknown but either way it’s an interesting element to consider.
Ocean reinforces that idea when he kills Doctor Rhyme. Alice sees it as an act of jealousy committed because Ocean is concerned that getting Kate back means that Alice won’t want him any more but Ocean’s reasoning goes deeper than that. He admits to loving her and suggests that Alice’s devotion to Kate is a one way street. He makes the point that Kate didn’t recognise her after eleven years apart where Alice recognised her through one look into her eyes. Another thing pointed out is how easily Kate had her locked up and gave up on her. It’s acknowledged that Kate tried but the key takeaway is that she eventually gave up after finding Alice too difficult to fix. These are all cutting statements that are all true when considered from a certain point of view. Ocean sees Kate as a toxic presence in Alice’s life that is best left separated from it. This calls back to the part he played in helping Alice understand that it’s natural for her family to move on in the wake of her disappearance. What Alice will do with that perspective is left open to be returned to at a later date but it’s certainly a valid one and gives her a lot to consider.
The feral drug user plot is largely used for shock value where the people of Gotham are literally eating each other because of the impact of a new version of Snakebite hitting the streets. Some of the imagery is gruesome and the impact can be seen through a few key examples. Notably it affects the poor and homeless therefore hammering home the ongoing background detail of the class divide that exists in Gotham City. The criminal element preys on those in need and they end up suffering greatly as a result especially when law enforcement has no interest in protecting them.
This plot touches on some of the ongoing plots that the show is dealing with. Those affected are filling Mary’s clinic which naturally connects to Jacob’s addiction. Jacob tries to pass it off to Mary as being attacked by someone who forcibly injected the drug into his system but Mary bluntly points out as a Doctor that she has noticed the evidence of ongoing usage and calls him out on it. From here it comes out that he has been indulging in the fantasy of having his two daughters alive and well and being able to do right by them. Mary’s response to that is to point out that it’s only a fantasy and he’s failing to recognise that he’s losing the daughter he has left. She reminds him that she has also lost people and her approach is to move on with her life rather than dwell on it.
Once again, the Arrowverse excels at highlight different approaches to the handling of grief. Mary has channelled her pain into forward momentum and determination to honour those lost by making something of her life where Jacob has given into despair and lost the ability to function correctly. Both are perfectly understandable reactions to loss and the recognition from Mary that Jacob needs help dealing with his issues is an important step towards him regaining control of his life.
Following their open conversation Jacob immediately becomes more productive by helping out at the clinic and gaining the clarity to see the good that it’s able to do by virtue of it being accessible to all without fear of what brought them there incurring any negative consequences for them. It’s a larger scale version of the unconditional support Mary offered to Jacob and it took him being at his lowest point to understand that. The plot around his addiction may have been inconsistently handled but what was offered here was purely character driven and brilliantly done.
Another issue the zombie like drug users touched on was that of the Crows and how corrupt they are. In Jacob’s absence Sophie takes charge but it’s abundantly clear that she doesn’t have the respect of those she commands especially with Tavaroff in the mix. It isn’t explicitly stated though it’s heavily implied that he has been continuing to discredit her among the agents in the say way he did in front of Jacob. A squad led by Tavaroff thoughtlessly guns down infected homeless people and claims that there was no other way when the situation as depicted clearly showed otherwise. It remains unclear what Tavaroff’s overall plan is though it could be as simple as being a career minded opportunist with no issue stepping over others to achieve what he wants to achieve. It’s very clear that he has questionable morals given how callously kills the infected and his attack on Luke at the end of the episode.
Sophie comes to the conclusion that she can’t be part of the Crows due to the events of this episode. Before reaching this conclusion she continues to present the narrative that remaining affiliated with them means she can influence change from within. She also wants to set an example to young women that they can achieve success and rise up an organisation if they work hard and apply themselves. It’s an understandable position though she also doesn’t understand how naive it is. She has definitely achieved a lot in terms of her position and influence but with agents like Tavaroff looking to undermine her at every turn the scope of her influence is actually very limited. The events of this episode mark the last straw for her and the realisation that she is firmly a part of the problem. It’s a decision Ryan is happy with because she recognises Sophie as being more valuable to Team Batwoman but it’s also an important personal step forward for Sophie who refuses to stand for being marginalised in an organisation that doesn’t value the work she has put in. There are concerns around what the Crows will become without a strong moral voice like Sophie’s among them but I suspect that will be part of an ongoing problem.
Some attention is given to Ryan having difficulty juggling her double life. She is in the early stages of pursuing a relationship with Imani (Samantha Cole). The development of this has come from nowhere as they were last seen being flirty without arranging anything. This episode adopts an approach of telling the audience about their connection rather than showing them. The actors sell the attraction wonderfully but the dialogue referencing Ryan having to make an excuse in order to leave her to change to Batwoman is very clumsy. Imani is shown to be intelligent by immediately realising that Ryan is keeping something from her but she also doesn’t assume entitlement to knowing what that is so early in a new relationship. Ryan respects her by admitting she isn’t being entirely honest and it’s left at that which is a promising take on a superhero with a dual identity managing the complications of maintaining a relationship with someone they feel predisposed to lie to. It would have been stronger had the relationship received more direct attention rather than being relegated to referencing to get the point across.
The episode gives most of its attention to the issue of prejudice in law enforcement and racism in general. Ryan, Luke and later Sophie are arrested for existing as black people and refusing to comply with unfair directives around a fundraiser being thrown at the Hold Up. As with the tackling of almost any issue in the Arrowverse there’s a complete lack of subtlety point the point of this depiction is blatant the behaviour it is. The treatment has nothing to do with a function being held without a permit and everything to do with the gathering of black people in support of a particular cause. That cause just so happens to be detrimental to the rich and powerful people in Gotham. Black people at the bottom end of the economical hierarchy working to improve their lives is seen as a threat and that threat is dealt with.
Luke’s approach is more diplomatic than Ryan’s which prompts a heated discussion where Ryan calls him out for not doing enough but Luke relays his perspective where his upbringing had taught him to know when to stay quiet and not pick battles that can’t possibly be won. That’s the situation as he saw in in that case and he ended up being right since Ryan’s standoffish attitude ended up with them being thrown in jail. Their discussion is a brief one but it doesn’t need to be any more than that because the two positions on the issue are very clear and the overall point is that there is a systemic problem that neither of them area really equipped to deal with. The actors do an excellent job portraying the frustration associated with a situation that none of them can do anything about and the point being made is very clear.
Luke being gunned down by Tavaroff at the end of the episode was another unsubtle point being made. Luke’s decision to confront the car thief is uncharacteristic on a number of levels. For one thing him stepping in to deal with a crime personally isn’t something he’s known for being willing to do. For another it counts against his assertion earlier in the episode that he understands what battles to pick. He is made to behave out of character in order to allow this situation to happen which applies in everything he does in those final moments. The sudden move to take out is phone is something he should know not to do particulary with the point he was making to Ryan earlier. Despite this the moment still worked brilliantly because of the shock value. Tavaroff’s prejudice is undeniable through immediately assuming Luke’s guilt and his lack of hesitation in pulling the trigger when Luke brings out his phone further highlights this. He also makes sure to shout the word “gun” in order to cover himself by later saying he believed his actions to be in self defence. This tells us that it’s not the first time he’s done this and not the first time he has gotten away with it. It’s unlikely that Luke will be killed considering the Desert Rose exists as a way to cure him completely but the shock of the moment still resonates and it ties naturally in with what the rest of the episode is saying about prejudice and racism. Racism is institutionalised in Gotham just as it is in the real world so the blatant coverage in the episode is a powerful depiction of what people have to routinely deal with.
A strong episode that naturally weaves ongoing plots into the story being told while presenting hard hitting blatant commentary around institutionalised racism. Alice’s desire to restore Kate’s personality plays out in interesting and unexpected ways. The strong suggestion that she’s holding onto an idealised fantasy rendering of Kate and being ignorant to what will actually come back should she succeed is an interesting concept that could signify acceptance that Kate won’t be what she wants should she return or denial. Either way the commitment is clear. Ocean’s point about Kate being a toxic presence who gave up on her and doesn’t show the same devotion that Alice does for her makes sense given his point of view and naturally calls back to the role he played in helping her understand that her family moved on following her disappearance leaving Alice with plenty to consider. The feral drug user plot is largely used for shock value with some gruesome imagery depicting people of Gotham literally eating each other. It highlights the class divide in the city and allows other ongoing plots to weave naturally into it. Jacob’s addiction being fully out in the open with Mary calling him out on it works well. They discuss their differing approaches to loss, both of which are equally understandable and the important step taking through Mary becoming aware that Jacob needs help. Following this he shows progress by helping out at the clinic and gaining the clarity to see all the good it accomplishes.
The drug user plot also brings in the corruption of the Crows. Sophie takes charge in Jacob’s absence but clearly doesn’t have the respect of those she commands. There is a strong implication that Tavaroff has been continuing to discredit her among the other agents therefore reinforcing his opportunistic agenda. His questionable morality is shown through killing the infected homeless before claiming he had no other choice when the depicted situation clearly showed otherwise. Sophie ends up concluding that she can’t be a part of the Crows any more after reiterating her somewhat naive belief that she can influence change from within and wants to be an inspiration to young women looking to succeed on their own merits. It remains to be seen what the Crows will become without her contrarian voice but it’s an important decision for Sophie. Ryan’s attempt to juggle her double life and a new relationship works well for the most part though suffers from a lot happening off screen. Imani is shown as intelligent through her realisation that Ryan is hiding something from her and Ryan doesn’t insult that intelligence by admitting that she is keeping something to herself. There’s no feeling of entitlement from Imani in regards to that information so the situation is left to develop further. The depiction of institutionalised racism is completely unsubtle though that’s exactly the point. Ryan, Luke and later Sophie being arrested on account of their race and the fact that they are working to improve life in Gotham for other black people is a clear and well made statement. Ryan and Luke’s differing perspectives on the same issue work well and speak to their background with the actors depicting the frustration wonderfully. Luke being gunned down by Tavaroff at the end of the episode hammers home the point in a really shocking way while showing Tavaroff to be a deeply prejudiced individual completely secure in what he can get away with. Unfortunately Luke’s behaviour is uncharacteristic and contrasts assertions made in this very episode but it works because the shock lands as intended. The depiction of this issue is blatant, hard hitting and incredibly powerful.
- the complex depiction of Alice’s desire to get Kate back
- ambiguity over whether Alice understand that she won’t get her ideal version of Kate back
- Ocean’s understandable view on Kate’s role in Alice’s life
- Mary openly challenging Jacob on his addiction
- two perfectly understandable approaches to handling grief from Mary and Jacob
- Jacob taking a step forward in his recovery and gaining the clarity to see the value in Mary’s clinic
- further showcasing corruption in the Crows
- the suggestion that Tavaroff has been working to discredit Sophie
- clear examples of Tavaroff’s prejudice and opportunistic attitude
- the honesty around the knowledge that Ryan is hiding her double life from Imani
- the hard hitting and blatant depiction of institutionalised racism
- Ryan and Luke’s differing perspectives on the situation that they were faced in
- the shocking ending that hammers home the point being made
- the progression of the Ryan/Imani relationship happening off screen
- Luke behaving uncharacteristically and contrasting assertions made in this very episode in order to enable the ending
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