Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 11
Batwoman has Ryan and Sophie team up to bring down the False Face Society through some high octane Fast and Furious style undercover work.
My guess is that there was some sort of network driven request to do a homage to the Fast and Furious franchise this season particularly when one of the major new props is the Batmobile. It was only a matter of time before it happened and the CW of course lacks the budget to pull off the level of insanity those films routinely do but on the surface it’s a fun idea that makes good use of the available elements while tying some of the plots that are ongoing.
The premise involves the transport of stolen medical supplies using top secret routes that are dictated in real time which means that the drivers need to be sharp and react quickly. Since the routes change all the time they become almost impossible to track which means the only way to foil the operation is to get inside it. Sophie starts off by going undercover but her efforts are foiled by Batwoman which necessitates a change of plan. The change of plan involves Ryan taking the wheel and coordinating with Sophie who monitors her progress. This is problematic for a few reasons; the first of which is that Ryan is bound to be fairly well known within the False Face Society given her connection to Angelique so operating under an assumed identity shouldn’t fool them. It would make more sense that her face be circulated among them in case she tries to free Angelique so almost right away the episode has logical issues that are impossible to reconcile.
Setting up the sting operation is a lot of fun due to the focus on Ryan and Luke working to keep their affiliation a secret. Pretending they don’t know one another, Ryan getting Luke’s name wrong and poking fun at one another through fake assumptions makes for a fun back and forth with the added benefit of keeping Sophie in the dark about their connection. The secret identity aspect of the Arrowverse heroes is an often forgotten element forcing the viewer to assume that they take steps to protect their identity without actually showing what those steps are so it’s good to see this given attention in a way that compliments the story that is playing out. It doesn’t address the fact that from an outside perspective Ryan is conveniently connected to Mary through having a job at the Hold Up and living with her but at least having no reason to be connected to Luke in any way is addressed and provides fodder for a fun moment.
The sting operation itself isn’t all that interesting to watch as it largely involves fancy cars driving around the city while making basic turns occasionally. There’s an attempt at tension when Ryan has to take her hands off the wheel to plant a tracking device while Luke controls the car remotely during what amounts to an unexciting car chase where the Crows in pursuit awkwardly disappear. The whole thing is designed to generate tension but it ends so abruptly and doesn’t last long enough overall to carry any real weight as an action beat. This is a definite example of budget limitations getting in the way of what was intended though there is a failure to cover up those limitations which leads to a frustratingly underwhelming experience. In fairness, the earlier car chase sequence fares a lot better.
Other logic problems make themselves known when Ryan -as Batwoman- and Sophie have Black Mask dead to rights and let him go without so much as an unmasking. Granted he displays Angelique in danger and makes it clear he will kill her if they don’t let him go but prior to that they had any number of opportunities to find out who he really is. Connecting the high speed courier plot to the False Face Society wasn’t entirely necessary as it could have been another of the numerous criminal activities that take place in Gotham offering a distraction for Team Batwoman. Keeping events in episodes connected to the main plot is good in theory especially when well executed but providing another problem for the team outside of that is good for worldbuilding because it serves as a reminder that Gotham City isn’t a setting that has one convenient problem at a time. The execution here was the problem so the writers either has to use the False Face Society connection or tell a more stand-alone story that didn’t require so many leaps in logic to be told.
The worst thing delivered in the episode is the list of contrivances required for Sophie to learn the truth about Ryan. Leaving Luke’s tech in Mary’s car following the operation so that it could be easily discovered by Sophie was incredibly careless on Ryan’s part and not believable as a mistake she would make particularly with Luke’s careful management of the tech. It also makes no sense that the tech would record their conversation or that they wouldn’t simply use the same comms they always use. It’s obvious that all of this was to manufacture an excuse for Sophie to learn the truth about Ryan which does her a disservice as well as she doesn’t actually get the opportunity to work out the truth on her own. Sophie is often positioned as an intelligent and determined person so it’s unfortunate that contrivances provide her with information rather than her using her skills to figure it out on her own. This is especially egregious after Luke reminding Ryan of how smart Sophie is in this very episode. Having her know Ryan’s secret certainly complicates matters though given her propensity to work with Batwoman despite Jacob’s misgivings all signs point to her keeping that secret at her own expense.
Sophie’s affiliation with Batwoman creates problems for her role within the Crows once again. Jacob takes her off her operation and puts Agent Russel Tavaroff (Jesse Hutch) on the case which prompts her to go rogue. Tavaroff is barely characterised so far but there’s enough to establish that he’s one who follows orders and never gives up when in pursuit of answers. There’s also a manipulative streak to him judging by him taking the opportunity to cast doubt on Sophie’s ability in front of Jacob and the implied exploitation of Jacob’s current addiction issue to manipulate him. It’s unclear if he’ll turn out to be in league with Sionis or not though it would be more interesting if he was just a ruthless career minded opportunist who has no problem stepping on others on his way up the career ladder. His introduction is somewhat out of left field and does seem to serve a particular purpose though there is some potential there assuming the intent is to take the time to develop it.
Finding Ryan’s blood at the scene of the conflict with Black Mask enables him to run his own investigation that can uncover Ryan’s identity using forensics and his own investigative skills. This really should have been reserved for Sophie rather than introducing another antagonistic element to throw into the already bloated mix of problems that exist in the show. In a way it’s understandable to have a party in play with no reason to be sympathetic towards Batwoman as if Sophie had used the same methods to arrive at the truth then she would have certainly been conflicted over what to do with that information. This isn’t the case with Tavaroff who shares Jacob’s view that Batwoman is a nuisance that needs to be dealt with but so far his introduction takes away from a role that Sophie could reasonably cover albeit in a different way.
The strongest material in the episode was attributed to Alice who continues on her quest to have all memory of Kate removed. She approaches Enigma and tries to force her to comply but as expected there are inner complications that Alice needs to resolve before anything can happen. Enigma suggests to her that Kate functions as Alice’s moral compass so erasing her would produce a fundamental change to her personality that might make her even more unstable than she currently is. A suggested solution to that is for Alice to confront the manifestation of Kate inside her psyche and resolve that issue. The setting conjured up is immediately before where her descent into villainy began; she finds herself in the car ride with Kate on the way to the accident that separated them and she takes the opportunity to unpack her feelings as far as she understands them. Her view is that she never loved Kate and that she was born evil.
The manifestation of Kate and Ocean disagrees with that assessment which suggests that Alice really wants to believe things about herself that aren’t true. It’s clear that Alice wants to believe that she’s beyond redemption because doing the work that will result in her getting better is unthinkable for her. It’s a lot easier for her to simply dismiss any connection she has to her family and her history so that she can continue with no memory of either of them. She is retreating from the truth and refusing to put effort into actually finding a way to heal. Much of this is motivated by grief and is compounded by her traumatic childhood as well as the conflicted feelings she has over her familial connections. Her mental state is consistently fascinating and Rachel Skarsten’s performance is routinely excellent in putting that across. Using Enigma’s unique abilities to force her to confront the things she would rather forget is very natural and allows for an outside perspective on what she’s going through. She insists that Alice isn’t a total sociopath which amounts to an expert opinion pointing towards the strongly suggested redemptive arc for the character.
Enigma is well placed to push her forward on that arc following the reveal that a lot of Alice’s actions have been in part motivated by having a lot of personal growth removed from her at Safiyah’s behest. Her connection to Ocean was shown to be a positive one and the removal of that pushed her very far back in the process of healing while also making her something of a puppet for Safiyah. By this point there is still no suggestion of agency on Alice’s part when it comes to her actions since the show began which remains problematic as it’s a clumsy way of attempting to absolve her of what she did in the past. Having an external influence be responsible for her behaviour is one way to open the door for redemption but also oversimplifies what could amount to compelling questions of morality and whether multiple chances can be justified.
Another way of looking at it is that Alice has been violated by having her memories of Ocean and the associated growth she experienced thanks to his influence. Erasing that relationship took something fundamental from her that provided her some closure on feeling abandoned by a family who had found a way to move on. There was a maturity associated with accepting that it’s healthy for people to move on when something appears to be hopeless and forging a romantic connection with Ocean gave her a meaningful relationship that she could focus on. At the time it seemed certain that she would remain on Coryana with no access to the outside world so there was no way of her getting back to her family which means her home was Coryana and her connection to Ocean was her future. Safiyah took that away from her and forced her on a campaign to hurt the family that she had been taken from at a young age so from that point of view she is dealing with that violation and having her entire worldview warped through knowledge of what was done to her which opens up many fascinating development possibilities for her especially when Enigma restores those memories that were taken from her.
Two versions of Alice being at War with one another has been set up through her reclaiming her memories as she now has knowledge of how Ocean helped her as well as the strong romantic feelings she had for him while also still having knowledge of the hatred she has for the family she feels abandoned her. Those two things are complete opposites and can’t function together. She does choose to rekindle the romantic connection with Ocean who is also dealing with having his memories of their time together returned which presents a compelling opportunity for them to work through this together. It’ll be interesting to see how Alice reconciles the two opposing versions of herself. It’s possible that she will become a different sort of criminal along with Ocean therefore delaying her redemptive arc further as she grows even more confuses as to who she is. Enigma certainly has a major role to play with an amnesiac Kate ready to be deployed at some point in the future.
An underwhelming episode that forces developments at the expense of logic but continues to do strong work with Alice. The Fast and Furious inspired plot is a classic example of budget limitations getting in the way of intent with a car chase sequence that is abrupt and lacking in excitement as well as the questionable connections to the False Face Society plot. There are a number of contrivances that force plot developments such as Ryan taking Sophie’s place undercover despite how aware the False Face Society should be of who she is. Sophie learning Ryan’s secret through out of character carelessness on Ryan’s part does Sophie a disservice and makes no sense for any of the involved characters. The introduction of Tavaroff as an additional antagonist presence may prove to be unnecessary but there’s potential in the way he manipulates Jacob and casts doubt on Sophie’s ability. It will be more interesting if he’s a career minded opportunist willing to step on others to crime the career ladder rather than the likely mole for Sionis. Outside of that he is taking on the role that Sophie could be filling by using his intelligence and investigative skills to look into Batwoman’s identity.
The strongest material in the episode was attributed to Alice who continues on her quest to have her memories of Kate removed. Enigma forces her to confront the manifestation of Kate as there is a suggestion that Kate functions as her moral compass so removing that without resolving the feelings will cause greater issues once those memories are gone. Alice has convinced herself that she never loved Kate and was born evil which is an assessment that the manifestations of Kate and Ocean disagree with. This suggests that Alice wants to believe that she’s beyond redemption and break any connection she has with her former life rather than find a way to heal. This is motivated by grief, her traumatic childhood and her conflicted feelings over her familial connections. Enigma gives her the memories of her connection with Ocean and the associated personal growth which creates a conflict between two opposing versions of Alice that she has to reconcile. There is still the problem of a lack of agency associated with her prior actions though another more relevant way of looking at it is that Alice has been violated and has to find a way to deal with that. Restoring her memories of Ocean creates a lot of opportunities especially when he has his memories of her returned to him. It’s unclear if this will lead to redemption or redefine her as a criminal who partners with Ocean but there’s a lot of potential here especially with Enigma and -eventually- Kate in play.
- the fun back and forth where Ryan and Luke pretend to not know one another
- Tavaroff having potential as an antagonistic career minded opportunist
- Alice confronting the manifestation of Kate in her subconscious
- Alice having two opposing versions of herself to reconcile
- further development of the idea that Alice has been violated as the main cause of her issues
- so many contrivances to enable the story to progress
- the False Face Society not being fully aware of Ryan despite her known connection to Angelique
- out of character carelessness on Ryan’s part leading Sophie to discovering her secret
- an underwhelming car chase sequence
- Ryan and Sophie failing to take the clear opportunity to unmask Black Mask
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