Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 4
“Fair Skin, Blue Eyes”
Batwoman draws on Ryan’s past to highlight the inequalities that exists within Gotham City when she gets wind of a missing child that conjures up memories of her own past.
I’ve mentioned before but a notable thing about Ryan being the lead of this show instead of Kate is that her background provides the opportunity for very different storytelling. Ryan has a connection to the people of Gotham City that Kate could never have because she is a product of the system and has a lot of experience of aspects of it that are far less than idea. She understands what it means to be poor, homeless, unemployed and to have nobody to rely on but yourself. It’s a unique perspective that connects her to the city in a really compelling way and allows stories like this to take place.
Her attention is drawn to the case of a missing child when his brother makes her aware of it and since it’s a situation she’s painfully aware of she is immediately interested in getting to the bottom of it. Things are rarely subtle in the Arrowverse so the approach to telling this story is very direct. The situation calls back to a similar event in Ryan’s past where she was the one abducted and had to deal with the prospect of never being let go. The Candy Lady -or Candice- (Linda Kash) preys on children who appear to have nobody that cares about them and uses a period of 60 days measured in jelly beans that she removes from a jar once a day in order to break them. Every day means one less jelly bean and one more day where her point about nobody caring about the abducted kids is proven. The idea is that her captor completely loses hope over that period until they’re ready to accept that Candice is the only family they’ll ever have. It’s nefarious and deeply unsettling to behold. The jelly bean countdown is a really effective way of measuring that time and the young Ryan (Ava Augustin) slowly losing hope as the contents of the jar dwindles is very strongly portrayed.
It is very convenient that Ryan be drawn into a case that she has a profound personal connection to but it’s used well within the context of the episode and Javicia Leslie’s performance as she revisits uncomfortable territory from her own childhood adds a great deal of weight to the plot and makes it about Ryan achieving personal closure for something she went through as a child. It’s unknown just how tragic her past is but her reference to so many other things happening making her forget about this particular incident paints a very clear picture of the volume of hardship Ryan has endured. In this case she considers herself fortunate because there was someone who cared enough to come looking for her. Angelique (played in her youth by Kerensa Cooper) was someone Ryan shared a group home with and supported her when others gave her a hard time. They bonded over Ryan covering for her by opening a window and the relationship grew from there. It’s established that they were a couple for a time but things took “a turn” that left them not even on speaking terms. The reference to Angelique in the previous episode being followed up in this one with her being introduced in adulthood (Bevin Bru) highlights that she will be important in some way and having her appear before being named adds to the growing Gotham City tapestry.
This is a relationship that will be further developed in the coming episodes with this episode having them re-establish contact and agree to form a truce. Enough was done in the flashbacks to showcase how their relationship started so there’s a lot of ground to cover in the intervening period that will almost certainly be explored as time goes on. Given her known connection to Zsasz and the clear indication that there’s more beneath the surface to be unveiled there’s a lot of potential for interesting content associated with Angelique.
The most notable thing about this story is that highlights major gaps in what the GCPD and the Crows do to keep Gotham safe. It’s no accident that the two case study examples are Ryan herself and a young black boy. It’s pointed out that such instances are written off as being a runaway because it’s easier than actually doing something about it. Another thing that’s pointed out is that the same blind spot doesn’t exist for white children as clearly shown by the search party showing up to Candice’s house looking for a young girl with “fair skin and blue eyes”. That young girl also happens to be Beth Kane which is a separate matter entirely but the main takeaway from this is that young Ryan hears those words and really starts to feel like there’s nobody out there who cares for her. This is the point where she is almost broken and learns a very important life lesson about racial inequality.
Candice is a really strong villain. Linda Kash does a great job playing her as “too nice” to the extent that she’s very creepy and unsettling at all points. She does everything with a smile and is always soft spoken even when saying very hurtful things. Her approach is simple and direct with a clear indication of what she wants to achieve from her twisted mind games. She is also unassuming enough to fly under the radar which makes her even more dangerous. The fact that she is still able to intimidate Ryan in adulthood says a lot about how her influence lingers and seeing what success looks like through Kevin (Eli Tsepiso Larmour) shows how effective her methodology can be. Ryan resolving the situation through empathy by reassuring Kevin that he does have people out there who care for him is a really powerful resolution. The proof if that it was brought to Batwoman’s attention and she is able to reach him because she understands exactly how he feels in that moment. This isn’t a story that could have played out in the same way with Kate because her background doesn’t support that level of understanding. Every episode features something that cements Ryan as a new kind of hero in Gotham with her own spin on protecting people and so far it has been very well executed.
The one drawback in this particular story is how impossibly connected everything is. Candice uses her method of breaking kids to recruit them into the gang known as the False Face Society who happen to be the gang peddling the new designer drug that has Gotham in its grip so this inadvertently has Ryan take down a small branch of an operation she has been working against which seems a little too convenient. Another convenience is the search party turning up looking for Beth Kane which creates another connection between Ryan and the cast of characters she is now a part of. There have been other links that have become known during her short tenure on the show and it’s unnecessary to create them as they often feel forced. Of course this exists so that Mary can use information that Kate was holding onto to help solve the case but the investigation could easily have been framed differently.
Exploiting the information Kate held onto served an important purpose where Mary was concerned. Up until this point she and Luke were occupying opposite sides of the closure on Kate issue. Luke is holding out hope despite overwhelming evidence pointing to Kate being dead and Mary decided to move on under the assumption that Kate was gone. Going through the meticulous records Kate kept as she tirelessly searched for Beth without ever considering giving up. Mary sees this and realises that it was wrong of her to give up so she approaches the newfound hope following what Sophie discovered more positively and rethinks her acceptance of Kate’s death. She sees that Kate doesn’t give up on those she cares about and chooses to learn from that example. As contrived as the mechanics of reaching that realisation are the message remains poignant and it’s a great development point for Mary.
Another thing that comes from this is that Ryan and Mary become roomies in Kate’s apartment above the bar that Mary runs and Ryan works at. Mary and Ryan have become close over a short period of time with Ryan starting to slot into a sort of surrogate sister role. It’s clearly a connection that Mary needs at this point of time and Ryan is more than happy to accept the support Mary offers. Her life experiences have taught her not to let pride get in the way of accepting help when it’s offered and she will feel of value to Mary after taking on the Batwoman mantle. The connection they’ve forged remains interesting and having them be roomies provides plenty of opportunity for that to develop.
Sophie and Alice was a pairing I didn’t expect to warm to but it works brilliantly in this episode. A connection has been forced following their trip to Safiyah’s island and Alice is looking to use Sophie to help track down her target. All they have to go on is the name Ocean (Nathan Owens) but finding him isn’t important in terms of what the scenes are actually about. Alice takes on the role of the irritating guest/roommate that goes out of her way to get under Sophie’s skin. She raids the fridge, uses her bathroom and does everything she can to cause irritation. A particularly hilarious moment was when she was munching on an apple right in Sophie’s ear. Rachel Skarsten plays Alice as an annoyance really well and Meagan Tandy portrays the growing irritation perfectly. This does reframe Alice as no longer being a threat but having her dangle the prize of Kate’s safe return makes her continued presence worthwhile. The real threat at the moment is Safiyah anyway so it makes sense that Alice would be underplayed at this point. Her connection to Ocean that she conveniently has a memory flash of sets up further content for her with the suggestion of a close relationship that she has forgotten about. Sophie doesn’t quite have an individual place within the show outside of her desire to find Kate which limits her but at least there are engaging scenes for her to be a part of and having her bond with Alice to an extent over their experience of missing Kate in their own way presents an intriguing point of comparison.
A strong episode that makes great use of Ryan’s background to tell a meaningful story uniquely suited to her as a character that develops her along fascinating lines. It is convenient that the case she gets drawn into ends up having a close personal connection to her own childhood but it’s used to great effect within the episode itself. Flashing back to Ryan’s experience of what Kevin will be experiencing works really well and Candice makes for a really engaging villain. She comes across as “too nice” which makes it more unsettling to contrast her tone with the things that she says. The jelly bean countdown to indicate the period of time between being kidnapped and breaking point was really effective and Ava Augustin’s wonderfully portrayed the declining hope in the young Ryan. The life lesson she learns when a search party shows up looking for a lost white girl marks the point where she is almost broken upon realising the racial inequality that exists. Ryan is one of the fortunate ones as someone was looking out for her. This episode depicts the beginning of her relationship with Angelique along with the present day knowledge that it took “a turn” followed by a truce. There’s a lot to fill in here and Angelique has been established as a significant figure within Gotham City so there is plenty of opportunity for development. Ryan solving the situation by proving to Kevin that someone does care about him resonates because Ryan understands exactly how he feels and is able to draw on that. This isn’t a story that would have suited Kate as her background doesn’t allow for it but it helps cement Ryan as her own unique kind of hero.
The search party looking for Beth Kane in the flashbacks is overly convenient in the way it enables the mystery to be solved through information that Kate kept a hold of in her tireless search for Beth. This exists for Mary to realise that Kate never gave up on finding Beth so she should never give up on finding Kate. It’s a strong revelatory moment for Mary that works well despite the contrivance that led to it. Mary and Ryan transitioning to being roomies provides lots of fodder for strong interactions between then and furthers the notion that Ryan is becoming something of a surrogate sister to Mary which is something she definitely needs at this point. Ryan is also shown as not being too proud to decline help when offered to her most likely because she feels she’s providing something of value in taking on the mantle of Batwoman. The episode features other conveniences that drag the narrative down because of how numerous they are even if they are used well once introduced. One pairing I never expected to warm to was Alice and Sophie. Alice taking on the role of an annoying guest/roommate going out of her way to cause irritation is brilliantly handled with both actors doing a great job with their side of the back and forth. Alice no longer seems like much of a threat though that’s likely intentional given the focus on Safiyah as an antagonist. Setting up Ocean as being connected to Alice in some profound way lays some interesting ground work and having Sophie bond with Alice to an extent over them both missing Kate in their own way presents an intriguing point of comparison.
- further connecting Ryan to Gotham through her background
- Candice making for a really engaging villain
- the harsh life lesson learned by Ryan
- establishing her relationship with Angelique at different points in their lives
- Ryan resolving the situation through empathy
- further establishing Ryan as a unique brand of hero within Gotham
- Mary coming to the realisation that she shouldn’t give up on finding Kate
- Ryan and Mary becoming roomies
- further putting Ryan in the role of surrogate sister for Mary
- the Alice and Sophie pairing being more engaging than expected
- far too many plot contrivances connecting all the stories unnecessarily
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