Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 5
“Gore on Canvas”
Batwoman continues the search for Kate Kane by exploring a couple of leads that will hopefully uncover the location of Safiyah’s hidden island.
Doubling down on the mystery surrounding Kate’s disappearance is a risky proposition for this show as it will need to be resolved one way or another and it’ll be very difficult to do this in a satisfying way unless Ruby Rose actually reprises her role in order to conclude the story. It’s unknown if she is set to appear at some point and whether she does or doesn’t has no real bearing on how the story is currently playing out. At this point the focus is on the available characters with the objective being Kate’s rescue. There are steps that need to be followed to get there and they relate to the current roster of characters in different ways.
The Ryan centric plot is focused on sneaking into an illegal event where art is sold which seems fine by itself but there are too many questions raised by the setup. Ryan has to ally herself with the Crows for this particular mission which makes for decent drama as she has a less than positive relationship with the organisation so having to work with them is a sore point with her. It was only a matter of time before her objectives would align with Sophie and Jacob and they would be forced to work together so it’s good to see this happen so soon and open up avenues for development as Team Batwoman’s objective align with the Crows on more occasions.
On an organisational level, the approach to the Collective’s event from the point of view of the Crows adds further depth to them as an entity and their relationship to Gotham. It’s mentioned early on that many in the Collective are their clients and this is backed up by Ryan’s comment about justice being available to those with the most money. That’s hard to disagree with as the Crows have been shown on several occasions to be less than concerned with people’s right to privacy with an example of that within this very episode.
Ryan’s particular perspective on the Crows is a significant one because she has been on the wrong side of their version of justice and knows for a fact that they often get things wrong. She is highly motivated to make sure that the organisation can’t victimise people based on incorrect assumptions and her interactions with Sophie highlight that. When she works with the Crows she makes it clear that she will only deal with Sophie and wants her to take responsibility for everything they do. The two agents that overstep their authority end up being fired for it but Ryan makes it clear that she won’t trust Sophie as long as she is aligned to the Crows. Sophie does talk about trying to change the culture from within but Ryan isn’t convinced though it seems clear that this alliance won’t be a one shot deal regardless of how passionately Ryan insists that it is. Sophie’s primary motivation is getting Kate back following the realisation that she’s the love of her life though it wouldn’t be surprising if the show is about to push Ryan and Sophie together in a romantic sense.
Another advantage to Ryan’s perspective on the Crows is that it creates the perfect opportunity for her and Luke to connect. They remain at odds with one another because of Luke’s irrational reaction to the fact that she is currently Batwoman without being Kate. This is something he needs to deal with before truly accepting her but at the very least they can bond over a shared hatred. Ryan talks about how she was arrested after taking drugs away from Angelique to protect her and ended up suffering because there was no interest in her side of the story being heard. Luke hates them because of their involvement in his father’s death so they both have an understanding of the skewed morality at the foundation of the organisation. They differ on what that means to them with Luke recognising that in order to get Kate back it’s necessary to work with them because without doing that they won’t be able to make any progress. It helps give Ryan an understanding that sometimes she has to make compromises in the name of the greater good but more importantly their shared accounts of significant events in their lives provides a reason for them to grow closer outside of the relationship they have as members of Team Batwoman. How the team functions as a team is a hurdle that still needs to be overcome and there are raised voices at a point but there’s a sense that the characters are moving towards an understanding. Their scene together where they open up is strongly performed by both parties and definitely stands out.
A strong addition to the episode was Evan Blake/Wolf Spider (Lincoln Clauss) though less so on the villain identity side. As a figure from Kate’s past there was a built in connection that the episode makes good use of. The dialogue detailing the history with Kate was incredibly on the nose but it did successfully create that connection and even allowed for a display of humanity from Jacob as he thought back to his daughter’s teenage years. The presence of Kate still looms over the show through the entirety of the supporting cast and bringing in characters like this only intensifies it which makes sense when the current objective is to get Kate back though it’s something that could become a problem if it overpowers content unique to Ryan. There is enough that is specific to Ryan such as her history and in particular her relationship with Angelique so it’s easy to see how the balance could swing in her direction before long.
There are some odd details that stand out and drag the episode down such as Ryan infiltrating the event in her civilian identity. It is established that the Crows are a distant presence and that Sophie respects Batwoman’s desire to hide her identity but it’s difficult to believe that Jacob would have the same view so the lack of surveillance on the event is a noticeable omission. It could be a consequence of his guilt following his betrayal of Kate when she was in the Batwoman identity before he learned who she really was and if that’s the case then that’s worth exploring but the episode doesn’t do that which calls the effectiveness of the Crows into question.
There are other strange contrivances that feed into this. Ryan brings a Batarang as her entry fee which almost doesn’t work but luckily Angelique is there to vouch for her. Early on in the episode Ryan and Angelique talk about the reconnecting they have been doing as Ryan is in her apartment wearing her robe which points to her having spent the night. During that night Ryan goes out as Batwoman and apparently returns without being noticed. There’s no real issue there as Angelique might be a heavy sleeper and Ryan might be well practiced at sneaking out without being caught but the reference to Ryan’s injury really stood out as Angelique only noticed it the morning after which stands out as being unlikely considering what was heavily implied. This is a clear effort to remind the audience of the injury so that it’s fresh in the mind for when it causes complications later in the episode. There were certainly neater ways to do this.
The injury is a curious problem as it’s not all that clear why Ryan hasn’t mentioned it before now. She was shot by a Kryptonite bullet that has caused some sort of infection. This infection is starting to impact her in really severe ways but it was always glowing green and showing no signs of healing which is a major problem that she kept to herself with no reason to do so. It really stands out because so much has been said about gaining the trust of Mary and Luke but she has been keeping this secret from them before now. Mary does call her out on not mentioning it but very little is made of it so it does seem to be happening to fuel the plot and create tension at specific moments rather than actually make logical sense from a characterisation point of view. As far as anyone can tell she kept it to herself so that she could be incapacitated and be told that she has to be upfront with any issues she’s experiencing no matter how minor she may think they are. That part hasn’t happened yet but it seems to be coming.
At the moment it almost feels like Alice is in a different show even though the plots loosely connect. Her interactions in this episode are entirely outwith the main cast as she tracks down Ocean (Nathan Owens) and tries to figure out why she has some memory of him. They have a brief discussion over drinks that leads to him kidnapping her and Alice admits that Safiyah wants him dead. There is little in the way of detail though one of his flashbacks relates to the mysterious flower that keeps coming up so that continues to be noted as something to bear in mind. Another confirmation is a prior romantic connection between them. So far they are engaging to watch together so the prospect of them teaming up against Safiyah isn’t unappealing at this point. Using the painting to connect both plots and giving Alice a head start by having access to it continues to make her a worthwhile element within the show. It’s also worth nothing that Rachel Skarsten’s performance was vastly different to what has come before. She still has the sadistic touch as seen when she threatens the man trying to pick her up but her initial conversation with Ocean showed a more tender side to her that was at odds with her prior villainous persona. Seeing more shades to Alice in the wake of Kate’s disappearance is certainly welcome and suggests that reclaiming her humanity isn’t completely impossible particularly if she is to stick around once the search for Kate inevitably wraps up.
A good episode that continues to use the available characters well, adds more depth to Gotham City as a setting and develops the ongoing relationships in interesting ways. One of the strongest things the episode does is interrogates the relationship between the Crows and Gotham City as well as their version of justice. The illegal event organised by the Collective is an interesting case study as it is mentioned that many of those involved are clients of the Crows which is backed up by Ryan’s point about justice only being available to those with the most money. The Crows don’t stop the event because it would cost them some of their clients but they are willing to infiltrate it with the help of Batwoman. Ryan’s lack of comfort working with the Crows makes for an interesting conflict that she finds difficult to resolve and the way she challenges Sophie about her affiliation with them. She tries to defend herself by insisting she’s working to change the culture from within but Ryan isn’t prepared to accept it. It’s unlikely this team-up will be a one off like Ryan claims and there’s a very real possibility that a romantic relationship between Sophie and Ryan is on its way. Another advantage to Ryan’s views on the Crows is that it provides a natural opportunity for her and Luke to connect. They share a strong scene where they talk about their reasons for feeling the way they do while Luke points out why it’s in their best interests to work with the Crows on this occasion. It’s a great bonding moment that brings them together beyond their association with Team Batwoman. Another strong addition to the episode was Evan Blake because of the connection to Kate. As a villain they were somewhat underwhelming but the connection to Kate added a great deal of weight.
There are some odd contrivances that drag the episode down such as Ryan infiltrating the event in her civilian identity without any surveillance on the part of the Crows. It makes sense that Sophie would respect the wishes of Batwoman but Jacob likely wouldn’t be so sensitive though there could be justification for that if the episode had explored that. Ryan’s injury is a curious problem as it was reintroduced in a really clumsy way that raised too many questions and was obviously done so for it to become a problem at a later point. It remains unclear why she hasn’t mentioned it before now beyond the obvious setup for it being a source of conflict within the current iteration of Team Batwoman. In a lot of ways it feels like Alice is in a different show though connecting her to the current plot through the painting works well enough and she is in pursuit of Kate in her own way. There is some intrigue to be found in her forgotten connection to Ocean, the confirmation of the romantic relationship in their past and the mention of the mysterious flower. Based on what has been shown so far their team up seems promising enough and Alice’s continued presence remains justified. It’s also noteworthy that Rachel Skarsten’s performance changed in her interaction with Ocean to be more tender though the sadistic touch is still there. This suggests that her humanity isn’t beyond being reclaimed which will be important if Alice is to stick around in the wake of the inevitable resolution of Kate’s disappearance.
- Ryan’s perspective on the Crows helping to interrogate the role they play in Gotham
- Luke and Ryan bonding over their experience with the Crows
- the complex dynamic forming between Ryan -as Batwoman- and Sophie around her affiliation with the Crows
- Evan Blake and his history with Kate increasing his overall prominence
- the Alice/Ocean dynamic
- Alice retaining her sadistic edge while tenderness is present in her interactions with Ocean
- some plot contrivances dragging the episode down such as Ryan infiltrating the event in her civilian identity
- Evan Blake being less effective as a villain
- Ryan’s injury not being organically handled
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