Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 13
“I’ll Give You A Clue”
Batwoman has Sophie deal with a resurgent criminal that she was responsible for putting away some years ago with a taste for puzzles.
This season has been relatively light on “villain of the week” type stories in favour of arc driven storytelling. It’s somewhat jarring to have a one shot villain appear though not in a bad way as when done well it adds to the texture of Gotham City as a location. Solely focusing on one villain and one main plot over a long period of time quickly becomes stale so a break from that to focus on a different problem can often be refreshing.
In a lot of ways this is a good example of a one shot villain story as the episode does a good job of detailing the history between Arthur Brown aka Cluemaster (Rick Miller) and Sophie while providing a natural introduction to an important character in the Bat mythos. Sophie’s connection to Arthur is a reminder that Gotham City has a long and colourful criminal history as well as reinforcing that Sophie has had a successful career ahead of the beginning of the show.
There isn’t a lot of time to establish Arthur’s history, motivation or characteristics but the episode does a great job of providing enough information to carry him for the purposes of what it looks to achieve. Rick Miller’s performance is engaging and memorable which makes him stand out as an antagonist, what he’s looking to achieve is clear and he presents a credible enough threat to the characters. His presence also injects a rare dose of fun into the show by leaning into the more comedic side of the Bat mythos where villains have theatrical gimmicks they take great delight in deploying to terrorise people. In this case it was immensely entertaining to see Sophie, Mary and Ryan participate in a lethal Game Show where they have to correctly answer Batman trivia questions in order to secure more time before they are blown up. It qualifies as world building by referencing villains and events that haven’t been seen while also being a delightfully off the wall threat for the characters to deal with.
One thing the episode doesn’t quite deliver on is the connection between Arthur and Sophie. It is established that there is one through dialogue and a fairly pointless flashback but not much is actually done with it beyond periodically reminding the audience that it exists. Nothing about how Sophie brought him down is relevantly applied to the present day situation and Arthur doesn’t bear much in the way of ill will towards her. There was an obvious connection that could have been exploited but no interest in making proper use of it which feels like a significant misstep.
The main purpose of using Arthur appears to be the introduction of his daughter Stephanie Brown (Morgan Kohan) who is characterised as a genius able to solve her father’s complex puzzles. Arthur poisoned her in a sadistic effort to prove that he was smarter than she is and when she proves the opposite is true he resolves to kill them both as he doesn’t want either of them to live when he isn’t the superior intellect. It’s undoubtedly insane but the motivation is clear and it provides ample opportunity to showcase Stephanie’s intelligence as well as her standoffish personality. Her dynamic with Luke is a lot of fun where she works to get under his skin through suggesting how much smarter she is than him which suggests she inherited at least some of her father’s desire to be the most brilliant person around. It quickly becomes a flirtatious interaction and establishes a love interest for Luke that might be worthwhile to see play out assuming there’s time in the remaining episodes. They bond over their intelligence which makes sense and the chemistry between the actors is always believable. Beyond her purpose in this episode there’s little indication of what more Stephanie has to offer but it’s an engaging start and Morgan Kohan plays the role very well.
Mary, Sophie and Ryan’s dynamic was definitely the highlight of the episode. It’s rare to see Sophie in this kind of setting so it was great to see her socialise with Ryan and Mary in a meaningful way. Ryan starts off as being unwelcoming as she’s unable to see Sophie outwith the context of the Crows but some time together drinking tequila and playing “never have I ever” goes some way towards humanising Sophie in Ryan’s eyes. It’s a rare occurrence to see this kind of socialising as well so it was really refreshing to have the characters interact in a less urgent way than they typically do. It also allows for a natural reminder of Sophie’s recent acquisition of the knowledge that Ryan and Batwoman are one in the same. She makes Ryan uncomfortable by strongly hinting that she knows more than she’s letting on which is very on the nose but entertaining nonetheless.
Sophie’s objective where Ryan is concerned is to prove that she can be trusted as an ally and as a keeper of her secret. She has come to appreciate what Batwoman represents and stands for with the knowledge that Ryan is in the role altering Sophie’s perception of her. Like with Arthur the writers haven’t done as much with the existing Ryan/Sophie connection as they could have which makes Sophie’s opinion of her harder to accept because the work hasn’t been put in to justify it. The shift in the perception works because the work has been put in to develop Sophie’s changed opinion of Batwoman. This is based on first hand experience that has been clearly shown over the course of the season so it’s easy to accept why she would see Batwoman as an ally.
When the situation becomes undeniably life threatening Sophie makes Ryan aware that she knows the truth and encourages trust in order to resolve the situation. Sophie is adamant to prove that she can be trusted and it takes mortal danger for Ryan to even consider it. Ryan is shown to be flawed as she stubbornly refuses to open up to Sophie even after she makes it clear that she knows the truth. It’s a great character beat that ties into Ryan’s well cultivated hatred of the Crows. Being unable to see Sophie outside of her affiliation to that organisation is a major blind spot on her part and a prejudice that she needs to work through in order to accept Sophie for who she truly is rather than how she sees her. Survival means putting that trust in her and the end result is as Sophie promised.
Their conversation after the life threatening events brings in a few lingering threads. For one it reaffirms that Sophie wants to be an ally to Batwoman and she openly confirms that she misjudged Ryan at the same time. This highlights a major shift in her perception where both identities are concerned and her willingness to admit that she was wrong shows a great deal of humility on Sophie’s part. She has been shown to question what the Crows stand for and her place within that so being open to differing perspectives on both Ryan and Batwoman is clear growth for Sophie while furthering the idea that she is questioning a lot of things that she once accepted at face value. How this will inform her ongoing development and what decisions she will make following this period of re-evaluation is unknown but for now it’s certainly interesting content attached to the character that gives Meagan Tandy plenty to work with.
As before the secret identity concept is tied to sexual identity. Sophie specifically references knowing what it feels like to be forcibly outed and would never do that to Ryan. In this case, the outing is a reference to her secret identity as Batwoman but Sophie’s comes to understanding why it’s important for her to keep it a secret on her own terms because of her own experience of being confused about her own sexuality. Rather than being able to come to terms with it at her own pace she had that decision forced on her and is determined to keep Ryan’s secret because she understands the fear that comes with having something so personal laid bare for all to see. It’s different because Ryan isn’t in denial about being Batwoman nor does she keep it a secret out of confusion but in principle it’s something personal that isn’t anyone else’s business so there is a link there that promotes understanding. This episode brings them a lot closer to being on the same page with a shared understanding that they have both been operating under various misunderstandings. The alteration to this dynamic brings a lot of potential and moves Sophie out of being defined by her connection to Kate which is a step in the right direction in terms of adding depth to her.
Jacob’s addiction reaches a critical point when he appears to overdose. This plot remains a confusing outlier though it looks to be coming more into the limelight now that Mary has direct experience of the harm it’s doing to him and is faced with the prospect of losing him. The overdose and reaction to it is an obvious problem but the more interesting aspect of it is how he willingly accepts the false reality the drug allows him to experience. Visiting the park his daughter’s used to love and hallucinating them innocently playing on the swings should be a moment of contentment but is portrayed as a dangerous example of delusion. When Alice reaches out to him looking for help he is too far gone to understand what the reality of the situation is and completely rejects her which shows how deep into his addiction he is. Even though the development of this has been far from ideal the depiction in this particular episode works really well thanks in large part to Dougray Scott’s disaffected performance completely selling how removed from reality Jacob is.
Alice being tortured at Roman Sionis’ request isn’t all that compelling by itself as it does little more than serve as a reminder that Sionis’ is a presence that audiences have to bear in mind. In general it covers well worn ground for both Alice and Sionis but when he steps away and it becomes about how Circe/Kate relates to Alice it becomes a lot more interesting. Alice already knows that the woman who goes by Circe isn’t really her because she was there when the real one died meaning she knows that Enigma has brainwashed someone to take on this identity because Roman Sionis couldn’t bear to lose his daughter. Alice is accustomed to forced reinvention so understands what is happening to Circe though doesn’t empathise with her. Despite all of the direct experience she has had of having her identity forced away from her, becoming someone else as a defence mechanism and not having a clear idea of who she is there’s still a sadistic quality to her that prevents her from understanding the violation that has been inflicted on the woman that has been brainwashed to believe she is Circe. Alice only offers to make her a new face because it suits her own interests rather than desiring to restore some semblance of normality to her.
Knowing that this woman isn’t the real Circe leads Alice to the realisation that it’s actually Kate and it comes from the eyes. She notices that the eyes are the wrong colour which confirms her assumption that someone has been brainwashed to believe she’s Circe Sionis but upon closer inspection she sees her own sister looking back at her. In a parallel to a moment early in the show where Kate recognises her sister in the same way Alice sees Kate and is completely taken aback by it. This will certainly alter her view of the violation that has been committed and encourage her to take action for entirely selfish reasons as is typical of Alice though it personalises this in a big way and means that now someone knows that Kate is still alive which definitely raises the stakes.
A strong episode that makes great use of a “villain of the week”, provides plenty of opportunity for excellent character interactions and develops Sophie in really meaningful ways. Arthur Brown aka Cluemaster is an immediately engaging villain thanks to a strong performance, sharp writing and a story that leans into the entertaining lunacy of the character. His motivation is simple yet clear and his very presence is an example of world building as he comes with history as well as a built in connection to Sophie. The episode doesn’t do much to exploit that connection but it exists and allows her a personal stake in the plot. The introduction of his daughter Stephanie works well even if there isn’t much to the character so far. Her flirtatious dynamic with Luke was a really nice touch and her father wanting her dead because he can’t deal with having a daughter more intelligent than he is manages to be effective enough. This is a good example of a one shot villain story and leaning into the insane theatricality common to some Gotham villains was a really refreshing change. Mary, Sophie and Ryan socialising is very different to how these characters are normally used and was very meaningful. It allowed Sophie to be presented in a different light and neatly introduced the idea that she wants to prove to Ryan that she can be trusted. The hints she drops that she knows more than she is letting on may be on the nose but they are also entertaining and paying that off by forcing a situation where Ryan has to trust her in order to survive is satisfying enough. Linking this to Sophie re-evaluating a lot of things in her life shows a lot of growth on her part and tying it to her own experience of having her sexual identity outed makes for a natural connection that aids in the shared understanding. Both parties come out of this aware they have misjudged the other which sets up a potentially compelling dynamic to play out.
Jacob’s addiction continues to be a problematic side story that may be starting to come closer to the limelight. Mary seeing the extent of it raises the stakes somewhat but the more interesting content is to be found from Jacob hallucinating the young Kate and Beth in the park while the real Beth reaches out to him. His dismissal of Alice coming to him for help shows how divorced from reality he is and Dougray Scott’s disaffected performance is really impressive. Alice’s interactions with Roman Sionis do little more than remind the audience that he’s still in play but the way she plays off Circe/Kate is far more interesting. She shows no empathy for a woman being violated through having a new identity forced on her despite her own similar experiences and takes delight in the realisation that someone has been brainwashed into believing she is Circe Sionis. This changes when she realises that the eyes staring back at her belong to Kate. It’s perfectly in character for Alice to become invested for selfish reasons and the reveal works brilliantly. Finding this out personalises the situation for Alice and moves things forward in the return of Kate Kane plot.
- an engaging one shot villain
- Stephanie Brown’s introduction
- Sophie, Mary and Ryan socialising making for a refreshing change for these characters
- the development of Sophie’s desire to be trusted by Ryan
- furthering Sophie’s re-evaluation of many things in her life
- connecting Sophie’s understanding of Ryan’s desire to keep the secret to her own challenges around her sexual identity
- growth for both Ryan and Sophie
- Alice’s engaging dynamic with Circe/Kate
- the moment where Alice realises who Circe really is
- Dougray Scott’s disaffected performance brilliantly showcasing the depths of Jacob’s addiction
- leaning into the insane fun associated with many Batman villains
- failing to exploit the connection between Sophie and Arthur
- Stephanie not having much beneath the surface so far
- Roman Sionis contributing nothing of value to the episode on his own
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