Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 12
“Initiate Self Destruct”
Batwoman deals with identity as the Crows close in on identifying Ryan through her blood sample, Alice questions who she is in the midst of her complex feelings for Ocean and Kate makes a reappearance.
One way or another identity will always be part of a superhero story whether that be juggling a dual identity, defining what the chosen mantle means on a personal as well as outward level or just a character trying to work out who they are. Batwoman deals with all of these things and more to differing degrees but the most pressing issue for this particular episode is the blood sample being analysed by the Crows that can identify Ryan as Gotham’s current Bat vigilante.
Dealing with that is an urgent matter and provides plenty of opportunity for Sophie to take the spotlight. One thing the episode doesn’t hugely dwell on is that she recently found out the new Batwoman’s identity. For now she is committed to protecting that secret while not making Team Batwoman aware that she knows the truth though it isn’t addressed that she would most likely see the name as she works to sabotage the blood test that will implicate Ryan. It basically amounts to an extended excuse for Sophie to sneak around in order to stop Batwoman’s identity becoming known to the Crows and -in theory- ramp up the tension as she works to prevent that from happening.
In practice there’s actually very little tension as Sophie was never actually in any danger of being caught. She comes and goes as she pleases, snoops around in Jacob’s office without anyone even noticing and is apparently able to cover her digital tracks with no consequences though it remains possible that the latter will catch up with her over the coming episodes. In terms of execution it’s all very by the numbers with a ticking clock represented by a slowly increasing progress bar, regularly checking in on that progress bar, reminders that Tavaroff is very interested in that piece of information and various minor complications forcing Sophie to think on her feet. On paper it sounds like a tense plot that makes great use of Sophie’s skills but in actuality it’s far from being as tense or urgent as it needs to be.
Part of the problem is that Tavaroff isn’t anywhere to be found most of the time. He checks in on the progress a couple of times but is mostly absent which leaves Sophie free to operate unchallenged. There is clear intent to put Tavaroff in the role of an antagonist for Sophie but that doesn’t come across here which makes this particular plot suffer. The other potential roadblock comes from Jacob who holds court in his office and also wants to out Batwoman’s identity. There is an early scene where a heated argument erupts because of Jacob’s current instability amplifying the issues that he already has. As usual Sophie is on the receiving end of his less than flattering outburst where he makes it clear he is so far beyond listening to reason at this point. He kicks her out of his office indicating that there’s no way for her to gain the necessary access without outside assistance. Fortunately all it takes is for Mary to pull him away and the problem is easily solved.
There is a distinct moment where the tension ramps up once Sophie learns that the Batwoman sample is being uploaded with a lot of other samples connected to other cases the Crows are working on. For some reason the Batwoman sample can’t be singularly identified so erasing that information means erasing all of them. This is a problem because it means that protecting Batwoman also means protecting rapists, murderers and other dangerous criminals which naturally amounts to a very difficult choice. The moment itself plays out really well especially when it comes to Camrus Johnson’s performance. The dilemma can be plainly seen on Luke’s face as he considers what the proper next move should be. It’s an unwinnable situation because Ryan’s continued anonymity is important but preserving it at the expense of bringing lots of criminals to justice is a very high price. Ultimately he doesn’t insist that Sophie erase all the information which once again proves his morality but the decision is completely undercut by Sophie finding an alternate solution to the problem. It comes across as cheap and manipulative as an impossible choice is presented that it easily countered therefore robbing it of its power.
The plot does feed into some ongoing character stories that neatly connect to it. Most significant among them is Jacob’s addiction to Snakebite. There are some logical leaps that need to be taken in order to accept it such as Jacob shooting up while in his office rather than doing it at home and being careless enough to leave the used syringe in the bin with the empty branded box stored in his safe. It’s evident that Jacob is far from being in his right mind so might be more careless than usual but he is perfectly lucid in other aspects of his life so should be aware that others have access to his office and cover his tracks better. Of course he behaves so carelessly so that there’s a reason others find out about his addiction but sacrificing character competence in order to move the plot forward is never excusable. If Jacob is truly ashamed of the fact he has turned to a dangerous drug in order to feel better about the significant losses he has endured then he should be doing a better job of hiding it. That provides an opportunity for those that know him to work it out through observing his behaviour. This moves the plot forward through character interactions and making organic use of the existing relationships rather than lazy contrivance as is the case here.
There are elements of the character relationships being used to clue others into the truth that the episode fails to lean into. For example Mary finding that Jacob is so willing to accept her compromise that means legitimising her clinic should prompt some concerns in her. She notices that he’s sweating at one point but largely seems to dismiss how accommodating he’s being until Sophie comes to her with what she has recently learned. It makes sense to an extent as Mary would be excited that Jacob is finally starting to see things her way but as before it’s a failure on a character level to have Jacob’s odd behaviour go largely unnoticed. It would be more satisfying if Mary became concerned after having some time to reflect on the conversation and realised that the signs point to addiction. This would make use of her relationship with Jacob as well as her medical knowledge rather than simply being given the information following Sophie coming across it while snooping around. Both methods get to the same end point but not taking advantage of the character driven route is a sadly missed opportunity.
Ryan takes the fact that her identity might be hours away from being revealed in her stride. An early conversation with Sophie confirms that she’s going to use the time she has left to save Angelique’s life. This reinforces Ryan’s heroic and selfless attitude while adding a further reminder that she’s fully committed to the Batwoman mantle. Instead of dwelling on the possibility of losing it she recognises that she still has some time and chooses to use that productively. It’s appropriately inspiring and practical but also fails to address how she actually feels about the prospect of losing what she has worked to redefine. Naturally the personal consequences for her will be significant since she acts outside the law so there’s a failure to address any of that in favour of focus on the task at hand.
Saving Angelique means working with Alice which is less than ideal considering her tendency to take any opportunity to betray. Ryan’s personal history with Alice makes it a less than ideal pairing from her point of view but she also recognises that it’s a necessary team-up for now. A lot of time is spent playing around with their dynamic with Alice going out of her way to behave as childishly as possible while Ryan works to keep her on task. Alice pressing buttons in the Batmobile wondering what triggers the different weapons as Ryan grows increasingly frustrated makes for fun viewing and Rachel Skarsten’s performance perfectly sells Alice’s immense pleasure in the situation.
Naturally the back and forth leads to Ryan showing that she isn’t stupid enough to actually trust Alice as shown when she cuffs her to a pipe while she goes after Ocean and Angelique. It’s very standard stuff and plays out almost exactly as expected but the display of competence from Ryan is encouraging. Just because she has to work with Alice in this scenario doesn’t mean she should assume that she will continue to cooperate so she takes believable steps to make sure her own mission will be unhindered. Ryan’s decision to leave Alice to die was very much a shock. Her hatred of Alice because of what she did to her mother is well known but it had also been previously established that Ryan had tempered her desire for lethal vengeance after realising that she’s better than that. The episode was going for the idea that refusing to save her isn’t the same as actively killing her but it still paints Ryan in a less than flattering light to coldly turn her back on Alice as she was being strangled. Her inaction would have been believable a few episodes ago but a point was made about Ryan achieving the necessary growth to understand that there is a better way. Once again this is a plot driven decision rather than a character driven one.
Alice has a believable motivation for agreeing to help Ryan. She is still struggling with her feelings for Ocean and has only become more uncertain following their night of passion. Her first instinct following the encounter is to sneak out and get as far away as possible but witnessing his kidnapping inspires her to take action to get him back. It’s abundantly clear that her feelings for him are strong even if she is loathed to admit it so she needs to have him back in order to explore that they might end up meaning for her. Similarly Ocean is certain that his feelings for her are strong so there’s a lot for both of them to deal with. It still remains unclear if Alice can actually believably be redeemed but her connection to Ocean confirms that she is capable of compassion and forging a meaningful connection. Hopefully in subsequent episodes there will be exploration of what is between them beyond the superficial attraction with the suggestion of something deeper that has been depicted up until now.
Angelique being rescued gives her yet another chance to take her life in a new direction. She takes the offer to go into the Witness Protection Program in order to protect her from the influence of the False Face Society. She asks Ryan to come with her so that they can start a new life together free of the baggage that plagued their relationship before. Ryan insists that her life is in Gotham and the work she’s doing with the community centre could make a real difference in improving it. Enough work has been done with this relationship to sell its end as a tragic event for both of them. Angelique’s point of view about Gotham being a place best left behind because it’s completely riddled with crime and corruption is entirely valid. She’s in a better position than most to know what can happen to people and opts to take the out when it’s offered to her. There’s an unspoken truth that a lot of good people have done the same thing and left Gotham to die where Ryan is willing to fight for it on every level as she believes it’s a city that can be saved. It’s a strong goodbye between these characters because what they want from their future is incompatible. There are no hard feelings between them though they both regret that they can’t be together because of the paths their lives are on.
The re-emergence of Kate plays into the episode well enough. As predicted her identity is stripped from her though curiously she is conditioned to believe that she is Roman Sionis daughter Circe. It isn’t explored so far but it suggests that Roman is majorly delusional if he’s willing to accept a fantasy recreation of his daughter as the real thing. This points to an unwillingness to accept reality on his part that makes sense when considering he lives two lives, runs a gang called the False Face Society and demands that all members never show their face. He has a distanced relationship with the real world and the fact that he’s willing to accept someone else entirely as his daughter just so he can have her back suggests that there is something major that will be shattered for him in the future. He remains an interesting villain though further exploration of his complicated mental state is needed.
Kate/Circe is mostly a blunt instrument in this episode who is deployed against Ryan and Alice which doesn’t give Wallis Day a great deal to work with so far. There’s a novelty value associated with the audience knowledge of Circe’s true identity meaning that there is technically a Batwoman vs. Batwoman confrontation. Kate is shown to be highly skilled, meticulous and apparently fully conditioned into her new role. Naturally this won’t continue to be the case but for now it’s a significant problem that needs to be dealt with. Positioning her as an an antagonist certainly creates a formidable opponent for now and there’s a lot of compelling issues associated with that to be explored.
A good episode that makes good use of the Ryan/Alice pairing and adds some compelling details to Roman Sionis. Ryan and Alice being forced to team up in order to rescue Angelique and Ocean plays out almost exactly as expected but is no less engaging. Alice going out of her way to behave as childishly as possible while Ryan works to keep her on task makes for fun viewing and Ryan’s display of competence by pre-empting Alice’s inevitable betrayal is encouraging. Some details about both characters are either revealed or reinforced such as Alice’s complicated feelings about Ocean and how she needs to resolve them. Her connection to him confirms that she’s capable of compassion and forging a meaningful connection. Ryan choosing to use the time she has left before her identity is outed to save Angelique’s life further reinforces how heroic she is as well as how devoted she is to the Batwoman mantle. There’s no real coverage of how she feels about potentially losing every aspect of her life but her practical attitude of making sure to use her remaining time effectively backs up what is already established about her character. Angelique being rescued and subsequently deciding to take advantage of the Witness Protection Program leads to a tragic goodbye between her and Ryan. Enough work has been done to develop the relationship to the point that this feels significant and the addition of their opposing views on Gotham makes their split more weighty. Angelique sees Gotham as being beyond redemption where Ryan believes it can be saved so their views are incompatible but they part with no hard feelings.
Sophie dealing with preventing Ryan’s identity being outed doesn’t work as well as it needs to. There’s no real tension associated with it as there are no real obstacles in her way beyond the ticking clock represented by a progress bar. Tavaroff is positioned as an antagonist but never gets in her way and there is never any point where she is at any risk of being caught. It does feed into Jacob’s addiction through Sophie discovering that there’s something going on after snooping around in his office. There are some leaps in logic that need to be accepted in order for this to work that show Jacob to be far more careless than he has ever been before. Instead of having the characters figure this out through making use of their relationships this information comes out due to lazy contrivance which makes for a missed opportunity. The re-emergence of Kate and having her conditioned to believe that she’s Roman Sionis’ daughter says a lot about his fractured relationship with reality. Kate is mostly deployed as a blunt instrument which doesn’t give Wallis Day a lot of strong material to work with but she is highly skilled, meticulous and formidable. The introduction of her altered identity certainly creates a lot of compelling issues to be explored.
- the fun Ryan/Alice dynamic
- Ryan anticipating Alice’s inevitable betrayal
- Alice dealing with her complex feelings associated with Ocean
- reinforcing Ryan’s heroism when she resolves to use the time remaining to help Angelique and Ocean
- the tragic parting of Anglique and Ryan
- their valid different positions on whether Gotham can be saved
- Roman Sionis’ fractured relationship with reality
- the lack of tension in Sophie’s efforts to stop Ryan’s identity being revealed
- Sophie and Mary learning of Jacob’s addiction through lazy contrivance rather than something character driven
- Kate mostly being deployed as a blunt instrument rather than a character
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Review” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.