Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 18
Batwoman wraps up its second season with rioting in the streets, the resolution of Kate Kane’s identity crisis and a definitive answer on who deserves the Bat mantle.
A major theme this season has been identity. Most of my reviews have picked up on this one way or another and the show has been exploring it in various ways. Ryan has been acclimating to being the inheritor to the Bat mantle while having her life redefined by all that brings her, Luke has been struggling with what it means to be a black man in a world that doesn’t tolerate that along with figuring out how best to combat that and Alice continues to battle against the inner Beth while adding in revelations about her personal history that were taken from her. Added to that is Kate being brainwashed to believe that she is Circe Sionis and having those two personas at War with one another.
The final episode looks to resolve those struggles in a definitive way while making way for new ones. Kate is in full Circe Sionis mode but is oddly passive with it despite the supposed significance of her defacing the Bat symbol in the previous episode. It’s comforting that the show didn’t go down the route of making her a dark mirror with the defaced symbol being used to spearhead a campaign that ruins Batwoman’s reputation by working to destroy Gotham rather than protect it. It would have made thematic sense given that Kate has been corrupted by Circe Sionis which draws a natural connection to a corrupted Bat symbol but it would have been painfully on the nose and at odds with what the episode was trying to achieve. Instead the episode doesn’t find much to do with Kate/Circe early on beyond her being an objective for Team Batwoman to achieve. Ryan makes it her focus to save Kate which leads her to Alice but for the most part there’s very little for Kate/Circe to do as a character.
She does prompt one of the more exciting sequences where Ryan pursues her in the Batmobile and they have a tricked out car vs. tricked out bike battle. The Batmobile has been a great addition to the season and this is one of the best uses of it with its various gadgets and Ryan’s driving ability. It’s a really casual way of showing how well suited Ryan is to being Batwoman while providing a fun vehicle sequence. Seeing the various gadgets combatting each other is really impressive and the sequence in general is well executed though can’t hide some obvious limitations associated with budget.
Even though Kate/Circe is a passive presence early on and Circe Sionis doesn’t feed into the overall tapestry of the finale in any meaningful way she is very well used when it comes to restoring her default persona. Of course Alice gets involved because the best way to coax Kate out of Circe is to get her sister involved. Ryan works with Alice which makes for a classic “deal with the devil” type scenario that this season has leaned on far too often. It’s staggering just how many times Alice has been part of a temporary alliance with members of Team Batwoman only to slink away into the night when the alliance is over. It’s a necessary conceit to make the plot happen but it is heavily overused.
Using Snakebite to help bring Kate back was a good idea that makes strong use of the well established capabilities of the drug. Previous episodes showed Jacob Kane using it to experience idealised versions of his memories which showcases the appeal of using it especially for those who have experienced profound loss. The Snakebite being used to live out the rescue that never happened in their childhood was a really nice touch that offers some form of closure even if it was unclear if it was Kate, Alice or both experiencing the vision. It would be fitting if it were a shared mental experience even if it didn’t mesh with the known capabilities of Snakebite. It is heavily suggested later in the episode that it was Kate’s experience. She states that she has to let go of Alice for now because she has to want to be Beth before she can be helped. This works because Kate was dancing around that realisation last season and her own identity crisis has helped her realise that in order to help someone they have to want to be helped. It’s a bittersweet realisation but an important one. Kate’s fantasy of the rescue that never happened shows her a Beth that wanted to be helped though it’s bizarre that showing the twins banishing the Circe persona from Kate’s mind wasn’t depicted.
Alice pulling Kate from the river was a great full-circle moment calling back to the pivotal event in both of their lives where Beth was lost in -presumably- the same river. The shoe is very much on the other foot with Beth now being in a position to save Kate where Kate once failed and the symmetry of that is played to perfection. There’s a strong suggestion that Alice now understands how Kate must have felt back then and there’s a catharsis associated with being able to save her both mentally and physically. A brief cliché moment exists where there is the post drowning delayed resuscitation that is really lazy but it doesn’t take away from the profound victory that is Kate being saved by her sister and how happy that makes Alice. She does get carted off to Arkham immediately after but at least she gains closure on that loss.
She also gets closure of sorts on the loss of Ocean with her Snakebite fantasy giving her an opportunity to say goodbye to him. It’s a brief moment but the discussion around the necessity of letting go and moving on is very moving. Rachel Skarsten’s performance is excellent and it’s an appropriate conclusion to such an engaging and important relationship for her. There is the suggestion that some agency has been reclaimed even if the Alice persona is still dominant with the Beth identity remaining heavily buried. Hope does exist for her but redemption and Beth’s restoration is a long way off.
Kate does take some time to tie up some loose ends in Gotham before leaving. She has a relaxed friendly moment with Luke and Mary where they fill her in on all of the vigilante exploits that she missed before taking her leave of them, she gives Ryan her blessing to continue on as Batwoman and has a final romantic encounter with Sophie. Her immediate plans are to visit her father, visit “a friend” in National City and then look for Bruce who may or may not be in trouble. This leaves the door open for Kate’s return in the future while fully cementing Ryan as the rightful Batwoman therefore putting any anxieties she might have to rest. Wallis Day’s brief outing as truly Kate Kane was great so her return whenever it may be will be a welcome one. Kudos to this show for pulling off this recast so well.
The Batwoman mantle being handed over to Ryan as the rightful inheritor is an extension of everything that made her uniquely suited to put her own stamp on it. Kate and Ryan are from entirely different backgrounds and experienced their own difficulties. Of course they both dealt with loss and were motivated by that to some degree but Ryan has a connection to the city that Kate could never have since she grew up experiencing the hardships faced by many of the people she protects. Kate points out that she wanted to give something back to the city by being Batwoman which is a perfectly reasonable driver but Ryan’s understanding of what it’s really like for people living in Gotham gives her a particular edge and Kate is more than happy to accept that her legacy is in good hands. The passing of the torch works brilliantly and rings true because of how it is justified.
Ryan’s growth as a hero has been one of the stronger aspects of the season and there is plenty of opportunity to capitalise on some of her ongoing issues. Pairing her with Alice allows them to discuss Alice killing her adoptive mother and Ryan’s desire to bring her to justice for that particular crime. Gone is the desire for lethal retribution and replacing it is a need to have her be punished for it according to the law. Alice takes the opportunity to get under her skin by talking about her biological mother dying in childbirth and framing it as if her death is Ryan’s fault. She harshly states that Ryan’s first act in life was to kill the woman who gave birth to her. Javicia Lesley’s performance as Ryan reacts to this is chilling. It’s clearly something Ryan has thought a lot about and Alice attacking her with it strikes the intended nerve. Ryan rises above it and remains on task but it’s not easily ignored.
In true superhero tradition this episode marks a point where most of the resources that come with the Batwoman mantle have been taken away. She has no costume, no gadgets, no satellite tracking to tell her where to go and limited support from the rest of her team. Sophie assures her that she is Batwoman regardless of whether she has the suit or not and Ryan’s arc in the episode is about believing that within herself. She has to deal with the situation at hand with what she has available and find a way to save the city. Of course she’s up to the challenge and consistently proves herself with her quick thinking, obvious skills and heroic attitude. The repurposed masks displaying the Bat symbol shows her that she has a lot of support behind her and provides extra inspiration to carry on.
Ryan has struggled with the notion of being worthy of being Batwoman all season and the return of Kate has intensified that self doubt by making her feel that she’s an interim solution rather than the true inheritor. Luke, Mary and Sophie consistently tell her that she is Batwoman but she still sees herself as a temporary fixture. Going back to her van in the previous episode was an obvious indicator of how she sees herself but her actions in this episode show that she is unable to walk away when she is needed and can do good.
The hearing where she is released from parole is a really unsubtle way of summarising how much Ryan has grown over the course of the season. She is asked if she has changed and she proudly states that she remains the good person who was wrongly arrested therefore recognising that she always had what it takes to be a hero. She also recognises that society works in a certain way and that a game does sometimes have to be played so she tells them what they want to hear. The narrative changes slightly to her having changed and learned a lot which grants her release from parole. Following this she truly has her freedom with nobody looking over her shoulder and owes that to being Batwoman. Taking on the Batwoman mantle gave her a new and better life that she is incredibly grateful for. Her reward is that she gets to live a life free of the unfortunate circumstances that led to her being arrested.
Her commitment to making Gotham a better place is reinforced by her idea of the community centre being located above Mary’s clinic so that it can provide a haven of physical and mental health for teens in the city. It’s very practical idea that neatly links into Ryan’s understanding of what the less fortunate in the city actually need and her desire to use the resources available to her in order to make that happen. As has been previously established her mission isn’t about simply taking down criminals it’s about attacking the root of the issues on a systemic level.
The reveal from Alice that her biological mother is still alive comes out of nowhere and is an odd note to close off this section of their relationship. This is something that Ryan will have to deal with in the next season as it’s unlikely to be a lie but it’s an underwhelming cliffhanger moment that robs some of the impact from Alice being behind bars for her crimes and sours Ryan’s victory over her to some degree. I suspect that was the point but the moment didn’t land in the way it needed to.
Luke takes a massive step forward in a way connected to improving things on a systemic level. His major personal anxiety is that he feels useless even though he is always able to help provide support to Ryan and play a part in protecting people. He has always felt less intelligent than his father which means he always has doubts about his ability to be a force for good. His near death experience earlier in the season intensified those feelings and added in the reality of being a black man in a society that doesn’t accept black people. Luke returned from that experience tired of life and lacking in direction though instead of being suicidal he ended up motivated to find a positive direction to focus his energies. When he stumbles on old drawings of what he imagined a black Batman might look like he learns that his father was working on a suit for him and had completed the work some years prior. He dons the costume and uses it to save Mary as well as defeat Tavaroff.
His defeat of Tavaroff is incredibly satisfying since he was the one who shot Luke so it’s a very personal victory for him. He got to use his newfound power to take down the person who victimised him and bring him to justice. Ultimately he wants everyone to have a fair chance in a fair system and that is likely what his Batwing alter ego will stand for. All in all this transition is too quick but the payoff still works though the costume will need some tweaks to look credible as the current iteration is less than impressive.
The resolution of the Black Mask plot is fairly weak. An ongoing problem this season is a failure to develop Roman Sionis as a character despite the hints at a distinction between how he was operating as a legitimate businessman and how he was operating as a criminal. Efforts in one role were established as complimenting the other but the show never went into detail around how that setup works. Him dominating the airwaves as Black Mask and encouraging people to take control of the city by donning a mask and creating havoc doesn’t work because there hasn’t been an appropriate temperature check to suggest that the people of Gotham were on the cusp of rioting. There was no cause to rally behind other than chaos and the contingent of people who were huddled terrified in their homes weren’t developed enough either so there was no clear idea of what the stakes were associated with this.
Sionis is defeated very easily though having Alice be the one to deliver the final blow and show him how inadequate he was as a villain was appropriate. In general Sionis suffered from a lack of build-up with most of the focus being on his relationship with the daughter he had -sort of- resurrected. It’s a great character driven narrative for him but as the main villain of the season more should have been done to showcase why he deserves to be that. This episode had him as more of an incidental threat rather than the criminal mastermind that he was supposed to be.
A satisfying finale that offers impressive coverage of the ongoing theme of identity through various characters, an excellent conclusion to Ryan’s arc and closure on the lingering questions concerning Kate Kane. Kate is a major fixture of the episode though is oddly passive despite the suggested significance of her defacing the Bat symbol. Ryan and Alice come after her but she doesn’t actually do anything until that happens. The vehicle chase with Ryan in the Batmobile and Kate on the bike is really well done as a showcase for Ryan’s suitability to take on the role. Alice being the one to draw Kate out of Circe is an obvious yet satisfying choice that plays out nicely with the childhood rescue that was never able to happen. Having Alice drag Kate out of the river is an excellent callback and the symmetry is played to perfection. Alice saying goodbye to Ocean because of the Snakebite is more closure added into this moment and it all comes together wonderfully. Kate’s realisation that Alice can’t be saved until she’s ready to become Beth again makes sense given the lessons she learned last season and the acceptance of that is a bittersweet yet important realisation on her part. Kate’s decision to leave Gotham in order to visit her father, visit “a friend” in National City and search for Bruce leaves the door open for Wallis Day to return as Kate which would be most welcomed. Her friendly catch-up with Luke and Mary is a great scene and her romantic encounter with Sophie was a long time coming. Kate handing over the Batwoman mantle to Ryan once and for all while addressing how her background makes her uniquely suited to being in the role was an excellent passing of the torch moment that helps validate Ryan.
Ryan’s arc is resolved to satisfaction through what she experiences in this episode. Without the suit, gadgets and satellite support she is still able to manage the situation and is fully motivated to do the right thing. Pairing her with Alice addresses her feelings around what Alice did to her adoptive mother while highlighting that her desire for revenge has evolved into a desire to bring Alice to justice even if Alice strikes the intended nerve in regards to her biological mother. The hearing where she is released from parole is an unsubtle way of summarising the lessons Ryan has learned while also being effective. She realises that she was always the good person who had what it takes and is grateful for all that being Batwoman has given her. Taking on the mantle has given her a new lease on life and she doesn’t intend to waste it. The final scene between Ryan and Alice with the reveal that Ryan’s biological mother is still alive undercuts the victory somewhat and was overall unnecessary as it should have been about Ryan getting that closure. Luke stepping up as a hero with his own super suit is very quickly done but works as an extension of his journey towards finding a way to change the world in a positive way. His defeat of Tavaroff is incredibly satisfying because it’s such a personal victory for him against the one who victimised him. The suit needs some tweaks to look credible but it’s a promising development. The resolution to the Black Mask plot is clumsy due to a lack of development along the lines of him being the central antagonist. He comes across as more of an incidental threat than a criminal mastermind. There was also a lack of a temperature check on the people of Gotham which made the rioting and those who opposed it lack in depth as well as having no stakes associated with it.
- a satisfying resolution to Ryan’s arc around her worthiness as the inheritor of the Batwoman mantle
- Ryan exhibiting decisive and heroic traits throughout
- highlighting her growth through a reminder that she wants Alice to be brought to justice
- Kate acknowledging Ryan’s worth and handing her the mantle
- the symmetry attached to Alice restoring Kate’s default persona
- Luke’s satisfying victory against Tavaroff
- the fun vehicle chase
- appropriate closure on the Kate/Sophie relationship
- leaving the door open for Kate’s return
- Black Mask failing to measure up as a central antagonist
- the lack of development of the rioting citizens aspect of the plot
- Kate being oddly passive for much of the episode
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( vote)
Season 2 of Batwoman was a significant challenge due to the unexpected departure of Ruby Rose in the lead role. To my mind the production team did an excellent job creating a new central character while maintaining the existing ones. Ryan was mostly neatly folded into the ongoing stories while having a defined arc of her own. She is an engaging character and the prospect of seeing how she develops in the next season is something that excites me greatly.
In a lot of ways this season ends with wiping the slate clean for next season. Ryan accepts that she is worthy of being Batwoman, the emotional tension between Sophie and Kate -who has left for the moment- is resolved, Luke has taken a step towards becoming a hero in his own right and Mary continues to be as loveable as ever, It was recently announced that Dougray Scott is leaving the series which makes sense considering how difficult it was to find ways for him to feed into the show following Kate’s departure though it appears that Alice will remain a part of the cast. An obvious character connection to work on with Alice is Mary who is the only family she has around at this point. Exploring that dynamic might be an interesting.
The ending of the episode suggests that Poison Ivy -or at least one of her plants- will be a problem next season. If it does end up being Poison Ivy then I can see that being an engaging villain to add to the mix depending -as always- on what approach the show takes. Batwoman has always heavily referenced this universe’s version of Batman’s storied exploits so there is definite history to mine particularly if Kate succeeds in finding Bruce and Warren Christie finally gets to actually play Bruce Wayne. Whatever happens the near clean slate the show has to work with next season is an enticing prospect as there exists a real opportunity to really bring Ryan Wilder into her own. Also, COVID permitting she may get to meet other characters in the Arrowverse.
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