Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 9

Mar 29, 2021 | Posted by in TV

“Rule #1”

Batwoman introduces a new threat as the characters pick up the pieces from the apparent death of Kate Kane.

There’s very much a transitional quality to this episode following the resolution of the Coryana plot along with the search for Kate Kane in the previous episode. Ultimately the search proved fruitless as Kate was never there but it did offer the characters searching for her a form of closure following an extended period of limbo where they had no concept of whether she was alive or dead. She’s alive as was revealed but they don’t know that so the plot was more about those close to her getting to the point where they can accept her death and move on with their lives.


Saying goodbye

This episode opens with a proper funeral for her with Sophie, Jacob, Mary and Luke in attendance as Ryan monologues by way of a diary entry about honouring her memory. It’s a strong start that closes the book on Kate in some ways even though the impact of her perceived loss will be felt for some time. It’s only a matter of time before she re-emerges which is an entirely separate issue but for now there’s a blanket acceptance that she’s dead which lays the groundwork for characters to develop.

Much of the episode is focused around how the various characters deal with this loss. Jacob’s instinct is to not take the information he now has at face value so he seems positioned to remain sceptical which makes sense considering the daughter he believed dead became Alice. Learning that Kate was Batwoman and that Mary was running an illegal clinic has led him to believe that things are never what they seem so he isn’t prepared to believe the reports that supposedly prove Kate is death. In a way he represents the denial portion of the five stages of grief as he refuses to accept the overwhelming evidence. His conversation with Julia indicates that he has a long way to go before being able to believe that Kate is really gone if he’s even able to get there at all. My guess is that he will reach that point then she will will return and he’ll be unable to accept that. Right now he’s angry and vengeful, resolving to punish whoever’s responsible for what happened to Kate and refuses to believe that an accident could be the cause. It’s clear he has a lot to work through and is only at the beginning of a very long journey.

The dynamic within Team Batwoman has changed somewhat following the acceptance that Kate is dead. Prior to this the view was that Ryan was an interim replacement for Kate that would eventually step down once she returned. This was something that Ryan was worried about after having a taste of being a costumed hero but it was generally accepted that Kate would return to the role. Now that it seems impossible she is the one and only Batwoman which alters things significantly. Mary talks about Ryan being in a leadership position which means that she has to define their mission. There’s a whole plot built around what happens when there’s no consensus in the team and it culminates in Ryan setting three guiding rules that they can abide by. The first is around legacy which comes with a promise to not only protect people but make the city better for them, the second is around accountability as in they need to keep each other right when a member of the team has lost objectivity and the third is around support which includes a promise to support each other as they work to make the city a better place.. They are clear and simple guidelines that they can all abide by and be proud of. They come from Ryan’s street founded values and very much cater to those on the lowest rung of Gotham City as they are most in need of help.


Another chance? Really?

This all speaks to Ryan feeling that the Bat identity is hers and she is going to proudly own it in a way that upholds the kind of justice she believes in. Doing that means that the team needs to work effectively together which necessitates the three rules and there’s a shared belief that they’re stronger as a cohesive unit even if they disagree on things. The whole idea of working to ensure that a power vacuum isn’t created by bringing down a gang or their leader is really fascinating and runs counter to how different versions of Bruce Wayne have operated. It’s well documented in various iterations of Batman media that stopping a villain does nothing by itself. The analogy of treating the symptoms rather than the disease rings true in Gotham’s case as the whole system that governs the city is badly broken. In order to make things better things have to change in a very real way and Ryan’s pledge starts to build a framework around making that happen.

It’s a lesson that is hard learned and comes after Ryan’s particular baggage causes complications. This is evidenced through her complicated relationship with Angelique. I mentioned in earlier reviews that there’s a toxicity to their connection based on Ryan’s misguided belief that she can change Angelique while she has no desire to be changed. There are brief spurts where they both think it’s something they can ignore and be together but it doesn’t take long for them both to realise that there’s no way they can sustain a relationship while Angelique lives a life that Ryan doesn’t approve of. The cycle begins anew when Angelique comes to Ryan saying that she misses her though this time she talks about wanting out of the life she has been living which more points to it not being comfortable for her any more due to how dangerous it has become.

This honeymoon period is short lived after Commissioner Forbes (Cameron McDonald) is gunned down and it turns out Angelique was the one driving the car carrying the shooters. She does this as one last job so that she can be released from her obligation to the False Face Society but it’s abundantly clear that the promise of doing one final job for them in order to sever that connection would never be the reality. Her wanting out is seen as a betrayal and her life ends up being threatened as a result which comes as no surprise. Fortunately knowing Ryan affords her protection that others wouldn’t have in the form of Batwoman. It comes down to the usual conceit of Ryan telling Angelique that she knows Batwoman rather that she is Batwoman which is amusing when considering how obvious it should be to Angelique by this point though having her life threatened might be interfering with her ability to process information.


Keeping up appearances

Angelique makes for a reasonable case study of how the criminal element within Gotham City works. In her case she was able to live a comfortable lifestyle through being involved in criminal activity and was happy with the notoriety she had gained as a result. Once it gets to the point where that situation no longer works for her she is too deeply embedded to dig herself out of it because there’s a sense of ownership that the criminal element hold over her. In this case Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Peter Outerbridge) feels that he owns her and has no intention of letting her go. Even having Batwoman on her side won’t afford her indefinite protection so she has a major problem that can’t easily be solved. Ultimately she takes responsibility for the killing of the Commissioner because Ryan’s life is threatened. Ryan is one of the few things that Angelique cares about in the world and he taking the fall to protect her is a gesture that proves that. What makes their relationship so interesting is that their lives are incompatible but the affection is . Through Angelique we get a deeper look at what it means to be connected to given organisations within Gotham City and an idea of how broken Gotham is on a fundamental level.

Adding to this is the introduction of Sophie’s sister, Jordan (Keeya King); an activist bent on making real change in Gotham. She lists a number of ways she has gotten involved in actively changing how things work with her passion coming across clearly. Initially she’s positioned as something of an opposite to Sophie who represents the broken system by being part of the Crows which is lacking in subtlety but it gets the point across. Initially she comes to Sophie because she’s afraid of what might happen to her as a witness to the Commissioner’s murder but as the episode progresses her role shifts to being a moral barometer for Sophie. Though her sister’s perspective she begins to understand how broken the system is and concludes that there’s no way it can continue as is. Sophie has been questioning her place within that system all season and now has tangible examples to consider thanks to Jordan’s influence. She also has a positive influence on Ryan by steering her towards improving things on a systemic level.

Jordan also offers Sophie familial support. This is something she has been lacking following her mother disapproving of her sexual orientation. Jordan is supportive and even encourages her to put herself out there after sensing chemistry between her and Ryan. This is another indication that Ryan and Sophie are being developed as a romantic pairing. Pushing that aside for now the important takeaway is that Sophie has family who accepts her for who she is and wants her to be happy. It’s an important resource for her to have and Jordan as a character is a fun presence because of how unlike Sophie she is. With any luck she will be a more prominent fixture over the rest of the season.


A family visit

Roman Sionis aka Black Mask hasn’t been developed as a character by this point but there’s a few things that can be concluded. One is that he masquerades as a legitimate businessman while manipulating the city through his alter ego of Black Mask. This isn’t a new idea but that doesn’t mean it can’t work well and in this case it gives Sionis different levels of power that compliment each other. He can move his own interests forward through gang activity as he starts to do by having the Commissioner killed all the while smiling for the cameras and talking about how Gotham needs to be fixed. Differing methods across his two identities could make for interesting viewing and the theatrical streak he has in the Black Mask guise is endlessly entertaining. Using a buzz saw to punish those who failed him plays like a dark riff on the 60s Batman TV series. It’s good to see Batwoman not take itself too seriously as a TV show and embrace the insanity of elaborate ways of killing people.

He does feed into the whole idea of treating the disease rather than the symptoms as there are questions around what the Bat symbol actually represents for the city. Sionis mentions that the previous Batwoman killed his daughter though considering her general intolerance for killing that seems unlikely. The fact remains that he believes Batwoman is responsible for her death which is motivation enough as the facts often don’t matter when belief is so strong. The point being made is that the Bat symbol is something that is corruptible and it could be there’s a legacy to be redeemed. Everything Ryan does when wearing the suit is subject to scrutiny so she has to really consider what she stands for in that role. It is interesting that Black Mask would feed into that realisation for Ryan which makes him an incredibly relevant presence on the show overall though it remains to be seen if he can be developed as an engaging antagonist in support of the themes being explored.

Alice doesn’t takes Kate’s perceived death well. She retreats to the room she was locked in for most of her childhood and tries to resolve her complex feelings around this loss. It matches her broken mental state to find comfort in the place she was held captive and the hallucination of the younger Kate to push her into taking the next step works really well as a manifestation of her grief. The manifestation reminds her of the unhealthy coping mechanisms that she defaulted to in the past. She favoured retreating into a comforting fantasy in order to deal with her issues until the point where that fantasy actively drove her insane. The Alice persona was created to cope with captivity and has stuck with her so the suggestion is that she needs to cultivate a new fantasy in order to deal with the loss of Kate. Her damaged mind leads her to conclude that in order to deal with her grief she has to forget Kate ever existed and become someone else entirely. It goes without saying that this is far from healthy but it’s an interesting development for Alice particularly after recently learning she had a close connection that was taken from her. Forgetting is easier than accepting as far as she’s concerned so it seems that a reinvention is on the cards. It could be a compelling development for her particularly when Kate returns with what appears to be her own identity issues. Thematically things are joining up nicely.

The introduction of Enigma (Laura Mennell) with the promise of removing Kate Kane’s sense of identity throws around more complications around her return. It could be that a “Dark Batwoman” plot may be on the way once Enigma completes her work. There is mention of her face being taken for her so there looks to be an in universe explanation for the upcoming recast. It makes sense and is consistent with what the show has done before so there are no issues there. Corrupting Kate and taking her identity from her does mirror Ryan’s journey towards finding hers though it remains to be seen how effective this will be when it plays out.


Embracing the insanity


A strong episode that has the characters deal with the perceived loss of Kate Kane, offers interesting insight into how broken Gotham City is and has Ryan question what the Bat symbol means for her. Kate’s funeral was a good way to set up the idea that the characters have been forced to accept her death. Jacob’s denial and desire to punish whoever is responsible makes sense for him given how much in his life has proven to be not as it seems. Ryan taking ownership of the Batwoman identity now that Kate is believed to be completely gone changes the dynamic within the team considerably. Mary talks about her being in the leadership role which means she has to define the mission. There’s an entire plot built around what happens when there isn’t consensus within the team leading to Ryan defining the three rules which involve them holding each other accountable, supporting one another and working to actually make Gotham better rather than dealing with the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself. It’s a compelling mission statement that sets Ryan apart and takes advantage of her particular perspective. Her baggage around Angelique causing problems allows for a reasonable case study of how broken Gotham is. Angelique enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle as long as she embraced the life of a criminal but getting out of that when it no longer works for her proves impossible. She ends up going to prison to protect Ryan which highlights how much influence the criminal element has in Gotham.

Sophie’s sister, Jordan offers further insight into that through describing what she’s doing to build something better in a broken system. She is positioned as something of an opposite to Sophie who helps her understand that she is part of a broken system that can’t be allowed to continue. Introducing a sibling as an opposite to a main character is nothing new and the plot is handled with no subtlety but it works really well with Jordan coming across as a fully realised character who offers more than her views. She also offers Sophie familial support after her mother rejected her on account of her sexuality which makes her a really engaging presence. With any luck she will continue on over the rest of the season as there’s a lot she could do. Roman Sionis may not be developed as a character by this point but there is a lot that can be concluded. Him having power as a legitimate businessman and the leader of a gang provides a lot of variety to play with and his sadistically theatrical brand of punishment play as a dark riff of the 60s Batman series in the best way. He feeds nicely into the idea of Gotham being broken on a systemic level. Alice coming to the conclusion that she needs to process her grief by forgetting Kate existed is far from healthy but consistent with her own past and is developed well across the episode. Mirroring her identity issues with the idea that Kate is due to lose her identity at the hands of Enigma presents an interesting parallel along with a complication around Kate when she is reintroduced.

  • 8.5/10
    Rule #1 - 8.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • each of the characters taking time to process Kate’s death in their own way
  • Ryan taking ownership of the Batwoman identity and how that alters the team dynamic
  • Ryan defining what the team stands for with three simple guiding principles
  • Angelique acting as a compelling case study of how influential the criminal element within Gotham is
  • Jordan helping Sophie to recognise how broken the system she is a part of is
  • Sophie getting much needed familial support from Jordan
  • Roman Sionis aka Black Mask feeding into the idea of Gotham being broken on a systemic level
  • Alice concluding that she has to forget Kate to process her grief
  • mirroring Alice’s identity issues with what Kate will be dealing with upon her return


Rise Against…

  • positioning Jordan as Sophie’s opposite being too on the nose
  • some contrivances around the Angelique plot


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