Batwoman – Season 2 Episode 10
“Time Off For Good Behaviour”
Batwoman features the beginning of the promise to be a symbol of hope and progress within Gotham as Roman Sionis continues his plan to peddle his dangerous drug.
The previous episode featured a promise from Ryan that Team Batwoman would be focused around enacting real change in Gotham rather than arbitrarily solving smaller problems that result from a broken system. This episode leans into that promise right from the beginning with Ryan attempting to exert influence on members of the False Face Society so that she can get directly to Black Mask. His henchmen cause problems on their own but things will never actually get better unless the entire organisation is torn apart and finding the one in charge is one way to do that. Naturally it’s a smartly constructed organisation with nobody knowing the identity of Black Mask so the campaign to find him will be a long one but the commitment is admirable by itself. Having Batwoman speak publicly on TV around her intentions also sends a clear message about the desire to be that symbol of hope and change in Gotham.
That promise also extends to how Ryan conducts herself outside of the Batwoman identity. With the help of Mary she is able to put things in place that allow Jordan’s community centre to be opened. A clunky speech along with clunkier debate underscores the virtues of it and ties into the idea of treating the disease that has infected Gotham by providing people with opportunities they would never get otherwise. It is explicitly stated that similar initiatives cut the number of young offenders ending up in prison significantly as well as resulting in a massive upswing in graduates. In short these community centres give people hope and a place to belong when they feel they don’t have one. Ryan is perfectly placed to comment on it having come from the background that this initiative is looking to improve. She talks about wishing she had something like this growing up and recognises the value of those who need it having access to it.
Unfortunately there are setbacks in that the community centre becomes a target for a hitman with an electrical weapon dubbed Kilovolt. Attacks on similar locations have been happening lately and Team Batwoman becomes aware of it following an attack on the one they are connected to. Early on the episode draws the audience’s attention to former reporter Horton Spence (Jamie M. Callica) who questions what security measures are in place immediately before the attack. It doesn’t take long to rule him out as a suspect which makes for a reasonable subversion of expectations as the culprit is typically the most vocal new character in shows like this. Instead he’s actually a victim of the broken system as he dared to attempt raising awareness for the attacks on these community outreach programs. The clunky dialogue designed to cast suspicion on him can’t really be forgiven but the part he has to play in the overall narrative is good because he becomes a minor case study for the corruption that can easily ruin the lives of those trying to do the right thing.
Kilovolt’s identity isn’t actually important as evidenced by the showcase of multiple people wielding the weapon. He and the others who wield the weapons are tools of powerful people with interests that run counter to the desire to improve life in Gotham City. In this case the interested party is Ellis O’Brien (Derek Morrison) who runs a privately owned prison and recruits inmates to be his henchman in exchange for early release. It takes almost no time for Team Batwoman to put the pieces together which is further indicative of how deeply ingrained the corruption is. Men like Ellis O’Brien barely cover their tracks because they know there will be limited scrutiny. The only real risk is that his henchmen will be caught but they are unlikely to give up his name and even if they do there probably isn’t anything that can be done to bring him down due to the influence he wields. Once again this showcases the disease that infests Gotham and the significant obstacles that stand in the way of making real progress. On one hand there are criminals like Black Mask running rampant peddling drugs that destroy lives and on the other there are greedy businessmen such as O’Brien looking to maintain the status quo because it suits their interests.
Ultimately the disease will be cured by good people not being afraid to do something about it. Jordan’s community centre is one example of this and there are tangible examples of how that can improve things for those at the bottom of the societal pecking order. Another example is men like Horton Spence being allowed to raise the necessary awareness in his role as a journalism by shining a light on where the corruption exists and encouraging others to do their part in putting a stop to it. Batwoman has a part to play in cutting off the heads of the criminal empires that have a controlling interest in the city while Ryan and Mary do what they can through philanthropic means. There’s a lot of work to be done and it takes a lot of different input to begin to change things but the message is that if the determination is there then it’s possible.
In terms of bringing down Black Mask, Ryan makes limited progress as Batwoman so has to try a different tactic involving Angelique. She doesn’t know Black Mask is but has knowledge of the identities of some of the major players. Angelique is in prison to protect Ryan after he life was threatened but she also fears for her own safety should she divulge what she knows to those in authority. Ryan eventually convinces her to come forward in exchange for a deal that will secure her freedom. Ryan promises her that she will be protected though it ends up not being a promise she can keep for long as evidenced by Angelique’s Crows escort being ambushed and her being taken away but members of the False Face Society. There’s a definite sense that Ryan overestimated her own ability to resist the False Face Society which puts Angelique in mortal danger therefore creating more obstacles for her to overcome. These setbacks speak to the corruption within the city as well as the influence of the criminal element along with the casual incompetence of the Crows who once again fail to offer meaningful protection.
Roman Sionis is a really interesting antagonist because of the layers he already has. When masked he’s a sadistic crime boss who lethally punishes those who fail him and as a businessman he’s a shrewd manipulator who knows exactly how to exert control. His presence is minimal so far but every scene is meaningful. Using one of his henchmen to give Jacob a taste of what the Snake Bite drug can offer before gifting him a sample in his role as a legitimate businessman was an incredibly clever tactic that expertly manipulates Jacob into the position that Sionis wants him to be in.
When Jacob is injected with Snake Bite it triggers the memory of when he went to Cartwright’s house in search of Beth but instead of walking away empty handed believing she wasn’t there he’s able to find her and get her back. Most of Jacob’s narrative this season has been focused on him taking stock of his losses. He lost his first wife, he thought he lost Beth who turned out to be Alice, his wife was killed by the daughter he thought he lost, as far as he knows Kate is dead and his relationship with Mary is fractured by his stance on her illegal clinic so as far as he’s concerned he has lost everything. With that in mind it’s easy to see that he would be vulnerable enough to willingly succumb to the temptation that Snake Bite offers. He says himself that being the man who was able to find his missing daughter was alluring even if it was an obvious fiction. His inability to contain himself when Sionis gifts him the dose of Snake Bite was very telling and it’s supported in his conversation with Dr. Evelyn Rhyme (Laura Mennell) who gives him meaningful advice around concentrating on the relationship he can still do something about.
Jacob’s stance on Mary’s clinic continues to maintain the gulf between them. Despite Jacob’s threats Mary is continuing to operate her clinic because she believes in what she has built. Jacob attempts to meet her half way by offering to fund it and make it legitimate by hiring Doctors but Mary sees that as a corruption of what it’s supposed to stand for. The spirit of what she has built is that it’s a judgement free zone where she doesn’t report those who have overdosed or committed non violent crimes because she would rather it be a safe space where those that need help can get it. If it becomes legitimate then that means losing that community trust she has worked so hard to build because suddenly there would be people to report to. Mary rejects this offer because it’s another example of Jacob failing to understand her therefore there’s no resolution to the friction between them. Undoubtedly this will contribute to Jacob’s desire to escape into a drug fuelled idealised fantasy scenario.
Julia spends a lot of her screen time investigating the gaps in her memory identified in the previous episode. When looking into her recent past she finds evidence of trips she doesn’t remember making and grows increasingly concerned by not knowing about her recent exploits. Eventually her investigation leads her to Dr. Rhyme but it also has her memory erased once again and the thought planted in hear head that she would like to transfer to Germany. Dr. Rhyme’s confirmed connection to Kate clearly motivates getting Julia out of the way given her aptitude for uncovering the truth and conditioning Julia so that she believes she came up with the idea to leave sets up the problems that will surely manifest when Kate makes her return. So far the only contrary voice is Sophie who is confused by Julia’s rapid change of heart.
The rest of Julia’s screen time is spent with Alice who is her direct opposite in terms of motivation. Julia wants to regain her memories while Alice wants to lose her. Tracking down Enigma is their goal but they have very different reasons for wanting to find her. It is pointed out that the only thing they have in common is missing Kate and it works really well to see their vastly different reactions to that emotional connection play against each other. Alice’s desire to run from her past is wonderfully shown through her reaction to the recording of Jacob talking about how deeply he regrets not saving Beth. In her own mind Alice has convinced herself that she needs to turn her back on her family and start afresh with no memory of them so the realisation that Jacob still cares deeply for her is too much to bear. She erases the recording just as she intends to have her memories of that connection erased. It’s a powerful testament to how badly Alice is spiralling.
Despite all of the strong content, the episode is juggling far too much to be coherent. There are a lot good ideas taking advantage of a compelling backdrop that the show has worked very hard to cultivate but everything presented here feels rushed in its own way because of the need to touch base on all of the relevant narratives. Most of them do feed into each other in various ways but slowing down to explore a smaller quantity of them in more detail would be to the overall benefit of the episode and the show at large.
A strong episode that makes excellent use of the rich background elements to showcase the difficulties attached to making real change in Gotham without losing sight of the character struggles. Showcasing tangible examples of how corrupt Gotham City is and what needs to be done to remove that corruption works really well as it touches on so many different elements the show has built. The legitimate businessmen with selfish interests compliments the criminal element in direct opposition to the work Ryan does to improve things both in and out of costume. The prison corruption element is used well because it showcases how easy it is for powerful men to get away with obvious corruption due to the lack of scrutiny. Supporting this with Roman Sionis manipulating events in both identities further reinforces the widespread problem that needs to be dealt with. The messaging around good people all needing to play their part in making Gotham better is strongly conveyed through the various involved characters.
Jacob being injected with Snake Bite and being confronted with an idealised fantasy where he was able to save Beth is incredibly tempting considering his feeling that he has lost everything. He freely admits that the fantasy was comforting in a way though he is encouraged to concentrate on the one connection he can actually do something about though his failure to understand the spirit behind Mary’s clinic maintains that gulf between them making the idealised drug fuelled fantasy all the more tempting. Julia working to investigate her memory loss places her on Dr. Rhyme’s radar. She is identified as a problem and has the idea planted in her head to transfer to Germany. This links to Dr. Rhyme’s established connection to Kate and foreshadows the problems that will arise when Kate inevitable reappears due to Dr. Rhyme’s ability to alter memories. Her screen time with Alice who has the direct opposite of her motivation. Alice’s desire to remove any memory of her familial connections is brilliantly showcased in her rejection of the notion that Jacob deeply regrets not rescuing her through erasing the recording. Despite all the strong content this was a very busy episode that rushed every element on display in its own way. Things do connect and the background elements are strong but refining the focus would be to the advantage of the episode and the show in general.
- strongly developed background elements feeding into all of the plots
- showcasing the corruption in Gotham around legitimate businessmen and the criminal element
- Roman Sionis manipulating events in both identities
- the messaging around the necessity of good people taking action to change Gotham for the better
- Ryan working in both identities to make meaningful change
- Jacob’s believable temptation around what Snake Bite can offer
- maintaining the gulf between him and Mary through his lack of understanding of the spirt behind her clinic
- Julia’s plot setting up how dangerous Dr. Rhyme is
- positioning Alice as Julia’s direct opposite in terms of motivation
- Alice actively rejecting connection to her family being brilliantly shown through erasing the recording of Jacob
- rushing each of the plots in their own way
- clunky exposition
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