This Batwoman review contains spoilers.
Batwoman Season 2, Episode 3
In this week’s episode of Batwoman, a contract killer is let loose on Gotham, and Ryan has to stop them before they set their sights on Mary. I want to first give kudos to the writers for being intentionally inclusive with their verbiage but not self-congratulating when they are. Victor Zsasz (Alex Morf) calling themself a hitperson is a small but not insignificant thing. Zsasz, the killer in question, is a fun creep of the week, just committing murders all willy nilly and not bringing any politics or personal feelings to the job. Safiyah sends them after everyone who’s had contact with the Desert Rose—the magical healing plant that Alice stole and used to cure Mary after poisoning her—and they work their way through the kill list efficiently, before being thwarted by the newly re-wigged Batwoman. I love a good one-and-done baddie as much as I enjoy a recurring one, and finding a good balance between servicing the season-long arc and giving us something different episode to episode is tricky. This episode manages to find that balance, moving the central story forward without getting stuck in a loop repeating the same questions.
That said, the question of whether Kate survived the plane crash has been asked anew. Safiyah abducts Alice and Sophie and brings them to her secluded island to apparently not kill them, but instead to tell Alice that she didn’t take down the plane and that they have a common enemy who is responsible. This could have been a phone call, a Zoom perhaps, but dramatic flare is an active choice given Safiyah’s extreme responses to any and all perceived slights—hence Zsasz. Safiyah offers Kate’s necklace as proof that Kate wasn’t on the plane but is safe and alive somewhere. Then she lets Alice and Sophie go, tranq-ing them and taking them back to the alley they were taken from in Gotham. Again, dramatic.
Sophie takes the new intel directly to Jacob Kane, which all but assures the search for Kate will continue in earnest. I am a little peeved by this. They probably won’t find her, unless miss Rose is planning to make a cute little cameo, and I’m hoping they do not prioritize Kate’s story more than is necessary to provide the closure they think we need (we do not). But if Kate does make a reappearance, however brief, I’m willing to forgive them for not letting it go, even when “dies in a plane crash” works as a definitive ending without the hoopla.
Outside of meeting Safiyah, we also learn more about her relationship to Alice, which gives welcomed context for things that have happened and are yet to. Discovering who Safiyah is to Alice and to Julia lets us imagine how those relationships will influence their behavior going forward. If Safiyah isn’t the Big Bad the Gotham Girls and the audience have been led to believe, there are more opportunities for future twists and interesting reveals. My only hope is that all these women aren’t sidelined by a male villain. Please for all that is dark and brooding, do not let a man usurp all of the fantastic femme characters.
My favorite exchange in this episode happens when Ryan questions Mary about being a multi-billionaire and only paying Ryan $12.50 an hour (which has got to be below minimum wage for New York-esque Gotham, right?), after Ryan hires herself at The Hold Up to placate her parole officer. This show, and pretty much all of the Berlanti-verse shows, have refused to acknowledge money in any real way. Rich people literally never have to contend with what they could otherwise be spending their money on (like addressing any of the socio-economic issues they benefit from which create the circumstances that lead to the violence in their cities, but I digress). Oliver Queen in Arrow lost his fortune and it had zero impact on his lifestyle or ability to play vigilante in the finest leathers. I forgot how STAR labs (The Flash) makes money since nobody trusts them—patents, I guess?—but there is never a deficit. Ryan asking this basic question puts all that into the forefront. Y’all are rich as hell!
Ryan being a convicted criminal and having associations with people in life have proven to be a helpful tool. This is what I hoped would happen when they gave her that backstory and I’m glad that the value of her experiences is made clear at every turn. I want her to get justice for being framed or betrayed, and I want Luke to climb up out of his feelings about her replacing Kate, so we can all move on to productive superhero-ing. After Batting around in Kate’s ill-fitting shoes and red synthetic number, Ryan finally makes the suit hers and dons a curly wig made from the finest yaki. Wigs are a sore point for most productions but this season is better about it. The curly cowl is a marked improvement over the regretful red situation Kate assailed us with and I’m glad to see the Bat looking every bit the Black woman she is.
I was hype throughout this episode, it was just… fun. Sometimes these shows get too caught up in being “real,” and “grounded” and lose the zaniness that makes them comic book shows and not just procedurals. There’s nothing wrong with those elements, mind you, but when the procedural plot is leaned into too heavily, well, we might as well be watching an NCISVU. “Bat Girl Magic”—a play on the term Black Girl Magic— is a really solid episode that solidifies Ryan by having the entire city of Gotham acknowledge that there is a new Batwoman, and that she is Black.