This Batwoman review contains spoilers.
Batwoman Season 2, Episode 7
Not to be on the nose, but Ryan is batshit right now. She is dying from the Kryptonite that pierced her skin the season premiere, and while her body slowly shuts down, she is hell bent on a final act of revenge. Dressed in the Batsuit, Ryan visits Angelique—who has apparently already moved on—to learn Ocean’s location, in order to find Alice. Instead of letting Mary attempt to treat her, or doing literally anything else in her potential final moments, she wants to spend her last waking hours killing Alice. Fortunately, when Ryan finds Alice she thinks better of it, and puts a tracker on her instead.
The season premiere of Batwoman gave us an open and shut explanation for Kate’s off-screen disappearance but reintroduced the idea of her as a currently-breathing person not soon after. As such, a lot of the story has centered around finding her. The past few episodes however have expanded that search for Kate into something bigger. And with Ryan’s impending death, the need to find Coryana and the Desert Rose has become as much about ensuring a future for Ryan as it is about bringing Kate back. I knew Ryan’s wound would be important and I’m glad that the writers used it to give her personal stakes in finding Coryana so that her story wouldn’t also have to revolve around Kate.
Similarly, I am very much enjoying the exploration of Alice’s past, even though some elements of the storytelling give me pause. When Tatiana comes to retrieve “Ocean’s” body, Alice captures her and demands answers about the missing parts of her memory. Tatiana regales Alice with the story of how she was found, how Safiyah had hoped to mold her, and how Alice and Ocean betrayed Safiyah by falling in love and planning to run away together—with the Desert Rose. As punishment for their betrayal, Safiyah enlists the help of Enigma, a hypnotist, who erases their memories.
The part of this particular story that irks me is the revelation that Safiyah essentially creates the Alice alter-ego. She tells Beth—and presumably repeats to Enigma—that she’s going to become the twisted version of the fairy tale she escaped into, and go back home to Gotham, build an army, get revenge… and do hoodrat shit, basically. This potentially takes away a lot of Alice’s agency, which feels like a particularly questionable choice given the character was held captive for a large chunk of their life. And that might be a deliberate choice, which reframes Alice as a victim in yet another way that will make her seemingly inevitable redemption all the more satisfying, but I have doubts whether writers have The Range.
What I like about this thought is that it gives Alice a reason to confront Safiyah that doesn’t revolve around Kate, even if Alice is still operating with the original goal in mind. Beth was wronged by Safiyah in multiple ways, having been manipulated and violated by her. When Kate is found, or whatever happens to resolve her story, there will still be reasons for Alice to pursue Safiyah. Batwoman is not just shifting the focus away from Kate Kane but giving characters motivations that are more singular and self-revolving. While we love a good old fashioned nemesis situation, Batwoman doesn’t need personal attachments to every villain she encounters, and every villain doesn’t have to have a specific gripe with Batwoman. Alice can do her thing independent of Kate or Ryan, and I hope the writers allow that.
One place where writers haven’t quite found their groove is with Jacob, Sophie, and The Crows. In some respects, they do seem to be moving beyond finding Kate, having now introduced Hamilton Dynamics as a formidable opponent out to get the Desert Rose for themselves. But in many ways, Jacob and Sophie feel stuck. Writers haven’t given them anything to care about outside of their jobs, in the broadest possible sense, and Kate. Unintentionally or not, writers haven’t made Mary feel like a real priority in Jake’s life and there is almost no purpose he serves other than to represent Authority in Gotham.
Likewise, Sophie only cares about Kate and being a Crow. There is a lot of potential for the character, especially if she were to take a more senior position in the organization alongside or maybe as a replacement for Jake. But as long as her feelings about Kate are unresolved, she remains stagnant. Sophie could lead the Crows into a new direction, which would align with what she tells Batwoman about trying to change the organization from the inside. She could be great, but she still feels tacked on, first to Kate and now to Jake. I really hope the writers make Sophie more central to the show and to her own narrative within it.
At the end of the episode, Alice is on her way to Coryana wearing a tracker that the Bat Team can follow. Whatever happens now, this feels like a definitive step towards closure of Kate’s story, and hopefully a focus shift away from her. Batwoman is making mostly solid choices, and telling stories I enjoy. I just hope that the characterizations stay consistent and the plot is kept in check while characters come into their own outside of their relationship to Kate Kane.