Batwoman: Fair Skin, Blue Eyes

Ya know, I might as well get a costume, as many times as I get guns pointed at me.

The second season of Batwoman has gone from something that I was worried about to something that’s been really impressing me. It’s a dicey situation when you lose your lead actor, but they’ve managed to rise above the problem and, in my opinion, make the show even better. Javicia Leslie has been doing a great job as Ryan Wilder, the new Batwoman, and the writers have been doing really well. In “Fair Skin, Blue Eyes,” we see more of Ryan’s adventures, shadows of her past, and they tackle another big social justice that’s been known for a long time, but no one wants to hear or talk about. The story could have worked with the prior lead, but it lands a lot more effectively with the new actor.

The show opens with scenes of drugs being prepared, under another voice over from Vesper Fairchild. Fairchild is voiced by Rachel Maddow, the reporter, and I’m amused that she’s doing this recurring, if audio only, role. The new drug of choice in Gotham is Snake Bite, which sounds like a nasty concoction being distributed by the False Face Society. In the comics, at least, the False Faces are led by Roman Sionis, better known as Black Mask. The villain recently appeared as a major part of the rather uneven Birds of Prey movie. On the streets, Batwoman is working her way up the chain of users to suppliers, trying to run down where the drug is coming from. After a very Batman-like interrogation, and demonstrating some cool features of the new Batmobile (something else they added for this season that I’m enjoying, although I miss the motorcycle), Batwoman’s attention is attracted by an alarm going off. That turns out to be an improvised Bat-Signal as the Gotham’s newest protector gets drawn into a missing persons case.

One of the difficulties of this season is the major plot point of Kate Kane being missing. Considering so much of the backstory of the series revolved around her sister Beth disappearing so many years ago, it could be a difficult issue to deal with. Rather than pretending that didn’t happen, they’re incorporating it into the story, and doing a good job addressing it, as we see when Jacob Kane, Commander of the Crows, gives a press conference about new leads in Kate’s disappearance. They’re handling it well, another point in their favor this season. Luke and Mary watch the coverage of this in what was Kate’s office and now seems to be their hang out spot. The two haven’t agreed about how to handle Kate’s abrupt vanishing, and continue to not agree now. Mary does raise some valid points, but Luke is determined not to give up hope. In a world where people can fly, run faster than sound, or travel in time, I can definitely understand how accepting a death with no body could be difficult. Luke ends up leaving, going to find someone who agrees more with his outlook than Mary’s.

Just after Luke leaves, Ryan comes in, and recruits Mary to help her with her newest case. I do like that neither of them are proficient with the Bat-computer, and are missing Luke’s expertise. There is a passing reference to the GCPD, so they are still around, although I still don’t understand the relationship between them and the Crows. As they go to work, we get the first of several flashbacks showing that young Ryan has a very personal tie to this case from her time in a group home as a child. We see that she had an early attraction to comic books (likely to appeal to fans of the show) and made a very good friend early on. In the present, Mary and Ryan work the case, using significantly less glamorous transport than the Batmobile Mary was hoping for. Mary

learns something she hadn’t known about Ryan, and then there’s another flashback as we see young Ryan fall prey to someone who knows how to entice a young kid. That’s every bit as nasty as it sounds for Ryan. In the present, Ryan begins to share what happened to her in the past.

            In an interesting spin on the Odd Couple, Alice is still hanging out at Sophie’s place, and they are not remotely getting along. Rachel Skarsten continues to play an amusingly psychopathic Alice, with Meagan Tandy as the designated straight-woman Sophie. They bicker about what to do next, although both do seem very interested in finding Kate. Alice drops her next clue, which isn’t really terribly helpful. It’s more like a half-clue. At the Crow’s Nest, Kane gets an update about a missing art piece that may have a clue about where Kate’s ended up. The piece is supposedly by “Jack Napier” which is the name they gave the Joker in the Michael Keaton Batman movies. I doubt that’s an accident, and they did tie all the various DC live action properties together during Crisis on Infinite Earths, so I’m really curious to see where this goes.

            In the present, Ryan explains how this operation could have been going on for so long with some unpleasant facts: minority kids go missing more than white ones, and get recovered less often. In flashback, Ryan spars with her creepy captor, played really well by Linda Kash. The villain of the piece is spooky, relentlessly cheerful, and knows exactly what she’s doing. I almost wonder if she’d get along with Alice. There are several cuts back and forth between the past and present, and what I think is the second reference to the Joker in the CW/DC/Arrow-verse. I find the timing of that interesting, given the Napier name drop earlier. In the past, Ryan gets her hopes raised then dashed as

volunteers are out searching for a missing kid… but it’s not her, and it’s pretty clear it’s Beth. In addition to it being a crushing indictment of how society handles some kinds of missing kinds, it actually gives Mary a clue about what to do next.

            Back in the present, Alice and Sophie continue to bicker. Sophie’s trying to work with the limited information she has, and Alice is being snarky and dismissive. Their discussions about the naming conventions on Coryana gets interrupted when there’s a knock on the door and Luke walks into a very unexpected situation. Mary and Ryan go through some of Kate’s old notes on Beth’s disappearance to get a clue about where the villain may be operating from. They talk about Kate’s dedication, Mary’s coping mechanisms, and Ryan gets an unexpected offer that could help change her circumstances and keep her parole officer off her back. The PO doesn’t show up or get referred to in this episode, probably because there was simply too much going on. In the past, we see that Ryan had at least some good luck, and in the present, Ryan makes a really questionable decision about what to do next. I thought at the time it was a mistake, and I turned out to be right.

            Luke tries to figure out what in the world is going on with Alice and Sophie, and I can’t blame him for being confused by it. Kane goes off to do his own bit of utter foolishness, and Ryan follows up on hers, with both of them ending up in separate, but very bad, situations. Luke complains about a lack of things to work with, Alice fusses about the food options, and Sophie gets in a great line in response. Probably the best line of the episode. That trio splits to work on different things, while Ryan drifts back and forth between the present and the now. Her friend in the past actually reminds me of another Bat-character, but I don’t think that was done deliberately. Or if it was, it’s a really big stretch.

            In the present, Ryan confronts a ghost from her past, but doesn’t get the answers she wanted. Sophie tries to follow up on Luke’s lead, but gets interference from an unexpected new player, and then a very familiar antagonist. After some bickering, Sophie learns something important about someone’s motivations for helping her, and it’s not good news. Kane’s situation keeps getting worse, and it turns out to be linked to what Ryan was working on. In some of the coincidental timing most of the hero shows have happen way too much, Kane gets some help and the victim of one of the show’s plots is saved from things getting worse by the timely appearance of Batwoman. There’s a brief fight, during with Kane shows some impressive skills. Batwoman saves the day, gives some instructions, and grapples away. She’s getting a lot better with her gear.

            The news covers the rescue, and the unlikely alliance of Batwoman and Kane gets some air time. Kane, to be fair, admits he owes the masked hero, and then Sophie gives him some surprising news. Ryan, unfortunately, shows she has contracted what I call “Smallville Syndrome” where characters keep secrets for absolutely no good reason, and is hiding something important from the people who could actually help her. Ryan and Mary chat, then Ryan leaves to meet up with someone. Alice does some snooping, finds something, and then has her own surprising reaction to a frequent occurrence on hero shows. The episode ends with Ryan having her meeting, which is related to some of the earlier story we’ve seen.

What I liked: I like the new Batmobile. It’s a good addition to the show. The Alice/Sophie pairing is entertaining, and Luke’s reaction to walking into it was great. I understand where both Luke and Mary are coming from about Kate’s disappearance. The show made a very good point about missing minority children, and did it as part of the story, not a club you over the head morality play.

What I didn’t: Ryan is making some seriously dumb choices that could get her killed in several different ways. This is also the second episode in a row where she just happened to have a personal connection to the bad guy. If that keeps happening, it’s going to get increasingly unbelievable. I get the show wanting to stand on its own, and the COVID complications, but the shared world problem is getting harder and harder to suspend my disbelief over.

Despite the above, I’m really enjoying this new season. They’re doing a great job on most fronts, and I hope this level of quality continues. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5.