The second season of Batwoman continues to impress. I think at this point, five episodes in, it’s safe to say it’s well on track for being a better season than the first. They introduce a new character who may become a recurring one, have an interesting tie to the Tim Burton Batman movies, and keep making the Crows look worse and worse. Maybe Gotham just has an inherently corrupting effect on law enforcement? There’s a lot of interesting things going on in “Gore on Canvas.”
The episode starts with a questionably set up shot of someone swinging around town as Commander Kane keeps a meeting with an informant in a shadowy alley. Kane is still trying to track down the painting allegedly by Jack Napier, the name of the Joker in the first Burton Batman movie. The meeting gets interrupted in a typically Gotham way, which results in a complication, the Crows showing they lack training in tactics, and Batwoman seizing a prisoner. While the new Batwoman has something of a better relationship with the Crows than the last one, it’s still far from smooth. As Kane argues with Batwoman, who just saved his life, she points out some anti-Crow graffiti that indicates she’s not alone in having issues with the weird privatized police force. Personally, I really don’t like that concept and would very much appreciate someone explaining how they work as far as police duties go, and why there’s still a GCPD if the Crows are doing everything.
There’s another voiceover cameo from Rachel Maddow as Vesper Fairchild, who talks about graffiti artist Wolf Spider and then speculates on the possible partnership between Batwoman and the Crows. This displeases Angelique, Ryan’s old friend we met last episode, who is apparently quite a bit more than a friend. Angelique is disappointed by the report of Batwoman and the Crows, and Ryan defends her masked alter ego. There’s some cute banter and a development that makes no sense. After they’re done being cute, Ryan finally goes to go see Mary for some attention to her Kryptonite poisoned wound. Before you get too happy about her doing the smart thing, she lies, because withholding information from your doctor is the best way to get proper medical advice and attention, right?
Wrapping up her medical visit with some complaints about being compared to Kate, Ryan moves on to argue with Luke about the prisoner they’re currently holding, hoping for intel on Safiyah or her island nation of Coryana. As they bicker, Sophie goes to Commander Kane’s office and dares to speak positively about Batwoman. Sophie has a new lead on the alleged Joker painting in the person of Evan Blake. Evan is an old friend of Kate’s, and tells a story about something she did for him back in school which amuses Sophie and seems like something Kane should have known about. They get pushy, Evan lawyers up, and Sophie appeals again to Kane to let her speak with Batwoman.
I have often thought they were giving Alice too much screen time, the good job Rachel Skarsten is doing portraying her to one side. They’ve given her a very different, and much better in my opinion, subplot this season, and I’m really enjoying it. She visits a bar in a subdued manner (for her) and makes contact with her current object of interest. It’s actually a refreshing change seeing Alice act more or less like a normal person, freaking out an annoying barfly to one side. Part of this takes place at the Burnside Motel. Burnside is relatively recently created section (or suburb, it’s unclear) of Gotham where the soft-rebooted Batgirl was operating out of recently. Back in Gotham proper, Sophie uses the signal (seriously, why do the Crows have this and not the police?) to call for Batwoman so they can argue about what to do next. The conversation turns personal, and as the camera pulls back, we see they’re being spied on.
There’s a big debate at Wayne Enterprises in Kate’s former office that’s now the team meeting spot, because Wayne Enterprises doesn’t do anything? I guess? Ryan, given her personal history with the Crows in general and Sophie in particular, has no interest in helping them, and I completely understand where she’s coming from. Things get heated, she stalks off, and then Luke, surprisingly, is the one to go talk to her. They have an actually nice moment as he shares his own experiences with the city-wide rent-a-cops. Against her better judgement, Batwoman lets Kane and Sophie get to the prisoner she captured a while back. It goes badly, with a beating to get information and a surprising reaction to a mistake. Meeting up later, Batwoman gets some intel from Sophie, agrees to work with the Crows, but keeps Sophie at a distance.
Alice takes a shot at completing the task that is supposedly going to make Safiayah release Kate (I’m still not sure she has her), but does it really badly. Either her heart’s not in it, or she’s being distracted. In the aftermath of that, there’s some amusing banter with Alice and her target. They do make a good pair. At their now shared apartment, Mary helps Ryan prepare for her undercover job, and the results are damn impressive. Luke gets completely distracted by this, which is fun to watch. As good as she looks, since there’s supposed to be Crow surveillance everywhere, I kind of wonder how Ryan’s keeping her secret identity. Maybe they think no one will be looking at her face?
Ryan shows up at the exclusive event and uses a special item to gain entrance. It only gets her part way to her goal, but there’s a very helpful coincidence as the recurring theme of Ryan, who really isn’t a bad person, honest, has yet another personal connection with yet another criminal event. I do believe she’s not bad, I truly do, but it’s getting a little ridiculous that she knows everyone, everywhere. Ryan juggles dealing with her acquaintance, the Crows being in one ear on coms, and Luke in the other. No pressure for a rookie hero on their first undercover job, right? Ryan wanders through the event using some cool Bat-toys that would give James Bond and Q a run for their money. Luke, after some analysis, makes a surprising suggestion. Alice is on the receiving end of a very amusing critique that she finds professionally insulting. They talk some, and then there’s another surprising event that Alice was ready for but the other person wasn’t.
With things taking a turn, Ryan has to suit up in her smuggled Batwoman costume. But nothing goes smoothly, and not only does Ryan have problems getting ready because of the wound she’s been hiding, but there’s another costumed visitor who is, of course, after the same painting. The newcomer is damn impressive, getting away from Batwoman and assorted security. The Crows are there as backup, and live up to every bad stereotype about cops. Eventually this leads to Batwoman saving the new masked character. In the aftermath of all this, Mary’s skills are called on again and Ryan lets her justified anger spill out on Mary and Luke both. Just to show Team Batwoman aren’t having all the problems, Alice and her new “friend” get some unexpected visitors, and Alice gets the best line of the episode in making her case to be allowed to fight.
As Alice deals with her problems in the way she’s best at, Batwoman and Sophie meet up again. It’s an emotionally charged meeting, and Batwoman lets Sophie know exactly what she thinks of the Crows and how they operate. Sophie does seem to be trying, but she’s having to fight to make any progress. Mary has a chat with an old not-quite-friend, and they cover a lot of ground, and we learn that there was a lot of wasted effort over the course of the night. Ryan goes home and we see some things are getting worse quickly. To end the show, Alice embarks on a new trip with her latest buddy. Hopefully this goes better than her partnership with Mouse. Or Tommy Eliot. Well, you get the idea.
What I liked: The writing is, for the most part, better than it was season one. The new character was interesting, and I’m hoping he sticks around. I liked Ryan standing up for herself with Luke and Mary, and telling off Sophie. Luke opening up to Ryan could be a turning point for them, and I hope it is. I really enjoyed Alice’s scenes.
What I didn’t: Just about everything having to do with Ryan’s wound is getting ridiculous. I’m really wondering what Wayne Enterprises does. The more we see of the Crows, the more I don’t get how they’re still operating. I’m wondering where Julia Pennyworth disappeared to. I’ve never been a fan of the Jack Napier ID for Joker. Part of the appeal of the Joker is that even Batman doesn’t know who he really is.
I’m very much enjoying this season and the new developments. I’ll give this one a 3.5 out of 5. Hopefully, they’ll eventually deal with the other heroes who should have stopped by at this point. Black Lightning is having the same problem.