Given the events of 2020, a lot of shows have started delving more into social issues. With a Black female LGBT lead, it should come as no surprise that Batwoman is very involved in this. This episode addresses problems on the team, introduces the new big bad, and shows some developments in Ryan’s personal life. We also see how Alice is faring in the wake of accepting that Kate is actually dead. It’s a very busy hour in “Rule #1.”
The episode opens with a funeral for Kate, since Julia turned up with evidence of her death last episode. Sophie, Mary, Luke, and Jacob Kane all turn up for the service. Jacob was actually wearing a yarmulke, a rare reminder that, in the comics at least, the Kanes are Jewish. I’ll try and drop this after this point, but once again, the funeral didn’t work from the shared world perspective. There’s no way Kara Danvers and Barry Allen wouldn’t have come for this. Ryan, too, wasn’t there, but that was to protect the secret identity, and it makes a lot of sense. She does a journal entry to Kate reflecting on the future as the others mourn. And, as it turns out, all this is premature anyway, as somehow or other, not only is Kate alive, but Black Mask has her, albeit looking a bit different post airplane crash and fighting her would-be “rescuers.”
After a “One Month Later” time jump, we see Commissioner Forbes being interviewed on the steps of City Hall about the new Snake Bite drug. He’s very much against the drug and the False Face society pushing it. Forbes has a clash with a young woman on those same steps, and, while he’s a jerk, he’s not entirely wrong. She, also has some good points, and it’s a small-scale version of the argument over what “Defund the Police” actually means. In their shared apartment over the bar, Mary and Ryan enjoy potato pancakes and talk about their mutual support since Kate’s been gone. Their warm and friendly scene gets interrupted when Angelique shows up, surprising both of them. Ryan isn’t really in the mood to listen, but Angelique pushes, and Mary graciously retreats to give them notional privacy. Angelique wants another chance, and makes some big claims about the future. Ryan is understandably hesitant to believe this. There are some great lines and then Angelique leaves in a cloud of hopefulness.
Also back in Gotham is Alice, having made her own escape from Coryana. It’s probably not a great sign for her mental health that Alice has gone back to the Cartwright house where she was held prisoner for so long. I’m sort of surprised it’s still around and unoccupied, but then, that sort of thing happens when it’s dramatically/gothically important. Alice is hiding out in her old cell, and things take a very unexpected turn when she gets a visitor. Following the Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 rule, Commissioner Forbes has challenged a powerful and dangerous group and then taken no precautions for his personal safety, so he gets gunned down on the City Hall steps as the tagger that argued with him before looks on. She manages to get away from the False Face gang but they threaten to come after her. The following day, the news covers the murder and interviews Roman Sionis, head of a powerful cosmetic company. Why the news is interviewing a guy who sells makeup about this is unclear. Team Batwoman gets to the cave and debates what to do about the killing. They figure out both that there was a witness and that the video has been doctored, which the Crows, personified by Sophie, also work out.
Sophie gets the stereotypical surprise from the back seat, which you’d think she’d know better than. The visitor ends up having a strong connection with Sophie, and puts Sophie in a very difficult spot. The two of them argue, there’s some doubt thrown on the dedication of the Crows in keeping people safe, and then the False Face crew arrive on a mission of mayhem. Sophie inexplicably reacts like a damsel in distress instead of the competent operator she usually is, but Batwoman shows up to save the day and impress Sophie’s guest. Batwoman gets some information that shocks her, and she probably would have been happier not knowing. The hero tells the thugs to tell their boss to back off, and lets them go, which is an odd choice.
Alice has an odd conversation with a lot of unexpected twists and turns that ends with an offer the madwoman is very interested in. Ryan, infuriated by what she’s learned, goes storming off to Angelique’s place. Angelique goes from denying everything to being very, very scared when she learns what Ryan actually knows. Desperate, Ryan makes an offer and Angelique wants to think it over. Back in the cave, Luke is not at all happy about how Ryan handled things, and there’s a team argument. Ryan turns to Mary for some backup and gets surprised by what the ex-clinic boss says. Julia and Kane meet at Kate’s grave, which isn’t at all morbid, and Julia brings news Kane doesn’t want to hear. The head of the Crows is understandably not willing to take anything at face value anymore, and Julia sets out to prove a few things to him.
In a big change of pace, Ryan is actually working her day job at the Hold Up. Hm, bartender during the day, I’m betting she doesn’t get great tips. Sophie comes in, her latest problem in tow, and they argue a lot. Oddly, the notably cool relationship between Ryan and Sophie seems to have changed, and they’re a great deal more friendly than they’ve been in the past. Ryan gets pulled into a discussion where she defends Batwoman and listens to ideas about how to make Gotham a better place (burn it down and start over, seriously, that city is cursed). Then Sophie finally gets some good news in relation to her family, followed by unwanted advice. Luke and Mary argue about what to do with regard to the moral dilemma Ryan dropped on them, and Luke makes a surprising decision.
Batwoman now goes to try and offer Angelique a way out, but finds her place has been trashed. Angelique, in fact, is “enjoying” the hospitality of Black Mask, leader of the False Face gang. The man is very intimidating, but knows how to make a point and has a flair for the dramatic. Luke plays tech geek and helps Batwoman find Angelique, which makes it seem like Black Mask is being very, very sloppy. But that’s ok, Batwoman is even sloppier and gets herself captured. She wakes up strapped in to what I think is her first deathtrap, and she and Black Mask have a conversation. Black Mask gets in what is absolutely my favorite line of the episode, and possibly the best of this series so far. He’s actually an entertaining villain in this sequence, and we learn what his motivations are and that he has a grudge against the prior hero in Ryan’s costume. Batwoman freaks out as danger approaches, and she’s not at all acting like herself. Fortunately, Luke made a call, and while Batwoman doesn’t have a Robin (or a Flamebird like in the comics at times), she does get some help. Angelique is rescued, and all is well, right? Not so much…
Sophie has a very unsatisfying interview with Angelique, who has made a surprising decision and won’t change her mind. Sophie then brings bad news to Ryan, who is working more this episode than she has all season. Ryan is not at all happy about this, and blasts Sophie at first for something that isn’t her fault. Someone else offers commentary, and then, in my opinion, shows one of the problems with some people’s version of activism. The same person, in almost the same breath, complains the system is broken and won’t help people, and then steadfastly swears she won’t “snitch.” One or the other, people. You help the system, or you decide to try and change it.
Working on her own investigation, Julia makes a call and gets some very surprising answers. Clearly, there’s more going on than she knows, and it disturbs her. Mary, Luke, and Ryan have a team meeting and decide there are going to be rules, which is how we get the title of the episode. Ryan pitches a new goal for the team besides their crimefighting activities, which everyone likes, but I kind of wonder how they’re going to have time for. Alice’s story for tonight’s show ends in a spectacularly crazed fashion and I really wonder what’s coming next for her. The final scene is Black Mask and special guest (whose connection to him really needs to get explained) start doing some work on a special prisoner, which I suspect is going to be bad for Team Bat.
What I liked: They are really going all out to try and right as many wrongs in Gotham as they can, including ones you can’t fight with fists. It’s the right attitude for this point and history, and long overdue. Julia’s news was surprising at the end there, and, while I’m pretty sure I know what happened, I’m looking forward to seeing why. Angelique is fooling herself, but it’s something I could see happening. Points to Luke for his decisions throughout. The Mary and Ryan scene early on was good. I’m really not sure what to make of Alice’s new story. Black Mask was entertaining if sadistic.
What I didn’t: Some of the actions were, in my opinion, contradictory. Batwoman had a few moments where she was acting more like a scared secondary character than the hero. Some of the absences from the funeral were very glaring.
Overall, I’m still really enjoying this series a great deal. I’ll give this episode a 3.5 out of 5. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses.