There have been a lot of twists and turns in the second season of Batwoman. From a new character in the starring role to a major change in the big villain to finally seeing the Batmobile (seriously, Luke, where did you think it was?), I’d say “unexpected” is a good word for just about everything that’s happened. Now things continue to move in unexpected directions as at least one important subplot ends and several others move forward. Events unfold in a variety of surprising ways in “Initiate Self-Destruct.”
The episode opens with a confluence of villains, as Black Mask, leader of the False Face Society and dealer behind the Snakebite drug flooding Gotham’s streets, has a meeting with Enigma, master memory manipulator who is racking up frequent flier miles between Gotham City and the isolated, absolutely can’t get there from here unless it’s convenient for the plot island of Coryana. They have a prisoner of vested interest to them both, and we see just what their plan is for the badly disfigured Kate Kane, the original, now presumed dead, Batwoman. Black Mask is a minor Batman foe, and Enigma has ties to a better-known villain, Riddler, or at least they do in the comics. She does carry a cane with a question mark on it and favor green here, so there’s likely something to it here, too. Black Mask spins a story that in part touches on events from earlier in the series. We still don’t find out anything about how his daughter died, or why he blames Batwoman for it. Then again, I’m not sure anyone reported dead on this show has stayed dead, excepting Lucius Fox (so far). So maybe she’ll be back.
Alice has a morning after fit of awkward that many people might be able to relate to, which, in and of itself, is a big step for the madwoman. She’s responding to an emotional situation somewhat like a normal person. It’s impressive. However, it doesn’t last long as her attempted escape is rudely interrupted by some violent visitors with their own agenda. In the Crows’ Nest, Sophie tries to process what she learned last episode courtesy of Ryan and Luke’s sloppy radio discipline. Her musing gets interrupted by Agent Tavaroff appearing and a heated discussion about DNA kits, rape kit waiting time (sadly a very real issue), and Commander Kane’s support for questionable projects. Surprised to learn what Tavaroff told her, Sophie goes to confront Kane, and gets a lot more surprises in the brief conversation. And in case we forgot, we get an immediate reminder of why Kane isn’t quite himself.
Down in the Batcave, the team reviews the hostage video of Angelique that made Batwoman let Black Mask go recently. Ryan at first is annoyed at having to see this again, and then a bit more interested when Luke provides an explanation for how to use this, with a bit of unexpected help. Their debate gets interrupted when some kind of alert tells Luke the Bat-Signal is being used (I wonder how that works?). What follows is a tense meeting between Batwoman and Sophie, which is both a warning from the Crow and the classic hero trope of “I know a secret you don’t know I know so I’ll drop vague hints as we go.” Batwoman leaves after getting in a nasty line about the Crows’ recent failure, and then swings away, although what her grapple line is attached to I’m not quite sure of. This leads into a fairly intense argument between Luke and Batwoman over what their priorities should be. Trying to follow up on a lead, Batwoman finds someone has beaten her there, and has a very odd conversation with Alice. Eventually, this leads to a reluctant realization about an alignment of goals and another hero trope of having to work with an enemy for a common good. Alice gets in a few great lines, as she tends to. We also quickly see why you don’t want to take a road trip with Alice.
Sophie makes a half-hearted attempt to help out with the threat to Batwoman’s identity, but doesn’t get anywhere. Luke and Mary worry about this problem and some future cleansing. The unlikely duo of Alice and Batwoman make some progress on their mutual issue, while one of the False Faces lives up to the old cliché about “but what I really want to do is direct.” Arriving at the next stop on their tour, Alice and Batwoman argue with each other and then fight some bad guys.
At the Crows’ Nest, Sophie is still not getting anywhere when she gets an unexpected visit that reveals something Mary hadn’t meant to show. It does, however, get a new hope into Sophie’s hands, and Mary further proves her worth by being a great distraction for Commander Kane. While Batwoman and Alice fight thugs and talk affairs of the heart, Sophie continues her mission of sabotage. Furthering their mission, Alice and Batwoman engage in some misdirection and continue analyzing each other. Alice offers some advice and then, as Batwoman charges into the fight, the masked hero takes steps to keep Alice under control and makes a not so veiled threat about what Ocean is going to be told.
While the would-be director finishes up his project, Batwoman gets closer, but needs more help from Luke in the classic Black Canary/Oracle style. Sophie’s latest attempt to help Batwoman runs into another major snag because it’s dramatic and the writers of all the CW shows have no understanding at all of how most of the criminal justice system works. Ignoring Luke’s pleas, Sophie won’t do what the team needs and tries another approach. Mary, we learn, wasn’t just being a distraction, she really did have something to show her step-father. It pushes a subplot in a different direction and shows how far off from his normal self Kane actually is. And, once again, I wonder when and how Mary is actually attending medical school.
Things take a turn and I have a lot of questions. Kate has been conditioned to believe she’s Circe Sionis (really, who names their kid that?) and is now acting in her father’s best interests. After finding and threatening Alice, Kate/Circe (Katce?) goes after Batwoman. Tavaroff gets a big setback in his hunt for the Batwoman when Sophie does something unclear to the computers that neither Luke nor I can figure out. Angelique and Ocean, done with their documentary, plead to not have their contracts permanently cancelled when Batwoman makes a timely arrival. Things are looking great until Katce (I don’t love it, I’ll come up with something better eventually) shows up. Now, here’s my question. I can absolutely see Kate Kane beating Ryan Wilder in a fight, Bat-suit or not. But Kate thinks she’s Circe. Could Circe take Ryan? Is some of the real Kate leaking through? If so, one of the Bat-team should eventually recognize some of her moves. Katce (Cirte? No, that’s worse) proceeds to wipe the floor with both Batwoman and, when she arrives, Alice. Things build to a very tense point and Batwoman does something I have no doubt will come back to haunt her, and shows she’s still a lot more human than Hero.
Sophie goes to clean up after herself with all her sabotage efforts and gets an ugly surprise. Concerned, she goes to Mary’s clinic and asks a few good questions. Sophie becomes more convinced that what she’s worried about is the case, and Mary kind of backs that idea up. Then we get our final two scenes, one to end a subplot and one to start another. Angelique comes to visit Ryan and makes an unexpected offer. After an emotional scene, the two part, as Ryan starts to get hit with some of the real weight of that cape and cowl. Alice has her own end scene, as she’s getting to know two characters a lot better than she wanted to, and things aren’t looking good for the craziest woman in Gotham. Or craziest we know of, at least. It is Gotham, after all.
What I liked: I’m not a huge fan of “sworn enemies have to team up” as a rule, but Alice and Batwoman play well off each other. I’m very happy Ryan has, so far, bucked the Arrowverse trend of wearing a mask but telling everyone her secret anyway. I continue to enjoy pretty much every scene Mary is in, and she does the ditz cover very, very well. While I question a lot of Sophie’s choices, we do see her commitment to justice in this episode. Black Mask is a formidable foe and being smart enough to not directly fight the hero since he doesn’t need to.
What I didn’t: I have a lot of questions about how the Kate/Circe thing is working. I’m amazed Alice at the least didn’t pick up on anything. The Coryana/Gotham commuter route is getting a bit old. I’m really not clear on what Sophie did, or how she pulled something off the much more technically skilled Luke can’t figure out. I actually kind of missed the Vesper Voiceover.
The season continues to impress me. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5. I suspect bad times are ahead for Alice, and Ryan will come to regret her actions this episode.