Batwoman: And Justice For All

Well, that went badly

Batwoman’s second season has been really impressive. They’ve combined action, character growth, and social issues into a compelling, ongoing narrative. Until this one. While there were a few good scenes, I found a lot of this week to be heavy handed at best, and bits of it just didn’t make any sense at all. I also really question the choices of one of the lead characters, and a lot about the final scene. It seems there was some indecision about even the title. Originally billed as “And Justice For All,” it was apparently retitled to “Within Limitations” according to IMDB.

The last episode ended with Alice’s shocking realization that “Cerci Sionis” was actually her believed dead sister Kate Kane. Stunned, Alice tries to break through to her, but the Cerci persona isn’t going anywhere. Alice is so committed to this, she almost doesn’t take Roman up on his offer of freedom. It’s interesting seeing the self-absorbed sociopath suddenly overwhelmed by emotions about someone else. That same night, Batwoman is out busting Snakebite dealers, because there’s apparently suddenly no longer any other crime in Gotham. Batwoman ends up in an abandoned church (Gotham is filled with eerily atmospheric buildings), and sees a new and disturbing side effect from Snakebite: cannibalism/zombie outbreak. I guess we have an unofficial Arrowverse/Walking Dead crossover. This gets followed by another Vesper Fairchild voiceover, filled with assorted zombie/religious puns.

The following day shows a big gathering at the Hold Up, where they are hosting a fundraiser for one of the community projects Sophie’s sister Imani is working on. It’s daylight, Ryan is happy, the fundraiser is doing well… so you know this won’t last. Sure enough, the fundraiser gets shut down by some very heavy-handed cops on a noise complaint that sounds bogus to start with and gets worse as the scene goes on. Ryan isn’t having it, ignores Luke’s attempts at making peace, and then the two get arrested on extremely questionable pretexts. True to the show’s usual formula, all iffy authority figures and villains throughout the episode are white males. There’s also some serious flirting between Ryan and Imani which made me feel like I missed something. Were these two an item on earlier episodes and I just completely forgot it? Also, last her job was addressed, Ryan was a bartender. Now she’s the manager? Congrats on the promotion, I guess. Before things go south, Ryan also laments the complications her secret identity cause for her social life, and Luke commiserates but says Kate had similar issues, accounting for her broodiness. While all this goes on, a guy named Richard gets a batch of the new and different Snakebite. This stuff is blue, and my proofreader/editor dubbed it Smurfbite, which I love and am stealing.

While Richard has a very bad reaction, Ryan and Luke bemoan one of the facts of modern life that I often mock people for: they can’t remember anyone’s number because they rely on their cellphones. Their calls to try and get out of jail go unanswered. I will say that in the jurisdiction I work for, arrestees are allowed to copy numbers out of their phones, but then, the show aims to make police look as bad as possible. Luke comes up with an idea on how to reach Sophie, but she’s been arrested as well after questioning the cops at the Hold Up, although what for is remarkably unclear. This is another bit that didn’t make sense about the episode. Sophie claims, in part, she was arrested because the cops didn’t believe she was with the Crows. Everyone I know in law enforcement carries at the very least their badge and credentials when off duty. Sophie, apparently, wasn’t carrying her ID or her gun? That rings false, and sounds like sloppy writing to, again, make the cops look bad.

We spend a lot of time with Richard this week, and the poor guy seems to be doing his best. He’s been infected by the Smurfbite, and is doing his best to fight it. He even manages to tell a woman who would have made a great stereotypical victim to run. He demonstrates some other interesting side effects of the drug, and then sees a cop get swarmed by several other Smurfbite users in true zombie horde fashion. As Ryan and Sophie argue about how things were handled at the bar, Alice pays a call on Dr. Rhyme for a less-than-friendly consultation. With no real options, Rhyme gives Alice some ideas on what to do in order to get Kate free of the Cerci persona after Alice utters a great threat. I think the majority of the good lines this season have been either from Alice or Mary. Speaking of Mary, she has Commander Kane in her clinic, helping him recover after his medical emergency last episode. They are trying to sort out what they’re going to do next but get interrupted when Richard shows up, runs for one of the beds, and cuffs himself to it. He gives a very entertaining summation of what’s going on with him.

In the abandoned subway car that seems to be her current base of operations, Alice completes her quest for Rhyme, but gets interrupted before she can return by Ocean. They have a brief but intense discussion, and Alice once again has some strong emotional reactions as she brings him up to speed. She’s starting to act a bit more like a normal person, granted one that’s still a bad guy. A very puzzled Mary tries to figure out why Richard is going through his current ordeal, and things aren’t really adding up. Richard’s story brings some enlightenment, of very different kinds, to both Mary and Kane. Still in their jail cell, because apparently no one knows anyone but the main characters on the show, Sophie and Ryan talk about people of color in law enforcement and philosophize in general. Their deep conversation gets interrupted when Eli, an accused car thief, gets shoved in with them, and breaks the news about the zombies on the streets. For the record, no jurisdiction anywhere allows different genders in the same cell, so more sloppy writing for the sake of convenience.

In several scenes, we see how bad Gotham has gotten all of a sudden, as zombie/cannibals roam the streets, tearing people apart and freaking out the responding cops. In fairness, that’s not exactly something that gets covered at the Academy. Our heroes pace their cell, listen to radio chatter, and hear the cops wonder where Batwoman is after the signal gets lit but she doesn’t respond. So I guess this also confirms there are at least two Bat-signals in Gotham, one at GCPD and one at the Crows’ Nest. Sophie’s sister Imani comes through and gets the good guys bailed out, and then has an awkward scene with Ryan, since our heroic bartender pretty much has to say “Thanks for getting me out, gotta run.” Imani accepts all this with disappointed resignation, and I don’t blame her for that. Kane helps out at the clinic, and is surprisingly adept with assorted first aid skills. Whenever you need to explain someone suddenly displaying skills they’ve never shown before, there’s the old standby of “I used to be in the military.” Mary comes up with an interesting theory that would explain some classic zombie behavior, except these zombies act more like Walking Dead Walkers, in that they kill the living, but don’t seem all that fixated on brains per se. Sophie gets back to the Crows’ Nest, deals with some problems from Crow about to go rogue anytime now Tavaroff, and then blindly sends the Crows off on her orders, for some reason trusting they’re going to do what she told them. Has she been paying attention at all?

Luke has run with Mary’s theory, and come up with a way to treat the zombies. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as Ryan was hoping. Batwoman s going to have a busy and difficult night. Alice, accompanied by Ocean, returns to Dr. Rhyme with the next step on the quest to restore Kate. Rhyme then reveals a new detail, making things yet more complicated. After an interesting speech from Alice, Ocean has apparently had enough and takes matters into his own hands.

Batwoman gets to work, curing people as quickly as she can. Things are rough to start with, and then Tavaroff and the Crows show up and make things much worse. As predicted, Tavaroff utterly ignores Sophie’s directive and does things his own way. The man really does just need a costume to become a flat out supervillain (which he is in the comics).  Mary has a very emotional scene with her father, and calls him out on a lot of what he’s been doing, making him face some painful truths. Truly desperate now, Richard frees himself via some truly hardcore methods and runs for it. Somehow, he still resists the worst impulses from the drug, wandering through a homeless camp, before giving in and attacking a cop. The cop, in turn, is saved in the nick of time by Batwoman’s timely arrival. She gets in a good line before grappling away, followed by the cheers of the crowd.

There’s been a lot, but there are still several wrap-up scenes to come. The Ryan, Luke, and Sophie trio meet up for drinks, still having some differing viewpoints, but dealing with each other a bit easier. Sophie, disgusted by the day’s events, comes to a shocking decision that both changes her character’s status quo dramatically and seems to contradict her earlier message. Alice is stunned by what Ocean did, and screams at him. What he tells her stuns her and provokes another major emotional reaction. Ryan and Imani have a conversation where Ryan admits there’s a lot she can’t tell Imani, but it sounds like Imani might just accept this anyway. The ugliness isn’t over, as Luke runs into Eli again, and things take a turn. It’s a horrific, mostly believable scene, that ends on a nasty cliffhanger, especially given the few week hiatus the show is about to go into. I will say that, given everything he said earlier in the episode, this seems like something Luke should have known not to do. That is NOT justifying what happened, just that it seems a bit off from what Luke talked about earlier.

What I liked: Mary confronting her dad was fantastic, as was his finally starting to appreciate what the clinic actually does. Richard was a very impressive character they gave a lot of screen time to. It really felt like we should see him again, and I can think of several ways to do that, but I’m not sure the writers will follow up. If they don’t it seems like a lot of time devoted to a one shot character. Batwoman got some great action sequences, and Alice gave a great performance from shattered emotional shock to her usual smartass lines.

What I didn’t: I’ve appreciated most of the social issues they’ve brought up this season, and feel they worked them into their stories well. This time out, I think they failed. The episode felt remarkably heavy-handed on many fronts, with a lot of sloppy writing to make things work. Sophie not having her ID or gun seemed very out of character. The men and women in the same cell was just wrong. All cops are bad is the message they seem to be going for, and it’s not true. Tavaroff needs to be held accountable for what he did, but that probably won’t happen due to Sophie’s choice (no pun intended) at the end. That choice also seemed to contradict what she said earlier. Mary’s zombie idea didn’t work based on what we saw them actually do. One thing this episode drove home for me; Batwoman is the only Arrowverse show where the main character is out in the field alone. She needs some help.

I’ve been wowed by most of the season. This one seemed to not meet the standard for me. I’m giving this a low 2.5 out of 5.