Batwoman and company have their hands full this season. The stolen trophies from Batman’s vault are continuing to make their lives difficult, and now Ryan’s birth mother is causing problems for everyone. Just to make things more complex, her brother is playing a different game and seems to be not overly concerned with possible consequences. And that’s just the start of things in “Anti-Freeze,” a follow up to last episode’s “Freeze.”
The episode opens with a very disturbing scene of a thug with a very calm demeanor, an unusual condition, strange lighting, and an ugly end to an experiment. Somewhere in the park, Mary is recovering from a very unusual night and deals with some unexpected after-effects. Elsewhere, Ryan and Luke get word that Ryan is becoming more high-profile thanks to Marquis’ maneuverings. While Luke worries about Jada Jet’s reaction, we meet Charlie Clarke from Wayne Enterprises PR section, and Ryan recruits some help for the big event she’s been pushed into attending by current events.
Mary, frazzled by the odd events of the night before, catches up with the others, but doesn’t get the sympathy, or even interest, she was hoping for. Luke is still upset at her for revealing his PTSD to Ryan, and Ryan is distracted by what’s happening to and around her. In fairness, I can understand both reactions, but I do feel bad for Mary in this scene. As Ryan gets changed for her big day, Alice has a busy day in her cell in Arkham. She’s always been pretty clearly crazy, but now her madness is moving in new directions, and the smirking, confident killer is starting to have some major issues. Finally, she pleads to be able to speak with someone who might be able to improve her circumstances.
Ryan is now at some huge gathering, and this part does feel a bit forced. I questioned a bit how she was qualified to be Batwoman, although she’s risen to the task admirably. Aside from getting the title in part to cover Ruby Rose’s exit from the show, and then Kate Kane’s new version leaving to try and find the long-missing Bruce, I don’t see how Ryan qualifies as the CEO of a major company. She’s young and attractive, absolutely, but absolutely nothing in her background has prepared her for this role. It was working when they were out of the limelight, but with all this new attention, I don’t see how it will last. If nothing else, the Wayne Enterprises board should take a look at her qualifications and really wonder exactly how she got where she is. She is definitely putting in the effort, and impressing Charlie, who favorably compares her to the foppish playboy persona Bruce put on to hide his crusade as Batman. Sophie is there not just to help Ryan; her sister Jordan is there as well, getting a similar honor to Ryan’s. Jordan has a lot of fun picking on Sophie and her obvious attraction to Ryan.
While Jordan gets a surprise from a man who says he’s a reporter from the Gotham Gazette, Jada is making plans with the show’s sole voice-only character, Vesper Fairchild. We don’t even hear her in this one, but Jet is clearly up to no good. Alice, now at Mary’s clinic for some inexplicable reason, has a fun scene with her half-sister, as Alice threatens to call Renee Montoya while Mary is tending to some new and special plants. That’s a bit disturbing, considering how last episode ended, this one started, and one of the missing trophies. As Alice rolls away on an office chair, Ryan further impresses Charlie and has a meeting with her half-brother, who seems determined to take nothing seriously. Their conversation gets interrupted by a concerned Sophie, who can’t find Jordan.
Back at the cave, Luke is still having issues with the Batwing suit. Luke is a genius, no doubt about that, but his father had decades of experience on him constructing the suit and Luke is reduced to ranting at it by the time Ryan calls him for some help. Luke is able to trace Jordan’s phone, which is less helpful than they had hoped. Luke figures out the general area where Jordan should be, Sophie provides some background about a big speech she was supposed to make, and Marcus helps out with a tip. Ryan and Sophie find Jordan, but she’s not in the best condition and looks ominously familiar to something we saw earlier in the show.
Despite all the worry about not touching Jordan Ryan was expressing last scene, they’ve moved her to Mary’s clinic when we return from commercial. I get needing Mary’s expertise, although I’d have thought the Batcave would have more advanced equipment. Alice makes unhelpful suggestions, some dire issues from last episode are referenced, and finally we learn about a big secret society that’s been around Gotham for a long time. To me, this seems like a rehash of the Court of Owls storyline from the comics a few years ago, and that one never worked for me. There’s a hidden, powerful society of rich criminals in Gotham and neither Bruce Wayne nor Batman knew about it? That to one side, the team put their heads together and decide on a new course of action.
Luke and Ryan theorize about how the Black Glove Society manages to have so much influence but leave no records anywhere Luke can access. Ryan, still at the event, sees the coroner wheeling someone out. Somehow, no one panics at this and the big meet and greet continues. Ryan is a bit suspicious of where Marcus got his earlier information, and he offers a decent explanation, although he’s clearly annoyed by the question. Charlie finds Ryan at this point and brings a lot of bad news. Ryan gets surprised when she learns the extent of it and what the ramifications might be. Luke clears up where some of this problem is coming from, and this, too, doesn’t work for me. In just a bit of poking around short-term, it sounds like Jada Jet has found something numerous enemies of both Bruce Wayne and Batman have missed for years. I don’t really buy this.
Batwoman suits up and makes a few disturbing discoveries. Jordan and a few others were into something they really shouldn’t have been, and they just weren’t careful enough. Sophie and Alice, unlikely team that they are, search Jordan’s place for clues, or at least hints, about what she’s been doing. Alice keeps having some issues that aren’t helping her focus on the search, but makes a discovery anyway. She talks to herself for a bit and then some more bad guys show up. It happens enough that it should be considered a comic book trope by now: when a formidable villain turns to the good guys’ side, they are suddenly somehow a lot less capable. Alice and Sophie lose a fight they should have won, and lose badly.
Mary is doing her best to tend to Jordan, and running out of ideas. Luke calls her, apparently to harass her, and she snaps some great lines back at him as she gets an idea about what to do next. Sophie and Alice find themselves in dire straights as they recover from their earlier defeat and Alice makes a confession. The villain seems to almost accept her fate when Batwoman comes in with a last-minute rescue, adapted from some of the tech from old Bat-foes. I guess Luke told her Sophie and Alice had lost touch, although they never actually say how Batwoman knew to go there.
After some mid-save flirting, the team regroups at the clinic, where Mary’s new idea is helping Jordan. Sophie tells her sister she would have helped, and Mary explains Jordan is better, but won’t be talking for a while. Alice makes another amusing comment about saving Jordan, and the rest ignore her. The group makes a few resolutions about how to deal with assorted threats around them, and Sophie finds her living situation changing, not for the better. A newly determined Ryan goes back to Wayne Enterprises, which is suddenly more than just an empty building that hides secrets. She meets with Charlie, who expresses his own opinion about what’s going on, which at least doesn’t pin the blame on Ryan. There’s a reference to some things from the wider Arrowverse, and Luke mentions an old friend that seems to me like a nod to a beloved character from another show. As he leaves, Charlie makes it clear that he has no problems with Ryan, but offers a grim assessment of what’s to come. Alone, Ryan and Luke wonder about Jada Jet’s animosity, and Luke talks about some history of Wayne Enterprises.
We get a trio of wrap up scenes that are clearly things to build on for future episodes. Luke finishes a project, but ends up getting some upsetting news as a result. Ryan, having had enough of being a target, meets with an ally to go after Jada. And Jada herself has a surprising meeting where we learn some of what she’s been up to and what one of her motivations is, although it’s a puzzling one. There’s clearly a lot more chaos coming this season.
What I liked: Charlie is a fun new character, and I hope we see more of him. I know Luke was told something he didn’t want to hear at the end, but it made a lot of sense. I’m intrigued by Alice’s condition and wonder what’s going on there. Whatever side he’s on, and I suspect the answer is “his own,” Marcus is certainly a charming rogue. It was nice having Jada call Vesper, although an actual conversation would have been better.
What I didn’t: Ryan seems to be on some weird character acceleration program that we’re not seeing any of. She “taught a few self defense classes” and then was Batwoman, fighting criminals. She’s been given a title and now seems to be wheeling and dealing like a pro. I don’t get how the board is accepting her in her current position. Everyone is blowing Mary off too much, and I think I know where that’s going. I really don’t like Jada, don’t care that she’s Ryan’s mother, or about her evil plans. I have the same objections to the Black Glove Society that I did to the Court of Owls, and think the concept doesn’t work.
There was a lot going on in this episode, and I’m surprised they packed as much in as they did. I’ll give it a 3.5, even with several elements I didn’t care for. This season is going to be an interesting ride.