Batwoman: How Does Your Garden Grow?

So we’re fighting a plant-powered villain. In a garden. Did we both fail tactics 101?

Batwoman has been one of the better CW shows for a while. First season was great, second was so much better than anticipated, and third has been pretty good. Which is why this particular episode is so disappointing. There were a few things that just didn’t make a lot of sense, and it really made it hard to get into the show. I’m not quite sure what they were thinking with some of the choices they made in “How Does Your Garden Grow?” There will be a few minor spoilers as I discuss some plot points that particularly puzzled me.

Gotham is not a city known for it’s fun and enjoyable nature, so when the episode starts with some kids playing basketball on a public court, you just know something ugly is coming. In this case, it was more the Law & Order/NCIS type beginning, where the opening scene serves to set up a gruesome/surprising discovery. Even by Gotham standards, this is ugly. The GCPD arrives shortly, and then Montoya takes the case from them for her “freak squad” as one of the detectives phrases it. He makes some interesting observations about the nature of Montoya’s assignment that neatly parallel some of the stuff I’ve been thinking. She also, as is trope for any tv detective, makes an important discovery everyone else missed.

Later, in her office, Montoya reviews the case with Alice and Ryan. This is one aspect of this new version of things I’m not enjoying. Some of Montoya’s leverage over Ryan is knowing her secret, but they keep meeting in public places with Ryan out of costume. If, as they showed earlier, Ryan is now a semi-celebrity in Gotham City, aren’t people going to wonder why she’s spending time with a police detective on special duty and a serial killer? That to one side, Ryan and Alice bicker over several things as Montoya gets more and more frustrated. Finally, by the end of the scene, Ryan is taking something back to the cave and Alice is going to Mary’s clinic, which is where Montoya had the earlier victim brought. The victim’s status makes no sense at all with what we saw earlier. Also, isn’t anyone wondering why the police are using a barely legal clinic for their work? And when was the last time we saw Mary actually treating a patient that wasn’t part of a Bat-case, which used to be her big passion.

At the Cave, Sophie is camped out eating Chinese food and using the computer to scan for the head thug of the Black Glove society who has been a recurring problem the last few episodes. Ryan comes in and they end up having a fight, for the most part because Ryan isn’t telling Sophie about Marcus. Why? No idea. It makes a lot of sense to share the information, is causing problems that Ryan isn’t, and there’s no clear reason for this choice aside from generating drama. As a lot of fans do, I have developed a few terms for the genre, and one of those is “Smallville Syndrome.” Named for the show (which I was a fan of), this means the tendency of characters to keep secrets for no good reason, apparently just out of habit. This is what Ryan is doing now. At the clinic, Alice is annoying Mary (well, she’s annoying in general, but in this case, it’s focused) with some veiled comments before she springs her big discovery on the young doctor. Mary scoffs at first, but then some coincidently timed independent evidence backs up Alice’s statement. Alice, of course, is a gracious winner. And if you believe that, I’d like to talk to you about buying the Gotham bridge.

Shaken, Mary calls a meeting of the team. After a lot of hemming and hawing, and with some “help” from Alice, Mary shares that she’s the new Poison Ivy, whether she wants to be or not and even though she can’t remember anything about what she’s apparently done. Luke and Ryan are stunned and try to come up with some counter arguments, but the evidence is piling up against Mary. Ryan makes another questionable choice when Montoya calls, and Alice makes a snarky but on-point comment about it. While Mary makes a decision that makes sense but takes Ryan and Luke by surprise, Sophie goes to meet with Montoya. Which brings up another odd point. Sophie knows everything now, and clearly has access to the Cave on her own. But she’s not part of the team, at least as far the meeting that just happened goes? At any rate, Montoya and Sophie have a very tense meeting, and Sophie hears some things she doesn’t want to.

Back at the Cave, the team tries to get a handle on what’s going on with Mary. There’s some amusing byplay between Luke and Alice as they sift through records. Mary isn’t able to remember much, but Luke is uncovering what she’s been up to with his computer skills. Alice keeps being, well, Alice as they namedrop something important to the most recent version of Batgirl. Learning of something disturbing, Batwoman and Alice take the Batmobile to another potential crime scene. After a quick search, they find something that shows more of what Mary’s been up to, and it brings with it more problems both for the characters and the episode.

The team goes over the newest development and offers a really vague explanation as to how Mary pulled something off that many trained investigators, which she isn’t, have failed at. There’s a lot of talk about recent events, and Alice cheerfully spills some details about Rene Montoya and Poison Ivy’s shared past. The discussion gets interrupted when Montoya pops in upstairs at the office, so I guess she at least doesn’t know how to get the cave? In another really questionable decision, Ryan goes up to meet her in costume but without the cowl. In the room with all the windows. Again, if Ryan is now something of a celebrity, it’s not really a stretch to say there might be photographers watching the place. Montoya shakes off her alcoholic cynicism long enough to actually sound impassioned about protecting Gotham.

Mary and Luke try and figure out what is causing her transformations, with assorted comments tossed in by Alice. Ryan comes back, all stirred up from her interview with Montoya, and finds out that Alice has been merrily throwing hand grenades into the works of the too many secrets Ryan is trying to keep. After some hurried discussion that doesn’t clear anything up, Ryan rushes off. I’ve said before that the Cave needs some kind of actual detention cell, and that I’m surprised it doesn’t have one. Their current “guest” isn’t a good guy at all, and I get that, but keeping him in torturous conditions seems a bit cruel for the group that’s supposed to be the good guys. Sophie goes to pay a call, and she is really, really not on the side of the angels at this point. We learn about a very disturbing group among Gotham’s elite, with a callback to someone we haven’t seen in a few seasons. Ryan shows up long enough for them to have another fight, and then the prisoner takes matters into his own hands.

Luke and Mary are going over the files in the computer, trying to figure out where Batman imprisoned the original Poison Ivy. I’m both not sure why that wouldn’t be in the computer and why they need to know. If their focus is supposed to be on recapturing the Bat-trophies, and Ivy is secure, it seems a bit off-mission. Then again, I don’t get how Ivy is “infecting” people and changing their personalities through her vines, which is new. Alice keeps tossing out caustic comments, not helping anything. By the end of the scene, we learn how clever Alice is (not that we didn’t know it) and get a supervillain team up that isn’t going to be good for anyone. Luke ends up out cold on the floor, and I’m not sure why he survived aside from “plot armor.” I’m also not sure why these two are working together, since they both tend to be remorseless killers who can be unpredictable at best. Montoya gets a call that’s clearly a setup, and not only goes where she’s directed, but doesn’t bring any backup. Of course, her exact position is unclear, and she may be a one-woman task force, which seems deeply dangerous and about perfect for Gotham.

Rene obligingly walks into a very obvious trap and gets let in on a secret that’s been kept from her. Ryan, very displeased, comes back to the cave and is even less happy when she finds Luke on the floor, recovering just enough to tell her what’s going on. Rene and New Ivy have some classic hero and villain, question and answer stuff until Rene gets dragged off-screen. After some debate, Batwing joins Batwoman to go try and sort this mess out, and they, too, walk into pretty much the same trap. Captured and separated, Ivy takes time to mess with both heroes. Displaying more skills she shouldn’t have, the new villain disables an important part of Batwing’s suit and does some nasty psychological warfare on Luke. Then she goes on a rant at Batwoman, making her feel guilty, and she should. Ivy makes a dramatic exit that looks like another new power just as Rene returns from… wherever she’s been and frees Batwoman with an unlikely maneuver. Not in any mood, Rene rips into Batwoman with a well-deserved tongue lashing.

Once again at the Cave, the battered heroes patch themselves up and try and figure out what to do now. They’re at least smart enough to realize that they’re at a disadvantage with Mary out of the picture, although they seem to make the common comic book misunderstanding of “anyone with scientific training can do any kind of science.” They come up with a plan and end with Ryan making a cryptic comment about favors. The wrap-up scenes set up what’s to come, and little of it looks good. Sophie and Montoya meet up at the Hold Up, which seems to be the only bar in Gotham, and make a series of bad decisions. Ryan makes a call for help which I suspect is, at best, going to come with strings. And things end with a supervillain road trip.

What I liked: Alice does get some great lines. It was nice to see Batwing in action again. The detective at the beginning made some great observations about Montoya.

What I didn’t: The first victim’s status made no sense. Ryan’s secret should be out by now the way they are doing things. How did Ivy find her second victim? That explanation didn’t work at all. Rene’s freeing of Batwoman near the end didn’t make any sense at all. Ivy’s work on Batwing’s suit didn’t seem like something she should be able to do. How Rene was suddenly free near the end was never explained.

The series overall has been really good. This episode really wasn’t. I’m giving this a 2 out of 5. I hope they turn this around. There were some good ideas here, but some horrible execution.