[Review] Batwoman Episode 2×05: “Gore On Canvas”

written by Kate Danvers

I’m writing this the same day that an image of Jared Leto’s Joker wearing a crown of thorns circulated online as a promotional still for the Snyder Cut of Justice League. So that means I’ve pre-loaded all of my Joker jokes for this recap.

But to save myself a tweet: The way Zack Snyder talks about how mean critics are to him, I thought he’d be the one nailed to the cross in the director’s cut.


What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Batwoman. After a quick shot of someone ziplining onto the highest building in the frame of an establishing shot, we cut to Jacob making a back alley deal for information on the Napier painting. A group that deals in illegal artwork called the Collective has it. The informant is suddenly harpooned in the back by a guy who couldn’t possibly have snuck up on anyone but the leader of the Crows, and Batwoman comes to Jacob’s rescue. He says he’s after the painting, but she thinks she can find it first. She then points out “ACAB” graffiti and even says “All Crows Are Bastards.”


Ryan is staying over at Angelique’s place. She apologizes to Ryan for all of her drug use and for Ryan getting caught taking Angelique’s stash away from her. Then she notices Ryan’s Kryptonite wound and convinces her to get help.

At the clinic, Mary redresses the wound and gives Ryan some painkillers. Ryan is upset that “everyone” compares her to Kate, but Mary knows she means Luke. Ryan doesn’t want to tell Luke about the bullet wound because he’s already questioning every decision she makes, like keeping the harpooner prisoner until he talks.

Jacob and Sophie talk to Evan Blake, an old friend of Kate’s whom she helped come out as gay. Evan is asked about the painting. Apparently, the Joker broke into someone’s home, murdered him, then spread his guts all over a painting in the foyer and called it art. When Sophie suggests Evan is dealing in illegal art and offers them immunity from possible prosecution, they refuse to cooperate further.

Side note: I’m using they/them pronouns for Evan because of a reveal that happens later and because non-binary people and pronouns are valid as hell.

Non-binary representation and exercising one’s right not to put up with police bullshit in the same scene! Progress!

Since Alice isn’t ready to kill Ocean until she finds out who he is and why she remembers him, she tracks him down at a bar and chats him up after scaring off some Don Jr.-looking bastard. Ocean and Alice drink together, have a good time, but he doesn’t know who she is.

Sophie uses the bat-signal to call Batwoman. She proposes a team-up to get the painting, but Ryan isn’t going for it since she doesn’t trust the Crows. But Sophie isn’t asking as a Crow – she’s asking as the woman in love with Kate Kane. Ryan says she’ll consider it. Unbeknownst to either of them, a nimble figure in a spandex suit is clinging to a gargoyle on the side of the building, listening in. *gasp* Night Monkey!

The Bat Team discuss teaming up with the Crows. Mary and Luke want to do it so they can find Kate, but Ryan doesn’t want to work with the corrupt Crows. She and Luke have a chat on the balcony outside the office. Ryan tells her Crows story – she took Angelique’s stash to help her get cleaned up. She was walking down the street crying and passed two Crows who catcalled her first, then when she yelled back, they stopped her and found the drugs. Luke tells her about how a Crow killed his dad. Ryan puts her arm around him, and he convinces her that the Crows are their best shot.

Another benefit of a gay character? You can have sweet scenes like this without wondering if you’re meant to also read romance into it. Best Bat Team is a Bat Family.

They call Jacob and Sophie. Jacob uses the harpoon guy as a punching bag to get information on the painting. Harpoon Guy lets it slip that the painting shows the way to Coryana. Then he bites into a cyanide capsule and dies. After hacking Evan’s phone, Sophie learns that the painting is being sold at an underground art show in an airplane hangar. Ryan wants to go in alone, so the next day, Mary helps her get dressed up and Luke gives her a batarang to use as an art piece to get her inside.

Alice tries to kill Ocean at his motel room, but he’s expecting her and knocks her unconscious. She wakes up tied to a chair in his room and just confesses everything: Her sister was kidnapped and Safiyah asked her to kill Ocean in exchange for getting her back. Turns out, Ocean is Safiyah’s brother, though not biologically, and after trying to strangle Alice to death, he has flashbacks that indicate his memory of his and Alice’s shared history has also been wiped. The two team up when assassins break into the room to kill them, and then flee together.

Ryan presents her batarang at the door to the party…and Evan is the one checking it out. They have lots of questions and Ryan has all of the wrong answers, so she’s about to be kicked out when Angelique walks up to claim Ryan as her plus-one.

EVAN: “Any questions?”
RYAN: “Pronouns?”
EVAN: “He/him, they/them… I go with the flow.”

I love that she asked that.

Bad news, though: Angelique is there selling drugs to the partygoers. Ryan warns her what a possession charge might get her, but Angelique brushes her off, giving Ryan an opportunity to find the MacGuffin.

Eww, don’t touch that. You know where it’s been.

A “painting” that’s just a dude’s entrails spread all over another painting, declared “modern art,” and dubbed “Let It Out”… I guess it doesn’t matter that modern depictions of the characters have Harley Quinn dumping the Joker’s “lol so random” psychotic ass, because the edgelords of the world interpreting his actions as something deep and profound means that Joker never wants for a handjob.

Luke analyzes the painting through samples that Ryan gets with bat-gadgets. The canvas underneath is a map of ocean currents that could lead them to Coryana, but to see what’s under the gore, Ryan needs to steal the painting. She heads to the bathroom, where Luke hid her suit before the party. The acrobatic thief in spandex shows up to steal the painting. Ryan identifies the thief as Wolf Spider.

Wolf Spider and Batwoman fight, but Ryan’s Kryptonite injury slows her down. The Crows give chase and a corrupt Crow clips Wolf Spider with an SUV. The Crows take the painting and leave Wolf Spider to bleed on the tarmac. Ryan gets there in time, unmasks the thief, and it’s Evan. She brings them to Mary’s clinic. Mary says Evan would have died if Ryan hadn’t found them. Luke asks what happened with Ryan being in such rough shape during the mission. Ryan dodges that question by putting her foot down. She’s not happy about being railroaded into working with the Crows.

RYAN: “I wear the suit, I take the bullets, so when I say I have a bad feeling about something, you two listen!”

The next night, Sophie meets with Batwoman again and tells her the Crows who ran over Evan have been fired. Ryan won’t accept that, though, and says the Crows are corrupt to the core and need to be dismantled. Sophie says she’s trying to fix the Crows’ culture from the inside. Yeah, let me know how that works out. Ryan tells her she needs to quit the Crows if they’re ever going to work together again.

Evan wakes up in the clinic. Mary suggests a safer line of work, but Evan likes snubbing their nose at Gotham’s elite. They also stole the painting for Kate, because they thought they would have a better chance of getting it than the Crows. Mary says no one got the painting – the one from the gallery was a fake, smeared with pig’s blood.

Alice and Ocean are on the move when she has another flashback. In this one, they’re kissing. She doesn’t tell Ocean about it, and just tells him to keep his eyes on the road. He has her check in the back seat for a white tube. She finds it and asks what’s inside. He asks if she’s heard of Jack Napier.

At her apartment, Ryan checks her wound again. The glowing green infection is spreading.

Sure wish Batwoman’s Kryptonian allies weren’t either on hiatus or in another quarantine production pod.

I didn’t expect this show to go so in so much on an anti-police message – and let’s be clear, that’s what it is. The Crows are the stand-ins for the police. We rarely if ever see the GCPD, and the corruption, extreme methods, and racial profiling by the Crows matches up with real-world policing. And come on, “All Crows Are Bastards”? While other CW shows cozy up to the police a bit much (*cough* The Flash *cough*), Batwoman is pretty explicitly laying out the problems with the institution and using its main character as a mouthpiece to do it. About time a show speaks the truth with so much copaganda on TV these days.

Why yes, your friendly neighborhood recapper does believe in defunding the police and replacing them with a more competent and less corrupt system of criminal reform and social outreach.

I should talk more about the episode itself. I liked this one. Its social commentary was great, it gave us some good Bat Team interactions, and progressed the season arc well. And I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong, but I think this is the Arrowverse’s first genderfluid or non-binary character? Okay, yes, they were the “villain of the week,” but they pulled that off without even really being a villain. Evan was trying to help Kate, and like Ryan, they didn’t trust the Crows to do the job.

Also, hey, while I’ve got the soapbox out: The Joker is a seriously overused character and 90% of stories with him are the blandest bits of dark, gritty, and edgy writing out there. I’m so glad the Arrowverse version of him is dead. The only “Batman who kills” I will happily accept is one who gets rid of the Joker. There are so many more interesting villains out there.



Batwoman airs Sunday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on the CW. Kate doesn’t know art, but she knows what she likes and retweets on Twitter @WearyKatie.

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