written by Kate Danvers
Was this really the best episode to show during a long pandemic while a vaccine is being distributed? Considering what else was in this episode, there really wasn’t a good time to show this one.
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
We open on a doctor at Hamilton Dynamics doing an experiment using blood from a patient who was cured of the bat bite toxin from a few episodes ago to synthesize the Desert Rose cure-all. She injects the treatment into a Stage 4 leukemia patient, only for him to immediately die while vomiting blood. Upon reviewing the video, the doctor’s boss wants her to continue her work because the lab that created the deadly toxin with no cure now wants to save lives.
Well, sort of. The head doctor wants more of the blood from the original source, but knows that they’re going to be reluctant, so he sets loose a mental patient to kidnap people. The patient they get is Aaron Helzinger.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
We’ve talked about the Batman franchise’s poor depiction of mental illness before, and Aaron “Amygdala” Helzinger is a textbook example. His entire Bat-villain gimmick is that he has random bouts of rage because he’s “insane.” Arkham Asylum surgeons removed his amygdala to “cure” him, but that made it worse, and now he’s super-strong and nearly impervious to pain.
Whomst the fuck decided that this would be a good villain to adapt in an age when we’re finally trying to remove the stigma around mental illness?
Anyway, back to the recap…I guess… *sigh*
Nope, not letting this go. To hell with shitty doctors who used (and still use) barbaric practices to treat mental illness. To hell with religions that treated it as “demonic possession.” To hell with insurance companies, politicians, and doctors who stand in the way of people getting help. To hell with a society that constantly demonizes mental illness and portrays the mentally ill as violent zombies. To hell with decades of Batman writers who filled a motherfucking asylum full of A- to Z-list villains with some mental condition they read two sentences about. And to hell with people who reuse those horrible characters just so Batman fans can point at the screen like that Leonardo DiCaprio meme.
Goddamn, I am so disappointed in this show right now. It was bad enough last season with Duela Dent. Caroline Dries, you should know better. If you don’t know better, hire some sensitivity readers.
So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to briefly summarize this plot and then talk about the stuff that’s actually good and interesting in the episode. Okay? Cool. Go get yourself a snack for putting up with me and I’ll see you next paragraph.
Aaron t-bones Jacob’s car with a truck, somehow not killing him or Mary. Jacob and Mary are taken to the clinic where Aaron demands that Mary make more of the cure. She can’t because the Desert Rose can only be used in its original form or derived from a person who was given it in its original form, not a second-gen donor or whatever. Sophie shows up with the map to Coryana, Batwoman fights Aaron, and masked goons get away with the map.
Okay, now for the good bits.
Ryan’s wound acts up again while she’s out on patrol, so she has Angelique take her to the hospital. Her insurance doesn’t cover further testing, so the attendant gives her some antibiotics and a lollipop and wishes her the best of luck with that veiny, glowing, green, pulsating, infected, obvious gunshot wound that Ryan called a spider bite. Malpractice!
Also Ryan is like “Angelique, don’t deal drugs” and Angelique is all “I’m trying not to…sort of…do you know how much influencers pay for drugs?”
Alice tries to ask Ocean what he knows about Kate’s disappearance, but he denies both blowing up the plane and sending the note to Alice. Obviously Safiyah either thinks he did or wants Alice to think he did – probably because he trained Safiyah’s army, tried to leave with the Desert Rose to cultivate it in the states and make money, and got caught and exiled. Alice thinks they got caught doing that together and that Safiyah wiped only their memories of each other…for reasons.
Meanwhile, the Crows have traced a fingerprint they found on the forgery back to Ocean, who is also dealing in Snakebite. Sophie goes to visit Ryan to convince her to rat out Angelique so she can find Ocean, the painting, and Kate; only she doesn’t tell Ryan that part and just says she’s trying to catch Ocean. Ryan cuts a deal: She’ll use a device Sophie gave her to bug Angelique’s phone, but only if Sophie gets rid of Angelique’s record. The best part about this conversation is Ryan calling her “Crowphie.”
Ryan offers Angelique a job at the Hold Up as a way out of the drug dealer life. Angelique says she doesn’t want out. Ryan has another surge of pain, and while Angelique is in the bathroom getting her meds, Ryan uses the device to bug her phone. Sophie makes good on her promise and hands over the file to Ryan. Sophie doesn’t get why Ryan is protecting Angelique, but Ryan loves her and wants to fight for her. Ryan then gets a call from the hospital – she needs to go back for another blood test because the last sample was “contaminated” by radioactivity.
Ryan searches the bat-computer for info about Kryptonite, but stops when Luke walks in. He clears up the Ocean-Alice-Kate-Coryana connection and just glosses over that he and Sophie have been working with Alice to find Kate. Ryan is rightfully upset about that, but Luke gets a call from Mary asking him to bring the map to the clinic. She calls him “Lucas” and tells him to hurry “like a bat out of hell.” Ryan and Luke get the coded cry for help, but Ryan collapses.
Alice tells Ocean that they had a fling together on the island. She calls Safiyah’s henchwoman Tatiana for answers, but Safiyah answers instead. Alice asks what Safiyah did to her and Safiyah replies that she made her a woman who could put a knife through a man’s heart. I didn’t think this on the first viewing, but Dayna pointed out that this could mean that Safiyah somehow brainwashed Alice’s empathy away by deleting key memories. Rewatching the scene, Alice’s thousand-mile stare after that revelation, followed by her next line – “Tell me everything you erased” – makes me think that maybe there’s something to that.
Ryan finally tells Luke about the infected wound. She didn’t tell him initially because she had just convinced him to let her wear the suit and she didn’t want to give him another reason to doubt her. She runs off to save Mary. Luke is reluctant to let her go, but offers to hit her with the suit’s adrenaline shot when she needs it.
Alice tries to kill Ocean, but during the fight she flashes back to when he was training her on Coryana. Ocean was trying to escape and wanted to take Alice with him. Sophie interrupts them, looking for the Napier painting. On Sophie’s prompting, Ocean reveals the map by burning away the blood and guts on top of it.
Sophie calls Luke, who tells her to get the map to the clinic, and from there all of the stuff with Aaron and the clinic wraps up. Suddenly, a bunch of masked goons (actually the doctors from Hamilton Dynamics – I missed that the first time) barge in and demand the map. Ryan gives them both the map and Aaron, and lets them go because they were holding Sophie at gunpoint.
Luke and Mary talk about Ryan. Mary kind of lays it out – Ryan didn’t feel like part of the team, so she didn’t tell them about the Kryptonite. Now she’s dying and the only thing that can cure her is on Coryana with Kate and they don’t know how to find the island.
LUKE: “Since putting on the suit, Ryan’s made the streets safer, she’s inspired the city, and she’s helped us find Kate. And she’s done it all while having a terminal illness. If that’s not a hero, what the hell is?”
Mary thinks they still have a shot at finding Kate and the Desert Rose, and they just need some help from her stepdad. So, something I haven’t discussed yet (because it happened in the subplot about a fucking parody of mental illness throwing stuff around in every scene) was Jacob and Mary having a talk. She told him she felt like he never paid attention to her because of Beth/Alice, Kate, and everything else going on. She was forced to tell him about her illegal clinic because they were being held hostage in it, and you’d think all of that would help them grow closer.
Also, Aaron revealed to both of them that Hamilton was doing human experimentation even back when Catherine was in charge of the company.
Mary drops by Crows HQ, where Jacob is yelling into a phone about tracking down the masked goons. He even suspects they’re from Hamilton, but the Crows suck, so that’s not going anywhere. Jacob says he’s shutting down the clinic because it’s illegal. So is police brutality, but you do it anyway, you dick. He compares what Mary does to what her mom did – again, human experimentation – because she doesn’t have a medical license. Mary leaves, suddenly wishing Jacob was back to ignoring her again.
Ryan calls Angelique over to tell her about the terminal diagnosis. Angelique knows that Ryan put the spy tech on her phone because suddenly half her apps aren’t working. Eh, could be spy tech, could be an iOS update. They fight, they break up, and Crowphie eavesdrops on the conversation through Angelique’s phone the whole time. It’s fine, though, because she looks like she might feel a little bad about it!
Episode wraps with Alice stabbing “Ocean” and calling Safiyah. Except just then real Ocean walks up just fine, which meant that Alice stitched together a flesh mask and put it on some dude.
Once again, fuck this episode for using such a shitty villain of the week. The rest was good, though. Ryan continues to be a breath of fresh “call everyone out on their bullshit.” Except her own bullshit, but you know, that all came to light this episode anyway.
There is good here. There is. But like half the episode is either abuse of the mentally ill or a mentally ill person acting violent, screaming, tossing things around, and stabbing Jacob. It’s not like I expect more from a franchise that makes stigmatizing mental illness its bread and butter, but I do expect better from a show I just praised last week.
Two weeks until the next episode. Good. I need a fucking break.
Next time: Ryan’s dyin’ and she wants to scratch Alice off her bucket list.
Batwoman airs Sunday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on the CW. Making that stinger image reminded Kate that for the third week in a row, she’s forgotten to ask where Julia is. If you know where Julia is, you can reach Kate on Twitter @WearyKatie.