[Review] Batwoman Episode 2×13: “I’ll Give You A Clue”

written by Kate Danvers

This is way more on the nose than I thought it would be last week but…

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Five years ago, on her first day as a rookie Crow, Sophie caught Arthur Brown, a.k.a. the Cluemaster. He becomes obsessed with how she was able to foil his scheme based on his obscure clues. In the present day, Cluemaster escapes prison.

Batwoman tears through about a dozen False Face members in a pretty brutal fight scene before she comes to her actual objective: leaving the last one conscious so she can plant a tracking device on his boot before releasing him into the wild. Tavaroff and the Crows arrive to screw things up and are far more interested in arresting Batwoman. And so a verbal beatdown occurs where Batwoman tells them how much they suck at their jobs, then pulls out a zipline launcher and uses it to escape so slowly that she clearly demonstrates just how much the Crows suck.

Jacob shoots up Snakebite in the park at night. He hallucinates young Kate and Alice on the swings nearby.

Alice is tied to a chair in Black Mask’s basement. He wants Batwoman’s name. Does she even know? She remembers Cora, but does she remember Ryan? Did she ever learn her name? Either way, she doesn’t tell Black Mask what she does know and just takes the opportunity to complain about Batwoman leaving her for dead. I love this because it actually makes Black Mask scream at her to shut up and that he’s supposed to be torturing her, not the other way around. The torture chair seems designed to drive metal spikes under the fingernai–YOU KNOW WHAT, I’m not going to think about how that works. That does it for me. Not thinking about this. Nope.

Pictured here: Alice being tortured by having a purring kitten in her lap. It’s off-screen, but trust me, it’s there. Why is a kitten torture when she previously seemed to like kittens? SHUT UP, THAT’S WHY. I DON’T JUDGE YOUR COPING MECHANISMS.

“Why is there a Crow in our loft?” Ryan asks as she comes home to Mary having a drink with Sophie. She makes it sound like an infestation problem, which is great. Sophie stopped by to hang out with Mary and brought a bottle of tequila she got from a coworker as a five-year-anniversary present. Sophie invites Ryan to join them so they can get to know each other better.

The evening devolves into a game of “Never Have I Ever” in which we learn that Mary has had sex on a private jet, and Ryan is in a relationship with Imani and accidentally sexted Mary once by mistake. Sophie has to drink to “never have I ever kissed Batwoman,” and all three drink to “never have I ever been saved by Batwoman.” Sophie is confused by Ryan drinking to that one until Ryan clarifies that it was Batwoman 1.0. Sophie uses that as an opening to be like “Heh heh, I know something. Come on, just admit it.”

Then they find a caterpillar at the bottom of the bottle – the most venomous caterpillar in the world. The venom from a single caterpillar isn’t enough to hurt the three, but it prompts Ryan to read the card that came with the bottle.

Sophie ignored this? She even brought the card with her to the loft. Does she just consume things randomly left on her desk? I’m not saying I can’t relate, but…

Sophie fills them in on who Cluemaster is: another villain who leaves clues to his crimes for people to solve. She insists they can’t involve the authorities because Cluemaster would see that as cheating and Sophie is the one he’s targeting. Ryan figures out the meaning of “hot shot” in the note and uses the heat from a candle to reveal a hidden symbol on the tequila bottle. Sophie recognizes it as the symbol for the Gotham shooting range.

Crime Alley? …SORRY SORRY SORRY!

Alice breaks free by prying…the kitten off her lap, then breaks a wine bottle to lure Circe downstairs. Alice knocks her out and steals her phone. Two things I want to note here: Circe kicked in the unlocked door of the basement, and she’s wearing some killer thigh-high boots. Kind of hoping that New Kate keeps Circe’s style if she sticks around after this. Alice calls Jacob, identifying herself first as Alice, then as Beth. She asks him to trace the call and come save her. Jacob watches the younger hallucinations of his daughters and hangs up on Alice. Circe comes to and knocks Alice out.

Damn Jacob, that’s cold. Also, she mentioned she’s being held by Black Mask. Aren’t you supposed to be catching that guy? Maybe he’s no longer interested in catching his supplier.

At the shooting range, Sophie tells Ryan and Mary how she caught Cluemaster the first time. Quiz Bowl, the game show Arthur Brown used to host, was throwing a party to honor the show’s top winners. Cluemaster hid clues in the Gotham Gazette saying he was going to bomb the party because he thought the writers dumbed down the questions. Cluemaster is totally that guy who complains about video games having an Easy Mode. Sophie was working the tip line at the time, and a girl called in about the puzzle and what it meant. She begged Sophie to take credit and keep her anonymous. Sophie was promoted to field agent the next day.

Ryan thinks Sophie stole someone else’s credit to get where she is, but Sophie insists she can be trusted. She’s dropping hints hard. Mary finds a bottle of antihistamine, which will counteract the poison. Picking up the bottle turns the lights on, and out on the range they see a woman in a glass cage. Sophie identifies her as Stephanie Brown, Cluemaster’s daughter.

Hey, Steph! Welcome to the Arrowverse! Stay the fuck away from the B-plot of this episode. Trust me.

If you’re not in the know and haven’t clicked the above link, this is a character straight from the comics and one very near and dear to my heart. Stephanie Brown started off as the vigilante Spoiler to foil her own father’s crimes by tracking him down, finding out his plans, and “spoiling” them to the police and Batman. She was a supporting character in Tim Drake‘s solo Robin series, in Cassandra Cain‘s Batgirl series, and off and on in the Bat-titles. She had a short stint as Robin when Tim briefly quit, she was “dead” and in limbo for several years, and then she became Batgirl before the New 52 reboot.

Steph debuted at the time when Batman was full pedal-to-the-floor “This is my city!” control freak about what vigilantes could operate in Gotham, and he tried to shut her down several times. There was sort of an underlying theme of the rest of the Bat-Family underestimating Stephanie, but that didn’t deter her. She wasn’t a great fighter, she didn’t have all sorts of amazing gadgets or a cool car, but she did her best, and I think that’s one of the reasons she always stuck out to me.

Long story short, fuck yeah, Stephanie Brown! Yes, I know she’s supposed to be blonde in the comics, but so is Barry Allen. Tangent over, back to the show!

Stephanie has been poisoned. The Bat-Team finds a set of boxes with animals painted on them chained to a gun. After some puzzle solving, they figure out that they need to shoot corresponding targets near Stephanie’s cage in the order the animals appear in the food chain. Sophie takes the shots after some protesting by Ryan, and Stephanie is freed from the cage. She’s given the antidote, but warns that it isn’t over, because she woke up with a cryptogram written all over her.

Evil plans or grocery list? Maybe both. How are we out of zvyx and Cbcgnegf already? I just bought some last week.

Alice still isn’t giving up Batwoman’s name because she wants to be the one to kill her. Uh-huh, we’ve heard that before. Circe tries to scare Alice by talking about a guy whose eyes she gouged out. Alice remembers an Arkham inmate who did the same thing and figures out that this masked woman is Circe Sionis. But she seems to remember that Circe was trampled to death in the Arkham breakout in Episode 1×19. Alice asks to see Black Mask. This story is starting to come together.

Back at the loft, Sophie wonders what Cluemaster’s next move is.

STEPHANIE: “Spoiler alert: His next move is killing you, Agent Moore.”

Yes, she actually said that and I love her for it. This version of Stephanie is great. Seriously though, avoid that Black Mask torture B-plot. In fact, just avoid Black Mask altogether. We learn that Stephanie was the one who solved Cluemaster’s riddle five years ago. She grew up solving his puzzles, so he eventually started using her to gauge how good the puzzles were. Cracking the cryptogram is going to take time, so they call in help from Luke. The two nerds hit it off immediately. While they work on the cryptogram, Ryan, Sophie, and Mary check out the Quiz Bowl studio.

It’s a trap. Ryan and Mary immediately step on a weight-sensitive platform wired to a bomb. A recording of Cluemaster makes them answer trivia questions about Batman villains to add time to the clock. The questions just sound like dunks on Cluemaster’s rivals. Give it up, Artie; Riddler doesn’t even know who you are.

Meanwhile, more flirting between the nerds. Stephanie went to MIT! Luke doesn’t tell her why he didn’t go. She figures out the cryptogram, but rather than share her work, she apologizes before knocking Luke out with the tequila bottle. Competitive, ain’t she?

This scene is indicative of a problem I have with the dark, gritty, washed-out look of this show. They are working on a cipher on pen and paper from a cryptogram they’re reading off of her skin in the dark. And I even brightened up this screenshot. I get that you want to maintain the dreary and dark theme of Gotham, but this is comically bad lighting for the scene. Turn on a fucking lamp.

Black Mask is running out of patience, so he’s going to shoot Alice, but then she calls him by his real name. Uh…that’s just going to make him want to shoot you more. You get that, right? However, Alice has a bargaining chip: She can sew a new face for Circe. Black Mask gives her a chance.

The Quiz Bowl team gets all of the answers right, putting forty-five minutes on the bomb’s timer. Cluemaster signs off with a cryptic clue: “In the end, you’ll solve it.” Sophie says they could really use Batwoman right now, HINT HINT. She finally gets fed up and tells Ryan she knows. When Ryan tries to deny it, Sophie points out that Ryan and Mary’s lives are on the line. Ryan gives Sophie directions to the Batcave and asks her to retrieve one of her gadgets.

Ryan thinks Sophie just brought the tequila over in the first place to get Mary drunk and ask her about Batwoman. Mary yells at her for putting her anger at the Crows above saving her own life and Mary’s. And…she has a point? Look, the Crows are awful, but Sophie genuinely tries to help most of the time. Trusting her might be up for debate under normal circumstances, but they’re on a bomb and she’s their only hope.

Sophie’s wide-eyed and grinning expression upon seeing the cave is just delightful. I’m so glad she got to see this for the first time on her own, because she might have tried to play it cool if she were with Ryan and Luke. Instead, we get “kid in a candy store” Sophie.

Stephanie finds Cluemaster in front of her childhood home. That’s what the cryptogram was? Her old address? My god, girl, where did you live? That thing took up your arms and upper torso! Cluemaster is wearing a getup very similar to what he wears in the comics and Stephanie is wearing mostly purple, including a hood, which is just an homage to her costume. Love it, love it, love it. She tries to call the cops on him, but he throws down some knockout gas.

Luke wakes up and figures out the code. He arrives just as Cluemaster is trying to kill both Stephanie and himself in a car full of gas. Luke breaks the window and pulls Stephanie out. She asks how he found her and he says that just because he didn’t go to MIT doesn’t mean he didn’t get in. Just get a room already, you nerds. Seriously though, I’m happy for you both.

Ryan apologizes to Mary and reminds her she can talk to her if she wants some girl talk. Mary tells her Sophie was checking in on her because of what she had told Mary about Jacob. Sophie arrives just in time, handing the line launcher to Ryan before running for cover. Ryan grabs Mary and zips off the platform and out of the studio to safety as the bomb explodes.

This actually happened at the start of the episode and doesn’t fit the context of this moment, but I needed to break up the paragraphs with another image and my editor would never forgive me if I didn’t include this. The Crows suck.

Cluemaster is still alive and taken away by EMTs. Stephanie worries she’s too much like her father, and regrets knocking Luke out. He understands that she was just trying to keep him safe. When Stephanie says she wants nothing to do with her father, Luke promises she’ll find her people someday. YES. YOUR PEOPLE ARE SUPERHEROES, STEPH. PUT ON THE SUIT. She kisses Luke and tells him to call her. I really hope we see her again.

Mary is patching up a cut she got in the explosion when a doctor wheels Jacob into the clinic. He was found in the park with a Snakebite injector in his leg. He has overdosed and starts to crash.

At the Hold Up, Ryan asks Sophie how she knew. Sophie tells her she found the Bat-tech in Mary’s car and pulled a recording from it. She apologizes for thinking so poorly of Ryan just for being an ex-con. Sophie also tells her how she deleted her file in the criminal database to protect her.

SOPHIE: “I know what it’s like to be outed. I didn’t want to force you to trust me; I wanted to earn it. I hope this is a start.”

Alice puts the finishing touches on Circe’s mask. After sending Black Mask out of the room to get concealer, Alice removes the death mask and tells “Circe” that the real Circe Sionis is dead, because she stepped over her body during the Arkham breakout. This doesn’t shake the brainwashing, though, so Alice starts to apply the skin mask, saying it won’t be a perfect match because the photo reference she’s using for the real Circe Sionis shows she has brown eyes while this “Circe’s” are blue.

Oh no…

Alice puts the skin mask on Circe, but recoils in shock when she recognizes her eyes. She calls her “Kate.”

Well, that happened sooner than I expected. Alice knows Kate is alive, but she’s still Black Mask’s prisoner and Kate is still brainwashed. Unfortunately, this turn of events makes me doubt even more that we’ll get Kate back in any capacity. Ryan is here to stay, that’s not in dispute, but Kate could have stuck around as part of the Bat-Team if reconstructive surgery had made her look different.

After this? Look, I highly doubt Kate is going to elect to wear Circe Sionis’ face for the rest of her life, much less a skin mask made from cadavers that her sister Frankenstein-ed together. The burns might eventually heal, but she’s going to have full-body scars unless they do plastic surgery or heal them with the Desert Rose that’s still in the Batcave. However, in either case, why would Kate still have Circe’s face? I would be happy to be wrong, but I think Kate is going away at the end of this story.

Good episode, though. Stephanie was great and I’d love to see her return as a supporting character. I also look forward to Sophie working closer with the Bat-Team, this time as an insider. And holy shit, that ending and bringing back that line from the very first episode and from the comic. Brilliant.

Next time: more commentary about the criminal “justice” system that other shows just don’t want to handle.

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Batwoman airs Sunday nights at 9 Eastern/8 Central on The CW. Our Kate doesn’t have her father’s eyes…or her mother’s eyes either, come to think of it. Might want to look into that one. Wait for answers about her true parentage on Twitter @WearyKatie.

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