[Review] Batwoman Episode 2×14: “And Justice For All”

written by Kate Danvers

I am not qualified to review this episode.

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Couple of disclaimers before we get rolling this week: This episode deals heavily with systemic racism, racial profiling, violence against Black people, and police brutality. All of that is taken seriously despite the unrelated comic book-style subplot about zombies. Since these are very sensitive and very real subjects, I feel the need to add a content warning to this review.

Secondly, as I said before the spoiler cut, I’m not qualified to review this thing. I’m a middle-class white woman from the Midwest. I try to educate myself on these issues and acknowledge my privilege, but I’ll always be looking at this from an outside perspective. I can’t speak to how well this episode handles these subjects, and that makes reviewing this one difficult. I discussed this with Dayna beforehand and we don’t exactly have a full office of staff writers to hand this one off to, so I’m going to do my best to review without whitesplaining the issues. I encourage you to seek out other opinions and perspectives on the episode. Personally, I enjoyed Nic’s recap over on Autostraddle.

One other thing: Due to the serious subject matter and the note the episode ends on, I’ll be skipping the usual stinger image joke and instead provide links to resources to donate, volunteer, sign petitions, etc.

The episode picks up right where the last one left off with Alice giving “Circe” her new face and realizing that the person sitting across from her is her sister. Circe doesn’t know who “Kate” is and thinks Alice is just being strange. Black Mask returns and tells Alice she’s earned her freedom. Alice tries to stay to do touchups, but Black Mask isn’t having it and Circe tells “Daddy” that Alice is creeping her out. Alice reluctantly leaves.

Excuse you, “Circe,” but Alice is the least creepy thing in this scene.

Batwoman stops a Snakebite deal and tracks some addicts to an abandoned church, where she finds one woman with strange pupils eating another person. This is cut really weird and I think this scene was meant to go later in the episode, but I’ll mention that when we get to where I think it was supposed to be.

The next day, The Hold Up is holding a fundraiser for the community center. Ryan and Imani are being cute. Ryan asks Luke how Kate dealt with bailing on her dates to go be Batwoman. Outside, a few GCPD cops walk right past a white dude in an SUV about to shoot up with the new blue version of Snakebite, only giving him a friendly warning about blocking a hydrant. The cops then enter The Hold Up, claiming they’re responding to a “noise complaint.”

Considering the overall theme of the episode and of course where this scene in particular goes, it’s obvious this is a race thing, but there are also parallels with police raids of gay bars. Cops do awful shit and get away with it constantly. The cops harass them and say they need a permit for the fundraiser or they’ll have to pay a fine. Luke tries the diplomatic way out, but Ryan is tired of this shit and talks back to the cops, leading one to grab her. When she pulls away, they claim it’s “resisting arrest” and “assault.” Both Ryan and Luke are arrested. Sophie arrives after Luke and Ryan have been taken away, and she questions the lead officer about the incident, which leads to her being arrested as well.

I arbitrarily paused on this frame and realized right afterward how much it says. Both of them knew from the moment those cops walked in what it meant.

In a holding cell, Ryan, Sophie, and Luke each have their own perspectives on the matter, and I think this is where the episode is at its strongest. Ryan’s experiences taught her to fight back against the corrupt system. Luke sees it as a fight he can’t win, so he tries to keep his head down. Sophie wants to fix the system from within. Neither perspective is presented as wrong or right, and this (as well as something that happens later) changed my own perspective on Sophie.

The guy who took Snakebite in plain view of the cops earlier is starting to crave human flesh. After he scares a woman into running away screaming and puts a sizable dent in a dumpster, a cop arrives at the scene. He doesn’t pull a gun; he tries to calm the man down and offer help.

Some parts of this episode are more overt than others, and while this one is probably more on the subtle side, it gets the point across really well. We’ll never know if the officer would have bought Burger King for Snakebite Guy, though, because he’s devoured by zombies.

To deal with the shock of her sister’s return, Alice goes to see her therapist, Doctor Evelyn Rhyme. Yeah, we skipped the “who could have possibly done this?” phase of DCTV storytelling by having Alice go right to the person she knows did the thing. The hypnosis Kate is under is a bit more involved than what Evelyn did to Alice and Ocean. Under threat of death, Evelyn tells Alice she’ll break the hypnosis, but first she needs something of Kate’s.

I know this is supposed to be the “kidnapping” kind of tied up and not the “kinky” kind, but someone forgot to tell the director or the prop people or even Rachel Skarsten, who gives Evelyn a smack on the ass at one point.

Jacob is recovering in the clinic. Mary is keeping him there for observation and not taking any of his shit. He tells her about how he was initially jumped and injected by False Face, but she’s already seen the sixteen track marks on him. They’re interrupted by Snakebite Guy, a.k.a. Richard Monaghan, rushing in and handcuffing himself to a bed so he doesn’t eat them or anyone else. He tells them the new blue version of Snakebite is what did this to him.

Alice goes to her subway hideout where she has a box of keepsakes that include Kate’s motorcycle keys. On her way out, Ocean tries to stop her for a little makeout session. She doesn’t have time and tells him through tears that Kate is still alive.

I want to point out how extremely out of character Alice is acting in this scene, and I don’t mean that as a mistake on the part of the writing, direction, or Skarsten’s acting because it’s all very purposeful and superbly done. She’s not commanding the room in the bombastic and slightly manic way Alice typically does. She’s smaller, more vulnerable, and more human. We’ve seen this a couple of other times recently: once when she called Jacob for help and then when she realized “Circe” was Kate. I think rather than a quick change after her memories of Ocean were restored, we’re seeing a gradual re-emergence of Beth. It’s a part that’s always been there, but it’s getting too big for Alice to conceal.

Back in the holding cell, Sophie says she became a Crow because she grew up in a community policed by people who didn’t look like her. She’s trying to show Black girls that they can go to top-tier schools and stand up to bullies. Ryan has no faith in the Crows as “the wall between the 1% and reality.” Sophie makes the point that she’s putting her life on the line without the luxury of hiding her face.

Sophie, you can be a hero whether you wear a mask or a badge or neither of those things.

Apologies are shared all around. A white car thief is put in the cell with them. He says they’re safer in jail than out there with all of the zombies. Ryan needs to get out there. And just like that, Imani arrives with a Civil Rights attorney to get the three released.

Jacob is helping stitch up bite victims at the clinic and learning more about what Mary does. Mary gets a call from Ryan about the zombies. Between Mary, Ryan, and Luke, they figure it out: People take Snakebite to relive memories. The new version makes them crave memories, so that’s why they’re eating brains!

FUCKING WHAT?

Whatever, Mary has a cure. But it’s an injectable, so Ryan has to get up close to the zombies.

Sophie orders the Crows to go out and help people around the abandoned church because that’s where the new batch of Snakebite seems to be targeted. Tavaroff is insubordinate and gives her shit about her being in jail all day, but she’s the acting commander, so he follows orders.

Alice and Ocean have brought Kate’s keys back to Evelyn. They’re an item that is “uniquely Kate Kane” because bikes were always her thing. She felt free on her motorcycle, and she needs to be freed from mind control. Evelyn warns that Alice is just going to be bringing back the person who locked her away in Arkham, and that sometimes memory loss is the best thing for both parties. Says the person that did the brainwashing, but whatever. Evelyn is about to give Alice the trigger word to free Kate when Ocean snaps her neck.

“Free from the burden of having to save her irredeemable sister.” Alice is changing for the better.

Remember earlier when I said there was a scene that seemed to be out of order? It’s the one where Batwoman was first walking into the church at the beginning of the episode. There were empty syringes of Snakebite outside, it was eerily quiet, and Batwoman also had the vials of the cure on her utility belt. Maybe they shuffled that for a different cold open or they weren’t able to shoot the establishing scene they wanted to shoot for the zombies. I don’t know; it’s just a weird continuity thing I noticed and it gives me something I feel even remotely qualified to talk about in this recap.

Batwoman fights zombies in the church and sticks them with the cure one by one. There’s a funny moment where she corrects “ass” to “booty” when she remembers she’s in a church. The churches I’ve known would have more of a problem with her being a lesbian than the swearing, so swear away. Besides, much worse is coming. Tavaroff and his team of Crows arrive and start shooting everyone. They shoot one who Batwoman just cured, but it’s unclear if they also shoot the unconscious ones. Sophie yells over the radio for him to stand down, but Tavaroff coldly answers that the people were a lost cause.

Jacob compliments Mary on the work she does at the clinic. Mary asks if he took Snakebite to see Kate and Beth again, and he confirms it. Mary reminds him that she lost her mom and Kate too, but she’s living with it while he’s trying to escape to a fantasy of the two daughters he lost, ignoring the one he still has left. MARY HAMILTON IS TOO GOOD FOR THIS WORLD. Richard breaks free of his cuffs by…um…eating half of his own hand. Jacob keeps him at bay with a knife and Richard runs out of the clinic.

Richard looks all over for food, but then a cop tries to help again, so he attacks him. Batwoman arrives in time to save the cop, who I think is the same one who arrested her and Luke earlier? But didn’t he also get eaten when he tried to help Richard before? Maybe they just look similar.

This is the second time in two weeks you’ve had drinks together. We don’t have to ship it, but I think you’re allowed to consider each other friends now, Ryan and Sophie.

Ryan orders shots and decides she needs all three after the day she’s had. Sophie says “I’m out.” Soph, that could mean a lot of things in a gay bar. No, she’s leaving the Crows. Finally! We’re all very proud of you, Sophie. Luke, get started on her costume while we workshop names. Ryan says the Crows never deserved her. Awww. Seriously, start hanging out more.

Alice tries in vain to revive Evelyn, but sadly, Ocean did not snap her neck while holding a Desert Rose–NO, I’M STILL NOT OVER THE +1 DAGGER OF HEALING. Ocean says he did it because he doesn’t want Alice to get Kate back. According to him, Kate couldn’t recognize Alice after eleven years, but Alice saw through the burns and new voice to recognize Kate. Also Kate locked Alice up in Arkham. Yeah dude, because she was killing people! It’s really just a “nobody loves you except for me” speech which…yikes. Alice, honey, please. You can do better than this emotionally manipulative bastard.

Ryan has a drink with Imani and apologizes for not being entirely honest with her. Imani asks if she’s CIA or something. It’s not super clear if they’re breaking up or if Ryan is just like, “Sometimes I have to disappear with a bullshit excuse now and then. Hope that’s cool.” No one’s crying and the scene kind of ends on a happy note, so maybe the latter?

This is maybe my fifth revision of this paragraph – I can’t describe the final scene in detail. Luke is mistaken for a car thief and shot three times by Tavaroff. Out of everything in this episode, I think it’s the most “too real.” It’s a really shocking note to end the episode on and it’s one that’s going to sit in the pit of my stomach for the next three weeks.

It’s hard to write this recap because these are very real things that I’ve never experienced. It’s one thing to talk about superheroes or time travel in a reviewer or editorial capacity, but it’s something else entirely to try to offer my input on a real-world problem that doesn’t affect me in the way it does other people. I’m ridiculously far out of my lane.

But if there’s any thought I can offer based on my actual experiences, it’s a note about how subjects like these are portrayed in media. I remember when the Columbine High School shooting happened in 1999. In the weeks and months that followed, certain TV shows were censored or had episodes pulled altogether. The same happened with the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Some thought it was too soon to depict certain things in the media like violence in a school, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, bombings, etc. It even pops up in political discussions. Gun control debates following mass shootings are shut down because “can’t we wait before we politicize this tragedy?”

After a while, though, I started to wonder: When was the appropriate time to depict stuff like that? When was it appropriate to start a conversation? Because terrible things were happening every month, every week, and every day. “Too soon” loses its meaning when horrible shit happens every day. It’s always going to be “too soon” if it keeps happening. The school shooting episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is going to be relevant no matter what year you watch it, and this episode of Batwoman is always going to be relevant until something actually changes. If this episode made you feel uncomfortable, it’s because we have shit to work on.

Next time: See you in three weeks. Hopefully we see Luke, too, because goddamnit, I like that character.

BlackLivesMatter.com

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Batwoman airs Sunday nights at 9 Eastern/8 Central on The CW. Kate can be reached on Twitter @WearyKatie.

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