[Review] Batwoman Episode 2×18: “Power”

written by Kate Danvers

The Kane sisters deserved better.

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT 

Black Mask is broadcasting on every channel in Gotham. “Blah blah blah, city corrupt, I’m the only one who can save it through total anarchy.” He’s dropped off bins of skull masks around the city and he’s encouraging lawlessness to bring down the terrible institutions of Blackgate Prison, Arkham Asylum, Batwoman, and the GCPD. Dude, you fund the GCPD. Shut the fuck up. Anyway, he cuts the power to the city and the Purge gets underway.

Luke looks through the video on his laptop for any hint of where Black Mask was broadcasting from. Mary makes a list of all of the things they need to do to save the city. Ryan’s like “Yeah, but how?” I know you don’t have Bat-gadgets or a suit, but you have the Batmobile…because Circe didn’t take that for some reason. Luke gives them walkie-talkies to keep in touch as Mary goes to the clinic to prepare for a long night. Ryan looks at the video Luke is watching and spots a TV station logo in the reflection on Black Mask’s mask.

Side note: Luke complains that his product placement laptop is at 5% battery, which I’m amazed wasn’t a conversation between the producers and the advertisers. Like “No no, he should be able to use that thing the whole episode.” “Oh, does the battery last that long?” “…No, but we want your viewers to think it does.”

As Black Mask sets Tavaroff up with a Venom injector and aerosolized Snakebite to counteract the mental effects, Circe asks what his master plan is. By morning, he expects the GCPD will have collapsed under the weight of its own corruption (good luck, been waiting over a century for that to happen IRL), the mayor to be dead from the Purge, and Gotham to be waiting for a hero. Then Roman Sionis will swoop in and kill whichever False Face goon he convinces to wear his mask for a bit. Roman Sionis will be a hero in charge of Gotham.

Yeah, but you’ll have just proven how vulnerable power structures are and you’ll be sitting at the top of a system you weakened to get there. You’ll be overthrown inside of a week. Before Black Mask can see the holes in his plan, Tavaroff flatlines, so he has him thrown out back.

In case you were wondering, this is still creepy as fuck.

Luke figures out what TV studio Black Mask is in. Sophie wants to go with Ryan, but Ryan isn’t sure she can take down Circe since she’s “just Ryan Wilder.” Sophie believes in Ryan Wilder, though, which is a far cry from their relationship at the start of the season. Character growth! Speaking of, oh, hey Alice. She’s looking for Kate, even though she knows Circe’s the dominant persona right now. Also, she left Safyiah in a car in a scrapyard. That won’t come back to bite anyone, I’m sure.

The riot is heating up outside. Ryan and Sophie find the mayor in an SUV outside. He’s in bad shape, so Ryan has Sophie stay with him while she and Alice head to the TV studio while wearing masks. Ryan has to talk Alice into it. This bothers me because of what’s coming later.

Luke is searching the Bat-cave for anything that can help and finds some old drawings he made as a kid of a Black Batman. One of the drawings has tech notes from his father on it. He continues searching and finds a high-tech Bat-suit under a sheet, based on the drawings he made as a child. I love the music in this scene, and I wonder if it’s something that’s going to be used as his leitmotif. Or it could be regular music from the show that I’m just not recognizing at the moment. BUT Y’ALL, BATWING!!!

BATWING, Y’ALL!

Tavaroff is found and wheeled into Mary’s clinic. She realizes that aerosolizing Snakebite weakens its hit and prolongs the memories, so she starts to formulate a plan. She grabs the tank and runs outside to call Luke. She thinks this version of Snakebite can be used to bring Kate back for good. Well, I suppose Snakebite vape is better than rattling off every word and phrase in the English language until they hit whatever Kate’s trigger words are. Just then, Tavaroff breaks out of the clinic, looking for his Snakebite.

Alice and Ryan talk on the way to the studio. Ryan thinks it’s ridiculous that she’s served more time than Alice, but Alice says she’s serving time in her own way. Yeah, because Beth was imprisoned for years by both August and Safiyah, and then had her humanity locked away after that, only for it to resurface after she’s committed horrible crimes that she’ll be forever judged for–oh wait, she’s talking about Safiyah killing Ocean. Fucking hell.

Alice gets why Ryan hates her now, and she’s sorry for killing her mother. Ryan doesn’t forgive her, which is 100% valid – forgiveness is never something that’s owed, even in cases of atonement…which doesn’t apply here because Alice hasn’t exactly atoned for anything yet. But because of Alice’s psychology, which I’ve touched on before, when Ryan dismisses her attempt at an apology and humanity, Alice feels vulnerable and rejected so she dives right into being a cruel monster again. She says Ryan killed her own biological mother who died in childbirth, which….fuck you, Alice. She gets a well-deserved slap for that. Ryan intends to lock her in Arkham when this is over.

They go inside the studio where they find the villain trophies and Circe. Circe is decked out in a torn-up and modified Bat-suit that resembles combat gear. The brief scuffle is interrupted by Black Mask joining the fray with dual-wielded handguns. Circe escapes with the villain trophies, forcing Ryan and Alice to split up. Alice stays behind to deal with Black Mask, and Ryan goes after Circe with Alice pleading for her to “save my sister.”

I’d go into how relatable Ryan’s impostor syndrome is, but nobody would want to read what I have to say about something like that.

Mary runs from Tavaroff, heading up a fire escape. At the top, he pushes her off but Batwing flies up and catches her in mid-air. Once Mary is safe, she drives the Batmobile to Ryan, giving her the Snakebite to use against Circe. Batwing knocks Tavaroff out, getting some really cathartic justice.

Black Mask is beating the shit out of Alice. He monologues about how she was a terrible villain because she had conflicting goals: She wanted to protect her sister, but also kill her. Alice says “You know who was a great villain? The Joker!” Hard disagree, but it’s just pretense to spray Black Mask’s face with the Joker’s acid flower before cramming Roman’s skull mask back on, fusing it to his face.

Circe is on the Bat-bike, so it’s high-tech toys vs. high-tech toys…which include missiles. The Bat-Team’s definition of “nonlethal” is very different from mine. Ryan finally stops Circe on a goddamn bridge and I already see where this is going. They fight, and things are pretty evenly matched until Alice shows up. Ryan tells her to use the Snakebite on Circe, which Alice does, getting caught up in the gas cloud as she tackles Circe off the bridge into the water below.

The villain trophies that were in Circe’s bag float free in the river. Alice and Circe are underwater experiencing separate hallucinations. Alice sees Ocean in their hideout. He encourages her to find love again and she finally gets a chance to say goodbye. “Circe” hallucinates young Kate Kane going to the Cartwright basement, only this time she opens the door and rescues Beth. In the real world, Alice wakes up and drags Kate to shore. Kate isn’t breathing, so Ryan starts CPR with Alice’s help. Ryan does the chest compressions while talking Alice through giving Kate mouth-to-mouth. This is such a good scene. Whether Ryan intended it or not, it’s so important that Alice/Beth is helping to save her sister.

In this moment, she’s Beth Kane. Beth is fighting to save her sister. And then it all comes crashing down.

Alice – no, Beth – sobs and begs her sister to live. Eventually, Kate coughs up the water and starts breathing. She sees Beth and calls her by name. Just then, cops surround them and drag a kicking and screaming Alice away. Hey, Ryan? Why are you letting this happen? You know the GCPD is crooked to the core, even when it’s not bought and paid for by Black Mask. Much as I love the scene of Beth and Ryan working together to save Kate, I fucking hate the final outcome. I’m going to have more to say on it at the end because it gets so much worse.

Ryan goes to a parole board hearing, where she’s asked if she’s changed. She gives a great speech about how she’s still the good person she was when she was wrongly arrested. The shitty system doesn’t care whether you were wrongly arrested or not, sadly. But she has changed. She’s found her power and she’s doing so much more good now. She’s released from restrictions and taken off parole.

At Wayne Tower, Mary and Luke catch Kate up on what she’s missed. They ask Luke about the Batwing suit. Apparently Lucius turned Luke’s childhood drawings of a Black Batman into reality. I like that so much better than what I was originally thinking – that it was just a high-tech Bat-suit concept like the Batman Beyond suit. They ask Kate about Alice.

KATE: “You know, I spent so long thinking that it was up to me to bring Beth out of Alice. Turns out, Alice brought Kate out of me. She’s my twin. She’ll always be a part of me, but until Alice wants to be Beth, I can’t help her.”

I get it. I get the sentiment they’re going for. Beth has to want to change. That’s fine, that’s super, that’s great. But she’s only been capable of changing since her memories and humanity were restored. I feel like everyone’s giving up on Beth because this show realizes that Alice is the best villain the Arrowverse has ever had, and they desperately need her to be bad because it’s less effort than writing and casting another great villain.

Anyway, Ryan arrives, so Kate ushers Luke and Mary out of the room so they can have a little talk, bat to bat. Ryan thanks Kate for her wearing the symbol and changing her life. Kate says Ryan knows what Batwoman means for the people who need her, and Batwoman is Ryan’s now.

Even with Kate being a different actor, it’s still great seeing Kate and Ryan in the same room together.

Later, Kate goes to the Hold Up to talk to Sophie. Sophie picks up on what I figured out before we even knew if Kate was ever coming back: Kate isn’t staying in Gotham. She’s heading to Metropolis to see Jacob, then Kara in National City, and then she’s going to try to find Bruce. Sophie asks the million dollar question: why Bruce?

KATE: “My sister spent eleven years waiting for me to find her and I didn’t. If Bruce is alive and trapped somewhere, maybe finding him is the only way for me to forgive myself for not finding Beth.”

There are isn’t a font out there that would adequately convey the deep, exasperated sigh I made watching this. I get that they don’t want Wallis Day as a regular because they don’t know what to do with her. I just found out this week they let Dougray Scott (Jacob Kane) go from the show because they didn’t know what to do with him either. And hey, having her to go find Bruce is as good as anything – I even floated that possibility months ago when speculating about how they would write Kate off. But that excuse is infuriating because she’s just letting Beth rot in another cell while she skips off to ease her conscience by finding Bruce.

Not that she ever will. The show obviously has no intention of ever resolving the mystery of what happened to Bruce Wayne, and with only one person left on the show with any connection to Bruce – Luke – they really have no reason to. They’re not sending Kate on a quest; they’re exiling her to obscurity.

I’m too pissed to describe the rest of this scene. Boo-hoo, they’re still in love but can’t be together. They kiss goodbye.

You can’t win me over with Sapphic love, Batwoman. I’m still mad. …I didn’t say stop.

The Batwoman suit is restored and the Bat-gadgets are returned to the cave, but the villain trophies are still missing. Ryan goes to Arkham to see Alice, who’s in a cell next to Black Mask. Ryan says she just wanted the system to work the way it’s supposed to for once. By locking people who need mental healthcare in a corrupt and abusive asylum with no rehabilitation program? Ryan, you even admit the guards are so corrupt that it only took you $40 to bribe them into letting you see Beth. Come on, you know this isn’t the system “working like it should”; it’s just convenient for you because the boss of your mom’s killers is on the receiving end of that corrupt system.

ARGH!

Almost done.

Of course, feeling vulnerable and treated like a monster, the monster resurfaces inside of Beth and she taunts Ryan with the knowledge that her biological mother is still alive.

On the river, we see the villain trophies floating away: Penguin’s umbrella, Mad Hatter’s hat, and Poison Ivy’s vine, broken free from its glass case and growing along the bank.

Hey Pam, you might want to come out of retirement to check on this plant.

Okay, if it wasn’t obvious from certain parts of the recap, I’m not happy with this finale, and it has nothing to do with the cowl being passed to Ryan permanently. Ryan has made the Batwoman identity and the show her own. It would have annoyed me more if they had brought Kate back to take over again. Also, Ryan is a very important character in terms of representation – do I need to tap the sign again?

No, the problems with this episode are twofold. The finale is rushed. Black Mask is defeated unceremoniously, Tavaroff is knocked out in one hit, the corruption of the GCPD is never addressed and we have no idea if any arrests were made. The only people confirmed locked away are Black Mask and Alice. I really think this should have been two or three episodes for everything they were building up prior to the finale. They were trying to hurry things along so they could get to their wrap-up and the teasers for next season.

Which leads me to my primary complaint: Beth and Kate deserve better than this. They were the emotional core of the first season and they deserve a better resolution than what they got. Kate is running off to find Bruce, who until now seemed like he left of his own volition, but is now implied to maybe be held against his will somewhere. I know the door is open for Kate to come back, but this really feels like the sort of exit they give characters on The Flash when they don’t know what to do with them anymore. Maybe Kate will run into Wally and Julian while she’s out there. The former main character of the show deserves a better sendoff than some vague forever quest.

I think what really pisses me off is what they’ve done to Beth. I don’t think the writing team really had a plan for what to do with her at the end of the season, and because Rachael Skarsten is contracted for more seasons, they couldn’t write her off the show. But they can’t give her a redemption arc because her redemption doesn’t mean anything to the existing main characters. Everyone hates her. No one has any vested interest in seeing her rehabilitated. In fact, Ryan actively wants her to rot in a hole for the rest of her life, never to be seen again. All because they had to make Alice someone to Ryan, and the easy thing to do was to make her responsible for her mom’s death. But now they’ve completely written themselves into a corner because even though they gave that bullshit excuse about how “Alice has to want to be Beth,” there has to be another main character who wants her to be Beth too, or else there’s no reason for her to be Beth and every reason for her to be Alice.

How would I have done things differently? Have Kate help Beth. Give that whole plot a happy resolution. Have her take Beth somewhere to get her real help, far the fuck away from the Supervillain Summer Camp that is Arkham Asylum. Have them go on a road trip together, maybe even to find Bruce. Anything but having Kate abandon her to a system that won’t help her even if she wants to be helped. Or at the very least, give us a scene of Kate visiting Beth in Arkham instead of Ryan waltzing in there to spike the football.

While I’m at it? Ryan deserves better, too. The show has spent most of this season shining a spotlight on and examining systems of abuse and corruption at every level. And the way it ends is by having the hero of our story watching a mentally ill woman being dragged off by murderous cops and gloating over having locked her away in a famously abusive asylum. As someone from a system of abuse and neglect, Ryan wouldn’t delight in someone else being thrown into one, not even the woman responsible for her mother’s death.

This whole finale left a sour taste in my mouth. I can’t even muster enough excitement about possible villains next season, and I love Poison Ivy. Also, wow, cutting right from “your mom is still alive” to a Poison Ivy cliffhanger did sort of make it seem like Ryan’s mom is Poison Ivy. Maybe it’s just a weird cut in an already badly stitched-together episode.

Hey, some good though! Luke is Batwing! A great next step for an awesome character. And we’re keeping Ryan as Batwoman! For the most part, she’s been amazing this season, and I can’t wait to see what she does in Season Three.

If this review goes live without a stinger image, it’s because I was too irritated by this episode to focus on finding anything funny. I’m going to step away after writing this to cool down. I haven’t been this heated since “Do Not Resuscitate.”

Fuck’s sake, we didn’t even get a satisfying death for Safiyah. She’s just stabbed with the +2 Dagger of Healing and maybe rotting in a car off screen?

See you next season, apparently different Bat-day but same Bat-channel.

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Batwoman airs Sunday nights at 9 Eastern/8 Central on The CW. Kate Danvers is relieved that Kate Kane is leaving the show because now she can write these footers without needing her last name in them. Kate Danvers still has to refer to herself in the third person though, which she finds concerning. She can be reached on Twitter @WearyKatie.

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