27th Jan2021

‘Batwoman 2×02: Prior Criminal History’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Javicia Leslie, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, Dougray Scott | Created by Caroline Dries

We are in week two of the new Batwoman era and based on actress Javicia Leslie’s performance last week, it should be a fun ride. While the rest of the characters need to find their footing with their new roles in the series, Ryan Wilder should be the “glue” that holds the series together.

What Happened This Week?

This week Batwoman leans heavily into how it was Ryan Wilder’s destiny to be a superhero. A flashback to a prior Halloween shows Ryan, dressed in a cat costume reminiscent of Catwoman, walking down a creepy alley (aren’t they all?) when three thugs attempt to rob her. Unfortunately for Ryan, she has no money or credit cards to steal so the thugs decide to just murder her. The original Batwoman swoops in and saves the day but also sees Ryan defend herself against the thugs as well. Batwoman leaves Ryan with some inspirational words and flies off.

Since Ryan has a criminal record, she has had several run-ins with the Crows through the years and by default, Sophie. This criminal record is also the reason why Ryan is detained by the Crows after a recent attempted robbery at a local convenient store, a robbery that Ryan actually stopped. Sophie, based on Ryan’s prior crimes, believes she is the reason for the robbery as “trouble always follows Ryan”. While I see what the writers were trying to convey with Sophie interrogating Ryan and trying to connect her to the crime, it’s poor detective work when a simple review of the store security footage clears Ryan and Sophie lets her leave.

Ryan, the everyday common citizen, is exactly what the city of Gotham needs now as the citizens are beginning to realize their favorite vigilante has been missing. Once the video of the Crows shooting Batwoman (last season) is leaked to the public, peaceful protests grow throughout the city. It seems the popular opinion of the Crows is starting to fall, and the people want Batwoman. Once the Crows show up at the protest, Team Batwoman has no choice but to put Ryan back in the Batwoman uniform and make a public appearance on top of a building, in order to calm the crowd as tensions grow.

As in every superhero show, this public outing doesn’t go as planned. The protestors rejoice at seeing their favorite hometown vigilante but good ol’ Alice shows up to ruin the moment. Alice, after testing the poison on the deceased body of Mouse, releases hundreds of poisoned bats onto the protestors and the Crows below, by using an old Batman trick…a high frequency machine to direct where the bats should attack. The reversal of Alice using bats now, instead of mice, details that the obsessive mind of Alice has now moved on from her former sidekick to her deceased sister, Kate, and her alter-ego of Batwoman.

The new Batwoman takes this opportunity to face-off against Alice, but Alice is not impressed with this “fake” vigilante until Batwoman holds her own in a fight with her. Alice escapes, because that is what Alice does, and Batwoman makes the unselfish decision to save the people of Gotham from murderous bats instead of seeking revenge on the murderer of her mother. Batwoman is able to locate the high-frequency machine in a trashcan on the streets, but instead of destroying it, she has another plan. In the highlight of the episode, Batwoman jumps into the Batmobile (YES!) with the machine, which causes the bats to leave the crowd alone and follow her. She eventually finds and hijacks a bus and when the bats enter the bus to follow the high-frequency, Batwoman blows up the bus, thus eliminating the threat.

Just because the bats are destroyed doesn’t mean the citizens of Gotham are safe. The bitten and now infected victims are being rushed to local hospitals and even Mary’s underground clinic, which I wonder how underground it is when the general public is being pulled into it. Mary is struggling to find an antidote to save the victims but in odd twist, Alice shows up and provides the correct antidote to save the people of Gotham. It’s a wonderful scene as Mary, just like Ryan, must put aside her own vendetta for Alice, who also killed Mary’s mother, in order to save the people of Gotham.

What is Alice’s plan here? She unleashes the bats only to save the people she was targeting? Or was it all a ploy to see if a new Batwoman really did exist? By the end of the episode, we learn Alice caused the attack of the bats to gain the attention of the new, mysterious villain in Gotham, Safiyah. It works as Alice is knocked out by Safiyah’s assassin, Tatiana (Leah Gibson) and it taken to the new villain.

Rest of the Crew

The rest of the episode is light on character involvement and development, but a few things did happen:

  • While Mary is on-board with Ryan taking over the mantle, Luke is more cautious and lays out some rules for Ryan, including the all-important Bat mantra: No killing. Luke not being fully convinced that Ryan is the heir apparent is a nice hiccup to add to the series as this puts more pressure on Ryan to not only prove to herself but now, also Luke, that she is worthy of the Batwoman name.
  • Jacob and Sophie interrogate Mary and Luke in order to learn if they knew Kate was Batwoman and all of Jacob’s failures as a father come to the forefront. Jacob, after losing Beth/Alice, two wives, and Kate, realizes he must change and do something different or he will end up losing Mary. I’m hoping this realization will change Jacob on the series because as strong as the character was in the first half of last season, he’s been underwhelming and “one-note” since then.
  • Sophie and Julia’s on-again/off-again relationship is boring and unnecessary and while Kate’s letter confessing her love to Sophie adds a little twist to the relationship, both these characters deserve better.

Best Line of the Episode

  • Ryan, when bats start to circle her: “I hate bats.”

Episode Grade: C (Average)

This episode felt more like a first episode in a new season than last week’s episode as the series is now free to change and adjust their mythology for a new Batwoman. Alice has a “soft” reboot as she moves on from Mouse and her obsession is now on her deceased sister Kate, the Hush storyline is finished (for now), and Ryan has officially been given the “Seal of Approval” from Team Batwoman. Plus, the Batmobile has replaced the Batcycle as Batwoman’s main mode of transportation!

Overall, this episode was a little weaker than last week’s but Javicia Leslie continues to shine as the new Batwoman and is able to at least make an average episode more fun. The writers have done a good job of switching the focus from Alice/Kate to Alice/Ryan as well as giving Mary something to do this season. And to top it off, Tatiana, yes Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, makes an appearance as the new villain’s assassin. All this leads me to be optimistic for the rest of the season and possibly the future of the series.
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You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here.
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