01st Apr2021

‘Batwoman 2×09: Rule #1’ Review

by Jason Brigger

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

The second season of Batwoman has been a weird, odd, and wild ride starting with actress Ruby Rose leaving the series and the writers scrambling to adjust the foundation of the show they built in the first season. Luckily, actress Javicia Leslie has stepped in as the new main character and has made the series stronger, while also giving the supporting characters a more focused purpose than Kate ever did. After last week’s plethora of surprises and reveals, let’s see if this mid-season finale can pull it all together.

What Happened This Week?

Closure

After nine episodes and Julia’s reveal last week that body parts matching Kate’s DNA confirmed her death, Kate’s friends and family are finally able to have a funeral for the fallen hero. Obviously, we know better but according to Kate’s friends, this is the closure they so desperately need…for now. While everyone is at the funeral, Ryan is caring for her new favorite plant, the Desert Rose, as her infection is now cured, she realizes she is now the true and only Batwoman. It’s a heavy burden to take on but one that Ryan is more than willing to take.

Fast forward one month later and Ryan taking up the mantle isn’t the only change in her life as her ex-girlfriend attempts to reconcile with her. Angelique makes a plea to Ryan to take her back as before she didn’t realize how much Ryan means to her and now she is willing to make any change necessary, including leaving the drug dealing life. Ryan is unsure (don’t do it!), and tells Angelique that she needs time to think and if Angelique is serious about changing her life, she needs to make changes now. While everyone is attempting to move on, Jacob is not fully convinced that his daughter is dead and vows to Julia to find out what really happened to her. Julia tries her best to change his mind, but Jacob is convinced something is odd about Kate’s death and promises to reveal the truth. At this point, if Julia isn’t a villain, I will be truly shocked.

A New Villain

The leader of the False Face gang reveals himself as none other than the Black Mask (called it!) and it seems he is aligned with the thought-to-be-dead Kate Kane. She now has a new face thanks to being disfigured in the plane wreck, and as a result, has no recollection of her past life. Oh, the tried and true amnesia storyline. While we don’t know the true nature of their relationship, it’s an interesting twist, and one I alluded to last week of Kate becoming the villain and Alice becoming the reluctant hero. At this point in the series, why not try to switch it up?
In the comics, Black Mask is a ruthless crime lord that wears a creepy skull mask and has no morals. He will murder anyone that gets in his way and overall, is just a villain that viewers will grow to hate, but in a good way. I’m excited to see his arrival and I think the introduction of this villain will bring some “grittiness” to the series that it was lacking.

A New Crime Wave

While walking to a 10-hour budget meeting (what type of budget does Gotham have?), the new police commissioner is confronted by a citizen concerned about the four deaths of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of police officers. The commissioner, who is eerily reminiscent of Chief Clancy O’Hara from the 1960s Batman series, quickly dismisses the concerned citizen/activist and would rather worry about taking down drug dealers than reforming the police. This new commissioner doesn’t have much time to concern himself with social issues as he is gunned down on the steps of the courthouse after leaving his marathon budget meeting. The masked assailants notice a witness sat the scene, the same citizen that earlier confronted the commissioner, and attempt to kill her but they flee once they hear the police sirens. With the death of the commissioner, Gotham businessman Roman Sionis (Peter Outerbridge) steps up on the local news to offer his help to the police in stopping the rising crime wave sweeping the city. It looks like the police may need help as Team Batwoman and the Crows, separately, realize the camera that recorded the commissioner’s murder was “scrubbed” and five minutes were missing, resulting in no evidence on who actually killed him.

As Sophie leaves the Crows headquarters, she is surprised to see her sister, Jordan (Keeya King), sitting in the backseat of her car. Jordan is actually the concerned citizen that confronted the police commissioner earlier in the day and is a witness to his murder! Before Sophie can take a statement from her, a few False-Faced gang members arrive, attempting to eliminate Jordan but luck shines on her as Batwoman shows up to save the day. After Jordan explains she is a witness to the crime, Batwoman gives Sophie the task of hiding Jordan in a safe house for her protection. It seems that Jordan wasn’t the only one at the scene of the crime as some detective work by Ryan reveals Angelique was the getaway driver for the False Face assassins. Angelique explains to Ryan that she only agreed to be the driver as the gang promised her freedom from her drug dealing life. Ryan attempts to convince Angelique to do the right thing and turn herself in, but she asks for more time. Upon discussing this new twist with Team Batwoman, Mary refuses to let Ryan be drawn into more of the drama of Angelique and if Ryan’s ex-girlfriend doesn’t talk to the police in the next hour, Mary is turning Angelique in. I like this new “take charge” version of Mary and her character has really grown since being the rich socialite at the beginning of the series.

Later that night, Angelique agrees to testify against the False Face gang and begin her new life with Ryan. Batwoman, who Ryan tells Angelique is a friend, shows up at Angelique’s apartment to take her to the police station but the Black Mask got there first. Batwoman is able to find where Black Mask is holding Angelique, in an abandoned warehouse of course, and while she puts up a good fight, there is just too many False Face members for Batwoman. Black Mask shows his sadistic side by sawing, yes sawing, one of his own gang members in half as a result of the gang member failing a mission. Batwoman is next on the chopping block, but being the true hero she is, she begs Black Mask to release Angelique and keep her as his prisoner. Black Mask then begins to monologue about his daughter being falsely imprisoned by the Crows and then killed by the former Batwoman. So, there is the reason for Black Mask being Black Mask. Black Mask is not swayed by Batwoman’s pleas to help him change the system and starts up the body dismembering saw. Before Batwoman is sawed in half, Sophie shows up with a sniper rifle, killing two gang members. Black Mask decides to fight another day and runs off while Sophie unties Batwoman and saves her. Much to the delight of Batwoman, Angelique is still alive and is freed as well.

Doing the Right Thing

After being rescued, Angelique is taken to the Crows headquarters and interrogated by Sophie. She attempts to give Angelique an attempt at immunity if she turns on the False Face gang, but Angelique knows that she would never be safe if she snitches. Instead, Angelique falsely admits to murdering the police commissioner in order to not only save herself but also save Ryan from any retribution by Black Mask. The mid-season finale wraps up with Sophie and Jordan promising to fix the system and in the process, save the city from Black Mask. They aren’t the only ones that are set on a new mission either. Team Batwoman vows to work better as a team with Ryan in charge and the first new rule is Batwoman will stop Black Mask but Team Batwoman will replace the bad with good in the form of community centers and safe streets for Gotham. I like the idea of a superhero show attempting to not only stop the villains but actually help the community. Well done.

Episode Grade: B- (Good)

Mid-Season Grade: C+ (Above Average)

While this week’s episode of Batwoman was a step-up from last week’s episode, I’m going to grade the whole first half of the season overall. Batwoman continues to find it’s footing due to replacing the main character, through no fault of the writers, and while the series may stumble sometimes, overall, it’s a better show due to the addition of Javicia Leslie. The writers have transitioned from everything revolving around Kate Kane and how people react to Batwoman to letting the majority of the characters have their own storylines. Outside of Jacob and Sophie, more depth has been added to the characters and their actions seem more “organic”.

I’m interested in where the series goes in the second half of the season as the addition of the sadistic Black Mask is something to be excited about for the series. Black Mask is a tremendous character in the comic books and will add a real sense of “fear” to the series that it was missing. Gotham is supposed to be “gritty” and “dangerous” and at times in Batwoman, it felt like any other generic city. Adding a villain that has no moral compass should help add the danger element to the series, while also allowing our hero to fight more than just Alice and the Crows. I’m excited for the second half of Batwoman and hopefully it can live up to the expectations from the first half.

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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