Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 16, 2022)
After Season One of Batwoman ran on the CW Network across 2019-20, lead actor Ruby Rose quit the series. This forces Season Two to offer a major casting change, with a new Caped Crusader in the cowl.
All 18 Season Two episodes appear on this three-disc set. The plot synopses come from IMDB.
Whatever Happened to Kate Kane?: “When Kate Kane (Rose) is presumed dead, the mantle of Batwoman passes on to Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie), a young woman who uses it to avenge her adopted mother's killers.”
In a logical world, “Happened” would concentrate mainly on the “origin story” for new Batwoman Ryan. We’d dig firmly into her backstory, get her started as Batwoman, and then worry about dangling threads from Season One after that.
“Happened” digs into that topic some but it spreads its 42 minutes in a broad manner that dilutes its impact. With too much on its plate, “Happened” becomes a less than optimal launch to S2 and its new lead.
Prior Criminal History: ‘Ryan Wilder gets back to facing the daily challenges of life as herself. Alice (Rachel Skarsten) has a new, devious plan to get the attention of both Gotham and Safiyah (Shivaani Ghai). Ryan comes face to face with Alice for the first time.”
When I reviewed S1, I knew Rose wouldn’t return for S2 and I wondered if the series would simply “reboot” and ignore the threads that involved Kate Kane. At the time, I hoped that the producers would find a way to maintain continuity.
Now that I watch S2, I disagree with my prior wish. So far, S2 blends the existing narrative beats from S1 with the new lead character in an awkward, unconvincing manner.
Since we’re only two episodes into an 18-show run, S2 comes with plenty of time for recovery. However, “History” doesn’t do much to inspire confidence, as it maintains the messy launch to S2 we got in “Happened”.
Bat Girl Magic: “Safiyah brings Alice to her island sanctuary to make a few things clear. Meanwhile, Batwoman tracks down Victor Zsasz (Alex Morf), a hitman with connections to Safiyah.”
The introduction of Zsasz adds some spark to S2, as Morf offers an intriguing take on the well-worn role, and despite my earlier skepticism, Ryan’s integration with the established Batwoman team starts to show promise. Other aspects of “Magic’ work less well, but I’ll take whatever positive momentum I can get after S2 opened with two mediocre episodes.
Fair Skin, Blue Eyes: “As Batwoman attempts to fight the proliferation of Snake Bite through Gotham, a random encounter forces Ryan to revisit her painful past. She determines to ensure others like her don't go unnoticed.”
In theory, a look at Ryan’s past should offer a good piece of backstory. Unfortunately, “Eyes” veers into “Afterschool Special” territory, with its tale of a neighborhood child abductor.
It tries too hard to become Socially Relevant with its hamfisted depiction of how missing white girls get noticed but not lost kids of color. A few useful plot points emerge but the package feels too obvious.
Gore on Canvas: “Batwoman is approached by Cmr. Kane (Dougray Scott) and Agent Moore (Meagan Tandy) to boost an infamous work of art that reveals the way to Coryana - and Kate. Alice discovers that she may not remember everything about her time on Coryona.”
The series’ allusions to the Joker add some intrigue, especially because it presents him as a sadistic artist. Otherwise, “Canvas” finds S2 stuck in neutral, as it explores the year’s various plot threads in a fairly dull and scattered manner.
Do Not Resuscitate: “As Ryan's Kryptonite wound worsens, it hinders her capabilities as Batwoman. Efforts to copy the Desert Rose serum endanger Mary and Commander Kane. Meanwhile Alice's reunion with someone from Coryana presents unexpected complications.”
S2 continues to juggle a lot of balls, as it pursues a slew of different plot threads. It can’t handle these well, so none of them seem especially compelling so far. I hope this changes and S2 becomes more interesting eventually, but six shows in, this feels like a mess that “Resuscitate” doesn’t change.
It’s Best You Stop Digging: “As Ryan's condition worsens, she questions Batwoman's ‘no killing’ code when she realizes the opportunity to avenge her mother is slipping away. Tatiana (Leah Gibson) fills in the gaps for Alice about her time on Coryana and her history with Ocean (Nathan Owens).”
“Digging” comes pretty heavy on backstory, mainly related to Alice. Does any of this really go anywhere?
Not especially. I continue to hope that the disparate plot threads pursued by S2 will eventually gel into something satisfying. But “Digging” doesn’t set us on that course.
Survived Much Worse: “Batwoman's abilities are tested like never before, while Alice's search for Kate continues. Sophie and Jacob set their sights on Coryana. Luke (Camrus Johnson) and Mary (Nicole Kang) contend with an unexpected guest.”
Much of S2 has revolved around missing Kate’s status, and “Worse” appears to bring this to a conclusion – an extremely unsatisfying one, though given the nature of comic book properties, no one should accept this as final.
Whatever happens in the future, “Worse” feels more than slightly anti-climactic. At least its plot progress implies we might move past the mediocre narrative points that’ve dominated S2 so far and perhaps matters will pick up from here.
Rule #1: “Batwoman hunts down Black Mask (Peter Outerbridge), who has taken Angelique (Bevin Bru) prisoner.”
That didn’t take long: within its opening minutes, “Rule” appears to invalidate the big revelation of “Worse”. Granted, this comes as no surprise in the absolute, but I didn’t think it would happen immediately.
At least “Rule” does lead us on a path that diverges from the prior episodes, and the introduction of Black Mask – played with oily abandon by Outerbridge – brings some life to S2. Some ham-fisted social commentary flops, but we do see some signs of life here.
Time Off For Good Behavior: “A new villain named Kilovolt attacks the new community center. Angelique gives up names in Forbes' assassination.”
After “Rule” brought some promise to S2, “Time” largely squanders this good will. While it comes with a few decent action scenes, too much of it feels like mediocre melodrama.
Arrive Alive: “With Batwoman and The Crows each hot on the trail of the False Face Society, their efforts collide, and tension escalates. Alice seeks out Enigma (Laura Mennell),and Sophie and Ryan find some common ground”
In the midst of the usual character banality, “Alive” tries to go all Fast and Furious on us. This almost works, as the episode’s driving scenes boast some reasonable excitement. The various plot points fare less well, however, so don’t expect “Alive” to elevate the year’s narrative progress.
Initiate Self-Destruct: “Batwoman and Alice team up to rescue Angelique and Ocean from Black Mask's gang.”
That sounds like an exciting concept, and the Batwoman/Alice scenes do come with some spark. However, much of “Initiate” deals with the less-than-scintillating topic of attempts to protect Batwoman’s secret identity, and these feel dull. While we get a few decent plot points, this becomes another fairly blah show.
I’ll Give You A Clue: “When Sophie must face a foe from her rookie days with The Crows, Ryan, Mary and Luke are also pulled into the villain's game. The tables are turned on Alice when she finds herself in dire circumstances. Jacob continues to revisit the past.”
Does “Cluemaster” exist as little more than a ripoff of the Riddler? No, but the character adds some much needed life to the season – and makes me wish more for a Batwoman that involves a rogues gallery over the often tedious series we get. While not a classic, “Clue” works better than most of its S2 peers due to this new villain.
And Justice For All: “Batwoman is faced with a new challenge when Gotham's addicts become ravenous for more than the next fix.”
After the reasonable fun of the last show, “Justice heads back to a less than satisfying mix of social commentary and character melodrama. We find a few decent action scenes but “Justice” marks regression after the unusually appealing “Clue”.
Armed and Dangerous: “As Luke's life hangs in the balance, repercussions from the devastating event are the catalyst for some life-changing decisions for those around him.”
When done right, stories “ripped from the headlines” can become effective. Unfortunately, Batwoman handles various social issues in a clumsy manner, and that turns into a problem with “Armed”. This turns into an awkward and not especially involving exploration of the subject matter.
Rebirth: “When a familiar foe descends upon Gotham, Batwoman and Mary find they must rely on each other more than ever. Alice has a new mission and gets an unexpected ally to join her.”
With little time left, S2 should heat up with “Rebirth”, especially as it brings Kate more actively back into the (potential) fold. However, these threads feel less than compelling and they don’t create the necessary drama and intrigue.
Kane, Kate: “Batwoman struggles as Black Mask continues to raise the stakes with Circe (Wallis Day) as his henchwoman. Alice and Safiyah cross paths once again.”
Not much time left in the season, and “Kane” should ramp up the excitement, but it doesn’t. It pursues the soap opera-style plot threads that dominate S2 and doesn’t make me especially pumped to see how the year ends.
Power: “Black Mask unleashes chaos on Gotham, and Ryan tries to stop him without the Batsuit.”
As I noted at the start, the most intriguing aspect of Batwoman’s second season revolved around how the show would deal with the departure of its lead actor. S2 straddled both old and new, as it introduced a fresh Batwoman while it also teased us with the potential return of the original.
This never works, as S2 comes with a muddled overall narrative that never commits to its subjects like it should. Instead, we get cheap melodrama packaged as superhero adventures.
“Power” does appear to offer resolution about who will act as Batwoman in Season Three, and I hold out hope that the third time will be the charm. Unfortunately, Season Two of Batwoman feels too muddled and dull to become anything more than an occasional pleasure.