Batwoman is losing its grip on me just seven episodes into the second-first season. My favorite character struggled to hold my interest for an episode focused on her and the new protagonist’s ongoing story is kinda not very interesting. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 2, Episode 7, “It’s Best You Stop Digging.”
“It’s Best You Stop Digging”
Welcome to Alice week here at Batwoman, where it’s Alice all the time! Being that Alice is my favorite character on the show, this sounds like a good thing, right? I wish.
Here’s a quick summary of what’s happening this week: Alice has captured Tatiana, the woman who acts as Safiyah’s right hand, and interrogates her about the missing pieces of her own past and her time on the island of Coryana. Ryan’s condition, caused by the Kryptonite tearing through her body, is quickly worsening, and she wants to make good on her promise to her adoptive mother for revenge before she takes her last breath. Jacob and Sophie are trying frantically to find the map to Coryana so that they can rescue Kate before Alice gets to her.
The episode that follows isn’t much more interesting than that summary.
Much of the runtime is spent in flashbacks as Tatiana tells Alice about her time on Coryana, first captured by Safiyah, then trained by Ocean, only to hatch an escape plan with him.
On the one hand, this backstory explains things like the fact that Alice, a kidnapped girl with a fractured mind, can go toe-to-toe with highly-trained combatants. She’s had dedicated training from expert fighters, so of course she can. Further, Alice is in her 30s and escaped from captivity in her early 20s, giving us a blank spot of anywhere from 5-10 years for her to fill in with backstory.
On the other, this doesn’t feel like it was planned ahead of time. It feels like the page in the Batwoman bible dedicated to Alice’s backstory was left blank, and the writers are just now filling it in, rather than having an idea already and making good on that. Nothing we learned about her in the first season prepared us for this, and the brainwashing aspect is the least interesting path they could’ve taken to reveal this stuff.
Alice is unhinged, but thus far she’s been an expert strategist and planner. Whatever room she’s in, she’s the smartest person there. A brainwashing storyline feels like it does a disservice to all of that. Ocean isn’t a particularly interesting character, either. He’s handsome, to be sure, but he’s served little purpose other than as someone for Alice to make eyes at. And Alice doesn’t feel like the type to make eyes at someone, so it all feels really hollow. Also, where was Mouse during all of this? The writing last season made it seem like the two were all but inseparable, but Alice spent a lot of time on Safiyah’s luxury battle island.
That brings to mind another backstory aspect of Batwoman. Ryan Wilder is supposed to be an expert martial artist with training in a half-dozen different martial arts. And yet, her entire story is that she had a rough life being constantly poor and that she’s a tough survivor. That stuff is great, but martial arts lessons are expensive. When did she learn this stuff? She must’ve had a mentor. Who is that character? Why don’t we ever see her practicing? Actor Javicia Leslie is a trained martial artist herself, so this isn’t a wild idea.
In both cases, it feels like the writers are putting interpersonal drama ahead of an interesting story, and hurting their characters in the process.
Poisoned Bat, Poisoned Character
The other storyline is about Ryan’s increasingly poor condition. The last few episodes have increasingly been about Ryan moaning, groaning, and stumbling around confused. This week, she gets into the Batmobile in a hallucinatory haze and drives across the city, all but revealing her identity to her criminal girlfriend. Then she threatens Mary into letting her go back out so that she can murder Alice.
She finds Alice almost instantly because it serves the story, and then when she gets there she of course doesn’t execute on it. Of course the show isn’t going to kill off its best character. So why bother with the showdown? Ryan’s revelation that she can’t bring herself to kill Alice doesn’t feel like as big a character moment as it should.
Leslie is a good actor, and Ryan Wilder seems like she should be an interesting character. Instead of having her be a smart person doing smart stuff, they’ve poisoned her, effectively neutering both the actress and the character in the process. The goal seems to be to tie Alice, Kate, and Ryan’s stories together, but the actual effect it’s having is that it’s making Ryan boring. We still don’t know if we’re even going to see Kate (we almost certainly aren’t), so why is her story getting so much time?
And Jacob and Sophie’s search for the map to Coryana just isn’t even worth discussing. It’s just a plotline, and we don’t learn anything interesting about either character in the process.
Give me something, please
I’m really struggling to care about any of this at this point. The writers seem to be making drama for drama’s sake. “Yeah, it’s the CW, what did you expect?” you might ask. Alice was one of the Arrowverse’s best villains last year, and Ryan Wilder was a chance for Batwoman to start fresh after the underwhelming performance from and sudden departure by Ruby Rose. There’s so much potential, and right now, it all feels wasted.