Batwoman -- “Survived Much Worse” -- Image Number: BWN208fg_0025r -- Pictured: Javicia Leslie as Batwoman -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Batwoman Season 2 has, thus far, been kind of a meandering mess. This week, though, the show gives us a hint of what is to come for the rest of the season–one of the first encouraging moments yet this year. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 2, Episode 8, “Survived Much Worse.”

“Survived Much”

When we back out to a macro view of Batwoman‘s story thus far, it’s hard to blame the writers. They were dealt a crappy hand. Not only did they have an aborted first season thanks to the interference of COVID-19, but they also lost their star actor, Ruby Rose. At the same time, they had a bunch of dangling plotlines and connections, as ongoing series are expected to. Kate and Alice had their unresolved issues. Batwoman and Supergirl had a growing friendship. And the writers and showrunners were tasked with somehow making a new Batwoman mesh into an existing, unfinished storyline, in media res. What a terrible burden to get tasked with as a writer.

Even so, it’s been frustrating watching the show tease us about Kate Kane while torturing Ryan Wilder, the new Batwoman, and putting her through all manner of melodrama. The last few episodes have been a frustrating treadmill of interpersonal drama and deus ex machina.

Meanwhile, on Coryana

But with episode 8, we have a glimmer of hope, of a way to move forward while honoring the original Batwoman and giving the show’s first villain an opportunity to do something new.

Everything comes to a head on the island of Coryana. Sophie and Jacob are kidnapped and taken there just as Alice arrives with the dead body made up to look like her ex-lover Ocean. Batwoman gets jacked up on some meds that give her enough energy to fight a little bit longer so that she can get Kate back, get the Desert Rose, and get out.

None of that goes as planned, of course, but it’s probably for the better. While the goings-on are as complicated as any other episode has been, the end result is pretty straight-forward. Ryan helps Alice to realize that she doesn’t want to kill Kate, and Alice chooses to kill Ocean instead. He’s not actually dead because of course the knife was forged with the Desert Rose. Whatever, okay.

It was a ruse!

Safiyah reveals that she never had Kate in the first place–that she was manipulating Alice to get what she wanted. And for as smart as Safiyah is, she’s dumb enough to tell her cronies to escort Alice–who she trained to be a powerful fighter and has just been royally pissed off–off the island instead of killing her. Alice goes all Far Cry 3 on the Desert Rose garden before Ryan can get her dose of life-saving magic flower, and Ryan is dying while Sophie holds her hand.

Meanwhile, back in Gotham, one of Safiyah’s best assassins goes after Luke and Mary, who they manage to take down despite being a couple of bickering nerds. The assassin bleeds all over Ryan’s plant, and we find out at the last minute that thanks to the assassin’s blood being infused with the Desert Rose, Ryan’s plant has now grown a Desert Rose. Again, that’s not how that works, and it feels kind of cheesy, but let’s go with it.

So we have three crucial pieces of the puzzle here. Safiyah is essentially dealt with. Ryan will be cured of her Kryptonite poisoning. Alice is released from her vendetta against her sister. At the same time, Safiyah isn’t dead–any good supervillain should have a chance to come back.

Who is Kate Kane, now?

The final moment of the episode adds another crucial piece, and if you’re paying attention to comic book news this week, you know what’s up. The CW has finally re-cast Kate Kane. The last shot of this week is a heavily-bandaged and scarred woman wearing a gold necklace with a red gem–the same one that Kate and Alice both held onto. It seems like the show is gearing up for Kate Kane to play a non-Batwoman role as Batwoman moves forward.

There’s another hanging question, too. Just moments before, Julia Pennyworth was telling Luke and Mary that they found Kate’s limbs. Is Kate going to be an amputee? A Frankenstein of body parts? Is Julia lying to them? I suspect Julia is going to end up as a villain before too long, but the show’s love of body horror drama can’t be discounted, either.

But if Kate is going to be around, having survived a plane crash, coming out scarred and different, she could slip into a role sort of like Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond, a mentor and strategist that helps Ryan do her job, leaving Luke time to make new Bat Toys instead of doing Google searches for Ryan/Kate all the time. This could actually be really rad–a good way to keep Kate in the show and to do something interesting with her, while also giving us a reason why she’s not the one suiting up again.

Moving Forward

Finally, the preview gives us our first look at the season’s true big bad, the Black Mask, Roman Sionis. We already know Ryan has some kind of history with this character, and he’ll definitely be responsible for Kate’s new face.

So presumably, the show can begin to move forward now, rather than looking back at its broken, fractured first arc.

I also can’t help but think about the way faces and identity incorporate into this show. The first arc of the show was about a doctor who could, and who trained Alice to, replace faces with perfect, unerring precision. The Safiyah arc acted as a transition between the first and second Batwoman, and now we’re onto a story about a guy whose whole schtick is wearing a spooky mask. And, of course, both Kate and Ryan are gay women who both don a mask to hide their identity, and then in doing so, find their identity behind the mask.

So this show has this theme of faces and identity being removable and replaceable, up for reinvention and recalibration. That’s a theme that shows up frequently in Batman, too. Over and over there are instances where Batman knows so deeply that he’s Batman that even a psychic invading his mind or a voice in his head can’t penetrate his secret identity or mess with his head.

Face/Off

In Batwoman, the meaning shifts slightly and becomes broader, about the way that women, gay people, and Black people have to wear masks in society to be taken seriously, allowed into spaces they deserve to be in, and to retain bodily autonomy and safety. Ryan and Kate’s masks free them in a way, becoming as much a face for them as their own faces.

Things like this are the parts of Batwoman that get me excited for the show. It’s the silly melodrama that puts me off–stuff that feels less “comic book” and more “soap opera.” Even if comic books basically are soap operas. Look at the history of Scott Summers and Jean Grey and tell me I’m wrong.

Anyway, this all puts me in a hopeful place for the rest of Batwoman season 2. Batwoman, don’t fail me.