Batwoman 2×09 Review – He Who Wears the Mask

Batwoman -- “Rule #1” -- Image Number: BWN209b_0097r -- Pictured: Peter Outerbridge as Black Mask -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

This week, Batwoman Season 2, Episode 9, is really the first episode of Season 2.  Season 1 of Batwoman stopped a few episodes short due to COVID-19, and Ruby Rose’s departure likely doubled the time the writers’ room needed to explain why there’s suddenly a new Batwoman in town while also finishing out the previous story. Three episodes likely turned into eight. But now it’s time for Season 2 to start. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 2, Episode 9, “Rule #1.”

“Rule #1”

The episode opens on Kate Kane’s funeral, sort of burying the Batwoman version of her character even as whatever the next incarnation of her character is begins to develop. While the show moves past Kate, Ryan gives her a memorial in the form of the plant she’s long cared for finding a place in the Bat Cave.

While she’s setting up the memorial, Ryan explains how it ended up that the plant she’d cared for was also unknowingly a Desert Rose, and the hoops the show jumps through make that father’s-brother’s-nephew-former-roommate bit from Spaceballs sound straightforward by comparison. I assumed last week that the assassin from Coryana bleeding on the plant is what gave it Desert Rose properties, and honestly, that sounds less convoluted than what we actually got.

The Mask

That intro preps us for the plot to come. We get our first look at the Black Mask side of Roman Sionis as he taunts the nearly-comatose and heavily-bandaged Kate Kane. A young black woman confronts the current police commissioner about the idea of defunding police, and he brushes her off. Later, she’s tagging the building when three members of the False Face Society show up in masks and blast the commish on the front steps of city hall.

That, importantly, introduces us to the Roman Sionis side of the Black Mask. He’s a handsome and charismatic guy that has a sort of David Bowie/Robert Patrick look to him. I like the way the show introduces him, I like the actor, and I think Black Mask could be a great pull as a known Batman villain but also as someone who can ground the show a bit more.

While Batwoman investigates, she finds out that the young woman is the younger sister of Sophie Moore, the Crow. She finds the two in the nick of time, saving them from assassination at the hands of the False Face Society. Sophie’s sister is reticent to trust either Batwoman or her own sister with information about what she saw when tagging, as she sees both as cop-equivalents who help keep the existing systems running instead of helping create new systems that work better. This shakes both Ryan and Sophie.

Crime and Social Justice

This first act of the episode sets up what I think will be the two primary storylines this season. One is the Black Mask himself. Who he is, what he wants, and why. The other storyline is the social justice aspect of the show. The show has already been shaking at Sophie’s foundation, making her doubt her fellow officers and calling out their bad behavior. Now, though, it’s also shaking Ryan. Sophie’s sister points out that Batwoman is basically a cop, and that recontextualizes what Batwoman is for Ryan.

This is going to become a pushing-off point as Ryan begins to shape Batwoman, and we see that begin this episode. This is a question often leveled at Batman: he’s the coolest, smartest, strongest guy in every room he goes into (except the Hall of Justice, Superman is pretty strong), but much of what he does is responding to crimes in progress and crippling thugs. As a billionaire, little attention is paid to what Bruce Wayne does to prevent crime from happening. Of course, there’s a reason for that. Punching guys’ faces is way more entertaining than going to a municipal meeting to set up a youth shelter. A television show format may be a good place to explore that. It could also go horribly wrong and be the most boring thing on television. But when it comes to the Bat-family, community outreach is a pretty bold storyline.

What to do about Alice?

One of the show’s most consistently entertaining characters is at a crossroads this week. Alice has had the fortune to focus single-mindedly on her sister, but now, she fully and completely believes Kate to be dead.  Without the single thing she’s focused on for so long, Alice has a psychotic break instead of dealing with it like a well-adjusted human (in her defense, she’s not a well-adjusted human), and hallucinates the teenage version of Kate who taunts and manipulates her.

The show doesn’t actually do anything with this yet, but it’s setting up the next stage of who Alice is and how she’ll matter to the ongoing plot. It’s not hard to imagine that the writers are eager to keep Alice involved–Skarsten is the best actor on the show and elevates whatever scene she’s in. This might be my big question for the show–how do they keep Alice involved and have it feel organic?

This episode is so different from the story that preceded it that, again, it might as well be Episode 1. I’m left with all the questions of a first episode, and eager to see where they go now that Ryan is fully Batwoman.