When you start asking “how would this character behave” instead of “what cliffhanger would get people amped up,” suddenly a show can start becoming interesting and engaging. I’m not ready to say that Batwoman is doing that intentionally, but the last few weeks have the show moving toward a more interesting path. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 2, Episode 16, “Rebirth.”
The strongest character on Batwoman has been Alice right since the very beginning. Not only because Rachel Skarsten is a skilled actor, but because Alice has a lot going on for her–she has a weird, creepy backstory, interesting interactions with other cast members, fun dialogue–that so many of the other characters don’t seem to. Lately it feels like the other characters are starting to catch up. Not only that, but we have an Alice-centric episode this week.
A lot happened last week. Luke came back to life. Batwoman saved Jacob, who then disbanded the Crows. Alice approached Jacob about Kate being alive. It was one of the more story-dense episodes of Batwoman yet, and this week follows with some more big moves.
Alice and Jacob nab Circe-Kate and take her back to the former headquarters of the Crows. Without Enigma’s magic word, they have to pull Kate out of Circe the old-fashioned way–with a bunch of Kate’s old stuff.
Luke on the war path
While that’s going on, Luke seems to have a death wish. He’d just chosen to die so that he could be with his father, Lucius, when the Desert Rose serum woke him up. He’s walking around expressionless and numb, and his anger–at both the injustice he suffered at the hands of the Crows and at being snatched away from his tearful reunion–leads him to the bar where the city’s law enforcement hangs out, where he challenges known-killer Russell Tavaroff to a poker game.
That story’s a bit smaller and weirder, so let’s talk about that first. It seems pretty clear that Luke is trying to humiliate Tavaroff into finishing the job so that he can find peace and grim satisfaction for his burning anger.
As Luke sits at the bar, though, another guy sidles up. He’s a Black man like Luke, but he’s built more like Tavaroff. Hey, it’s none other than John Diggle, played once again by David Ramsey. Ramsey is set to make a bunch of appearances across the Arrowverse, including not just Batwoman but apparently just about every show officially in the Arrowverse. Here, Diggle sits in on a poker game between Luke and Tavaroff in which, as you’d expect, Luke thoroughly humiliates Tavaroff, not only catching him cheating, but actually outplaying the cheat.
I’m not going to lie–this is incredibly satisfying. The actor who plays Tavaroff does such a good job of making him into a reprehensible piece of crap that I’m not sure I could stand to be around the actor in real life.
John Diggle steps in
Tavaroff takes his loss pretty well, by which I mean that he waits until Fox is outside before trying to murder him for a second time. Luke fights back, but ultimately it’s Diggle who intervenes to save him. Afterward, Diggle talks to Luke about directing his rage somewhere productive–ultimately setting him down the path toward becoming Batwing. At the same time, Diggle seems to be nursing a monster headache.
If this was all we were going to see of Diggle in the Arrowverse this year, it’d feel like a huge waste. But with plans to have Diggle pop up on other shows and provide similar directions for some other characters, it starts to feel of a piece. And the headache thing got just enough focus and time that it sure feels like they’re going to be developing whatever it was that he looked at at the end of Arrow.
Diggle seems like a good choice here with the above in mind. If anyone knows what to do with an angry young man with a vendetta and high-level skills, it’s definitely Diggle. He has a good eight years of experience with that specific task already.
Kane Family Reunion
Elsewhere in Gotham, things are more complicated. Black Mask has called in Safiyah for help bringing Circe-Kate back. Black Mask’s gang captures Jacob and Alice pretty easily, while Circe-Kate gets away. A few interesting things happen here.
Ryan is pushed into a spot where she has to rescue Alice from Safiyah by giving up the Desert Rose flower she received from her adoptive mother. This is a good way to remove that deus ex machina from the story with a meaningful character moment; the situation forces Ryan to put ideals over desires, and it’s finally looking like she’s wearing the cape to be a hero instead of to pursue personal justice.
We find out that Black Mask has a bunch of guys inside Gotham City PD. I feel like that place is just a second job for Gotham organized crime gang members, with like 5 legitimate cops. Everyone else is secretly with Black Mask, the Penguin, the Riddler, or whoever. Jacob ends up arrested for hiding Alice, but when the press puts a mic in his face, he talks about how Alice isn’t a monster, but rather has had to endure some truly inhuman torture. He also admits he failed as a father when it came to finding and caring for his daughters. He means it, and Alice is watching it on television as he talks. I don’t expect her to suddenly turn into a good guy, but this is exactly what Alice needed to hear.
Oh, and Safiyah kills Ocean. Ocean is finally dead. Apologies to the actor who played him, but that character brought nothing aside from smoldering good looks to the show, and took away from Alice’s storyline significantly.
Moving into next week we have Circe-Kate broken into pieces and trying to reassemble them, Alice and Batwoman potentially working together, Luke starting down the path to Batwing, and Black Mask starting to truly flex his muscles.
There’s a lot of potential in all of that, and I hope all this enjoyable setup pays off.