Batwoman -- “Kane, Kate” -- Image Number: BWN217a_0169r -- Pictured: Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Batwoman Season 2 had a rough start, thanks almost entirely to the sudden departure of star Ruby Rose at the end of season 1. Her replacement, Javicia Leslie, was dealt a bum deal; she had to reboot a known character and pick up the pieces of a season that ended before it was meant to. The show struggled for much of its second season, but the back third has proven more engaging than most of the show’s first and second seasons. With one episode left for the season I’m… actually excited about BatwomanSpoilers follow for Batwoman Season 2, Episode 17, “Kane, Kate.”

“Kane, Kate”

Credit where credit’s due–picking Black Mask/Roman Sionis as the season 2 villain was a stroke of genius by the writers. First off, he’s much more grounded than many of Gotham’s other criminals, making him a good fit for the tone of the show. It doesn’t hurt that they picked a great actor to play him in veteran TV actor Peter Outerbridge, who has taken eagerly to the character. Black Mask also had a big profile bump thanks to Ewan McGregor’s portrayal in Birds of Prey.

But perhaps most importantly, the character’s background and thematic underpinnings gave them a perfect way to replace Batwoman without having to lose Kate Kane. As a guy who’s whole thing is that he wears a mask, replacing someone’s face and even personality with ones he chooses fit perfectly. As a cosmetics mogul, it fits as well, at least insofar as having rigorous control over these aesthetic elements of identity. Finally, it ties to Alice’s established skillset and history with face replacement to bring her back in.

It’s fitting, then, that the show really started to pick up once Black Mask began to show his face more often. There are a lot of enjoyable actors on this show, so Outerbridge isn’t carrying all the weight, but Sionis ties everything together so elegantly that it’s hard not to be impressed.

Homecoming

Kate Kane is finally back where she belongs, with her friends and family. Or is she?  Ryan is rightfully concerned that a woman who was hypnotized to forget her identity and assume a new one might not be super reliable. Luke, Mary, and Sophie, on the other hand, are scrambling to bring their friend and loved one back. It’s not long before Kate has all of her diaries back, access to the Bat Cave, and her rad motorcycle.

Meanwhile, Ryan feels like she’s been replaced by the original model, and she ends up back in her van with an empty flower pot and the last piece of evidence she collected at Batwoman–a laptop containing Sionis’ financial dealings. Only minutes later, though, a whole SWAT team shows up to arrest her in a clear setup. She ends up in police custody–basically a death sentence in Gotham if you’re on the wrong side of any of the fifteen criminal enterprises who have police officers on the take.

Ryan’s parole officer comes to talk to her, and it’s a frustrating scene. The woman thinks Ryan is completely delusional, and only gives her the benefit of the doubt at the very last second. Until then, she’s treating this obviously terrified woman as if she’s a toddler. It’s only when a corrupt officer pulls a gun that she really believes her and a very entertaining fight ensues.

Welcome to the Gallery

Of course, the first thing Circe-Kate does is go see her dad… Roman Sionis. Oops. Things break bad quickly when Circe-Kate locks most of the Bat Family up in the elevator down to the cave and then trains her crossbow on Ryan.

Having gotten the upper hand, Circe-Kate explores the Bat Cave, and suddenly it’s a lot bigger than the single room we’ve ever seen. It feels like that scene in Futurama where Fry finds Bender’s “closet,” a luxuriously huge apartment. There appears to be a workshop and, more importantly, Batman’s souvenir case. The same way that Batman in the comics has all these mementos of his bizarre adventures, the Batman of Earth-Prime has his share.

This is a bunch of name-drop and prop lore all at once. We see the Mad Hatter’s top hat and card, Bane’s Venom, the Joker’s buzzer and acid flower, the Penguin’s umbrella, and more. Circe-Kate snatches it all up, along with the batsuit that the team literally handed to her, and heads for Sionis’ base of operations.

That’s not how knives work

Meanwhile, Safiyah is still in town helping Black Mask out. She goes to see Alice and tells her that she had Ocean killed as retribution for the ruination of her flower garden, for which she apparently had no back-up seeds. She promises Alice safe harbor for all the crap that’s about to hit the fan in Gotham, to which Alice res0onds by stabbing her with her Desert Rose-infused knife, essentially putting Safiyah in a state of suspended animation. Of all the ridiculous things in this show, this knife is probably the most ridiculous.

Black Mask has one more trick up his sleeve. He’s recruiting all the Crows that Jacob left in the lurch when he disbanded the Crows. Agent Russell Tavaroff isn’t too inspired by the pitch until Black Mask floats the idea of using Bane’s Venom.

Menace 2 Gotham

In the Batwing comics, Tavaroff is a friend of Luke’s who turns on him after becoming addicted to Snakebite. Batwoman has found a different way to tie the two characters together, but it will still be a faceoff between Luke Fox as Batwing and Tavaroff as  the Venom-powered Menace.

I’m instantly curious to see how they’re going to handle the character design. Here’s what Menace looks like the comics:

It’s an extremely comic-booky look that gives off ’90s Extreme Grimdark vibes. The character is way over-designed, with the glove, the loincloth-thing, the red plates, and the hood. The Arrowverse has improved on many comic book designs, but it’s biffed just as many, turning an iconic character into just a guy wearing a leather jacket or weird backpack.

I’m excited by the place the show is in right now because it sure seems like they’re in a place where they can’t solve everything in one episode. The characters have Black Mask, Menace, and Circe-Kate to contend with all at once. Meanwhile, Ryan doesn’t have her suit, her identity has been spoiled, and Jacob is in prison.

Next episode will introduce Luke Fox’s Batwing suit, and close out the season, leaving us on what could potentially be a great cliffhanger if they do it right.