This week’s episode of Batwoman is both disappointing and intriguing. On the one hand, it mangles yet another Batman villain, but it also introduces a potentially interesting new take on another. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 3, Episode 5, “A Lesson from Professor Pyg.”
“A Lesson from Professor Pyg”
Let’s go over who Professor Pyg is first, before we dive into this episode. In the comics and games, Pyg is a terrifically creepy character. Using mind-altering drugs and plastic surgery, Pyg turns victims into Dollotrons, mindless drones who do his bidding. He makes attempts at controlling Gotham and turning Robin into one of those Dollotrons. He’s one of the most haunting villains in Batman’s lineup thanks to the fact that he resembles Leatherface, Jigsaw, and other masked horror villains more than he does the Penguin or Mr. Freeze.
Despite that, he’s a more grounded villain. He doesn’t have any special powers, and he doesn’t require any extensive makeup or visual effects to appear on screen. So we have this character who costs as much as any other actor to render, but whose whole schtick is more befitting an R-Rated horror flick. He’s great for a serial story like a TV series, game, or comic book, but too small and weird for a Batman movie.
The result, then, is a villain who ends up mangled and barely recognizable. Batwoman, sadly, is no different.
Ryan and Sophie head to Jada Jet’s mansion for a tense dinner–only for Marquis and his date to show up moments later. It’s not long before the dinner guests are in various levels of paralysis, however, as the chef in charge of the meal is none other than Professor Pyg.
But none of what makes Pyg Pyg is present. This version of Lazlo Valentin is not a genius surgeon, but a disgruntled chef, fired by Jada. Based on his behavior here, it sure seems like he deserved firing, so even as terrible as Jada seems to be by this point–more on that shortly–he just looks like an unbalanced guy who can’t handle rejection.
The premise is nice and creepy–a bunch of people conscious but unable to move due to a paralytic drug, at the mercy of a serial killer. It could be really scary and unsettling, but instead it’s just dramatic and shallow. It’s frustrating when we have such good examples of how to do these stories right in shows like Stargirl and Superman and Lois, while Batwoman insists on mangling villains.
Batwoman isn’t the first to pick up Professor Pyg. As I hinted at before, Gotham did the same, though they at least gave him more than one episode and some pathos beyond that of a jilted employee. This, meanwhile, feels like they wanted to have a creepy killer and Professor Pyg was simply the closest option they had available–they already used Zsasz–so they went with it.
Meanwhile, the show has decided that Poison Ivy’s condition is, like Killer Croc’s, apparently communicable, as Mary is now becoming a plant-obsessed misanthrope after being pricked by a thorn from one of Ivy’s plants. And somehow, that condition doesn’t copy, but rather transfers. As one person takes on the features, the person who has the previously will lose them. We know the CW cast Pamela Isley for the season, so Poison Ivy will be back. But while her condition is an entirely fictitious one, the idea that it could somehow transfer feels a bit too silly.
With all that said, there were some interesting elements to this episode that leave me curious.
A New Joke
Jada has, so far, been an ice-cold killer, financially speaking. She’s looking a lot more sympathetic after this episode, though, and it doesn’t seem like a juke. Meanwhile, she offered up a huge revelation about her son and even gave Ryan the receipts to back it up. Marquis apparently had a close encounter with the Joker that left him sociopathic, and he’s since had a history of frighteningly violent behavior, including “pranking” his father by putting peanut butter in his sandwich to send him into anaphylactic shock. Marquis, still covered in Pyg’s blood when he gets home, smears the blood over his mouth, suggesting that he may see himself as a successor to the Joker’s legacy.
That could actually be interesting. With the Joker confirmed dead in Batwoman‘s Gotham, and so much time spent on one-shot weak villains, this could actually have some meat to it. The Joker is ripe for copycats, and the legacy of the Joker in Gotham is as big a question as Batman’s legacy. The writers still have to pull off something interesting, but Marquis at least has the charisma and presence that the idea isn’t patently ridiculous.
It’s on the writers to make this stuff interesting. So far, they haven’t been as successful as I’d hope.