Mary Hamilton was one of the smartest characters on Batwoman throughout Season 1. After joining the team formally, though, she’s been somewhat sidelined. Now, as the Poison Ivy infection takes over, it could be her chance to be a more active character… or a tragic mishandling of one of Batman’s most fun villains. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 3, Episode 6, “How does your garden grow?”
“How does your garden grow?”
TANGLED UP IN YOU – An unnerving discovery in a garden shed sends Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) rushing to Ryan (Javicia Leslie) to ensure the city is on high alert. Her terrifying theory – a Bat Trophy has entangled a new host, and her thorny ways are weaving their way through Gotham. Alice (Rachel Skarsten) is suspiciously eager to help the Bat Team (Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson), and Sophie (Meagan Tandy) seeks vengeance for an incident involving her sister.
Plausible Science Fiction
Let’s start by talking about how Mary is becoming Poison Ivy. Regardless of how well or how poorly it works for Mary’s character arc, I have major problems with it. Like the Killer Croc situation a few weeks ago, Poison Ivy-ism is a transferrable condition. Batman comics have dabbled in sci-fi since the early days; the Joker, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face and so many others are the result of science gone wrong. You have to suspend some amount of disbelief for these to work. Getting dumped in acid will just dissolve you, not make you crazy. We’re still decades away from being able to safely freeze a human in cryogenic suspension–assuming it’s possible at all.
Even so, these ideas feel plausible. It’s not hard to imagine someone inventing true cryogenic freezing, or someone’s mind being twisted by exposure to chemicals. This weird path that Batwoman is taking bends disbelief to the point of breaking, though. It has gigantic plot holes built into it. With the Killer Croc situation, I asked how the girl Croc kidnapped didn’t get infected when all it took was an abrasion for the first victim. And now the show wants us to believe that:
- Poison Ivitis is transferrable
- That the person who had it loses it when a new person is infected
- That the person who is infected develops sudden knowledge of plants
- That person develops a second personality
By Batwoman‘s logic, this isn’t science, it’s a curse. This is how curses work.
It’s a curse, actually
If they wanted to suggest that Ivy got her powers like Wonder Woman nemesis Cheetah–from an ancient deity–then that would be something different. That would be a new take on the character and we could work with that. It might not be good but at least it would be new and that has its own merit.
But Pamela Isley–who will show up this season–was poisoned by a colleague just like in her modern comics origin story. And so it’s sci-fi turned to magic. And it feels disrespectful to the character and all of her themes. Poison Ivy, like her girlfriend Harley Quinn, is a literal doctor in her field. She’s a trained expert. Someone tried to kill her, and she survived and turned her tragedy into her source of power. She’s an eco-terrorist. Her methods are terrifying, but if you put aside the whole thing where she feeds people to plans or turns them into trees, she kinda has a point a lot of the time.
Yeah, dudes like the green leotard and red hair, but Ivy is iconic because she’s a true badass and a formidable opponent for Bats.
Mary and Pam both deserve better
And that makes this whole turn disrespectful to both Poison Ivy and Mary Hamilton. Mary is, like Pamela Isley, a certified doctor. But she got her powers and this magical science curse through apparent happenstance and suddenly has all this new plant knowledge.
And what does she use her powers for? The pettiest nonsense imaginable. The episode starts out with this dude encased in bees, honey, and honeycomb. It’s legitimately terrifying body horror, and I had to turn my head away when the bee crawled out the dude’s nose. But even if we ignore the fact that she controls plants, not bugs, we find out later that she imprisoned this dude, Chris Hayner, in honey because he called her sweet. See, it’s an ironic fate. Sweet, honey, get it?
And then, off-screen, she finds and captures the guy responsible for freezing people to death a few weeks back and buries him immobilized in the dirt. Frozen by ice, frozen in place. This one is less petty–the guy is literally a murderer–but it all goes toward making Mary look like a character driven not by her expertise but by random mood swings. She’s not trying to fix the broken medical system (the most sensible quest for Mary, I would think), she’s just lashing out at any situation she thinks is unjust.
So instead of a victim-turned empowered survivor with expertise and a question, Mary is just cursed with extremely lethal mood swings.
In terms of her character, it seems like an appropriate move at first glance. Ryan and Luke have sidelined Mary repeatedly over the last season, ignoring her advice and lying to her. Meanwhile, the manipulative Alice, who is just honest enough, just often enough that she can get into anyone’s head, has been whispering into Mary’s ear, making her re-think every little transgression. That Mary would be frustrated, and replace one set of toxic friendships with another is pretty believable. But turning a legendary villain into what amounts to a magical curse is not the way to do it.