Batwoman: 2.05 Gore on Canvas
*Warning: Minor spoilers below as our US writer Becky discusses the latest US-paced episode...
The latest episode of Batwoman, Gore on Canvas, is an interesting one. While everyone is searching for a way to find Coryana (and the missing Kate) via a disturbing painting, we're given a proper introduction to Ocean and strong hints about his own connections to Safiyah, the island, and Alice. The episode title refers to the Joker's tendency to cover a random painting in his victim's blood and call it "art."
As with most episodes, Gore on Canvas is split between two stories: the dominant storyline follows Ryan, Team Batwoman, and the Crows as they reluctantly partner up to track down a Jack Napier painting that is somehow connected to Coryana. The sub-plot follows Alice as she continues on her mission to track down Ocean. It's rare to see Alice outside the confines of Gotham, and her conversations with Ocean were enlightening. For a complete psychotic, Alice seemed remarkably sane, if no less deadly. This episode and the one before it have both dropped tantalizing hints about a connection between Alice and Ocean. I like how the episode is sticking to hints for now and not coming straight out and saying "this is how it was between them."
At the same time, the nature of these hints is a little...weird. It's almost like Ocean and Alice are having these flashbacks of their past magically induced, which feels very out of place for a Batwoman story. Hopefully future episodes will explain what's going on, but for now it is definitely one of the weaker points of this story. Seeing more of Alice and Ocean together should be fun though.
Speaking of weak points, the biggest problem with this episode involves how this Jack Napier painting is allegedly connected to Coryana. The episode, for what it's worth, does give a reasonable explanation for how this connection could exist. The thing is, Coryana is protected by an insane level of security; there shouldn't be any charts, maps, drawings, of it anywhere in existence outside the island itself. Which begs the question...where did this one come from? I'm not sure the show will be able to answer this because this painting's connection to the island should not exist.
Another flaw is the ongoing issues between Ryan and Luke. The fact that Ryan and Luke are still bickering feels like a step backward in the plot development. I was under the impression that Luke and Ryan had gotten past this, and it was frustrating to see that Luke is still nitpicking Ryan's performance. I understand that Luke's first loyalty is to Kate, but with all the two have in common via their mutual dislike of the Crows, you would think they'd work together better. And after a very poignant scene together, hopefully they will.
Now, for what this episode did very well. Tonight we were introduced to my new favorite character: Evan Blake (Lincoln Clauss), an openly non-binary individual and a childhood friend of Kate. Everything about this character was done beautifully, from their look to the backstory about how they came out as non-binary. Introducing a character like Evan is a great way to give very public representation to non-binary individuals and show them that it's okay to be who they are. Additionally, there's a great moment where Ryan asks for Evan's pronouns like it's the most natural thing in the world, and it's a great, if fleeting, glimpse of how the world could be if people were more open minded about this topic. I hope Evan Blake becomes a recurring character, because they were the best part of this episode.
Another plot point done well involves Ryan's ongoing and very justified dislike of the Crows. Naturally, being forced to work with them doesn't sit well with Ryan, and given the events that occur in Gore on Canvas, it's unlikely her views on Crows will change any time soon. It's fantastic that Batwoman is continuing to touch on issues like police brutality and similar social issues. The Crows are functionally broken, and it feels like it's only a matter of time before that's more fully addressed.
The final point I think Gore on Canvas did very well with was making reference to The Many Arms of Death throughout the episode. Not only is it a cool name, it's a fun Easter Egg for fans of the Batwoman comics. The Many Arms of Death is an organization that played a pivotal role in Batwoman's DC Rebirth storyline, and hearing them referenced by name in this episode is a strong hint that this storyline is probably going to appear, more or less in full, later this season.
Despite some minor issues and a somewhat irritating plot hole, Gore on Canvas is a respectable episode of Batwoman. The story has almost one too many plot twists for its own good, but this is counterbalanced by the excellent storytelling with Evan Blake, Ryan's ongoing issues, and the story of Alice and Ocean. This season has yet to make a serious misstep and hopefully the strong storytelling continues.