Batwoman: 2.09 Rule #1
*Warning: Minor spoilers below as our US writer Becky discusses the latest US-paced episode...
A lot happened in Rule #1, the latest episode of Batwoman. The team moved on from Kate Kane, Black Mask made his presence felt in Gotham, and Alice appears to have lost her grip on reality. It was a lot to take in, but it was also an excellent way to kick off the second half of season two.
Given how much of the first half of this season was spent with Safiyah and Coryana, the writers made an excellent choice by skipping ahead a month in time. It allows for a clean break from the previous storylines and makes it easier to begin a new one. While Safiyah dominated the first half of the season, it looks like the second half is all set to revolve around Black Mask, aka Roman Sionis, a villain audiences will be familiar with from last year's Birds of Prey.
If you're worried that Peter Outerbridge's take on the character won't match up to the film's version, put your minds at ease because he plays Black Mask to spine-chilling perfection in his onscreen debut. This is the complex type of villain you can sink your teeth into; Black Mask has clearly stated motives for doing what he's doing, and what makes him really scary is his reasons have a twisted sort of logic to it. Which basically means that it's possible to feel sympathy at some level for the character. The end of the episode makes it plain that there are long term plans for Black Mask, mostly involving the believed-dead Kate Kane.
Speaking of Kate, this episode did follow up on that tantalizing reveal at the end of the previous episode, though it's obvious the writers are going to be playing the long game with this new version of Kate. That's probably for the best given that a new actress is playing the character. However, there's one interesting detail that grabbed my attention, that being the introduction of Enigma. Now, if you were paying attention several episodes ago, you know that she works for Safiyah on Coryana. So if Enigma is now in Gotham with Black Mask...does that mean the drug lord and Safiyah are working together? Despite the relatively clean break from Safiyah's storyline, I refuse to believe that we've seen the last of Coryana's ruler, and Enigma's presence to me is a teaser that we may see her again.
Outside of Black Mask and any possible connections to Safiyah or Coryana, the one thing I liked the most is the introduction of Jordan Moore (Keeya King) as Sophie's little sister. This was a fantastic debut performance from Keeya King, as there is an instant rapport between her and Meagan Tandy and I hope we see a lot more of Sophie's sister in future episodes. Also, it was a nice continuity touch for the writers to remind us of last season when Sophie came out to her mother. That Jordan is okay with this knowledge may help Sophie be more comfortable with her identity, something she's struggled with since we met her in the pilot episode.
There were some weak points in this episode however, and they involved the opening scene and Alice's story arc. I understand why there would be a funeral for Kate Kane since she's now believed to be dead, but it feels like something of a wasted moment because here everyone is moving on and we the audience know that inevitably it's going to come out that Kate is still alive. Knowing that kind of ruins the moment, though that may have been the point all along.
However the part that really stands out as the worst is Alice's bizarre story arc. Normally I love everything Rachel Skarsten does, but in this episode it all strangely fell flat. I think the idea was that this is Alice's way of grieving her twin, but it felt rambling and nonsensical and kind of a step backward given the growth it felt like Alice was making by recovering her missing past with Ocean. Is Alice going to make herself forget Kate ever existed? Is this going to become a recurring thing? The fact that this scene didn't give any definitive answers on either question is really frustrating and a rare misstep for the Alice character.
Minor issues aside, Rule #1 is one of the best episodes of season two of Batwoman. In one episode Black Mask was firmly established as a villain to be feared, Ryan continued to grow as Batwoman and the teased intrigue with Kate Kane provided more than enough mystery to keep one's interest going for quite some time. Now it's time to look ahead and see what the second half of the season holds. If the first half is any indication, things are going to get messy by the time the season finale rolls around later this year.