Review: Batwoman 1×09 – “Crisis On Infinite Earths Part 2”
Director: Laura Besley
Writers: Don Whitehead and Holly Henderson
Starring: Ruby Rose, Camrus Johnson, LaMonica Garrett, Stephen Amell, Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Katherine McNamara, Candice Patton, Dominic Purcell, Tyler Hoechlin, Elizabeth Tulloch, Melissa Benoist, Grant Gustin, Jon Cryer, Matt Ryan, Tom Welling, Audrey Marie Richardson, Kevin Conroy, Erica Durance, Jonathan Schaech
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
Batwoman 1×09: While Clark, Lois and Iris search for one of the destined paragons, Sarah and Constantine join Mia and Barry’s quest to resurrect Oliver; Lex Luthor breaks away from The Monitor to carry out his own vendetta; Kara and Kate seek an alternate Bruce Wayne for help, but get more than they bargain for.
Oliver Queen, The Green Arrow, is dead. But is he? Themes of hope, sacrifice, and courage stand out in the second installment of the Crisis.
But since this is Batwoman, I would like to first focus on Kate’s arc. Given the events of the pre-Crisis episode, the writers are clever in the decision to present her with a cautionary tale in the form of her cousin, Bruce Wayne. Borrowing elements from not only Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come, but also Flashpoint, The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman Beyond, the viewer is introduced to Earth-99 Bruce Wayne. Kate’s reactions to parallel versions of both her cousin and her ally were particularly funny. Fans who grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series instantly get chills at the sound of that epic voice and seeing actor Kevin Conroy physically embody him onscreen for the first time. Nostalgia – Kevin, The REAL Batcave, the trophies – works in not only syncing in longtime Bat-fans, but sets up the twist in this Bruce’s story, and the fatal results of his actions. The “lifetime of injuries,” although later revealed to be a lot more, drive home the reminder that underneath the best technology that Batman is still only human. There is a cost to the consistent maintaining of physical perfection and nightly vigilantism. He is broken in more than just body; he has abandoned his code and given in to the darkness, becoming a cynical, cold-blooded killer. The fact that he cites how deadly his mission became over the years is something for Kate to consider. The decision to stay in his Batman voice speaks a lot about his soul; anything human, or “Bruce Wayne,” has been driven out of him and given way to ruthlessness and self-righteousness. Aesthetically, after 25 years, when he talks, Batman fans listen. His rejection at redemption parallels the consistent refusals of Alice in recent weeks. Seeing what the path of the bat may lead provides the necessary layer of doubt in Kate when she’s revealed as “The Paragon of Courage.” Bruce’s last words – “There is no hope.” – burdens the young vigilante further after seeing how one version of her cousin winds up. Another member of her family has been lost to the darkness in spite of his best efforts before that first life had been taken. Ruby’s chemistry with Melissa is excellent, and you can understand how both characters are starting to balance each other out, much like how Bruce and Clark do. That photo she gives Kate from the cave of a brunette version of Rachel Skarsten as Beth feel very symbolic; that’s all that Kate has wanted since that day on the bridge. The photo given to her by Kara strengthens the bond that’s being forged between them. They meet again at a time when both are experiencing a crisis of fate, and need to lean on each other. While Kate is dealing heavily in family issues, Kara is still reeling from the mess with Lena, the loss of Argo City and her mother, and made more unbearable with Lex’s resurrection and the Monitor’s hand in it. Oliver’s death was already the tipping point in Supergirl’s difficulty finding hope. It’s only through helping the fledgling Batwoman find her feet and the possibility the Book of Destiny presents that she’s able to march forward. Kate revealing to have “borrowed” Bruce’s kryptonite is a pure Batman move at Kara’s ambition to do whatever’s necessary to restore Earth-38. It’s also a testament to her role as the Paragon of Courage; she’s been “out and proud” all her life, stood apart from the norm, and she’s also willing to whatever it takes to ensure a dear friend in the making doesn’t lose herself. The Mark Waid plot saw Bruce codemn a Wonder Woman going too far by saying she won’t succeed in her ambitions by overcompensating. That’s what Kara is leaning dangerously towards, and that is where Kate needs to be brave enough to steer her away from it, even if it involves a certain green rock.
The search for the Paragons moves the story from defense to offense. The creative decision to task Clark, Lois, and Iris serves two purposes. For starters, it gives Candice Patton, as Iris, a chance to have active involvement in the course of events and establish chemistry with fellow reporter Lois Lane. Second, with Tyler and Elizabeth as the new Lois and Clark, scenes centering on them establish a connection with the fans in light of the announced spinoff, Superman and Lois. Lois’s bluntness played off of Iris’s civility comes of brilliantly comedic, especially with their second stop: Earth-167. The world of Smallville. Before the Arrowverse, and before Arrow, this series showed that a superhero-focused program could work on prime time television. Seeing Tom Welling once again in the role of Clark Kent, like Conroy, immediately latched fans on through nostalgia. The writing is peppered with nods to previous storylines from the series, and the decision to use the same Vancouver set as Earth-38’s Kent farm last year keeps fans engaged. The idea of the Multiverse, of course, is the notion of familiar and unfamiliar territory across a multitude of possibility. While The Flash introduced the notion of doppelgangers, this crossover – like last year’s canonization of the 1990 CBS version of The Flash – shows that said doppelgangers don’t have to resemble each other. Welling and returning Erica Durance as Lois Lane have not missed a step in their chemistry; Supergirl fans not familiar with Erica’s turn at the Lane bat before the role of Allura are shown the playful and sarcastic side in those few minutes together. Erica as Lois is a galaxy apart from the ethereal, other wordly Allura. What works best in this sequence is the writing leaves the fans wanting more. This Clark Kent has given up his powers – again, which is as hilarious to longtime fans of Smallville as it was outrageous to a myopic Lex Luthor played by Jon Cryer – settled down with Lois and had a family. Clark throwing away the kryptonite – his one Achilles heel attached to all the power he once wielded – symbolizes rejecting his birthright, which makes him seem that much more powerful. Well, either that or it brings to mind Luke throwing away his lightsaber in The Last Jedi. Further hilarious irony that he defeats Lex with his humanity; Lex preaches godhood while Clark’s more concerned with just being man, and that calls back greatly to his exchanges between himself and HIS Lex, the greatly-missed Michael Rosenbaum. That brings us to another fascinating point. This Clark’s path parallels that of Eath-38’s Clark, only he didn’t have an Argo City to migrate to with Lois. And daughters instead of one son? Tom Welling’s new version of Clark, eight years after the conclusion of the series, comes off as settled and humble from last we saw him. In fact, Tom injects a lot of the approachability and grounded demeanor that John Schnieder had conveyed as Jonathan Kent. In that sense, Clark has become his father, right down to the flannel and work gloves. His current happiness, challenged by destiny’s call again, also parallels Tyler’s musing in the first part with Kara over how his choice to hang it up came back to haunt him. Somehow, that look he gives Lex after he kicks him off the farm is very telling and I sincerely hope that this isn’t the last time we’ll see him.
Nostalgia and parallels yet again with another welcome return to what can be affectionately known as the Donner-verse of Superman lore, officially designated Earth-96. This also is the return of current Ray Palmer/Atom actor Brandon Routh to the role of The Man of Steel from Bryan Singer’s 2005 Superman Returns. From Routh’s mild-mannered version of Clark, which has instant chemistry with the new blood in Tyler and Elizabeth, to his contradictory assuredness and commanding presence as Superman, he also hasn’t missed a beat. It’s clear when you see his performance as to why he was cast in the version previously inhabited by the late Christopher Reeve. The John Williams score set against the current Superman theme during the brief clash conveys an old guard versus the new. Like Bruce Wayne in the crossover, elements of the Kingdom Come backstory for this version of Clark deepen the arc that some felt was lacking in the film. This Clark has lost his friends and his wife – possibly even his son, Jason, also briefly mentioned – to the unnamed but obvious “reject from Gotham.” It’s important to note that the illustration beneath the headline is another Easter Egg; that was pulled from Kingdom Come by current superstar comics painter Alex Ross, Mark’s collaborator on the story and designer of this Superman costume. Even the name of the Earth is a clever nod to the year of the miniseries’ publication, 1996. Speaking of the suit, the costume designers deserve an award for perfectly bringing it to life. They even threw in additional textural dimension that links up with Routh’s original Returns outfit. The additional bulk that Brandon has managed to put on, coupled with accents in the suit, provides a perfect aged Man of Steel, right down to the grey hair. The Daily Planet understandably is very white, either a nod to the deceased Editor-in-Chief, or the idea that it a simultaneous newsroom and mausoleum. Eliminating the Returns supporting cast via Kingdom Come helped to avoid the plotholes that would have been created otherwise. The true strength of the scene was the brief fight between Supermen, as Luthor’s use of the book brings out Clark’s restrained despair and grief over all he had lost. And, like any true Big Blue Boyscout, one stands against heavy fire (Tyler) while the other (Brandon) listens to Lois’s words. That brief mention of a previous fight against himself is a Christopher Reeve nod to that infamous junkyard brawl in Superman III (Christopher’s furious face as Evil Superman still sends chills up this writer’s spine given its antithesis to the character he established). The later scenes between Brandon’s Ray and Brandon’s Clark are truly hilarious, especially Kara’s mistaking Earth-96 Clark as a “jacked up” Palmer. Lastly, his role as The Paragon of Truth – having endured so much loss yet still staying the course – appropriately contradicts the Bruce Wayne of Earth-99 collapsing under the burden of Batman.
And finally, we come back to Oliver Queen, this time involving Barry, Sarah, and Mia. You can feel the venom in Grant’s lines to the Monitor; right down to the green shirt, Barry is furious at the loss of who he saw as his big brother and lack of faith in Novu’s need-to-know approach in leadership. While Matt provides laughs as Constantine, Caity’s Sarah – a resurrected hero herself – tries to provide Mia with a voice of reason, however clouded with grief. Besides Barry, Sarah has the most history with Oliver, and feels his loss just as greatly. Her attempting to connect with Mia through memories she shares with her dad feels very poignant. Given that Mia will be starring in her own spinoff next year, and maybe involved in the next crossover, chemistry is needed. The notion of bringing Oliver back with the Lazarus Pit, after witnessing its effects on not only Sarah, but Team Arrow members Thea and Roy, conveys their desperation for balancing the scales. You go in the pit dead, you come out insane, and yet that doesn’t matter. The writers are clever to bring Constantine into this since it was bringing back Sarah’s soul on Arrow that brought Matt Ryan officially into the Arrowverse after his NBC series got cancelled. Arrow fans remember Thea’s volatility, and recently Roy’s bloodlust that almost cost the team the city’s trust, but Sarah’s experience parallels Oliver’s. The notion of bringing Oliver’s body back to life without a soul also is a nod to how writer Kevin Smith resurrected him in his opening Green Arrow arc, Quiver. The way Kevin penned that plot, he indicated that all of the darkness that Ollie had endured up till his death had affected him to the point where he found no peace except in battle…or in death. Although Stephen’s Oliver contrasts the version in the comics, the final year before returning home saw him at that low a point. Following that line of thought, all three parties – especially Barry – are basically Hal Jordan in the sense that they see this as a needless tragedy that has to be remedied no matter the cost. Stephen’s emergence from the pit as animalistic is in contrast to character we all know. The cliffhanger of antimatter messing with John’s incantations is perfect, just as much as Lyla being corrupted and spirited away by The Anti-Monitor, also played by Garrett.
Although humourous, I feel Mick Rory’s scenes in Batwoman 1×09 are the weakest in some areas. Although he provides comic relief as a doppelganger to the Mick we know, especially with his calming effect on young Jonathan Kent, some moments are a little cringe worthy. Also why waste an uncredited Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart as the Earth-74 Waverider A.I.? Also, making the crack about joining a large superhero endeavour as a “Crossover” borders on the fourth wall being needlessly broken. This is one of the endless reasons why Legends has gone down hill in quality. What’s also needless is keeping Jon wrapped in traditional red and blue; there’s not always a need to identify a superhero or even the kid of a superhero in a movie or TV episode via the colors of the costume. And why Hawaiian Luke Fox?
I give Batwoman 1×09 a very strong 4.5 out of 5. The nostalgia wins the fans, and me, over. Seeing Brandon and Tom back in their iconic characters, plus Erica Durance as Lois, was a joy-gasm to say the least. Further was seeing Kevin Conroy not only embody Bruce Wayne body and voice, but also as a darker, more tragic version of the character. The writers are doing their utmost to validate nearly every previous live-action incarnation as canon parallel earths and it works beautifully. The cautionary tale for this series’ main character works in further developing Kate’s outlook on her chosen path, and I’m sure that post-Crisis she will leave this team with a different perspective. The prospect of Oliver coming back this quick doesn’t lessen the stakes set in the first part because of its reference to Quiver. I greatly look forward to part three and see how Black Lightning fits in.