Tonight’s Batwoman begins with an unintentionally hilarious scene. A lawyer walks to his car, arguing with someone on the phone about his client. Then, he watches as a light post falls on his car, sparks flying everywhere. He walks further and sees a hooded man carrying a massive ax. Instead of running away, he just stares. The hooded man walks over to a fire hydrant and uses his ax to chop part of it off, sending the water spilling across the pavement. The lawyer finally runs…and here’s where it gets kind of funny. He runs so slowly and keeps looking back at the creeping water. He climbs a fence, also very slowly. Needless to say, the lawyer doesn’t live. He’s electrocuted to death.
From there, the episode actually morphs into something more substantial. This is the most entertaining episode of Batwoman yet, which isn’t saying much, but still. It’s a villain-of-the-week-style episode, and it works because it adheres to the formula. We get a cool, complicated baddie, a good police hunt, and the rambling side stories and exposition is kept to a minimum. This is, for the most part, a focused episode.
As I mentioned, The Executioner is on the loose. He’s murdered the assistant district attorney — our slow lawyer from the cold open — and he’s set to do more. Kate goes to Luke to try to determine who The Executioner might be, and both he and The Crows figure it’s Chris “The Fist” Medlock, a recent parolee who threatened to kill the ADA when he was sentenced after pleading innocent. As they’re wondering about how to track him down, The Executioner saves them the trouble. He’s holding hostages in a warehouse in Harlem.
The Crows and the GCPD arrive on the scene, but The Executioner will only speak to someone named Detective Connelly. Batwoman shows up and gets in the building, and so does Sophie, who’s been approved to work on identifying Batwoman. When everyone hears screaming from inside, they run towards the sound. It’s a trap though, the voices are recorded and playing through an amplifier. As Connelly enters and trips a wire, a rack of guns go off. Batwoman saves Sophie, who’s wounded, but Connelly is killed. “Thanks…Kate,” says Sophie before she passes out. Okay, maybe this is another unintentionally hilarious moment. That pause is so dramatic.
While Kate drops the wounded Sophie at Mary’s secret clinic, Alice begins the next phase of her master plan. She’s given Mouse a new face, this one provided by a man named Dean Devro. Turns out Devro works for Hamilton and specifically helped make the major breakthrough in the weapon that can pierce Batman’s suit. Now this all makes sense. Alice needs Mouse to break into Hamilton, and that’s exactly what he does. He gets a round of applause from Catherine and the rest of the employees and then walks out with the weapon. Not a lot of actual security at this place apparently.
In the hunt for The Executioner, Kate discovers a pattern to his killing: he’s using methods of capital punishment. A quick search reveals that Gotham has used three different methods in the past, which means his next attack will likely be a replica of the gas chamber. Luke tracks the poison used to a specific warehouse in Gotham. Batwoman shows up, and after dealing with a very horny and flirtatious security guard, hears from Luke that The Crows have captured Chris Medlock. She thinks that’s it, that her plan to prove Batwoman’s worth to Jacob is thwarted, but that’s when she’s hit with a realization. Quite literally hit, as The Executioner drives his van through the warehouse’s door, slamming into Batwoman, and then making off with his poison.
What’s frustrating about this storyline is that Luke and Kate recognize that the cops have been racially profiling the city, and yet when they do go looking for suspects, they don’t even question that Chris “The Fist” Medlock might be innocent like he said he was. They’re taking the racist police force to task while operating in the same way. It just seems like a disconnect in the message the show is shooting for, with Luke and Kate understanding the social issues but failing to recognize their own behavior. It feels like the result of struggling to square the procedural storytelling needs with a larger message.
Anyways, through a dent in Batwoman’s suit, Luke manages to pull a license plate number and discovers that The Executioner is a former executioner at Black Gate. So, nobody thought to suspect a former executioner of being The Executioner? Okay then. Batwoman pays a visit to his house and finds the poison canister, and inside is a USB stick. On that stick is a video of him detailing why he’s committed these crimes. He says the ADA, who previously put away the man who killed Lucius Fox, was working with Connelly and a judge to close cases by planting evidence and targeting the “black, brown, and poor” population of Gotham. So now he’s getting his revenge them having made him kill all those innocent people.
That leads to some complicated and interesting moralizing, where both Luke and Kate want to fight the same corruption in the city, but don’t want The Executioner killing people. The episode does a good job of talking about the limits of the law, and how it can be used unfairly against vulnerable populations. Batwoman shows up at the judge’s quarters and he’s burning all the evidence. When The Executioner attacks, Batwoman saves the judge, and Jacob shows up and kills The Executioner. Then he sets his sights on Batwoman, but his attempt at arresting her goes nowhere when The Executioner’s gas attack goes off and Batwoman has to save them both by igniting the hydrogen and burning off the poisonous gas.
There’s a lot of thematic and character work going on in this episode. Kate works towards forgiveness with her father, as they both attempt to bring Beth back once again. Sophie ponders telling Jacob about Kate’s secret identity but decides against it when she sees Kate and Jacob reconcile. Then there’s Alice, using her control over Mouse to get him to give her the weapon, setting the stage for an eventual showdown between Alice, Mouse, and Kate. The show is still keeping Alice’s true intentions and loyalties vague enough that the outcome of that showdown is a big old question mark.