Batwoman season 2, episode 5 review: Gore on Canvas

Ryan Wilder, dealing with an open wound, has to retrieve a stolen painting and stop an art thief just as Alice goes on a mission of her own in the fifth episode of Batwoman season 2. Spoilers follow.

When we last left our new Scarlet Knight and her comrades in Batwoman season 2, Ryan was fighting for closure with lingering trauma from her past of being held captive for sixty days by a creepy old lady with a van who groomed kids for servitude in the False Face Society. At the same time, she searched for a missing teen placed into the circumstances that awaited her back when.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, two-faced Alice invaded Sophie’s apartment to coerce the Crow to help her follow a lead on the mysterious man known only as “Ocean.” Things went sideways when Luke showed up. Learning more than he was supposed to and greeted by a pistol in his face, the young Fox is drafted into helping them.

This week, the FFS is behind her for now and Ryan teams with the Crows in the latest episode of the Arrowverse show, against her instincts, to return to action and the mission to find Kate.

The Joy of Painting in Batwoman season 2

The key to finding Kate is a painting by Jack Napier – a reference to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in 1989’s Batman. It’s an obvious callback so the writers don’t patronize the audience. They make it clear “Jack Napier” is one of Mr. J’s many evasive aliases, for the purposes of this story. And they clarify he didn’t really paint the picture; he merely defaced a stolen piece of art with blood and signed his nom de plume to it.

Joker may have only pulled one of his morbid gags but art proves as subjective as comedy is to him when the item becomes sought after on the black market. Meaning, if you think this is the last time you hear about Jack Napier or his disaster piece, you’re dead wrong.

Along Came a Spider

The painting is also a setup for this week’s requisite villain, Wolf Spider (Lincoln Clauss), who is after it. A deep cut from the comics, he’s sure to be a treat for readers who will notice he was introduced early in the episode under his real name, Evan Blake. Brought in for questioning about Kate by Crows, Blake is an old high-school friend of the missing Kane.

Little do they know he is a criminal. In DC comics and this episode, Wolf Spider is an ex-gymnast who applies his athletic skills to the craft of art theft. He’s been hired to steal priceless paintings before and this time is no different, though he puts his life on the line for this job.

Writing of the character falters at his defeat because, despite all the Spider-Man-inspired leaping and bounding he does to escape and dodge gunfire and going toe-to-toe with Ryan in the Batsuit, Wolf Spider is undone by a car hitting him. That’s an anticlimactic way for a foe with such potential to go down.

‘Twas the Question Put to Alice

Circling back to Alice, the wily vixen is on a side mission, as mentioned, to figure out who Ocean is and his connection to Safiyah and Coryana. Alice’s connection to the secret place was explored in the last two episodes and, it turns out, she trained there five years ago to become so deadly. If you’re keeping score, training with assassins in a secluded location is par for the Arrowverse course (see Arrow and specifically Malcolm Merlyn and Sara Lance).

Alice finds Ocean (Nathan Owens) but the two don’t get off on the right foot. Too bad since she remembers him from Coryana, especially when they touch, although unable to place him there due to some obstruction in her memory.

Could Safiyah have wiped Alice’s mind of something she doesn’t want the twisted Kane sister to know? If you lean toward “yes,” give yourself a co-writer credit.

Well, it’s unclear who erased her memory – and Ocean’s while they were at it – but Alice’s subplot has taken a turn. An earlier review called out the villain’s arc thus far this season for being uninteresting. This week, however, Alice’s quest is the most intriguing part of the ep, arguably, and Rachel Skarsten is putting in some of her best work. Honestly, she could carry an entire episode or two without hide or hair of the Bat crew if this keeps up.

“Gore on Canvas” goes the opposite route of ep. 3 and short-circuits the villain-of-the-week while adding some spice to its main antagonist who’s here for the long haul.

What did you think of Batwoman season 2, episode 5? Have you been enjoying this season? Leave us comments below and let us know!