Wednesday, January 26, 2022

REVIEW: 'Batwoman' - Ryan and the Bat Team Must Confront Poison Ivy Despite Her Powers Being Upgraded in 'Toxic'

The CW's Batwoman - Episode 3.10 "Toxic"

Batwoman's hands are full as she juggles Jada's demands, Mary's ever-increasing power and a new romantic entanglement. Loyalties are tested and motives come into question as Batwoman races against the clock to once again save the city and those closest to her.

"Toxic" was written by Caroline Dries & Jerry Shandy and directed by Glen Winter

Ryan and Jada both desperately want to save people they love. It has become the priority in their lives. They truly believe Mary and Marquis can be saved and redeemed. It's easier for the audience to believe in that possibility with Mary due to the amount of time already spent with the character. She had two seasons of development before she was infected and became Poison Mary. Moreover, the narrative has chosen to depict Mary and Poison Mary as two separate entities. That helped explain why Mary could go from being someone who hated Alice for killing her mother to the sister Alice always wanted to have. This also offered a simple core agenda for the team. Mary could return to being the friend they know and love. That eventually does come to pass here. Poison Ivy is using her to regain her strength over and over again. She needs that power in order to achieve her ultimate goal of destroying the dam and flooding the city. Sure, large chucks of this episode are devoted to Poison Ivy simply being at the dam but seemingly not enacting her plan because the Bat team needs to get caught up to a certain degree in order to formulate the plan that eventually stops her. It's all complicated and a little chaotic. A lot happens in the final third of this episode. The structure also plays into the overall sense of chaos. It features Ryan, Mary and Luke trying to stop Poison Ivy while also intercutting with the team making the plan they hope will work in the end. Part of that was explained before the action sequence started. Everyone was aware of the risks going in. That mostly pertained to Mary though. She was the one willing to risk her life in order to save others. She believed she was strong enough to push Poison Ivy away even when her power was drained and her mentor was fully charged. Of course, it was easy to believe that given the poison she would actually be absorbing. Mary was determined to make it so because she learned she killed an innocent man. Of course, that isn't the only person she has killed. Through Poison Ivy's mentorship, Poison Mary also crafts an ideology that she uses to justify any kind of action. It's a toxic quality. One that could doom all of Gotham. It's prevented before that dire outcome comes to pass. That also means this specific story has to be stopped now instead of being allowed to develop for the remaining half of the season. It was fun to explore Mary with powers. The temptation consumed her. And now, she is awakening in a world where she has to atone for what happened while her friends reckon with how they've treated her in the past. That means Ryan and Luke also need moments to overcome the obstacles that have been standing in their ways as of late. Those are largely internal conflicts though. It's hard to present that emotional growth through physical action. It's a lot of brute strength. That's the case with Luke as he overcomes Poison Ivy's vines. Meanwhile, Ryan admits that Sophie's kiss didn't have the intended effect - which seemed likely the moment it happened. And so, she is still left to deal with the consequences of her actions. Of course, those repercussions may be more profound simply because the city is being feed a story that doesn't convey the whole truth. Batwoman is responsible for some of the despair the city has been in. She hasn't been able to focus on offering something new and building redemptive opportunities in this place. That was her goal when she fully accepted the mantle of Batwoman. That idea has been put on hold. Instead, the story has shifted to battling villains from Gotham and Batman's past. The goals of the new wave of vigilantism have been lost. Hopefully, they can be brought back. Marquis and Jada carry more personal resonance for Ryan. They create complications for her in different ways. They are also mostly treated as an afterthought in this particular episode. That sets the stage for conflict. But this episode is basically positioning Poison Ivy as the villain who must be stopped while finding a new way to keep the threat from her contained. It's a celebration of love even when that bond between Poison Ivy and Renee has grown incredibly chaotic and murky as well. That turmoil had the potential to be interesting and complex. In execution, it fell flat. And so, the focus will shift. It's still a conflict built around the Batman trophies and the consequences they brought to Gotham. The Joker's buzzer simply has to be activated again when the rest of the trophies were operational right away. That's odd and showcases the drama padding its story without a whole lot of confidence.