Batwoman Needs to Focus More on the Law Enforcement Issues It Raises

Batwoman’s full of wild plot threads—an Alice in Wonderland-themed gang that causes trouble, a magical flower that can cure Kryptonite poisoning, and a hypnotist that can make you think you’re the child of a mob boss. But the show also takes time to step away from its zany storylines and deal with more grounded issues: The upcoming “Armed and Dangerous” episode will explore how the people of Gotham react after a member of the Bat-team has a negative encounter with a law enforcement agent working for a private security agency known as the Crows.

This arc could finally address a complex running question the series has posed: Can non-super characters work to make sure the Crows safely and fairly enforce the law? However, if the storyline is handled the same way the show has dealt with issues from the agency previously, this question may be forgotten almost as quickly as it’s brought up. If Batwoman wants to make an effective message about the Crows stick, they have to deal with this plotline differently than they have in the past.

One of the most notable plots to raise complex thematic questions about the Crows came late in the first season. We learn in season one that the Crows arrested a Black man named Reggie Harris for the murder of Lucius Fox. Shortly after Harris is released from jail and insists he’s innocent, he’s shot and killed. Lucius’s son Luke and his allies later discover how Harris was framed: A Crow officer was the one who actually shot Lucius and covered it up. In the wake of these revelations, Crows Commander Jacob Kane becomes determined to fix these issues in his organization. I was looking forward to seeing how these changes would ripple out as the season continued.

But after Commander Kane swiftly fires a few corrupt officers off-screen, he immediately pivots his focus back fully to his daughter Alice and his rivalry with Batwoman. So, while the show brought up this complex and interesting question of keeping corruption out over the course of a few episodes, the problem is quickly resolved in a couple of minutes. While it was great to see justice for Lucius, the ending to this plotline felt abrupt. In the aftermath of corruption being exposed, a potentially interesting and insightful storyline about how to address it was placed to the side.

The next time Batwoman raised a serious issue about the Crows needing change came in season two, after art thief Evan Peters (A.K.A. Wolf Spider) steals an important painting. While they are running away, two Crows officers pursue them in a vehicle, and one of the officers decides to hit Wolf Spider with his car to stop him. Although Evan is clearly injured and unable to move, the officers leave them on the ground without calling for medical attention.

In the wake of Wolf Spider’s injury, Sophie, a high-ranking Black woman in the Crows, tosses the badges of the officers who were in that car at Batwoman’s feet. She also acknowledges that the two Crows losing their badges isn’t enough, and makes a vow to change the culture of her organization. I was looking forward to seeing her follow up on her statement: How would Sophie make meaningful change? What conflicts would she run into while trying to make these adjustments?

Unfortunately, these questions were largely put to the side again. In the episode that follows the Wolf Spider incident, Sophie is much more focused on turning someone’s cell phone into a listening device. It’s bad enough that she’s willing to go through with this invasion of privacy, but to have Sophie suggest this course of action so soon after the Wolf Spider incident halted the momentum Batwoman was building about addressing reform. Instead of following her efforts to make positive changes, the show changes course and introduces an entirely new law enforcement problem. By the end of the episode, neither the issues of reform and nor the issue of privacy are addressed in meaningful ways.

Sophie is forced to question the Crow’s need for change in “Justice For All.” After a street drug puts a bunch of citizens in a zombie-like state, she orders a Crows unit led by a man named Tavaroff to subdue the affected residents of Gotham without taking deadly measures. But once he gets out in the field, he orders his men to shoot and kill citizens. In the wake of this incident, Sophie immediately quits. Although she promised to work on reform outside of the organization, I was worried that her focus on the issue might be redirected as it had been in the past—but then the show took an unexpected turn.

At the end of the episode, Luke Fox tries to prevent a carjacking, and Officer Tavaroff suddenly appears and jumps into the situation. When Luke reaches for his phone to show evidence that he’s innocent, Tavaroff shoots him. In the preview for the upcoming “Armed and Dangerous” episode, the show promises that there will be an investigation and protests about Luke’s unjust shooting; Tavaraoff will definitely have to face consequences for his actions. No matter what happens to him, the show can use this opportunity to open a discussion about reform, so that what happened to Luke never happens to anyone else again.

Batwoman has consistently shown that the Crows security agency needs to be reformed. They’ve had issues with wrongful arrests, excessive force, and shooting people instead of trying to deescalate situations. But when the show has historically gotten into the complex issues that come with changing the Crows, the plot pivots to something else. It winds up feeling like the show uses these law enforcement issues to drive an episode without taking the time to fully explore how they can be resolved.

That’s why I hope the show takes its time to address the need for the Crows to change in the aftermath of Luke’s shooting in detail. Batwoman could even follow the footsteps of real-life organizations for a running plotline: Organizations like Communities United for Police Reform encourage identifying issues in policing practices and introducing legislation to make sure those problems don’t arise again. Maybe the show could have Sophie working on a bill to reign in the Crows when she isn’t helping save Gotham.

Can non-super characters make sure the Crows safely and fairly enforce the law? The show definitely knows how to bring up that complex question in interesting ways… and Batwoman could do what it’s done in the past, and raise that question without doing extensive follow-up. But if it show uses what happened to Luke to fully open up a conversation about making significant changes to the Crows in the next few episodes, it has the potential to shine a light on the topic of law enforcement reform and how to tackle it that’s brighter than the bat-signal itself.

Andrew Tejada is an NYC native so there’s a 90 percent chance this was written on the subway. When he’s not writing or consuming movies/tv, he’s pitching his Static Shock screenplay to anyone who’ll listen. More of Andrew’s projects and words can be found on Facebook at “Arete Writes Things.”

citation

Back to the top of the page

2 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Comments must first be approved and published by the moderators before they appear on the site. If your comment does not eventually appear please review our Moderation Policy carefully before posting again.

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.