Batwoman: Black Mask, False Face Society, and the Rise of Sophie Moore

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This Batwoman feature contains spoilers for Season 2, Episode 11.

Last week, False Faces ambushed the Crows and abducted Angelique, leaving several Crows dead and Jacob Kane fuming. In this week’s “Arrive Alive,” the masked gang is pulling heists at pharmaceutical companies across the city, all in an effort to create more Snakebite. Batwoman and Sophie are both looking to stop them, and to save Angelique in the process, but when Batwoman intercepts a False Face driver during a heist who turns out to be an undercover Sophie, she ruins the mission and they lose their one lead on Angelique. Failure to catch up with Black Mask gets Sophie replaced as lead on the investigation, setting up a Sophie-centric episode that ends with a game-changing discovery for her character and the show.

Sophie has been trying to affect change in The Crows, but Jacob Kane puts a new obstacle in the way of that progress by placing Agent Russel Tavaroff (Jesse Hutch) in charge of the False Face investigation. If All Crows Are Bastards (ACAB), Agent Tavaroff is HBIC (Head Bastard in Charge), the archetypal white, male authority figure. He is dripping with barely-concealed hostility, and there is absolutely no doubt that his approach to the investigation will be more aggressive, which will only lead to more violence and more casualties. Sophie doesn’t want Angelique to get caught in the cross-fire, and she knows her colleague won’t hesitate to escalate.

Sophie takes the investigation into her own hands, and after blowing the operation as Batwoman, Ryan (as herself) convinces Sophie to let her go undercover as a driver instead. What ensues is a cute little scene where Sophie introduces Ryan to Luke, and they pretend not to know one another while he sets up Ryan’s false identity for the Tokyo Grift. Ryan takes Mary’s borrowed car, outfitted with the Batmobile AI—which Ryan didn’t know was responsible for her improved driving skills—and auditions for the False Faces. Batwoman isn’t meant to be comical, but it could stand to be a little more funny, and scenes like this can serve to break up the angst. It also gives us more opportunities to connect with the characters and find them more likable.

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Luke warns Ryan that Sophie is smart and will figure out that she’s Batwoman, and Ryan insists that Sophie only sees her as a criminal. But there is a trust forming between Sophie and Ryan, and her assessment doesn’t take that into account. Sophie has become a more empathetic person, and cop, because of their growing friendship. Now Sophie’s discovery of Ryan’s secret identity will test their newfound camaraderie. Ryan will need Sophie on her side, since it seems it won’t be long until Tavaroff discovers who Batwoman is as well.

Batwoman is keeping the story fresh by revealing new layers of the existing narrative. Agent Tavaroff is a relatively new face, but he is the physical manifestation of the ideals that Sophie is trying to move the Crows away from. He is a foil for Sophie, but unlike the entire structure of policing—the real enemy here— he is a single person who can be fought and beat, like last episode’s prison warden. It is easier to take on a person than a system, and even the best intentioned writers can get stuck trying to tackle concepts too big for one episode, or one season. Acknowledging that there are systemic issues at play, and giving our heroes avatars of those systems to interact with, allows for deep storytelling that isn’t bogged down by minutiae. These conflicts also result in something tangible, that we can see and be moved by.

Batwoman is constantly shifting the dynamic of the characters, between each other, and their established norms. Alice, who has been on a journey of self-suppression, inadvertently taps into her vulnerable side. In the process to rid herself of memories of Kate, she unlocks memories of Ocean—who is coincidentally back in Gotham to retrieve the one surviving Desert Rose. With their memories intact, and feelings reignited, a united Alice and Ocean could be trouble for any number of people, including Batwoman, Jacob, and Safiyah. Sophie is a Crow, but her actions align more and more with Batwoman and vigilantism. Her morality will be tested alongside her loyalty, and it’ll be interesting to see what choices she makes now that she knows who Ryan, and who Batwoman is. With almost everyone in play having crossed each other’s paths, it’s only a matter of time before the conflicts come to a head, and I am excited to see how characters align when that time comes.

Additional thoughts.

Sophie looks good in braids.

Ryan refers to Angelique as her ex, we love growth.

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The two above points are unrelated, but iykyk.

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