A strong damnation of for-profit prisons is weakened by too many tertiary stories running alongside it.
- 🦇 The for-profit prison story is exceptional.
- 🦇 It's nice to see Jacob Kane be given something to do other than brood.
- 🦇 Mary is really coming into her power.
- 🦇 There are too many arcs running this episode.
With the help of Ryan Wilder and Mary Hamilton, Jordan Moore’s community center is able to get off the ground with record speed. Their donor party reveals grand plans for the future of the center, including tutoring for the kids and a class where Ryan can teach kids how to defend themselves every Saturday morning. Their party is interrupted by a reporter — Horten Spence — who wants to know how they intend to defend their children. He’s out of line, but quickly proven right. A new player named Kilovolt is the next unwelcome guest, and he does massive damage to the building.
“Time Off for Good Behavior” starts off a little slower than I like, but things get rolling once the episode’s intent becomes clear. Horten Spence (Jaime M. Callica) might look like the obvious choice for the villain of the week, but he’s little more than a patsy. Kilavolt has much more nefarious origins than a bitter reporter. Ellis O’Brien — CEO of Gotham’s for-profit prison — is giving inmates the opportunity to get off early for good behavior in exchange for their help in taking down community centers in the city. Community centers keep kids out of prison, and kids out of prison hurts O’Brien’s bottom line.
Batwoman made it evident prior to the season premiere that it had full intent on tackling major issues like for-profit prisons, but it was the way they took their swing that was ultimately unexpected. For-profit prisons are a stain on America and highlighting that by illustrating how much of their bottom line relies on at-risk kids is a genius way to make it clear why.
When we’re not focusing on Kilovolt, “Time Off for Good Behavior” splits into three additional stories. Julia Pennyworth (Christina Wolfe) and Alice (Rachel Skarsten) seek out Enigma (Laura Mennell). The former seeks answers while the latter looks to have her painful memories of sissy and Daddy dearest removed from her. Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) wants a new set of memories himself. He’s jumped in the beginning of the episode and stabbed with a vile of Snake Bite, at which point we learn that the drug replaces your most painful memories with happy ones. In his case? It was finding Beth in that basement and taking her home so he and his girls could live happily ever after. Then, finally, there’s Angelique (Bevin Bru). Ryan (Javicia Leslie) finally convinces her to talk, so Sophie (Meagan Tandy) gets the district attorney to give her a deal and put her under protective custody — but it’s not enough. The False Face society finds her well before they can reach the safe house and the episode ends before we can learn of her fate.
All of what unfolds in these additional storylines is perfectly adequate, it’s mostly just that all of it’s a bit much. There’s plenty of action and intrigue in the for-profit prison arc without all of these distractions going on. “Time Off for Good Behavior” would have been a lot stronger if it didn’t feel the need to distract with all of these tertiary arcs.
Distractions aside, the Snake Bite/Enigma/Doctor Rhyme arc is the most interesting that Jacob Kane has been since the series premiere. His desire to reach out to Mary (Nicole Kang) to make amends for taking away her clinic is one of the few times he’s gotten out of his own way and done right by one of his kids. Giving him this unfortunate new addiction adds a dimension to the character that we’ve rarely seen before (despite his many other flaws).
Here's hoping this isn't the last time Batwoman takes such a strong swing at this important issue. It'd be a pity to have all of that watered down by the side-stories. Tackling major societal problems like for-profit prisons is huge, but they can't be treated as issues of the week.
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