Pitchgiving 2021, part 13: Birds of Prey 3: Birds of a Feather

This follows directly after the Batwomen pitch, and while all my DCEU pitches are in continuity, it really builds off my Birds of Prey 2 pitch from last year.

The Birds of Prey (along with the balance of the Batwomen) have to team up with the Gotham City Sirens, because the male crime-lords in town partnered with Jason Woodrue to use Ivy’s pheromones against all the men in the city (I’m thinking at least Penguin, Two-Face and the Ventriloquist will be our fodder villains for this one). To complicate things, before the Sirens sit down with the Birds of Prey, Ivy made a desperate plea to Alec Holland to try and stop Woodrue… only for him to fall under the spell of her purloined pheromones. We probably start the story en media res, with Harley, Catwoman and Black Bat managing to break Ivy out of the clutches of Woodrue. This leads Woodrue to unleash his altered pheromone into the city, where all of the men turn incredibly hostile- basically normal men on the street attack them. The crime bosses use this chaos to their advantage; Batman is able to quarantine Gotham’s male heroes in the cave while he works on an antidote… all while being a pretty demented bastard all the same on their video link. This leaves things up to the ladies to fix. I think the way we first introduce this, is Harley is sneaking off from Ivy to meet with Jason Todd. Black Bat knows that, because she also knows the context: Harley feels terrible for her part in kidnapping and torturing him. She’s trying to make amends, and at the same time there’s really no one else who understands what she went through like Jason does. It starts as a two-person support group, but will grow from there.

Harley is nervous being in the back of a plane again. The last time she was in one, everybody died, and she’s having flashbacks. It’s mostly an excuse to show a montage of moments from the Suicide Squad (I figure if we build it into our mythos eventually people will watch it enough for it to become profitable- and it is a fun movie- which is why next year I’ll pitch a follow-up… but shhh). The montage ends with Flag, and we cut back to Harley in the back of the plane, a tear sliding down her cheek, “I miss Milton.”

Black Bat notices, and sits beside her in the plane, and takes her hand, “Harley, it’s going to be okay.”

“Is it?” she asks, trauma clearly having taken the wheel. “At any second Waller might kick in the door and decide to try to kill me again. And this plant dick took Ivy… I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to her.”

“I know,” Black Bat soothes, “we’re getting her back.”

“How’s our mental patient?” Catwoman asks, emerging from the cockpit.

“Still crazy after all these years,” Black Bat says. “But she’s good. Because she has to be.”

“She’s your responsibility. I’m getting Ivy out, because I don’t like owing favors. But the headcase is yours to babysit. If she goes to pieces, we may not have the space to put her back together.”

“I trust her. She’s just… her last time in a plane didn’t go so great.”

“We don’t have time for trauma. We need to jump in fifteen seconds.” Catwoman flings a parachute at Harley, and it flies past, before she raises her hand. Catwoman looks at Black Bat.

“She’s good,” Cassandra insists. “She’s rallying.”

Catwoman runs out of the plane and leaps gracefully past camera. Black Bat helps Harley into her parachute. “What if I can’t do this?” Harley asks.

“I’m pretty sure,” Black Bat glances at the cockpit, to see the stick is tied in place with a whip, “yeah, by engaging the autopilot Selena meant this stolen plane is going to crash as a distraction, so we don’t have much choice. Come on.” Black Bat takes her hand and pulls her to the door and jumps with her.

They’re buffeted by a bad wind, and separated, and Black Bat gets caught up in a tree as a patrol arrives. For a moment it looks bad. Then Harley pops up out of the grass and takes the patrol apart with swift, acrobatic efficiency. Catwoman’s already up in the tree and slices Black Bat out of her chute, and she falls with a somewhat comedic thud, before standing and brushing herself off.

“Jumping out of a perfectly functional plane is just crazy enough to be in my wheelhouse. What I meant was what if I’m not functional enough to save Ivy, to infiltrate this ‘compound,’ to be the kind of partner I’ve always wanted…”

“Harley,” Black Bat interrupts, “I love the brilliant, fucked up way your head works. But the reason I trust you, even now, with my life, is that when you follow your heart, I’ve never seen it steer you wrong. So when I say you can do this, I mean that you will, if you can just stay out of your own way. Okay?”

“Yeah,” Harley says.

“You two ever consider motivational speaking?” Catwoman asks, slinking down the tree. “Or getting your own Lifetime movie? Or maybe just starting a nationwide hug tour?”

“Ignore her,” Harley says, “she deflects genuine emotion because she’s worried if she doesn’t immediately bat it away people will understand how desperately she craves it, and to belong.”

Catwoman is not happy being analyzed; Black Bat puts up her hands. “You poked that bear.”

“Doing this for Ivy,” Catwoman says, annoyed. “Silver lining: maybe the two of you will get shot in the process.”

I’m assuming, since this is a big, ambitious swing already, that we should just montage them breaking in, taking out some guards, and rescuing Ivy, where we slow down again, because Harley wraps her arms around Ivy and kisses her. It needs to be a moment… but afterwards, it needs to not be a big deal, too (because I want them together, and happy, but if we make it too much of a thing then it’s like there’s something atypical about women finding love together… and there isn’t).

“What took you?” Ivy asks gently; she’s trying to keep it light, bantery, and not let on how scared she’s been, how much being used by Jason Woodrue has psychologically or physically taxed her, because she knows Harley has been merciless with herself, so she has to compensate by being kind.

“Traffic,” Harley says, half a laugh, half a sob.

“No crying,” Catwoman says, almost accusatory, but we can tell, too, it’s because it’s affecting her.

“In baseball?” Harley asks, raising her bat. The Sirens stomp together, as we do another quick montage (because we have so much story to get through on this one).

They get free, and we’re going to do a quick little flashback. Again, I don’t want to make a thing about them, like there’s anything odd about their pairing… but I like this moment. This is the moment it all comes out in the open.

“I didn’t look for you because you were probably the only person at Arkham who tried to understand me. I knew the tendency for a patient to put their doctor on a pedestal; I told myself you were doing a job, and doing it well, and that can be sexy, in its own right. I knew not to assume it meant anything, either about how I felt about you, or about how you felt about me.

“But then I saw you, with Cassie, and out in the world, as yourself, strong, confident, but with a heart so big and open that of course it flashed like a giant kick me sign to a monster like the Joker, but also… that showed just how warm, loving, and compassionate you were, how much you wanted for someone to love you like you love everyone. And that you could see people like us as… people. That’s a damning statement, to be sure, about our society, and the mental health profession, but you’ve always been a diamond,” she touches the diamond pattern on her right wrist, “and you’ve always deserved someone who saw that,” she kisses her.

Black Bat interrupts the story, and we reveal that Harley and Ivy are cuddling on a loveseat, while the other two are sitting in the same room. “I’m out. It’s like listening to 2 out of my 3 moms talk about making out. I’m out,” she reiterates as she leaves the room.

Catwoman sits quietly in her chair and stares.

“I had a cat like you,” Harley says. “Would just sit in the corner of my room and stair. Until I brought a guy home. Or a girl home. Or anyone else. And then, she’d lock eyes with me, and only then, she’d start to bathe.” Catwoman frowns, trying to figure out her meaning, before just leaving the room.

“I don’t mind an audience, but a part of me did want you just for myself.” I want her to have that, too, so we’re going to fade to black.

We fade back in the next morning. I don’t care who wants what, but I really want to emphasize the humanity in this moment, the normalcy; one of them is snoring buzzsaw loud, and the other has just left a puddle of drool on the other. And even this, I know, could be filmed with the male gaze in mind- but it shoudn’t. They should look like the room got hit with a hurricane, their hair should be mussed, as little makeup as possible (I mean, the characters are usually caked in it, so I’m genuinely not sure what’s supposed to be their skin and what’s makeup), but they are frumped to a degree that even Margot Robbie (and presumably Lake Bell, because that’s great casting I suggested in the last one) look like normal human beings. Black Bat knocks on the door, and comes in, keeping her arm over her eyes. “I really, really, hate to intrude on your love nest- like, I don’t know the words in English to express how much I don’t want to intrude,” (I like the idea of her spouting something in Mandarin or whatever to prove that the words exist, at least somewhere).

Harley wakes up, and feels self-conscious, picking up that Cass expects a sexed-up Adventureland, “Yep, the air is thick with the smells of sex and sensual oils and lubricants and just,” and tries to mop up the drool, wake up Ivy, all while making the both of them look a little more put together than they were (this should be silly and fun, not for gratification).

“Okay, whoa, already way more information than I would have ever wanted to know. But before I exit, you should know… it’s spreading. Ivy’s pheromones, Woodrue had enough of them that he’s blanketing the entire city. It isn’t just our neighborhood that’s a nightmare. It’s the entire city.”

“Let us get dressed.”

“Oh, God, no more,” Cassandra moans.

“We’ll be out in a minute.”

“Why didn’t you tell her the truth?” Ivy asks.

“What, that I took a beautiful woman to bed and then proceeded to drool all over her stomach? That I was snoring so loud it bugged me even in my own dreams. That despite my days being consumed with thoughts of sex and death the entire time you were missing, once you were back, all I could do was pass out next to you?”

Ivy, again, is gentle with her, recognizing Harley’s spiraling. “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again. I just needed you to hold me.”

“And I couldn’t even do that right.”

“The drooling wasn’t exactly what I expected. But I slept like a baby. I felt safe with you. It was exactly what I needed.”

“Yeah?” Harley asked.

“Being with someone isn’t just about rocking their world sexually. You also want to be comfortable just being with them. Feeling safe, and secure and, and loved.”

“Yeah,” Harley says, realizing how much she needed to hear that, and cuddling up against her. “I love you, Ivy.”

“I love you, too, Harls.”

Damnit. Okay. That’s on me. I promise I’m going to try and stop being so damned enamored of the two of them together that I can get back to pitching. I think the best way to get this story moving again is to take a peek at the other side of the aisle, namely the ‘good’ guys.

We watch Barbara walk by her suit in the Clocktower; she’s wearing clothes for a run. She tells Oracle that she needs to pick up an assignment from school, but then she’ll be back, and asks if Oracle needs anything. She asks for a Yoohoo (or other product placement to be paid for later).

There’s something on the air as she puts in her earbuds and puts on some music. We’re going to leave the music on for most of her run, at least until the insanity gets to be so much she silences it, and suddenly is forced to confront exactly how screwed up the few blocks she’s ran are. I figure this is one long take (but possibly with some hidden cuts, if need be). First she runs by a man who is clearly screaming at her, partially dodging to avoid specks of spittle flying through the air. Unfortunately, this is Gotham, so angry men yelling at random women on the street is a thing, and doesn’t phase her. At a hot dog cart, a man and a woman with a baby in a stroller seem to be altercating, when the man raises his hand. Barbara grabs the hook of his elbow and uses it to roll him over her back without stopping. She runs a little further, and a man takes a swing at her. She puts him down without any problem, only for another man to attack her. And a third. She puts them all down with ease, but we pull back, to reveal that this has all happened on the same block. Barbara turns down her music and calls Oracle. “Oracle, what the hell is going on?”

“You know that weird fog on the waterfront that turned any man who came into contact into a woman-hating troll? Yeah, well, it’s spread across the whole city. It’s chaos. Figured you knew.”

“I slept in. I’m going to head back to the Clocktower. Something tells me we’re going to need to handle this.”

We cut to Batgirl arriving. Oracle is clearly phased by what she tells Barbara. “So I called Batman, like you asked. He’s aware, by the way. Um… I’m struggling. I know this isn’t a typical workplace or… anything approaching a normal situation. I guess I just never imagined I’d ever hear Batman call me a c-word.”

“What?”

“And he called you, uh, B-girl.”

“Well, that is my-” she realizes Oracle means the other B-girl.

Oh. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

“It was more, comically surreal. But… he’s terrifying. Most of the time I don’t breathe when he calls. And I even noticed he noticed, and has tried to emote more, which should make me feel more comfortable, that he’s trying, but it’s like watching the Tin Man try to be more emotional by wearing Totos face. But it’s only right now, when I actually saw what he’s like when he’s threatening. And the idea that he could stay like this…”

“We’ll fix it.

“Almost makes me feel sorry for criminals. Not because of what he does do, but because… because of what he could do, what I now realize he might do. Gives me the feeling he is one day where they give him a shot of espresso instead of decaf from being Joker in a cowl.”

“Maybe that’s why he doesn’t drink caffeine at all- just doesn’t trust himself.”

“Really? Does he even sleep? And he still doesn’t touch caffeine? How does he stay up?”

“Obsession.”

“The Calvin Klein cologne? Does he chug it?”

“Will. Same way he’s still remaining functional, if a bit… jerkier than usual.”

“Feels like an understatement, but yeah, he’s still working, with all the other Robins, Nightwings, Red Hoods and whatevers in the cave with him. He’s isolated the compounds. Definitely bears some signatures worth being concerned over. Three names, at least trying to read between the lines; he was editorializing some, especially when it came to Ivy. But it was her pheromones. But they seemed altered, in a way that makes him suspect Swamp Thing and Jason Woodrue are involved.”

“That’s bad,” Batgirl reacts. “Really bad. Ivy on her own is trouble. Ivy and Woodrue are extinction level trouble. Swamp Thing would have been our go-to guy to help with it, but if he’s working with them, or they have him… call everybody.”

Everybody?”

“Let me rephrase. Everyone without a y chromosome. Anyone who can help, we need on standby, or here if they can swing it”

“What about Batwing?” Batgirl doesn’t follow. “They’re nonbinary.”

Barbara sighs. “I’ll text Batman. If this goes down to the chromosomal level, it might make sense to have Batwing sequester with the rest in the cave. But if not, it’s all hands on deck.”

We’re back in Ivy and Harley’s apartment. Ivy is wearing a shirt from Arkham (yeah, like she did in the first Arkham game), and is drinking coffee. “So… I’ve been talking to some of the houseplants.”

“You, too? They only seem to want to talk to me about celebrity butts. You?”

“That’s not them, hon, it’s a voice in your head. No, the plants tell me Alec was here.”

“Alec, Alec… why doesn’t that name ring a bell?”

“He was my ex. Is sort of dead. And a plant elemental.”

“You used to bang the plant guy?” Harley asks, amused, horrified, intrigued, confused. “I mean, there’s bumping uglies and then there’s bumping uglies.”

Harley.”

“I swear, I did not know, or I would have at least straightened up before he grew out of a few bags of fertilizer in the tub- we may have to replace the tub. He said it was the fastest way to get here from ‘the Swamp,’ which I really hadn’t expected to be all so literal. One of the bat people owed me a favor, got me his number, when you went missing. I thought plant guy, wearing a trench coat, he must be some kind of plant dick, and, not you know, your old plant d-”

“It was his friend who wore the trench coat. But it worked, I guess. You found me.”

“We did… just not at first. He led us into a trap. A trap for him, I think, or at least a trap for if he came looking for you.”

“Oh, no. A couple nights ago? When Woodrue’s experiments got a lot worse.”

“Yeah,” Harley says meekly. “But he did get us the lead that got you back.”

“For which I am grateful, but… do you understand what Alec Holland is?” Harley shrugs. “He is basically a plant god. Meaning, he could take my pheromones, and increase their potency. He could probably even reproduce them. That’s why Woodrue didn’t put up much of a fight when you came for me- because I was redundant-maybe even a distraction at that point. And now it’s a race against time, and we’re starting from behind.” She finishes her coffee and turns around. “How much pull do you have with these bat people?”

“Like I asked for a tour of the Batcave or for them to drive us around in the Batmobile while we made out in the back seat.”

“And they said ‘no?’”

“No back seat. The rest all depends. Are we asking to work with them, or trying to scam ‘em?”

“If you don’t at least leave the possibility of the latter open I’m never talking to either of you again,” Catwoman says, pouring herself a bowl of milk.

Ivy’s prepared. “I spoke with the city’s Economy Development Corporation, and they estimate there are half a million cats in Gotham City. I know cats are survivors and all, but what happens if jilted men decide to take their anger out on women’s cats, or worse, if my pheromones end up working just as well on male cats.”

Catwoman stops lapping at the bowl. “Can I at least steal something, when this is all over, so I don’t feel like a complete sap?”

“Sure,” they both say with a shrug.

The Birds of Prey/Batwomen assemble at the tower, with the promise that the rest of the women heroes are dealing with a bigger threat outside of Gotham, but will be there as soon as they can wrap it up. Then they get the call from the Sirens, all agreeing to work together.

Oracle has been able to put together the records from all of their Woodrue-related locations so far. And it seems he’s been using places, money and resources from three separate crime families. Analysis of recent police surveillance has proven that the three seem to be working together, and that they need to hit all three crime bosses at once, to mop up as much of their men and resources as possible. They split into three teams, with Ivy’s team going to where they think Swamp Thing is/Penguin, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey going after Woodrue/Two-Face, and Batwoman and the other Batwomen going after the location where the pheromones are all stored to destroy them/Ventriloquist (he’s squatting on old Joker territory; he lost clout after fallout from BoP2, especially with his willingness to sacrifice his henchmen for a joke, nobody really wanted to work for him)- that meant the Ventriloquist had a lot of territory with abandoned chemical storage/disposal, perfect for the pheromones they pumped out of Ivy.  

The Batwomen easily deal with the Ventriloquist, Scarface and his vanilla mooks. Then they realize there was a lot more pheromone than they realized- acres of it. Batwoman calls her father. The base is still observing chemical weapons protocols, so they’re fine, if somewhat understaffed. He agrees to help her bomb the pheromone storage (I think he loads a plane with explosives and arranges for Kate to steal it, having learned since the last movie how to fly a plane… ish- the main sticking point being her landings are still mostly crashes in the simulator).

Ivy leads the Sirens to rescue Alec. Penguin, slightly impacted by the pheromones (but having always been a dick) gets the snot kicked out of him, and realizing how ridiculously powerful Ivy is, decide not to screw with them and leave without much of a fight. The true brawl, though, is with the Swamp Thing himself. He’s still under the influence of Ivy’s pheromones, only a stronger, more robust variant he helped concoct. Thankfully, midway through the fight Ivy realizes that the Swamp Thing they’re fighting isn’t Alec at all, that he essentially grew himself a bodyguard, so while the others fight him off (badly), Ivy reasons with Alec, that he’s a good man, the man she admired, the one she fell for. She kisses him, and it brings him out of his stupor, and then some. The bodyguard keeps fighting, but some of the life has gone out of it; this is amplified by the fact that Harley, seeing the kiss, goes berserk, and will hit him in the twig and berries frequently with her big-ass mallet. Alec’s still a little influenced by the pheromones, and clingy; Ivy says she thought he got engaged, and he says that’s complicated. Ivy tells him things are a lot less complicated for her- that she found someone who makes her happy, and looks over at Harley, practically glowing. Ivy uses the Swamp Thing’s arm to pull Harley to her, and kisses her. Harley stammers that she thought… before Ivy tells her she thinks too much, and kisses her. “I do.” And they kiss again.

Finally, Two-Face’s place is where the real fight happens. One half of his mansion is overgrown. The Birds of Prey split up, Batgirl leading one segment into the overgrown side, since she’s got all the weedkilling toys, and Question leading the other up the pristine side. Question and Huntress make short work of Two-Face, before wondering where all his goons are. Both Harveys smile. Woodrue knocks Batgirl and Canary through a door, rolling into the room. Harvey tells them the reason he didn’t see a point in putting his men in harm’s way tonight was that it was going to be a bloodbath- that they were just waiting for all the guests to arrive.

At that moment, the Sirens and the Batwomen arrive. Two-Face brags to Woodrue that his timing is impeccable. As you can see, we’ve got a ridiculous cast of women here already… but things are about to go just completely nuts. I wasn’t screwing with you when I said that this was Endgame for DC’s women. Well, here it goes.

I think for the ending we bring in a big Big Bad; personally, I’d swing for the fences and have it be Granny Goodness with a team of male furies; Granny Goodness has basically been taken to task by Darkseid. He thinks her Furies need to open up to male members, that she’s been artificially holding her elite soldiers back. So she’s testing his hypothesis, by recruiting a team of men. She explains that there’s a part of her rooting for the women, because they’ll prove her right if they win, not that she could ever gloat to Darkseid. But she wants her ladies back; she was the one who gave Woodrue the necessary upgrade to be able to adapt Ivy’s pheromones.

At first, the combined Birds of Prey are outmatched. But then… those other heroines we teased earlier on, who would show as soon as they wrapped up the bigger threat… they arrive. This loops in all of the most powerful of DC’s women for a fireworks finish as they beat a team of men under Granny’s control, before all of the rest of the women show up. This list is in no way all-inclusive, and will likely swell. But it should give you an idea of who’s punching who.

Wonder Woman Lobo
Big Barda Scott Free
Supergirl Granny Goodness
Power Girl Superboy
Zatanna Jason Blood/The Demon
Ivy Jason Woodrue
Catwoman/Black Bat (snatches Granny’s control rod)
Harley Quinn (souped up) Joker, like from the first Arkham game (can really be Clayface, if that’s too silly)
Batgirl Nightwing
Mary Marvel Black Adam
Fire  
Ice  
Huntress  
Mera  
Jesse Quick  
Natasha Irons  
Artemis  

Wherever possible/necessary, we can replace the menfolk with their CGI counterparts (having the Demon in a fight wouldn’t necessarily require paying Jason Blood to show; I’m all for paying him to show, mind, but I know some actors really hate showing up to film what is essentially a cameo, and it’s possible the budget on this will also be insane, so building in places where we can cut costs might be helpful).

But the women are winning. Granny is conflicted; she’s winning the moral argument even as she loses the fight. But she also knows that Darkseid doesn’t brook failure… she sees an opportunity to slink away, taking Jason Woodrue with her.

And, personally, I’d bring in at least 3 men, here: Batman, Superman, and whatever other male Justice Leaguer would be most impactful (could be Aquaman, given current box office). We start with whichever of them has the most recognizable voice, calling from offscreen. Camera pans, and we see those three, and think this is round 2 and it’s about to get brutal…. Only the men aren’t attacking. Or cursing. Batman explains that he’s synthesized an antidote, that he’s got Flashes spreading across the city administering doses.

Harley asks Wonder Woman if this means she’s in the Avengers- “I mean the Justice League, clearly you weren’t my safety squad.” Wonder Woman pretends not to have heard, and walks away. Harley is, for a moment, disappointed. But Batgirl is behind her. She tells her some people might look at them as minor league, but if Harley, Ivy, or Catwoman want, they always have a place in the, and before she says Birds of Prey, we go to black, and smash in the Birds of Prey logo. We quickly do the cast credits, before cutting back, immediately to the same scene.

Catwoman runs up to Harley and Ivy. “That thing I needed to do, it’s done, and we should go. Now.” She turns, and we can see she has a utility belt slung over her shoulder. It literally doesn’t matter which of the Batmen she took it from, but it’s slightly funnier if it’s a Robin and he has to hold his pants up. Batman bellows after Selena, and we cut again to black.

More credits. Then we’re on Apokalips. Jason Woodrue has seen better days. Clearly, he’s been tortured for a while. Desaad is overseeing that, but Darkseid is working with Woodrue’s figures. Desaad is becoming more concerned, that he’s been working with Woodrue’s information tirelessly, without speaking. Desaad is trying to get an answer from him, if the Antilife Equation is complete, if he’ll be able to mold the minds of men to his will. He’s not going to reply, but I would like to have him turn to camera, similar to Thanos at the end of the very first Avengers, and smile. But while that CGI Thanos looked a little cartoony, this one should be horrifying- and his smile should be a thing of nightmares. That Darkseid is happy at all should be something we’re all worried about.

Note: That puts an end to Pitchgiving 2021. Because I’m at least as crazy as Harley, I’ll be rolling right into Pitchmas, with 12-ish MCU pitches, building off the last several years of pitches.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 12: Batwomen

Prologue

White text tells us this happened fifteen years ago.

Batwoman, recognizable because of her bright red hair, as a child, is sitting in the backseat of a car with her identical twin, Beth. Gabi Kane, their mother, is driving, dressed in military clothing. Side-pitch: since this is a women-focused story, but also just because it plays against type and I think it would add to the diversity of the DCmovieU, I’d suggest gender-swapping the parents. For the pitch I’ll assume we keep it as it has been, but I strongly feel that would be the better story.

“You need to tell them, Jacob,” Gabi insists to Kate’s father, who is in the passenger seat. “It’s the only way they can protect themselves.” He unbuckles his seatbelt, to lean back and talk to them. He hesitates, not knowing where to begin. Gabi intercedes. “Your father is doing important work. Bad people have been infiltrating the military, people who don’t think our country should be for all kinds of people, regardless of color, creed, or who they are.”

“Right,” Jacob takes over. “I’m heading up an investigation into those people. And because of the duty I’ve agreed to carry out, those bad people and their friends have been making threats. Against me, against your mother,” he has trouble forcing himself to say the next words, until Gabi takes his hand, “and against the two of you. And I didn’t, I haven’t known how to tell you. Because you’re too young to have to know how awful the world can be. But my first duty is to protect you, and the best way to do that is to tell you to be careful. These bad people can look just like you or me. They might come dressed in BDUs. They might talk the talk, they might even have a life of military service under their belt. But if you ever have a question, whether or not someone is safe, you ask me, you ask your mother, and we’ll tell you straight, even if the answer is we don’t know, and you need to be wary. Can I trust you girls to be on overwatch for me?”

The girls stiffen up, and tell them, “Yes, sir.” They barely get time to recognize his smile, because Gabi shoves him  back into his seat, and we now see a large dump truck barreling down on them before it hits. We see broken images, as Kate goes in and out of consciousness. Gunmen in black paramilitary gear violently open the car doors. One shoots Gabi Kane in the head as she resists (feebly, because she’s groggy from the airbag). On the other side, one of them tells Jacob he was told what would happen if he persisted, and Jacob is smacked in the face with the butt of a rifle. A bag is shoved over Kate’s head, and we cut to black, and modern day.  

It’s a dark, stormy night. Commissioner Gordon is speaking to the Mayor, trying to convince her that she’s going to be safe, that his men can handle, “a little weasel like Jervis Tetch.” He’s got half the S.W.A.T. team on the mansion grounds, anything short of Batman wouldn’t be able to- he stops, because two of the S.W.A.T. officers are suddenly there, deserting their posts on the perimeter. Gordon prepares to give them a dressing down, when he notices the vacant look in their eyes, and tells the Mayor to get behind him, as he pulls his gun.

We cut to the aftermath, as Batgirl and Batwoman patrol the scene, one-upping one another as they reconstruct the events from the evidence. There’s an added layer, as Batgirl is concerned about her missing father; the rivalry is mostly a distraction from that worry for her; for Batwoman, it’s very much that while she’s trained, and older, she’s also green, looking to prove herself. But we start at the point that Gordon put a bullet into the door frame. Batwoman insists he missed. Batgirl assumes, correctly, that the first was a warning shot, an attempt to roust them from their stupor. When it didn’t work, he gave each man a flesh wound. But there were more of them, other officers flooded into the room. Gordon put up a fight, trying to protect the Mayor long enough for her to get away, but that’s when Mad Hatter himself showed up (casting suggestion: Jack McBreyer, Kenneth from 30 Rock; watch him in the ’21 season of Nailed It, he’s a manic little chaos gremlin who would be perfect for the role and also kind of looks the part). Gordon was attacked by a new player, a woman, judging by the height difference, and the hole left in the drywall by her heel. Gordon was overwhelmed; blood on the scene is his type, but there’s not much of it- they were clearly trying to keep from hurting him there. He was carried off by two of the officers, along with the Mayor.

Batwoman is distracted, and she’s clearly thinking back to a different night, a different kidnapping. Text, fifteen years ago. We don’t see this flashback from Kate’s POV. Instead we’re focused on her father. He’s riding along with a police team, including Gordon, at that point a Sergeant. He’s wearing black, not his military uniform. Gordon notices Jacob is armed. “I was asked to let you ride along, but there is no way in hell I’m letting you inside with that firearm.”

“All respect due, Sergeant, if it were your little girl in there, would anything short of someone putting a bullet in you stop you?” We think it’s going to be a pissing contest, but Kane sees Gordon’s hand at his cuffs, and relents. “I’ll stay out of your way, scout’s honor. But the second I see my girls I’m getting between them and danger. I’m not failing them again.” It’s the pain in his voice that stops Gordon.

“That sidearm stays in its holster, unless and until it’s a matter of life and death. I don’t want them walking on a technicality.”

“I don’t want them walking, period- but it’s your rodeo.”

Gordon’s team kick in the doors. Kate is tied, blindfolded, propped against a wall. There’s another body, definitely dead, obscured by a hood but with a bloodied bullet hole in the head that everyone is going to assume is Beth. Gunfire erupts, with Kate caught in the middle of it, exposed out in the open. True to his word Jacob runs through the gunfire, and covers Kate with his body, taking a shot meant for her head in the meat of his arm.

Gordon hesitates for a moment, his team at a severe disadvantage with two civilians out in the open, before demanding the team deploy smoke and lay cover fire. It buys Jacob a window to lift Kate up. Her hood falls, and he begs her not to look as he runs back towards Gordon. We see one of the gunman has the police flanked, and is drawing on Gordon, when a shot rings out, and he drops. Gordon sees that Jacob is holding his daughter in one arm, and his sidearm in the other. Gordon tells Kane to get his daughter outside. For a moment, from Kate’s POV, we watch as she sees what she thinks is her sister’s body on the floor.

They return to the Clocktower, and consult with Batman over a video link. Also in the room with them are Black Bat, Oracle, Spoiler and Question (the Renee Montoya version from Birds of Prey). Batgirl thinks she’s in charge, having been at this longer and with less support. Batwoman, by dint of being former military and older, thinks she’s in charge. Spoiler’s just happy to be there- she’s only filled in for Robin a handful of times when they needed someone to double so Tim could be in the same place as Robin. Cassandra feels like she’s just thrilled to finally be on the team; she still loves Harley, but she’s crazy. A great friend, and if you can only have one person in your corner she would do literally insane things to protect you, but she’s not a role model, either. And Question is really just there because of Batwoman; they haven’t started dating, but each suspects the other is interested and they’re at that point of mutual interest.

Batman tells them they’re going to have to handle Jervis- that he and the other Batmen have been infected by the Fluoronic Man, that while he works on an antidote, he can’t trust any of them to leave the cave, so they’ll have to handle Mad Hatter. Oracle is able to hack the security cameras at the Mayor’s mansion, and from that they realize that ‘Alice’ is the one assisting the Mad Hatter. She looks, initially, like another of Mad Hatter’s automatons, until it comes to fighting Gordon- then she comes alive, and the results are brutal. They place a heart-shaped crown on the Mayor and on Gordon, before carrying them out.

Batwoman reasons that if they’re assembling the most powerful people in Gotham, there are some obvious next victims: Bruce Wayne might make the top 10, but next up is definitely going to be the Colonel in charge of the nearby military base. After forcefully making her case, Batwoman breaks away from the rest of them, to make a phone call, trying to raise her father. We start in on his phone, panning over his desk, including his name tag, including his rank. She whispers, “Pick up, dad.”

We cut to earlier, Kate, with her hair cut military-short, is wearing BDUs. She opens a door into a military office, a nice one, for the colonel in charge of her base. We flash white text that says “Ten years earlier” (though we’ll have to update that; the policy essentially changed in July 2011, on paper in September, so this needs to be set before that). She’s been summoned. Her father is sitting in the CO’s chair, and spins around. Kate says he’s not her CO. “Nope, kiddo. I’m here as a favor.” Kate assumes he means to the CO. “No. To you. Your CO isn’t supposed to ask. But the problem is, you aren’t leaving her room for plausible deniability that policy runs on.”

“It’s bad policy, dad.”

“No question. Impacts morale. Forces men and women of honor to live duplicitously. Creates fractured loyalty. But even a full-bird Colonel can’t change it- can’t even question it. I’m here, as  proud father, as a man who loves you more than any other ever will, asking, please, for your sake, to be discreet.”

“I can’t. Because my dad, and my mother, raised me better. To be proud. To be honest. And I can’t be both while following that policy. So maybe I can’t be here anymore.”

“I didn’t want it to go this way,” he says.

“But still, you knew it would.” She stands next to him, and puts her head on his shoulder. “Thanks for being here,” she says, as a tear rolls off her cheek and onto his collar. 

We pan across a similar office, to see some blood pooled on the corner of the desk. A hand grabs the blood, and a man pulls himself up. It’s the Colonel, wearing his military hat with a blank look on his face. He snaps to when Mad Hatter enters the room. Hatter snaps off a half-assed salute, and says he doesn’t stand on ceremony; he only cares that the military has access to the kinds of chemicals he needs. 

The Batwomen infiltrate the military base. Batgirl is a taskmaster, insisting that the military can’t know they’re there, that the bats essentially have a détente with the American government, including its shadier operators like Amanda Waller- and those shadier elements in particular are just looking for an excuse to put Gotham under martial law. Depending on where we are in the President Luthor storyline, we might well mention that part of why he got so much support from the military was his tendency to elevate them as the preferred alternative to superheroes. Batwoman bristles at a lot of this, instinctively feeling like she belongs on the other side of that line- even though she’s clearly on the vigilante side, now.

They manage to arrive at the worst possible moment, as the villains make off with a stolen plane, full of chemical weapons. The Batwomen end up stealing a plane of their own to hide their identities as the military swoop in. Batwoman is able to baffle them with bullshit over the radio- with just enough military and Colonel Kane knowledge to talk them out of shooting down the plane, calling it a military requisition, one tacitly approved by Colonel Kane himself, telling the officer to call him and ask- which he should be doing before shooting down a military plane as it stands. Kate insists Barbara land the bird, now, because it bought them seconds, not minutes, and the military will shoot them down.

They scatter, and meet back up at the Clocktower later. Oracle managed to trace the tracker on the other plane; eventually it lost its mind, after it was hacked, because the tracker started flying in the opposite direction mid-air. Batwoman argues it wasn’t hacked; simpler explanation is that it’s Gotham, where impossible things just require doing a favor for the wrong kind of man. Oracle agrees to chase the box with a drone, and we’ll eventually see she was right, that it was Man-Bat who carried the tracker out of the plane mid-air. But it was already beginning a descent for a landing at a small airport outside the city. The Batwomen depart to intercept.

I think they manage to rescue all of Hatter’s kidnapped victims, but Alice has already abandoned him, having gotten what she came for, including chemical weapons and a plane. To get any useful intel, they have to deprogram Mad Hatter; see, they captured him, but they didn’t just want his cooperation, they encouraged obsession, obedience- Alice wrapped him so thoroughly around his little finger that he thought he was the one in charge, not her. Batwoman and the Colonel do the deprogramming, this not being his first rodeo with this kind of thing- in fact, he suspects and his theory is proven out that these are the same people he’s been fighting his whole career. That was why he got stationed in Gotham all these years, and why he’s resisted promotion or anything else that might take him away from the epicenter of their activity. He tells them it was easier, during the War on Terror, because the Church of Crime were basically Fundamentalist Terrorist, if their only religious precept was to do crimes. He also admits to Kate that he’s been trying to figure out for years how to apologize to her- that they contacted him before she was outed. They were the ones putting pressure on the Department of Defense to discipline her- that he was the reason she was forced out.

But there’s more to it than that. We get a montage, Batgirl followed a hunch, or really, Oracle followed Man-Bat back to his belfry, which turned out to be a Church of Crime stronghold. Batgirl drops a big, illustrated Bible down on the table. Man-Bat, when she dosed him with Batman’s curative agent, was similarly brain-washed. We get a quickie action scene flashback, the other Batwomen kicking their way through some lower-level churchies, before they take on Man-Bat. In close-quarters he’s at a disadvantage, and can’t fly, and Black Bat is able to sneak up on him and dose him before he can escape. Batgirl relates that Lykos wasn’t making any kind of sense, but he was pretty sure Batwoman had been on their radar for a lot longer than any of them realized. Batgirl opens to a page painted with a rendering of Batwoman. It’s more gothic, more theatric, also old. Batgirl, at least preliminarily, has tested the pages, and the chemicals react like it was painted more than a hundred years ago- they’ve been waiting for her, and if half of what Lykos said is accurate, they got tired of waiting, and decided to create her, instead.

Alice runs the Church of Crime (but outsiders call it the Cult of Crime). She’s essentially David Koresh, if he wanted Waco, but also if he expected to win Waco. That’s why she’s been gathering her army of cops and military men, and has been training others using them to be even more badass.

The Colonel breaks in to discuss his findings, that the Church began with white supremacists and other far-right groups, because it was where vulnerable, disaffected men were congregating. It was looking for a certain kind of moral flexibility, and encouraged those men to become police, military, anyone who could be of influence in their coming campaign.

So the finale is going to be showstopping, the Batwomen having to infiltrate, all while keeping the Batman rule in effect (no killing), because at least half of the military/police at the compound were abducted into it. Once they’ve secured the facility, the Colonel rides in with the full army, and secures them, but Alice has already gone, taken the chemical weapons she stole up in the plane for the next part of her plan. See, fully 2/3 of her agents have been returned to their former lives, and re-embedded in the military and police. She plans to activate them when the fighting starts. That’s how she plans to win. But the opening salvo is unleashing chemical death on Gotham, killing millions and making sure that the forces of order show up in force. The Batwomen take a plane up, one that Barbara can fly, so it’s Kate and Alice and the other bats on the plane. Eventually, Oracle is able to get the plane to return ‘home’ automatically, so Barbara can join the fight.

But the part that’s really a kick in the berries is Alice herself. See, she locks her and Batwoman in the hold of the plane, where the chemical weapons are, while her hench-people fight the others. She reveals to Kate that yes, they created her. They knew that a Bat needs a tragedy, but even losing her mother, losing her sister, wasn’t enough. Kate was too resilient, took too well to military discipline. She needed to be a rogue operator- so she had to be cut lose. She tells her it took years, a hundred little stumbles, a phone call here, a temptation there, a roadblock there, all to keep Kate pliable, self-destructive, angry. If they’d only known that her father lied to her all these years, it might have been easier; they had laid out her quest so carefully, and yet, Jacob refused to start her on her journey. Her sister wasn’t dead. The girl was just some collateral damage. But they had her sister for fifteen years, a lifetime, really. For years they wondered why Kate didn’t come looking for her… it was only when Alice took the Colonel that she finally learned the truth- that Kate didn’t know. This entire time they’re fighting, Kate becoming more unhinged, more angry, more brutal, closer to using lethal force. “All this time, I’ve been trying to twist the knife, without realizing I’d missed the mark.”

Kate stumbles back, Alice’s knife sticking out of her chest. “I’d started to think there was something about me, that maybe you just didn’t care enough to rescue me. Sins of the father, huh?” It’s Batgirl who manages to get the compartment open. Alice is convinced she’s won, that their prophecies state that after she cuts out the Batwoman’s heart, she’s unstoppable. It doesn’t matter what they do next- she’s already won.

“How’s our girl?” Batgirl asks.

“Woman,” Batwoman croaks.

Black Bat, who after getting shot in BoP2 has taken first aid really seriously, is seeing to her. “Stable. Heart rate’s steady, and from the sonagram it looks like the knife missed the heart.”

“Seems like trying to force your prophecy backfired.” Batgirl tosses a pair of cuffs at her feet. “You stabbed my friend. You put those on, and I’ll try to remember which side of the line I’m on.”

Spoiler, who is, still, pretty much just happy to be included, “I’m just happy for a chance to kick you.”

“Two on one doesn’t seem all that ‘right side of the line to me,’ Alice says, drawing two ornate pistols from under a large skirt. Batarangs hit her hands before she can aim them, and she drops them.

“You can still choose the cuffs; they’ll just hurt more now,” Batgirl tells her. Alice chooses instead to hit the button opening the rear of the plane.

Batgirl glances at the poison, and the two lines trailed from it to the open door.. “It’s a gravity feed,” she says. Pilot tilts this plane even a few more degrees and we’re going to start spraying poison.”

“But I wanted to kick her,” Spoiler groans. She runs out of the room. We follow her, through the body, with lots of henchpeople, a few of whom stir and she kicks back down. Then she gets to the cockpit door, which she wires with plastique and blows. Then she puts the sharpened edge of a batarang into the pilot’s throat, and tells him to keep it steady, or he’s drinking what’s left of the poison. He tells her he’d rather die than betray his mistress. She says he says that, but if she has to slit his throat, she’s pretty sure even she can keep a plane steady. Only difference is he’d be dead and Batman would scowl at her, and probably never let her be a Robin again- which she’s not sure she’s got the legs for anyway, frankly.

In the rear, Black Bat is trying to hurry Barbara along, because a few hour class from the Red Cross really doesn’t cover nearly-stabbed hearts. Batgirl fights, but what she doesn’t realize, initially, is that Alice isn’t focused on her, or the poison, but on Kate. She tears the batarangs from her hands and flings them at Kate, sticking Black Bat to the wall with one. She proves to have one more knife, and manages to get the upper hand with Barbara, preparing to stab her and saying idly that perhaps it will make a woman out of her- hoping that maybe killing Batgirl will count towards the prophecy, instead. Kate shoves her, knocking her to the lip of the plane. Kate is immediately, with a knife still in her chest, trying to help her up. “Beth. Please. Take my hand. We can fix this. We can be a family again. We can be whole.”

“The only way I can be whole,” Alice says, letting go of the door and reaching for the knife even as Kate tries to take her hand. Alice twists the knife, and Kate drops her, and she falls towards the harbor below. The plane lurches, and we watch poison start down the tube, before the plane rights itself, and our characters rush to the cockpit. Spoiler is sitting in the pilot seat, with the old pilot sprawled.

“I’m not really sure I can keep us level without hitting a building, so…”

Black Bat arrives. “Yeah, I closed the back door so the poison wouldn’t, you know, kill everyone.” Batgirl takes over flying. The Colonel calls them over the radio, and Batwoman discusses returning the plane. The military police want to take the bats into custody. The Colonel insists that they were never there at all, that it would wound morale to have it exposed that they lost chemical weapons to one of Gotham’s garden-variety crazies. Batwoman is extra cold to the Colonel as she leaves.

Later, the Colonel shows at her cave. “Best divers at the base couldn’t find her.”

“You told me she was dead.” Kate says, opening her door. He doesn’t play coy.

“That’s what I thought, at the time. The girl they mutilated, at least with her head missing, was a ringer for Beth. They fudged the blood work; fudged the DNA, too. But somehow… I still knew. I stole a sample myself, and paid to have it tested blind, at an independent lab. I tried to tell you, a hundred different times. But you found a way to be happy. I couldn’t snatch that way from you again- I couldn’t drag you back down into the hell I was trapped in.”

“We could have been there together,” she says. “And I will be blisteringly furious with you, for longer than may seem fair. But we’ll get through this like a family, too.” They rest their heads against one another. “I miss them.”

“Me, too, kiddo.”

Credits

Mid-credits scene: The Colonel pulls away from Batwoman. “But, uh, this wasn’t a social call. That, gas… I know some of your people were exposed, whether or not Batman wanted me to. But it’s spreading. I don’t know if it’s just a change in the wind, or they’re pumping more of it out into the streets. Gordon’s been trying to keep his men out of it; he lost a couple teams before they figured out how noxious it is, that it can enter through skin, air, water. We were lucky, the other day it was raining it stopped shy of the East Side, or it would be in the drinking water by now. That luck won’t hold. We have to do something.”

End-credits scene: Barbara is listening to a voicemail from her dad. “This has been a long-time coming, Barbara. I’ve turned a blind eye, pretended I wasn’t a cop, or a father.  And don’t get me wrong, the city owes you and your friends a debt, a dozen times over… but we need to talk.” She hangs up the message as she enters the Clocktower. Oracle tells her the caller waited to speak to her directly.

I’m largely agnostic as to which Siren we get. Marketing would dictate we get whoever is most popular (likely Harley). Budget would likely dictate we use whoever’s cheapest, and I’d say pinch those pennies, because we’re going to need every single one of them for the next one, because it’s basically Endgame for the ladies of the DCU (and we really should spend accordingly). So our Siren (I’m just going to assume that it’s Ivy) tells Batgirl they screwed up. They thought they could stop the Fluoronic Man themselves. But now it’s clear he’s working at the behest (or at least to the benefit) of the city’s male crime lords, turning anyone who is exposed to Ivy’s altered pheromones into a violent misogynist.

Bonus: Birds of Prey 3: Birds of a Feather

The Birds of Prey (along with the balance of the Batwomen) have to team up with the Gotham City Sirens, because the male crime-lords in town partnered with Jason Woodrue to use Ivy’s pheromones against all the men in the city (I’m thinking at least Penguin, Two-Face and the Ventriloquist will be our fodder villains for this one). To complicate things, before the Sirens sit down with the Birds of Prey, Ivy made a desperate plea to Alec Holland to try and stop Woodrue… only for him to fall under the spell of her purloined pheromones. We probably start the story en media res, with Harley, Catwoman and Black Bat managing to break Ivy out of the clutches of Woodrue. This leads Woodrue to unleash his altered pheromone into the city, where all of the men turn incredibly hostile- basically normal men on the street attack them. The crime bosses use this chaos to their advantage; Batman is able to quarantine Gotham’s male heroes in the cave while he works on an antidote… all while being a pretty demented bastard all the same on their video link. This leaves things up to the ladies to fix. I think the way we first introduce this, is Harley is sneaking off from Ivy to meet with Jason Todd. Black Bat knows that, because she also knows the context: Harley feels terrible for her part in kidnapping and torturing him. She’s trying to make amends, and at the same time there’s really no one else who understands what she went through like Jason does. It starts as a two-person support group, but will grow from there.

Harley is nervous being in the back of a plane again. The last time she was in one, everybody died, and she’s having flashbacks. It’s mostly an excuse to show a montage of moments from the Suicide Squad (I figure if we build it into our mythos eventually people will watch it enough for it to become profitable- and it is a fun movie- which is why next year I’ll pitch a follow-up… but shhh). The montage ends with Flag, and we cut back to Harley in the back of the plane, a tear sliding down her cheek, “I miss Milton.”

Black Bat notices, and sits beside her in the plane, and takes her hand, “Harley, it’s going to be okay.”

“Is it?” she asks, trauma clearly having taken the wheel. “At any second Waller might kick in the door and decide to try to kill me again. And this plant dick took Ivy… I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to her.”

“I know,” Black Bat soothes, “we’re getting her back.”

“How’s our mental patient?” Catwoman asks, emerging from the cockpit.

“Still crazy after all these years,” Black Bat says. “But she’s good. Because she has to be.”

“She’s your responsibility. I’m getting Ivy out, because I don’t like owing favors. But the headcase is yours to babysit. If she goes to pieces, we may not have the space to put her back together.”

“I trust her. She’s just… her last time in a plane didn’t go so great.”

“We don’t have time for trauma. We need to jump in fifteen seconds.” Catwoman flings a parachute at Harley, and it flies past, before she raises her hand. Catwoman looks at Black Bat.

“She’s good,” Cassandra insists. “She’s rallying.”

Catwoman runs out of the plan and leaps gracefully into a leap past camera. Black Bat helps Harley into her parachute. “What if I can’t do this?” Harley asks.

“I’m pretty sure,” Black Bat glances at the cockpit, to see the stick is tied in place with a whip, “yeah, by engaging the autopilot Selena meant this stolen plane is going to crash as a distraction, so we don’t have much choice. Come on.” Black Bat takes her hand and pulls her to the door and jumps with her.

They’re buffeted by a bad wind, and separated, and Black Bat gets caught up in a tree as a patrol arrives. For a moment it looks bad. Then Harley pops up out of the grass and takes the patrol apart with swift, acrobatic efficiency. Catwoman’s already up in the tree and slices Black Bat out of her chute, and she falls with a somewhat comedic thud, before standing and brushing herself off.

“Jumping out of a perfectly functional plane is just crazy enough to be in my wheelhouse. What I meant was what if I’m not functional enough to save Ivy, to infiltrate this ‘compound,’ to be the kind of partner I’ve always wanted…”

“Harley,” Black Bat interrupts, “I love the brilliant, fucked up way your head works. But the reason I trust you, even now, with my life, is that when you follow your heart, I’ve never seen it steer you wrong. So when I say you can do this, I mean that you will, if you can just stay out of your own way. Okay?”

“Yeah,” Harley says.

“You two ever consider motivational speaking?” Catwoman asks, slinking down the tree. “Or getting your own Lifetime movie? Or maybe just starting a nationwide hug tour?”

“Ignore her,” Harley says, “she deflects genuine emotion because she’s worried if she doesn’t immediately bat it away people will understand how desperately she craves it, and to belong.”

Catwoman is not happy being analyzed; Black Bat puts up her hands. “You poked that bear.”

“Doing this for Ivy,” Catwoman says, annoyed. “Silver lining: maybe the two of you will get shot in the process.”

I’m assuming, since this is a big, ambitious swing already, that we should just montage them breaking in, taking out some guards, and rescuing Ivy, where we slow down again, because Harley wraps her arms around Ivy and kisses her. It needs to be a moment… but afterwards, it needs to not be a big deal, too (because I want them together, and happy, but if we make it too much of a thing then it’s like there’s something atypical about women finding love together… and there isn’t).

“What took you?” Ivy asks gently; she’s trying to keep it light, bantery, and not let on how scared she’s been, how much being used by Jason Woodrue has psychologically or physically taxed her, because she knows Harley has been merciless with herself, so she has to compensate by being kind.

“Traffic,” Harley says, half a laugh, half a sob.

“No crying,” Catwoman says, almost accusatory, but we can tell, too, it’s because it’s affecting her.

“In baseball?” Harley asks, raising her bat. The Sirens stomp together, as we do another quick montage (because we have so much story to get through on this one).

They get free, and we’re going to do a quick little flashback. Again, I don’t want to make a thing about them, like there’s anything odd about their pairing… but I like this moment. This is the moment it all comes out in the open.

“I didn’t look for you because you were probably the only person at Arkham who tried to understand me. I knew the tendency for a patient to put their doctor on a pedestal; I told myself you were doing a job, and doing it well, and that can be sexy, in its own right. I knew not to assume it meant anything, either about how I felt about you, or about how you felt about me.

“But then I saw you, with Cassie, and out in the world, as yourself, strong, confident, but with a heart so big and open that of course it flashed like a giant kick me sign to a monster like the Joker, but also… that showed just how warm, loving, and compassionate you were, how much you wanted for someone to love you like you love everyone. And that you could see people like us as… people. That’s a damning statement, to be sure, about our society, and the mental health profession, but you’ve always been a diamond,” she touches the diamond pattern on her right wrist, “and you’ve always deserved someone who saw that,” she kisses her.

Black Bat interrupts the story, and we reveal that Harley and Ivy are cuddling on a loveseat, while the other two are sitting in the same room. “I’m out. It’s like listening to 2 out of my 3 moms talk about making out. I’m out,” she reiterates as she leaves the room.

Catwoman sits quietly in her chair and stares.

“I had a cat like you,” Harley says. “Would just sit in the corner of my room and stair. Until I brought a guy home. Or a girl home. Or anyone else. And then, she’d lock eyes with me, and only then, she’d start to bathe.” Catwoman frowns, trying to  figure out her meaning, before just leaving the room.

“I don’t mind an audience, but a part of me did want you just for myself.” I want her to have that, too, so we’re going to fade to black.

We fade back in the next morning. I don’t care who wants what, but I really want to emphasize the humanity in this moment, the normalcy; one of them is snoring just buzzsaw loud, and the other has just left a puddle of drool on the other. And even this, I know, could be filmed with the male gaze in mind- but it shoudn’t. They should look like the room got hit with a hurricane, their hair should be mussed, as little makeup as possible (I mean, the characters are usually caked in it, so I’m genuinely not sure what’s supposed to be their skin and what’s makeup), but they are frumped to a degree that even Margot Robbie (and presumably Lake Bell, because that’s great casting) look like normal human beings. Black Bat knocks on the door, and comes in, keeping her arm over her eyes. “I really, really, hate to intrude on your love nest- like, I don’t know the words in English to express how much I don’t want to intrude,” (I like the idea of her spouting something in Mandarin or whatever to prove that the words exist, at least somewhere).

Harley wakes up, and feels self-conscious, picking up that Cass expects a sexed-up Adventureland, “Yep, the air is thick with the smells of sex and sensual oils and lubricants and just,” and tries to mop up the drool, wake up Ivy, all while making the both of them look a little more put together than they were (this should be silly and fun, not for gratification).

“Okay, whoa, already way more information than I would have ever wanted to know. But before I exit, you should know… it’s spreading. Ivy’s pheromones, Woodrue had enough of them that he’s blanketing the entire city. It isn’t just our neighborhood that’s a nightmare. It’s the entire city.”

“Let us get dressed.”

“Oh, God, no more,” Cassandra moans.

“We’ll be out in a minute.”

“Why didn’t you tell her the truth?” Ivy asks.

“What, that I took a beautiful woman to bed and then proceeded to drool all over her stomach? That I was snoring so loud it bugged me even in my own dreams. That despite my days being consumed with thoughts of sex and death the entire time you were missing, once you were back, all I could do was pass out next to you?”

Ivy, again, is gentle with her, recognizing Harley’s spiraling. “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again. I just needed you to hold me.”

“And I couldn’t even do that right.”

“The drooling wasn’t exactly what I expected. But I slept like a baby. I felt safe with you. It was exactly what I needed.”

“Yeah?” Harley asked.

“Being with someone isn’t just about rocking their world sexually. You also want to be comfortable just being with them. Feeling safe, and secure and, and loved.”

“Yeah,” Harley says, realizing how much she needed to hear that, and cuddling up against her. “I love you, Ivy.”

“I love you, too, Harls.”

Damnit. Okay. That’s on me. I promise I’m going to try and stop being so damned enamored of the two of them together that I can get back to pitching. I think the best way to get this story moving again is to take a peek at the other side of the aisle, namely the ‘good’ guys.

We watch Barbara walk by her suit in the Clocktower; she’s wearing clothes for a run. She tells Oracle that she needs to pick up an assignment from school, but then she’ll be back, and asks if Oracle needs anything. She asks for a Yoohoo (or other product placement to be paid for later).

There’s something on the air as she puts in her earbuds and puts on some music. We’re going to leave the music on for most of her run, at least until the insanity gets to be so much she silences it, and suddenly is faced to confront exactly how screwed up the few blocks she’s ran are. I figure this is one long take (but possibly with some hidden cuts, if need be). First she runs by a man who is clearly screaming at her, partially dodging to avoid specks of spittle flying through the air. Unfortunately, this is Gotham, so angry men yelling at random women on the street is a thing, and doesn’t phase her. At a hot dog cart, a man and a woman with a baby in a stroller seem to be altercating, when the man raises his hand. Barbara grabs the hook of his elbow and uses it to roll him over her back without stopping. She runs a little further, and a man takes a swing at her. She puts him down without any problem, only for another man to attack her. And a third. She puts them all down with ease, but we pull back, to reveal that this has all happened on the same block. Barbara turns down her music and calls Oracle. “Oracle, what the hell is going on?”

“You know that weird fog on the waterfront that turned any man who came into contact into a woman-hating troll? Yeah, well, it’s spread across the whole city. It’s chaos. Figured you knew.”

“I slept in. I’m going to head back to the Clocktower. Something tells me we’re going to need to handle this.”

We cut to Batgirl arriving. “So I called Batman, like you asked. He’s aware, by the way. Um… I’m struggling. I know this isn’t a typical workplace or… anything approaching a normal situation. I guess I just never imagined I’d ever hear Batman call me a c-word.”

“What?”

“And he called you, uh, B-girl.”

“Well, that is my-” she realizes Oracle means the other B-girl.

Oh. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

“It was more, comically surreal. But… he’s terrifying. Most of the time I don’t breathe when he calls. And I even noticed he noticed, and has tried to emote more, which should make me feel more comfortable, that he’s trying, but it’s like watching the Tin Man try to be more emotional by wearing Totos face. But it’s only right now, when I actually saw what he’s like when he’s threatening. And the idea that he could stay like this…”

“We’ll fix it.

“Almost makes me feel sorry for criminals. Not because of what he does do, but because… because of what he could do, what I now realize he might do. Gives me the feeling he is one day where they give him a shot of espresso instead of decaf from being Joker in a cowl.”

“Maybe that’s why he doesn’t drink caffeine at all- just doesn’t trust himself.”

“Really? Does he even sleep? And he still doesn’t touch caffeine? How does he stay up.”

“Obsession.”

“The Calvin Klein cologne? Does he chug it?”

“Will. Same way he’s still remaining functional, if a bit… jerkier than usual.”

“Feels like an understatement, but yeah, he’s still working, with all the other Robins, Nightwings, Red Hoods and whatevers in the cave with him. He’s isolated the compounds. Definitely bears some signatures worth being concerned over. Three names, at least trying to read between the lines; he was editorializing some, especially when it came to Ivy. But it was her pheromones. But they seemed altered, in a way that makes him suspect Swamp Thing and Jason Woodrue are involved.”

“That’s bad,” Batgirl reacts. “Really bad. Ivy on her own is trouble. Ivy and Woodrue are extinction level trouble. Swamp Thing would have been our go-to guy to help with it, but if he’s working with them, or they have him… call everybody.”

Everybody?”

“Let me rephrase. Everyone without a y chromosome. Anyone who can help, we need on standby, or here if they can swing it”

“What about Batwing?” Batgirl doesn’t follow. “They’re nonbinary.”

Barbara sighs. “I’ll text Batman. If this goes down to the chromosomal level, it might make sense to have Batwing sequester with the rest in the cave. But if not, it’s all hands on deck.”

We’re back in Ivy and Harley’s apartment. Ivy is wearing a shirt from Arkham (yeah, like she did in the first Arkham game), and is drinking coffee. “So… I’ve been talking to some of the houseplants.”

“You, too? They only seem to want to talk to me about celebrity butts. You?”

“That’s not them, hon, it’s a voice in your head. No, the plants tell me Alec was here.”

“Alec, Alec… why doesn’t that name ring a bell?”

“He was my ex. Is sort of dead. And a plant elemental.”

“You used to bang the plant guy?” Harley asks, amused, horrified, intrigued, confused. “I mean, there’s bumping uglies and then there’s bumping uglies.”

Harley.”

“I swear, I did not know, or I would have at least straightened up before he grew out of a few bags of fertilizer in the tub. He said it was the fastest way to get here from ‘the Swamp,’ which I really hadn’t expected to be all so literal. One of the bat people owed me a favor, got me his number, when you went missing. I thought plant guy, wearing a trench coat, he must be some kind of plant dick, and, not you know, your old plant d-”

“It was his friend who wore the trench coat. But it worked, I guess. You found me.”

“We did… just not at first. He led us into a trap. A trap for him, I think, or at least a trap for if he came looking for you.”

“Oh, no. A couple nights ago? When Woodrue’s experiments got a lot worse.”

“Yeah,” Harley says meekly. “But he did get us the lead that got you back.”

“For which I am grateful, but… do you understand what Alec Holland is?” Harley shrugs. “He is basically a plant god. Meaning, he could take my pheromones, and increase their potency. He could probably even reproduce them. That’s why Woodrue didn’t put up much of a fight when you came for me- because I was redundant. And now it’s a race against time, and we’re starting from behind.” She finishes her coffee and turns around. “How much pull do you have with these bat people?”

“Like I asked for a tour of the Batcave or for them to drive us around in the Batmobile while we made out in the back seat.”

“And they said ‘no?’”

“No back seat. The rest all depends. Are we asking to work with them, or trying to scam ‘em?”

“If you don’t at least leave the possibility of the latter open I’m never talking to either of you again,” Catwoman says, pouring herself a bowl of milk.

Ivy’s prepared. “I spoke with the city’s Economy Development Corporation, and they estimate there are half a million cats in Gotham City. I know cats are survivors and all, but what happens if jilted men decide to take their anger out on women’s cats, or worse, if my pheromones end up working just as well on male cats.”

Catwoman stops lapping at the bowl. “Can I at least steal something, when this is all over, so I don’t feel like a complete sap?”

“Sure,” they both say with a shrug.

Birds of Prey/Batwomen assemble at the tower, with the promise that the rest are dealing with a bigger threat outside of Gotham, but will be there as soon as they can wrap it up. Then they get the call from the Sirens, all agreeing to work together.

Oracle has been able to put together the records from all of their Woodrue-related locations so far. And it seems he’s been using places, money and resources from three separate crime families. Analysis of recent police surveillance has proven that the three seem to be working together, and that they need to hit all three crime bosses at once, to mop up as much of their men and resources as possible. They split into three teams, with Ivy’s team going to where they think Swamp Thing is/Penguin, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey going after Woodrue/Two-Face, and Batwoman and the other Batwomen going after the location where the pheromones are all stored to destroy them/Ventriloquist (he’s squatting on old Joker territory; he lost clout after fallout from BoP2, especially with his willingness to sacrifice his henchmen for a joke)- that meant the Ventriloquist had a lot of territory with abandoned chemical storage/disposal, perfect for the pheromones they pumped out of Ivy.  

The Batwomen easily deal with the Ventriloquist, Scarface and his vanilla mooks. Then they realize there was a lot more pheromone than they realized- acres of it. Batwoman calls her father. The base is still observing chemical weapons protocols, so they’re fine, if somewhat understaffed. He agrees to help her bomb the pheromone storage (I think he loads a plane with explosives and arranges for Kate to steal it, having learned since the last movie how to fly a plane… ish- the main sticking point being her landings are still mostly crashes in the simulator).

Ivy leads the Sirens to rescue Alec. Penguin, slightly impacted by the pheromones (but having always been a dick) gets the snot kicked out of him, and realizing how ridiculously powerful Ivy is, decide not to screw with them and leave without much of a fight. The true brawl, though, is with the Swamp Thing himself. He’s still under the influence of Ivy’s pheromones, only a stronger, more robust variant he helped concoct. Thankfully, midway through the fight Ivy realizes that the Swamp Thing they’re fighting isn’t Alec at all, that he essentially grew himself a bodyguard, so while the others fight him off (badly), Ivy reasons with Alec, that he’s a good man, the man she admired, the one she fell for. She kisses him, and it brings him out of his stupor, and then some. The bodyguard keeps fighting, but some of the life has gone out of it; this is amplified by the fact that Harley, seeing the kiss, goes berserk, and will hit him in the twig and berries frequently with her big-ass mallet. Alec’s still a little influenced by the pheromones, and clingy; Ivy says she thought he got engaged, and he says that’s complicated. Ivy tells him things are a lot less complicated for her- that she found someone who makes her happy, and looks over at Harley, practically glowing. Ivy uses the Swamp Thing’s arm to pull Harley to her, and kisses her. Harley stammers that she thought… before Ivy tells her she thinks too much, and kisses her. “I do.” And they kiss again.

Finally, Two-Face’s place is where the real fight happens. One half of his mansion is overgrown. The Birds of Prey split up, Batgirl leading one segment into the overgrown side, since she’s got all the weedkilling toys, and Question leading the other up the pristine side. Question and Huntress make short work of Two-Face, before wondering where all his goons are. Both Harveys smile. Woodrue knocks Batgirl and Canary through a door, rolling into the room. Harvey tells them the reason he didn’t see a point in putting his men in harm’s way tonight was that it was going to be a bloodbath- that they were just waiting for all the guests to arrive.

At that moment, the Sirens and the Batwomen arrive. Two-Face brags to Woodrue that his timing is impeccable. As you can see, we’ve got a ridiculous cast of women here already… but things are about to go just completely nuts. I wasn’t screwing with you when I said that this was Endgame for DC’s women. Well, here it goes.

I think for the ending we bring in a big Big Bad; personally, I’d swing for the fences and have it be Granny Goodness with a team of male furies; Granny Goodness has basically been taken to task by Darkseid. He thinks her Furies need to open up to male members, that she’s been artificially holding her elite soldiers back. So she’s testing his hypothesis, by recruiting a team of men. She explains that there’s a part of her rooting for the women, because they’ll prove her right if they win, not that she could ever gloat to Darkseid. But she wants her ladies back; she was the one who gave Woodrue the necessary upgrade to be able to adapt Ivy’s pheromones.

At first, the combined Birds of Prey are outmatched. But then… those other heroines we teased earlier on, who would show as soon as they wrapped up the bigger threat… they arrive. This loops in all of the most powerful of DC’s women for a fireworks finish as they beat a team of men under Granny’s control, before all of the rest of the women show up. This list is in no way all-inclusive, and will likely swell. But it should give you an idea of who’s punching who.

Wonder Woman Lobo
Big Barda Scott Free
Supergirl Granny Goodness
Power Girl Superboy
Zatanna Jason Blood/The Demon
Ivy Jason Woodrue
Catwoman/Black Bat (snatches Granny’s control rod)
Harley Quinn (souped up) Joker, like from the first Arkham game (can really be Clayface, if that’s too silly)
Batgirl Nightwing
Mary Marvel Black Adam
Fire  
Ice  
Huntress  
Mera  
Jesse Quick  
Natasha Irons  
Artemis  

Wherever possible/necessary, we can replace the menfolk with their CGI counterparts (having the Demon in a fight wouldn’t necessarily require paying Jason Blood to show; I’m all for paying him to show, mind, but I know some actors really hate showing up to film what is essentially a cameo, and it’s possible the budget on this will also be insane, so building in places where we can cut costs might be helpful).

But the women are winning. Granny is conflicted; she’s winning the moral argument even as she loses the fight. But she also knows that Darkseid doesn’t brook failure… she sees an opportunity to slink away, taking Jason Woodrue with her.

And, personally, I’d bring in at least 3 men, here: Batman, Superman, and whatever other male Justice Leaguer would be most impactful (could be Aquaman, given current box office). We start with whichever of them has the most recognizable voice, calling from offscreen. Camera pans, and we see those three, and think this is round 2 and it’s about to get brutal…. Only the men aren’t attacking. Or cursing. Batman explains that he’s synthesized an antidote, that he’s got Flashes spreading across the city administering doses.

Harley asks Wonder Woman if this means she’s in the Avengers- “I mean the Justice League, clearly you weren’t my safety squad.” Could be cute to have Ratcatcher 2 cameo, and Harley waves her off. Wonder Woman pretends not to have heard, and walks away. Harley is, for a moment, disappointed. But Batgirl is behind her. She tells her some people might look at them as minor league, but if Harley, Ivy, or Catwoman want, they always have a place in the, and before she says Birds of Prey, we go to black, and smash in the Birds of Prey logo. We quickly do the cast credits, before cutting back, immediately to the same scene.

Catwoman runs up to Harley and Ivy. “That thing I needed to do, it’s done, and we should go. Now.” She turns, and we can see she has a utility belt slung over her shoulder. It literally doesn’t matter which of the Batmen she took it from, but it’s slightly funnier if it’s a Robin and he has to hold his pants up. Batman bellows after Selena, and we cut again to black.

More credits. Then we’re on Apokalips. Jason Woodrue has seen better days. Clearly, he’s been tortured for a while. Desaad is overseeing that, but Darkseid is working with Woodrue’s figures. Desaad is becoming more concerned, that he’s been working with Woodrue’s information tirelessly, without speaking. Desaad is trying to get an answer from him, if the Antilife Equation is complete, if he’ll be able to mold the minds of men to his will. He’s not going to reply, but I would like to have him turn to camera, similar to Thanos at the end of the very first Avengers, and smile. But while that CGI Thanos looked a little cartoony, this one should be horrifying- and his smile should be a thing of nightmares. That Darkseid is happy at all should be something we’re all worried about.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 11: Outsiders: Hard-Traveling Heroes

The Outsiders are traveling in a Winnebago. Nightwing is grousing about how when Ollie offered to sponsor the team, this isn’t exactly what he envisioned. Ollie gives a variation of the Schindler speech, that he wishes he could spend extravagantly on the team, but he looks at the cost of retrofitting a spy plane, or even economy class plane tickets, and compares that to spending the money to vaccinate the poor in underdeveloped countries… he says it took him a long time to get his priorities straight, but he’s not about to go back to being profligate Ollie again, and ribs Nightwing that they could always ask for funding from his father, which gets Dick to stop smiling, for a moment.

It doesn’t last, as Dick’s good nature is one of his defining traits. He also takes a moment to rib Oliver about looking forward to seeing Black Canary again. Ollie admits she’s easy enough on the eyes, but we see how he really thinks of her, as we zoom into his eye, and see in soft focus, her punching bad guys and otherwise being effortlessly bad ass while beautiful. We zoom out, to see an oncoming semi, with Nightwing grabbing the wheel and swerving them out of the way. Dick offers to take a turn at the wheel, and Ollie and stands up, leaving the Winnebago coasting as Dick dives into the seat.

They arrive on the strip, and Dick asks where they’re staying. Oliver tells him to keep going. They drive past the strip. Past the casinos off the strip. They’re in a fleabag motel, with an overly boisterous neon sign declaring it the “Above Reproach Motel,” with “above” and “rep” entirely unlit. Black Lightning gets out and says that seems about right as they unpack. Arrow tells them that he rented out the entire hotel, so they have the run of the place- that Dick had emphasized to him that they needed space and privacy to plan out their caper.

“I also asked him to stop calling it a caper. But it’s been a long drive, everybody. I suggest you get some shut eye. We’ll have a briefing at 6:30.”

Huntress gives him crap about the late start. “I though all of you bat boys were up all night.”

“I probably will be. I was hoping you and I could get in some reconnaisance.”

“Is that what the kids are calling it?” At first it seems like witty reparte, but she’s actually asking (awkwardly and adorably).

“It’s been a while since anybody accused me of being a bat boy.”

“No one wears that much leather without being a bat boy.”

“I legitimately don’t know if we’re confused or flirting.”

“That’s where I live,” she says, and he stares at her a moment, before laughing.

“You had me going.” She’s confused by that. But she likes the attention, and that he’s confident enough to push past her awkwardness. Plus, she really likes patrolling.

“Wait,” she says. “Are we actually patrolling, or sneaking off to have sex… I just want to make sure I wear the right top.” He laughs, and they walk off screen.

We cut to Black Lightning, poking at Lo Mein noodles in a takeout container, sitting on the hotel couch, while talking on his cell. He zaps the TV to change channels. He’s talking to his significant other, concerned that the rest of the team are screwing off in Vegas, and he’s trying to decide between Lifetime movies. She tells him either he can zap his ass home, or they can watch a movie together. He tells her someone has to be an example to all these kids, show them how to act like a professional.

We cut to Canary and Arrow kissing, passionately, slamming against the inside of the door to her dressing room. “Not that I’m complaining, but what happened to waiting?” he asks.

“Oh, you’re still waiting,” she says, and pushes him against the door, “I just want your attention focused on what you’re waiting for.”

“Might have to change my name to Blue Arrow, you keep this up.”

“Ooh, Black Canary and Blue Arrow, I like that alliteration; and there’s the double-meaning of leaving the bad guys black and blue.”

“That is pretty good, but I’d have to sew a whole new set of tights.”

“I’m worth it.”

“Plus those Blue Beetles are very proprietary about their color- and quite litigious.”

“Tell me about it,” Ray Palmer appears, growing from a place sitting on Canary’s counter.

“Dad,” Canary says, snatching flowers from him and throwing them on the counter, “we talked about this: boundaries.”

“I didn’t mean to walk in on a Cinemax movie. I was trying to do one of my, ‘Hey, where did he come from?’ entrances.”

“Yeah, and when you pulled that on me, you got yourself a brand new set of tinitis. You’re just lucky he didn’t have his bow or he might have… bowed you.”

“Et tu, Canary?” Green Arrow asks.

“Et me,” she says. “But at least you learned to throw a proper punch, so there’s still hope for you.”

“Had a hell of a teacher.” She gives him a peck. “Who knows a thing or two about motivation.”

“You’re punishing me, aren’t you?” Ray asks.

“Pretending you’re not here- because you shouldn’t be,” she says.

“It’s about, your mother.”

“Crap,” Green Arrow says.

“I thought the trail went cold in Gotham,” Canary says, spinning to face him.

“It had. Or rather… it didn’t get cold, the GCPD kept it on ice all these years. And that’s why I could find… this.” He shows them an image on his phone of human tissue through a microscope, subtly including a footprint.

“What am I looking at?” Green Arrow asks.

“A slide from Canary’s autopsy. This is the aftermath of an aneurism. She was too good to just catch a bullet in some back alley. I never believed… she was dead before she was shot. This proves it.”

“How?” Arrow asks.

He pinches and zooms in on it, to more specifically focus on the footprint. “It’s a footprint. Given the size, and depth, it’s a woman’s size 6, she weighs somewhere in the vicinity of 125 lbs. Either she was the killer, or an eyewitness. Either way, the odds of someone standing in her brain at the same time of a spontaneous aneurism in a healthy, middle-aged woman… the odds are astronomical.”

“And what are the odds someone would kill my mother with shrinking tech, dad?”

“Not good,” he admits. “Shrinking tech is expensive to make, and mostly gets used by people on our side. I think I was the only one, at the time, operating it.”

“And who had access to your tech?” Arrow asks.

“Anyone with access to the JSA headquarters. Or a storehouse I kept in Jersey, in case that was ever compromised. I had some personal storage for a stretch in the seventies, too, in Gotham.”

“But you’re here,” Canary says, “because you’ve already run down those leads. So why are you here?”

“Because my tech runs on very specific isotopes. Specific, and rare. There aren’t a lot of places to buy them. And the people who supply them, there isn’t a one of them who doesn’t owe me a favor; I taught some of them, helped the rest, in costume or out. And there’s one in Vegas, who sold, just a day ago, to an older woman, fits the rough description, with some allowance for passage of time.”

“Older enough?” Canary asks.

“She thinks so- presuming she’s well preserved.”

“How big a favor did she owe you?” Arrow asks.

“Pretty big. She put a radioactive isotope impurity we can trace in the package.”

“I’m uncomfortable that this conversation began with a package and is ending with one.” Arrow says.

“You’re just sad that the package we’re talking about now isn’t yours,” Canary teases. “But we’ll come back to it,” she says, grabbing her jacket.

“Don’t you have a show?” Arrows asks, pointing to the star on her door.

“Not tonight. I only do an afternoon show today.”

They leave.

We do a little homage to the Batman origin, a wealthy looking couple, woman in furs and pearls, man in a nice suit, with their young son, cutting through an alley. A gunman steps out, threatening them. Nightwing drops down on him like a ton of bricks, the gun clattering noisily to the ground. Nightwing bows with a flourish, and assures the boy it’s all part of the show. A second gunman steps out from behind a dumpster. A bolt pins him to the brick wall, and Huntress lands, kicking him in the face; he remains pinned to the wall by the bolt.

They climb to a rooftop. Huntress looks like she’s pouting.

“You okay?”

“You’re asking me? You were the one who nearly got shot in the back.”

“I’ve learned that part of being a good partner is trusting people to have your back. I knew you’d be there for me.” She’s uncomfortable, physically if nothing else. “So I want you to know I’m here for you, starting with asking if you’re okay.”

“I’m okay,” she says, half-heartedly, and through it we see she’s disappointed.

So does Nightwing. “I know things didn’t happen with Mandragora like you wanted. But taking him in alive, there are a lot of families who are sleeping better tonight, maybe sleeping at all, because you did the right thing.”

“You kind of made me,” she says, her disappointment on the verge of pouting.

“Not what I meant. I know you were there, at the handoff, when the Sheriff’s Department gave him over to the Federal Marshals. You had a shot, and you were far enough away I wouldn’t have been able to stop you. Mandragora may not have killed my parents, but as someone who knows that loss as well as you do, and because the other families don’t know how hard doing the right thing was like I do, I wanted to say ,’Thank you.’”

“Oh,” she says.

“Not what you wanted to hear?” he asks.

“No, it’s not that, it’s… I think I might have worn the wrong top.”

“No,” Nightwing says, and he spins her, so she lands with her back against a wall as he leans into her and says, “You’re not.” But her instincts kick in, and she has her crossbow pressed into his throat. “Unless I’ve misread things.”

“No,” she says, and for a moment she’s embarassed, before rolling him, so he lands painfully on his back. She jumps onto his lap, and says, “I just like to be on top.”

We cut back to Arrow, Canary and Atom. They’re following Atom’s tracker, but it leads them to an arena. The bouncer is definitely powered (we could do a cameo from someone like Killer Croc; Clayface might be even more fun, since Canary could get suspicious and he could tell her to call his parole officer) or just have it be a generic mook who insists “No capes on the ticket. Bids only accepted through a proxy.”

Atom says, “Look, over there, it’s a distraction!” and for a moment they all look where he pointed, but not long enough for him to do anything. Then Arrow realizes that’s his cue, notches a napalm arrow, and sets fire to a car where Atom pointed. The bouncer’s annoyed, but tells them the street is outside his purview- and if they call the fire department he won’t even call the cops on them. Then he realizes Atom’s gone.

Arrow and Canary grab something to eat at a little cafe nearby. “My fries are cold,” Arrow says, “want to make out?”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Canary says, “but knew the moment I vocalized it,”

“Think that’s my cue,” Atom grows.

“I was beginning to think you paused in the middle of the heist to take an old man nap.”

“I could nap… but no. One, I found out that they pawned my gear. I couldn’t get close enough to check the control numbers. They bought the isotope because they had to prove it was authentic for it to go on the slab, which meant shrinking with it. Two, I talked to management. Roulette. She runs the gladiator games and the auction house. She’s usually pretty strictly all about discretion, but,”

We cut to her office, where Roulette is talking to Ray. “I’m a capitalist, first. And I recognize an opportunity when I see one.” She brings up several images of Arrow and Canary together, lingering touches, maybe pecks, typical tabloid fodder, on her row of monitors, even a live feed of them at the café across the street. “I have a reality show apartment I bought, wired up with cameras. Nothing hinky; not toilet or shower cameras.” The couple stay in the apartment one night, and she can sell the hell out of access to the house cams. “They don’t have to do anything but be themselves. They do that, and I’ll give you what you need to find your mystery woman.”

Ray doesn’t trust her, but Roulette made it clear that if they don’t play ball, she’ll sell the gear to an anonymous bidder, and pay the owner in untraceable crypto, and the trail dies there. Their only other option is to try to have Atom intercept the wire transfer and trace it; last time that happened he spent a week crawling through the bowels of a crypto farm in the Philipines- not exactly a ringing endorsement of that strategy.

Canary agrees. Arrow is reluctant (maybe because he was wealthy playboy enough to have been tabloid fodder before). Atom has an idea- he can shrink down and be their guardian angel. Arrow mentions that it’s probably too late, because the sun is coming up. Atom says the deal is for the next night. As they exit the cafe, they see digital billboards are already touting Green Arrow and Black Canary sharing a romantic evening in the Snoop House. “That’s not ominous at all,” Arrow says.

The next morning they’re all gathered for Nightwing’s briefing. He glances at the clock. “We waiting for something, boss?” Black Lightning asks.

“Yeah,” Green Arrow and Nightwing say at the same time, and Dick yields, letting Green Arrow continue. “We’re waiting for Dick to start.”

“We’re waiting for the other members of the team,” Nightwing says. “And I think that’s her.” He sees a woman’s silhouette emerging out of the sun, and as she gets closer we can see it’s Donna Troy. Her iconic star pattern costume doesn’t really sell her as being a Wonder Girl before Cassie Sandmark; it might make sense to go with something like the red jumpsuit; a good mid-point might be to mix that with the Jim Lee DCNu version with the dark pants (so it’s basically a jumpsuit version of Wonder Woman’s costume). Maybe you could go for a gold-accented variant to Wonder Woman’s, kind of like her usual costume intermingled with the golden hawk armor from 1984.

“Sorry I’m late,” she says. “I’ve been in a holding pattern for fifteen minutes. Wally made me promise I wouldn’t land without him; the other Flashes would never let him live it down if he was the last one to arrive.”

“Foolishly, I didn’t swear her to secrecy on that point,” Wally says, suddenly beside her.

“There’s doughnuts and coffee, and bagels and just a ten pound bag of sugar for Wally,” Nightwing says. Wally runs by the spread, and half of it disappears in a blur.

“Suddenly the spread makes sense,” Canary says.

Nightwing gives his briefing. It’s very low-tech, all things considered, as far as what Nightwing is presenting… we can cut away and montage the hell out of it like the whole thing was being done by Soderbergh (alternate pitch: GET SODERBERGH- how freaking cool would that be? I imagine he’d be curious about doing that thing he do but with a much crazier budget and FX).

Nightwing tells them that three casinos off the strip have been taken over by supervillains. Ostensibly, they’ve been hired to have their likeness exploited by the casinos, and to make celebrity appearances, on the floor and at their shows. But really, they’re holding the casinos hostage. At Joker’s Wild, the Joker has rigged the air vents with his Joker toxin- if the casino doesn’t keep giving him his cut, he’ll turn everyone inside (including the held-hostage family of the casino’s owner) into homicidal maniacs, most of whom won’t survive the transformation. At the Double Trouble, Two-Face has wired up every hotel room with explosives corresponding to red or black- and that if the hotel operators cross him he’ll spin his roulette wheel, and blow half the rooms- either red or black based on chance. At The Royal Flush, The Royal Flush Gang aren’t just taking a cut- they’re taking everything, pocketing even the paychecks of the employees, and forbidding anyone with any remaining cash from leaving- if you fail a credit check they’ll let you go, but otherwise no one leaves.

Finally, the problems started when a superpowered mobster named Blockbuster collected a casino in lieu of a debt. He’s been washing the supervillain underworld’s dirty cash through the casino since. He’s also the mastermind behind the takeover of neighboring casinos- he wants to buy them, outright, but first needs the current owners desperate- so he helped organize the attacks to both drive down the price and also take a cut to help him buy at the reduced price. This is because he wants to expand, beyond the relatively respectable among the villain set, to the real monsters, the terrorists, the sex traffickers, but for that he needs more casinos to be able to launder more money. Blockbuster’s casino is a tougher nut to crack, because it’s legit- but it’s also sitting on several times as much cash as it can legitimately claim, enough that it will be bankrupt if it has to make good on what it owes to the underworld figures if it disappears. 

The jobs are all complicated enough that they’re going to need all of them for each– and because if they tip off any one of the villains the others are likely to carry out their threats, they all have to happen concurrently, with all of them dropping in and out of each heist with the precision of a tightly-wound Swiss watch. Nightwing tells them he’s given Wally plans for each of the casino vaults, and has take-out from every delivering restaurant in a mile radius piling up at the reception desk to feed him while he constructs them to scale.

Wally disappears, then reappers, holding a hammer, and with some ketchup on his cheek. Donna tells him about the ketchup. “Oh, I’ve got ketchup everywhere. Moving at that speed, it’s like walking through a condiment tornado.” Nightwing tells them they have a few days, that Catwoman’s been doing some recon for him on the inside, and that’s as much time as they can safely delay before Joker’s likely to get bored and just start killing people to amuse himself.

Montage of them working through the heist stuff. Canary’s phone goes off. She’s got a show at Two-Face’s casino. Arrow goes with her, in civilian clothes. While there, they get a formal invite from Roulette, telling them a car will pick them up, in costume, after her show.

Two-Face is aggressive with Canary, and she flashes back to Black Mask from Birds of Prey, clearly still traumatized by their relationship. But Arrow is there, and comforts her enough that she puts on a brave face (pun!). Canary gets a musical number; Arrow watches Two-Face to see if there’s anything he can apply to their heist, later.

Arrow and Canary grab their ride and arrive at the Snoop House. She’s tired, and is looking forward to sleeping. “Sleeping?” Green Arrow asks, pretending he’s disappointed. She says she doesn’t trust this place enough to break wind in the bathroom, she’s not letting him as much as give her a courtly peck on the cheek. He agrees. But… there’s an expensive bottle of wine on the table. Arrow doesn’t trust it, but Canary uses a sonic cry to test the seal- the bottle is still sealed. Atom climbs through the cork, and tells Canary through an earpiece that he checked it on the atomic level- it’s clean, and it’s nowhere near enough alcohol to get three adults even tipsy- or two, yeah, he meant two, because he’s not here. Arrow is still uncertain, but Canary says she’s going to open it, and cries at the perfect pitch to pop the cork, then tells him either he’ll help her drink it or he won’t.

We cut to a bar, as the last of five bottles of beer are opened up. “This feels weird,” Wally says. “Doing this. When the last time we did this, we weren’t even old enough to do this. You know what I mean.” Donna relates that they were Teen Titans, then- or 3/5 of them were. Nightwing is apologetic to Black Lightning, for not inviting him to join the team. He tells them he’s older than them, he was like nineteen and a half by the time their team ‘debuted,’ that even if he’d wanted to join a team, he would have had only a few months before he was no longer a teen. Plus, he wasn’t much of a joiner, back then, so it’s cool.

“I was living in Italy with assassins,” Huntress adds. “Not, uh, really eligible.” Things are a little awkward, since the group haven’t been a group long, and even those that were haven’t seen each other in a while. So they decide to play some have you ever. Wally starts with he’s never made out with Nightwing, and Donna and Huntress drink. Huntress, either stewing or not quite getting the game, says she’s never made out with Donna. Wally and Nightwing drink, and they explain that the Teen Titans were basically one of those high school parties where everyone paired off and made out with everyone else- only kinkier because everyone was wearing masks, but still, pretty chaste, all things considered- since no one wanted to screw up the team by really pairing off. Which only makes things more awkward with Huntress.

Wally suggest they spin one “or several” of the bottles they’ve emptied, Black Lightning says he’s too old for “this shit,” and bounces. Nightwing realizes they all probably are, but it just means the rapport they build will be built of stronger stuff. He suggests they call it a night.

We cut to Arrow, still wearing his mask, rolling over in bed, curling into Canary. She’s wearing a wedding dress, which causes him to stir, and realize he’s wearing a tux. And they have matching wedding rings. Strewn across the very messy bed are rose petals and Polaroids of their drunken night of debauchery, including a stop off at an instant wedding chapel. Some of the Polaroids would seem to imply they’ve consummated their relationship. Arrow wakes Canary, frantic.

They freak out together, each blaming the other for things getting out of hand, as they spiral further out of hand, and they start pushing each other. Green Arrow tries to stop her early in, saying, “I don’t understand everything that’s going on here, Di, but I’m not going to raise a hand to the woman I love- I won’t be that guy.”

She has no such compunction, saying something like, ”I’m not going to let another man terrorize me ever again,” before belting him. She’s having trouble keeping him and Black Mask separate in her head. We cut to the gladiator arena, where a crapload of spectators, including some of the villains from this movie, bidding on the victor, as expensive looking fight graphics play on the Jumbotron: Green Arrow vs. Black Canary.

Canary throws him through a dresser, and out of it spill his bow and lots of green arrows. He spends a moment searching for something nonlethal, “My fortune for a taser arrow, or a knock-out gas arrow, or even a damned net,” she kicks him in the stomach. He finally picks up a regular arrow (they’re all regular arrows) and notches it. She punches the arrow in half, before punching him in the throat. “Thought you said I was getting better,” he strains.

“Better don’t mean good,” she says, knocking him out. She takes a few steps, realizing she doesn’t feel right. She tries raising her dad, saying they definitely were dosed with something- she’s not hungover, she knows what that feels like. He doesn’t respond, which confirms her concern.

The phone rings. It’s Roulette. Canary’s pissed off that Roulette dosed them and made them think they got married and had sex. She confronts her about putting steroids in the air, maybe something else, too. She cops to it, and tells Canary that Atom’s gear disappeared. But she’s pretty sure the owner took it back, and Ray into the bargain, and Roulette has another way she can find him- when he was in her office, Roulette placed a tracker on him. In her nightstand is the tracker.  

We cut to Atom. He comes to, tied to a chair. He tries to shrink, but his equipment won’t work. “Oh, Ray,” she says, “equipment not working? Funny, that was how I found out about you and Black Canary, back in the day. You were a naughty boy, then, Ray. Have you been naughty now?”

“You? What the hell’s going on?” Ray asks.

The next day, Canary and Arrow talk to Nightwing. He originally was confronting them about sneaking out- and how the team need them focused. Canary bursts like a dam, telling him that her father’s in town, helping look for her mother’s killer, but he’s been taken. Nightwing turns on a dime, no longer concerned about their heists; his family were killed, and clearly he was raised in a family that is motivated by hunting family-killers. He’s laser-focused on hunting the killer with her; it is the most like Batman we will ever see him, though he’s warmer, and more personally supportive at the same time, to the degree that Arrow is a little concerned about Nightwing horning in; no one else validates his insecurity (which only makes it funnier).

Nightwing goes to the others, and brings them up to speed, how this is about saving Canary’s father and avenging her mother. “Avenging?” Huntress asks, perking up. He reiterates they want nonlethal capture; Canary wants to know what happened with her mother, not a corpse. Huntress is hurt; not just disappointed, but hurt.

They cancel the day’s practice, in favor of riding out immediately. They roll up on the safehouse Atom’s being held in.

We cut inside. Atom’s still captive. His captor tries to give him something to eat, even as we see on security feeds that the Outsiders have arrived. Atom’s preoccupied with talking to his kidnapper. “Jean? Honey, what’s going on.” She’s standoffish, but gets close enough for him to grab her, only for him to gently take her hand. “Please,” he pleads, his voice rife with emotion, “Jean, talk to me.” We see Nightwing finish picking the lock on the front door even as Black Lightning electrocutes the cameras, shorting the feed.

She gasps. Wanting him to play cops and robbers with her was the only thing that was keeping her going. “Ray, I…” She crumbles.

She’ll narrate some of a flashback. Jean loved Ray Palmer from the moment they first met. She played hard to get, before letting him woo her; part of her was worried he’d be like other men who gave up after the conquest, and the rest because she was truly worried about how much she wanted him. And for a moment, it was magical, everything she’d imagined. And then Ray joined the Justice Society, and started working with Black Canary. She was beautiful, and fit, and always walking around in those fishnets and that tight, revealing little outfit. She couldn’t compete, especially not with the endorphins of fighting for their lives. And when half their team disappeared, she especially couldn’t compete with their shared grief. Ray left her a long time before he left her. And she never stopped wanting him back. She followed him, figuring out where he kept his surplus equipment. She snagged one of his older suits- not the oldest, which he kept for nostalgia, or the newest, which he was always tinkering on, but one of the surplus ones, one he might not be sure really was missing at all.

She tried to scare Canary off several times. She gave her a handful of close calls. She leaked her identity to the police, to the papers, even to villains. Finally, she thought, maybe she could make Canary forget Ray. She went inside her mind, and started screwing with linkages, and accidentally caused an aneurism. She called Canary an ambulance, but it was Gotham, in one of the neighborhoods where the cops can take hours to show, and where an ambulance won’t come without the cops. Long before anybody came, Canary was gone. Jean panicked, and to cover her tracks, she shot Canary in the head.

It screwed her up. She and Canary had been friendly. They were rivals, sure, she was even willing to hurt Canary to take her place at Ray’s side, but did not want to harm her, not seriously or permanently. She was a broken woman when Ray, hurting over what happened to Canary, reached out. She hadn’t wanted that, but in that moment they truly, desperately needed each other. Their love, their years together, were genuine and heartfelt, even though they were built on a despicable act.

As she finishes telling her story, we realize that Black Canary has been in the room basically since the story started. Jean throws herself at Canary’s feet, seeing how much she looks like her mother, and that blurring the lines enough for her that for an instant she thinks she’s Canary’s ghost, and not her daughter. She pleads with her to forgive her- that she wanted Canary to forget Ray- she didn’t want to hurt her. Canary asks Atom, who Nightwing has cut free, what’s going on. He’s a ghost, himself, telling her that he didn’t want to introduce her under these circumstances, but this is his wife, Jean Loring. They married a year after Canary died; he just lost the will to play superhero after that; even seeing his old costumes made him weep.

“All I wanted was to be the love of your life,” Jean whimpers, collapsing to the floor.

“Instead, you killed her,” Ray says, hollowed out. “This is all my fault.”

“No,” Canary says, hugging him, “it’s not.”

“This, uh, isn’t usually the way this goes,” Nightwing says. “There’s usually more punching.”

“Yeah,” Black Lightning says, “bet that hurts a lot less.”

“So what do we do with her?” Donna asks.

“I just looked it up,” Green Arrow says, “and statute of limitations on any kind of negligent homicide is long since past.”

“Dad?” Canary asks.

“She needs help,” Atom says. “I haven’t always been the best partner; God knows, I’ll always have to wonder if any of this would have happened if I were a better man, but I won’t abandon her again. I’m going to make sure she gets the help she needs.”

This is a perhaps overly somber moment, and we need to transition out of it, but not without letting the characters heal. I think Nightwing does a little wrap-up, back at the hotel. “I think today was a good reminder, for me. Sometimes, with the Titans, we could get wrapped up in the silly, fun aspects of being us. There were times I didn’t take it seriously enough, where I wasn’t able to stop and see the human cost underneath. I’m not saying,” (and here he does his Batman voice), “We should all be more like Batman. Because we shouldn’t. I’m not even sure he should be. We all have to learn to be the best Donna, the best Wally, the best Helena-“

“I prefer ‘Huntress.'”

“The best Huntress, then. Because we still have a job to do. There’s a lot of dirty money flowing through these casinos, funding a lot of the kinds of human misery we often don’t see up close like this. And more than ever, we need to shut it down, because we know how much it’s going to hurt people if we don’t.”

We cut to Arrow and Canary’s room. He’s holding her, when there’s a knock at the door. Atom comes in, and takes over, and father and daughter hold one another. Later, Arrow brings them coffee, where they sit looking out of the balcony. She’s holding her dad’s hand, and rests her head on Arrow’s shoulder as the sun begins to set.

Montage of more prepping for the heists. Included are little moments for each of them, like this one: “Are you sure you can make the shot?” Nightwing asks. We speed through the air as Arrow fires again. There are several arrows stuck to the middle ring of a target, but none in the center, which would allow the shot to slip through the slit between the barely opened faux vaultdoor.

We do the heist montages, with just enough moments spent with each villain and their pairings to feel like they’re not just generic villains from the Oceans movies. Nightwing and Huntress take on the Joker. This one will likely be the most fraught, because Joker’s figured them out, and re-masks them amongst his henchpeople, with masks he cut from the cloth napkins used in the restaurant inside the casino. Joker gets to monolog and threaten, wondering aloud which of the ways he could murder them would hurt Batman the most, intercut with the other heists. Eventually, Joker says he’s bored, and will just transform all of them into homicidal Jokers, and tries to blow the explosives. Nightwing leans into Huntress and tells her that’s why they stopped at the Wild their first night in town, that Joker was bound to do something like this. They fight their way out, leaving Joker knocked out. 

Two-Face likewise figures them out, because the Joker got a lot less morose a few days before. So he captures Green Arrow and tells him that he’s going to put his ideals on trial- that he can choose to be the new man he’s promised through his press agent, more focused on the group, or the selfish man who is going to save the woman he loves, and can walk out scott free. He’s about to answer when Wally, panting in the middle of the desert, standing on top of a large pile of explosives, calls over an earpiece to Arrow that he’s finished. Canary tells him if he doesn’t answer the question first she will collapse his lungs. He offers to let Two-Face shoot him; that losing her he would never be a whole man, but he couldn’t be either, if he let all those people die. He’d rather take a bullet himself. Two-Face flips his coin, tells him that wasn’t an option, but he’ll gladly shoot him and Canary both- that he’s always been a sucker for a tragic love story. That’s when Nightwing and Huntress arrive, and help finish off Two-Face.

The Royal Flush is the most bombastic of the three. When King tries to call the other casinos to tell them that they’ve been compromised, Donna tells him he can’t be weak in front of the other villains. Black Lightning appears, and tells her their communications are fried, and she tells King he can be as weak as he wants, then. Troy and Lightning have trouble with all five members… until the rest of the Outsiders arrive, and help them mop up. 

Finally, there’s the Blockbuster. This one is a lot more straightforward, since the heroes all have to show as civilians. They manage, with Green Arrow’s shot, to block the vault open with an arrow. Then they empty the vault. Blockbuster himself, not believing they could have thwarted his security or his plans, ends up in the empty vault. He tells his assistant to liquidate everything, and get him a charter to Santa Prisca. He needs to buy sanctuary with the King Snakes, because they never cleaned their money through the casino, and therefore are the only ones who might help hide him.

Pre-Credits scene: Arrow and Canary wake up in a hotel room.

“Oliver, why am I in a wedding dress?”

“Because it looked so elegant on you I insisted we take it.”

“And why am I wearing a ring that’s heavy enough I actually feel the weight of it?”

“Ring?” he sits up, bleary-eyed. “Oh,” he says, furrowing his brow, “I suspect because it’s the match to mine.”

“This can’t be legal.”

“I believe the important question is do you want it to be?”

“Not today.”‘

“Fair enough. Though I imagine we keep landing in this position because on some level it’s where we want to end up.”

“Also because you bought some ridiculously good champagne.”

“Ridiculously good champagne notwithstanding.”

“You asking, or telling?”

“You want me to ask, I’m going to need to borrow that rock,” he says, and gets down on one knee. She pulls him up to his feet and kisses him, and we cut away.

Green Arrow is discussing with Nightwing the possibility of hiring on a Green Lantern to up their game as they’re packing up their hotel rooms. He tells Ollie that great minds think alike as John Stewart lands. “I know just the guy,” he says, since then it’s a fun mislead.

Jason Todd calls Dick Grayson, wishing he’d had a crack at the Joker. “Wouldn’t that have been two-cracks? I hear you’re all about the art of the double-tap these days.”

“You can stick to playing touch football with these psychopaths, if you want, but I’ll tell you, brother from another mother, they aren’t playing the same game of patty-cake with you.”

“I’m not usually one to cast the first stone, but there’s plenty of people who’ve used the ‘P’ word to describe you.”

“Pussy.”

“No, the other one.”

“No, I was calling you one for pussy-footing around the word: psychopaths. That’s what they are. Deranged. Unstable. And yeah, I’m on a lot less even of a keel since their Clown Prince tortured me for months. I get about thirteen solid minutes of sleep between nightmares that the bastard still has me chained up in his basement. But we’re not talking about your garden variety mental health patients, here; these are people who revel in it. Who get off on the pain they cause. Believe me, no one looks forward to the day I can hang up my guns for good more than me.” He sighs. “Look, all I really want to know is whether or not you hit him extra hard for me.”

Dick hesitates a moment. “Always. And I know I give you crap. It’s not because I want to, or-“

“To prove you’re teacher’s pet?”

“We both know that’s Barbara.”

“I think you know Barbara a lot more thoroughly than I do.”

“Boundaries, man. And I want to know you’re okay. I can’t even imagine what you went through.”

“You? Probably not. But Dad? I was the one who had to talk him down. I didn’t need that, you know, but seeing it, it almost made the whole thing worth it. To know how much we matter to him, if only for a moment. That’s screwed up, isn’t it?”

“It is. Whole family’s screwed up like that. But you don’t dress like we do and have our kind of nightlife if you had a healthy childhood.”

“Barb kinda did.”

“Yeah…”

“And from the way you’ve talked about the circus it doesn’t sound like such a bad way to grow up… you know, until the tragedy.”

“Yeah. Tragedy does always kind of screw things up.”

“It’s weird, how many of us there are, now. I remember when it was just the three of us, and you and dad were barely talking…”

“It’s still weird to me to think of him as ‘dad.'”

“It helps being tortured by a maniac. Sort of peels away the emotional detachment. But my point was we were a weird little family. A dad. And an older brother slash dirty uncle who didn’t get along with him. And now there’s I’ve lost count how many Robins. Batwoman. At least one Batgirl, with a bunch of Birds of Prey hanging around her. And most of us join or even lead teams of our own.”

“Makes sense,” Dick said. “Just a bunch of orphans trying to figure out where we belong.”

“Yeah.” Jason pauses a beat. “You hit him really damn hard, right?”

“Thought I broke my jaw, his hand, or both, for a second there.”

“You think dad would ever forgive me, if I put a bullet in him?”

“I’ve known Bruce a really long time, and I don’t think it’s about what you’ve done, Jason. I think it’s about what you’re going to do. We all make mistakes, you know? But trying to be better than you were- I think that’s what matters most.”

“Doesn’t sound like a yes, though.”

“I don’t know, man. If I had to guess, if he felt like you couldn’t help it, like you had no choice, he’d forgive you. I think if you did it because you want to, on the hope he’d forgive you anyway… then I really don’t know. What he’s built, it’s bigger than any one of us. You killing someone you could take in, that might bring the whole thing crumbling down. And even then, I think he’d want to forgive you. But this thing he built, he built it so we didn’t have to be alone. You take that from him- from all of us, and I just don’t know, man.” We cut away.

I think at the end, Ollie decides to spend a little more on the team. This is revealed from him ‘souping up’ their Winnebago, which he demonstrate by blowing the horn, which now plays ‘La Cucaracha.’ The Outsiders give him crap for this, then he says that it also does this, and flicks a switch, and the exterior transforms into a sleek, green “Arrow car.” After a moment, the inside increases, morphing to show a state of the art mobile headquarters inside, as well. Ollie plays this off as having used the ill-gotten gains from the criminal’s portions of the heists… but Dick knows how much this kind of Batman-tech costs, and Ollie cops to using some of his fortune on it. Turns out, selectively leasing tech from Wayne Enterprises and Kord Industries, given what those companies do with their profits, is another way to do good with his fortune.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 4: Outsiders 2

We pick up immediately from the mid-credits scene, close on the picture Arsenal’s using of himself for target practice, from when he was Speedy (timeline-wise we’ll probably play fast and loose with this, but the general idea is that he and Ollie were friends, and when Ollie started heroing, Roy tried to help, but was too eager to get out there too quickly, and got the hell stomped out of himself, which required some pain meds while he healed… which led to him shooting heroin; he’s upset at Ollie for cutting him loose rather than helping him through rehab; Ollie’s perspective is that he was helping by cutting him loose, that he’d put too much on the kid’s shoulders and had no right to keep asking for something he couldn’t give). An arrow bullseyes him in the other eye. Jason tears the photo down, the way it tears leaves a sinister-looking happy face torn through the photo. “Self-loathing can be a great motivator,” Jason says, “provided it doesn’t become a problem. You sure you’re good?”

“Fiddle-fit, boss-man.”

“Don’t try to fool me, Roy; you know who trained me.”

“The Joker?” Roy asks.

Jason breaks the leg of the chair Roy’s sitting in so he falls forward, towards one of his arrows Jason freed from his target board. Jason stops him about an inch from the arrow jabbing into his throat. “You get that one crack for free. Next time you bleed for it.”

“I had been pulling your chain,” Roy complains, “but you ain’t convincing me the Bat would pull what you did.”

“There’s plenty of places he and I disagree, but reading people, knowing what they don’t want you to,” he slides a newspaper clipping out of the desk Roy’s sitting at, “I had a hell of a teacher.”

Roy tries to be unphased. “It’s just a newspaper clipping.”

“It’s that girl you failed to save.”

“I tried. She was pinned.”

“Wrong answer,” Jason says, his voice softening. “I was there, remember. We couldn’t lift it, even before Killer Croc knocked me unconscious. There was nothing you could do, Roy.”

“I could have asked for help sooner.”

We see a flashback, Arsenal trying to budge a bolder pinning a little girl under water, but he can’t even wiggle the damned thing; it’s important, for the arc of this, that it at least be feasible a human being could, even if we’re talking men who do those silly strongmen competitions where they pull semi-trailers with their teeth. It might make more logical sense that Roy has to swim rescue breaths down to her as the chamber floods; however, it might not be possible to film that in a way that it visually reads. Regardless, the girl points out that Jason is now underwater, too, and will drown without help. Roy swims Jason to a ladder or something, and by the time he gets back to the girl, she’s gone. Budget allowing, Artemis and Natasha arrive and move the boulder and help Roy with Jason- but the girl can’t be revived.

“Tash and Artemis were busy with Croc. They peeled off as soon as they could…” he squeezes Roy’s shoulder, “it wasn’t your fault. We are a band-aid in the violent patient wing of Arkham; we’re trying to save a world that wants to bleed itself to death. We save who we can. But we can’t save everyone. Probably not even ourselves. But so long as we can lace up our boots we do the job, and we try, anyway, to make this crazy place sane again. You did everything you could- everything I would have.”

“That’s not what you said, then.” I think we just cut to Jason, soaking wet, berating Arsenal. We probably don’t need (or want to hear it), but it’s brutal, cruel even by the standards of what you’d expect from this kind of scene because Jason is beating himself up, too; even in the present, he’s trying to save Roy because he can’t save himself from that guilt, from that pain.

Jason sighs. “World-class detection I learned at the feet of the master. But compassion… was never his strong suit. I was angry, and I was wrong, on the merits, and taking my guilt out on you. With the two of us, with our tech, maybe we could have got her loose,  but I lost focus, and got myself knocked out.”

“I’ll meet you half-way,” Roy says: “We both suck.”

“That’s probably fair,” Jason says. “But use it. Hit the weights harder in the gym. Remember it the next time you’re exhausted and don’t think you can go on- because you know what happens when you fuck it up. No pity party, no wallowing- you make the ones you can’t save count, by using them to help you save the next ones.”

“The Bat let any of you people drink?”

“You think that’s a good idea.”

“I neither want to be alone or sober tonight. Sounds like a perfect solution.”

Jason sighs. “Fine. But we’re planning the mission- and the moment you’re too sloppy for that I start pouring you coffee instead.”

“This gig doesn’t work out for you, something tells me you’ve a promising career as a dominatrix.”

“A male dominatrix is called a dominant.”

Roy gives him a side eye. “I know what I said.” We need to end this scene. I get addicted to banter, and we’ve got a whole movie to plot out, here.

Roy drops off a much sillier Jason a few hours later. Artemis is annoyed he didn’t call, until she sees him with Roy, and realizes he really has been with the other Outsider all night and not either patrolling without her or visiting strip clubs.

“I am going to give you the best sex of the last twenty minutes of your life,” Jason whispers loud enough the neighbors definitely hear it.

Artemis tells Roy she isn’t sure exactly what he means by that, but she is intrigued. However, Jason faceplants loudly across her couch- clearly in no position to deliver on whatever he promised/possibly threatened. She thanks Roy for seeing him home, then hopes he didn’t drive; Roy says he’s got a car waiting to take him back to his place.

Artemis sits on the couch. Jason’s still drunk, still a bit silly, but we also find out he’s got more of his wits about himself than he let on. She asks if Roy’s okay. Jason asks if any of them are. She ponders a moment, before saying Natasha seems fairly well-adjusted, all things considered. And Jesse seems to have a reasonable head on her shoulders, too, probably on account of being a scholar of super-hero history. He grins, saying he mostly meant the pair of them. She smiles back, and says they are screwed up in ways that are adorably complementary, and that she intends to hold him to his boast, and turns out the light.

The next day, Natasha and Jesse are patrolling Gotham, Natasha from the air, Jesse from the street. They’re speaking by radio, trying to understand what it is they’re looking for, but also just chatting, some girl talk- namely about how the Speedsters did start patenting their tech through the QuickStart company she’s now helping run- which Natasha is interested in, because she’s now helping her uncle John run Iron Works. Eventually, Red Hood breaks through to explain to them this is Gotham. With its night time freak parade you might think it’s all one big anarchic carnival, but during the day the city runs on corruption- that if Lex had plied his corrupt scheme here he wouldn’t have had to feed Ivo to the wolves, his polling would have gone up if his corruption was exposed. He points out that Gotham’s corruption is old, as much a pillar of the community as the Waynes, that it’s persisted through years of reformers like Dent and Gordon and even the Batman because it’s run like a company- you take down the head and they just promote somebody else. So while it’s possible you’d see a brutal gang like the Snake Kings take territory – the only way they keep it is paying for it- either in blood or treasure. They’re looking for disruptions, namely violence. Jason’s watching the financials of the hundred or so crime figures most likely to be involved.

Natasha doesn’t like this plan. “So we’re waiting for bodies to drop, or for the corrupt rich to get richer- riches that will be used to fortify their position through bribes and hiring more thugs.”

Jason tells her these aren’t their only irons in the fire. We cut to Roy, showing up at a gang initiation for the Snake Kings. They make him give up his weapons- no projectiles, including some guns and a crossbow. Roy, a little concerned, talks nervously to himself (really a concealed earpiece) about his odds in this crowd hand to hand. Red Hood, on the other end of the radio, tells him that they said he couldn’t bring in any projectile weapons- that didn’t mean he couldn’t turn weapons into projectiles. He also tells him Artemis is standing by to extract him if it comes to that- but they’ll have to try and mop up enough of the Snake Kings to cripple their organization- if they fail to infiltrate them this time they’re done. Roy says he’ll try to handle it.

Artemis complains to Jason on a dedicated channel and says she doesn’t like this- that it isn’t the Amazonian way to use guile and subterfuge. He basically tells her too bad, that if the Snake Kings get their asses handed to them by an Amazon, and think Wonder Woman’s in town, that’s a whole kettle of fish. But dressed like she is, she’s just one more distant cousin in the Batfamily- and even he can’t keep track of all of them. We only see her in silhouette for now, because it’s going to be more fun to wait for the reveal, but she’s definitely wearing a batsuit with pointy ears and the spikey cape.

We cut back to the air. Natasha dispatches Jesse to check out a shooting at the LexCorp. branch in Gotham. She’s in and out, quickly assembling clues. It’s almost an afterthought that she moves a woman out of the way of rifle fire before taking the rifle, unloading it and disassembling it at the shooter’s feet. I imagine she takes the ID out of the first dead woman’s purse and compares the address to the ID from the man’s wallet (and we see that she’s already tied him to a desk with Cat 5 cables). We next see her taking keys from a police sergeant to get into a filing cabinet. “It’s a domestic violence beef. Killed his ex, who had a restraining order on him, and looked about to execute any cute young brunettes with a passing resemblance. Not our guy.”

Natasha asks about Rupert Thorne. On paper, she says he just looks like a run of the mill corrupt politician, but before he came to Gotham, he was linked to organized crime figures in a handful of cities- pictures taken with the local bigshots, never involved in any kind of arrest. Red Hood breaks in to tell them that he’s just the kind of guy the mob would bring in as a face- a lightning rod for criticism and protest, but also always just removed enough from the action to act as a shield for the rest of their exploits. Course, if he doesn’t feel the mob are paying him his due, he might start working on a side hustle. Jason tells them to check it out, but to keep their presence subtle for the time being.

We cut back to Roy, as he’s punched in the face. Roy stumbles backwards, his puncher apparently confident, until he reaches for his belt, where he’d kept a knife in an overly-ornate scabbard- the missing blade for a moment pinched between Roy’s fingers before he lets fly, the blade sticking deep into the meat of his leg. He goes to pull it out, but Roy’s on him, and puts him in a sleeper hold, informing him that it cut his femoral artery, and the only thing keeping him from bleeding out is the knife sheathed in his skin.

King Snake, presiding over the fight, stands and declares Roy hasn’t won. These fights are to the death, and he must kill the man. He also moans about using a weapon as a projectile, which was firmly against the rules. Bane stands, and voices that he feels Roy has won; he’s cut the man’s femoral artery, and he will die without assistance, but in preventing the death, he’s also proven both his skill and his desire not to waste the Snake Kings precious resources. He waves away the concern about projectiles; they don’t want the entries to be gunfights, but that doesn’t mean a man shouldn’t be able to use what they left him with to his advantage. 

Bane gives a handful of gestures, after which the next three applicants attack Roy together, even as the one Roy wounded is carried off the field. King Snake is furious with Bane, says something to the effect of “How dare you contradict me in front of my Snakes?” Bane swells up to his full size (no artificial inflation from Venom), and tells him even at his prime the King Snake would have been no match for his Bane- and that he is most certainly now no longer at his prime. Then he pivots; he tells Snake King that if Roy can survive a fight like this, without the time to strategize, without being able to take the short-term pain to gain the advantage, then he deserves a place in the Snake Kings, regardless. And if he dies, then the previous fight was a fluke and he doesn’t.

I’m thinking, just for giggles, he’s up against a man with a long, pliable staff, another with a whip, and a final man with a thin machete. Roy gets the staff first, because he’s used to having to fight with a bow with a broken string. Then he gets the man with the machete to cut specific notches in either end of the staff, before stealing the whip, and threading it through the notches. Finally, he gets the blade. The three men, however, are formidable hand-to-hand combatants, and he’s still having trouble keeping them at bay. He manages to catch them off guard a moment, drop-kicking the first into the other two, so they’re lined up in a row, firing the sword from his makeshift bow through them as all four fall. Personally, I’d cast these three so that they could come back as Bane’s henchmen, that they weren’t using their signature attacks because Bane told them not to, but are otherwise formidable even then.

King Snake is irate this time, believing that Roy leaving them alive is a personal insult after the last match. Roy responds: “I came here to stand with men worthy enough to have my back. If you want me to kill everyone in this room weaker than me, we aren’t going to have enough men left for a basketball team, let alone a gang. But it’s your dime,” Roy grabs the blade, and is about to yank it up and out of them, likely causing fatal wounds. Bane rises, and stops him. He knows Roy could have aimed for the throat, or the head, even the heart, but he can see from there they’ve been pierced just below the ribcage; painful, debilitating, but intentionally avoiding their organs or spines. Bane tries to play it off as a playful thing- that his father would chop off Mozart’s hands if he played a symphony at a different tempo than he preferred- but that he has an appreciation for talent, and that Roy stays.  

Roy leaves to get some air, and is accosted by a handful of thugs, who blame him for throwing off the curve- now anyone who can’t fight 3 guys at once isn’t going to get their shot. Roy’s had the holy hell beaten out of him, and they’re armed with guns, and have enough distance Roy’s screwed. Someone in black rubber drops on all three at once. It’s Artemis. There are, honestly, a lot of permutations of why this would be funny. It could be a cheap Batman costume Jason bought her from a Halloween store, or one he clearly hand-sewed. It could be an ill-fitting Batgirl costume the taller, curvier Artemis is shoved into. It could be funny just putting her into one of the Snyder-era muscle suits just because putting a woman in one would emphasize how silly those were. I’m not sure what the best version of this joke is, but Roy snickers. “I could kill you with one of them; you realize that, don’t you?” She asks, and he snickers again and tells her it might be worth it.

Red Hood, over the radio, and cameras, we now see, switches his focus to Jesse and Natasha, and asks how things are going with Thorne. Natasha’s going over digital records, and tells him Jesse installed a network dongle she could access remotely. Jesse’s read two-thirds of their physical records- would have been done, but at about the 40% mark figured out how the records actually functioned as both the clean transaction records- but, once decoded, showed the dirty records, too- records of payouts to corrupt municipal authorities, contractors. Jason’s concerned she’ll be seen; she says people can’t see things that don’t stay in their vision longer than 1/220th of a second, and that she paces when she reads, anyway; the Speed Force, which protects her (and by extension everyone in contact with her) from the truly devastating impacts of someone moving at those speeds blunts the problems she would otherwise have moving through an office at thousands of miles per hour (otherwise the air she displaced would essentially create tornados in her wake wherever she went).

Jesse clarifies that it’s clear that while Thorne might be their cut out, he functions as a separate entity, a free agent- so that even if Thorne got nailed, they’d just move on to the next cut out. Natasha has the final piece- that isn’t represented on the paper records Jesse’s been scanning: Thorne’s been consulting for a Santa Priscan outfit, namely the mercenary corporation that took over the government, and now operates the gangs and drug funneling operations they’re targeting. The money doesn’t seem to even be acknowledged in any of his political fundraising or disclosures; it’s off the official books. Jason thanks them, and tells them that they’ve done good work- and that they should meet back at the hotel- he’ll be joining them soon.

We go back to Roy, within the Snake Kings compound. He’s at the head of a group lead into the inner chambers. He is greeted by the three mean he pierced together, now bandaged. One each grabs his arms, while the third puts a knife to his throat. “What the hell is this?” he asks. Bane tells him that they’ve had many attempts to infiltrate, from the Bat people, Checkmate, even a Gardner for the Superfriends. And from every law enforcement alphabet you’d care to imagine. They never cared. They let them in- if they passed this final test. The secret to the Snake Kings’ tenacity and strength is their Venom. They sold its weaker form on the streets, like heroin, if heroin made you feel like you could push over a car or a tyrannosaur. But the good stuff, the pure stuff, the strain Bane has hooked to his gauntlet- that was a high no one could walk away with. Strength you could never go back to living without. Riding the Venom meant pledging yourself til death to the Snake Kings. Most of those infiltrators were wise enough to pass, to walk away; the few who weren’t served the Kings, turned on their lives, their lovers, their coworkers, whatever they had believed in their life before the Kings. Venom isn’t a test- it’s a rebirth.

Jason is legitimately worried. “Roy, stall; I can have Artemis there before they can so much as call you a mean name.”

“I can handle it,” Roy says out loud, and snorts a line of Venom, and proceeds to beat the crap out of his attackers. Bane watches, with his hand on the dial of his own Venom supply. After thrashing the three, Roy spins on Bane, ready to attack him, too. But he stops, and says that he can’t stand people trying to kill him.

“Then you don’t like me,” Bane says.  Roy shrugs. He’s not against someone wanting him dead. But doing somebody else’s wetwork? That’s just low class. Besides, he knows if Bane really wanted him dead, he’d turn that dial and do it himself. He tells Bane he puts other people in harm’s way to understand who they are- but they both already understand who they are- the only thing left to be gained is violence. Bane opens his hands, removing the one from the dial as he extends the other to Roy. “Welcome, brother, to the Snake Kings.”

Artemis and Red Hood chat on their private link. She’s pleased with the progress of their mission, and underconcerned with Roy. Jason cuts off abruptly, saying he’ll have to call her back. Because finally, we pull back to confirm that, yes, Jason has been in the Batcave this entire time. And 2, that Batman is standing there, glaring angrily at him. “I asked a question, Jason: what the hell are you doing here?”

Red Hood shoots back that Nightwing called about his little Venom problem. Batman says he doesn’t have a Venom problem. Jason replies that Gotham sure as hell does, and given his history of… performance anxiety, Dick was concerned he might need some help- help he would never, not if he lived to be 9000 years old, ask for.

“I want you the hell out of my cave. Your mission’s concluded. I want you out of Gotham, too.”

“What’s your favorite pie?”

“Rhubarb.”

“It isn’t.”

“But that is the password, if you’re trying to find out if I’ve been doubled or mind-controlled. I haven’t. I just want you gone.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because you put together a team consisting of has-beens and wash-outs, all with a chip on their shoulder or something to prove, most of whom would content themselves with petty revenge. Maybe you just see enough of yourself in them that you want to give them the second chance you feel I haven’t given you. But you put a junkie undercover in a drug sting. You put an Amazon who was too extreme for other Amazons into a batsuit. Your judgment is beyond compromised. And I thought I told you I didn’t want to see that symbol back on your chest until you earned it.” Yup. Subtly, just essentially an indented detail like some of the latter-day Batsuits, Red Hood’s costume has a bat symbol carved into the chest. Eventually he’ll have the full red symbol he wears. I think it should probably be there from the moment we do the mid-credits scene in the last film- Jason essentially considering himself having earned it while Bruce… clearly disagrees.  

“Guess you really can’t go home again,” Jason says, trying not to show how hurt he is. Then he spins on his heels, a smile on his face. “No. You almost had me. I don’t know if this is your pride, or you trying to protect me after you failed so spectacularly to. But you don’t get to tell me not to help. I’ve got an agent in with the Snake Kings. And we’ve put together who the cut out is they’re using to pass a percentage to the local cappos to stave off a turf war.”

“Thorne,” Batman tells him. “I’ve known for a week.” But there’s something beyond intensity in him, perhaps a little pride. “We couldn’t get past the initiation. Everything I tried, every barrier, every countermeasure, anti-toxin or anti-dote, failed to even slow Venom down. Nightwing thought he could talk his way past it- when he refused to snort the stuff Bane tried to kill him. GCPD ignored my advice, put in their most seasoned undercover; Venom hit them so hard he put a bullet in Gordon; he barely survived.”

“Roy can handle it.”

“He’s an addict. Pull him out.”

“You don’t get to give me orders anymore.”

“It’s not an order,” he says, his voice softening. “It’s concern. They look up to you. It means they’ll do most anything you ask. Even when you have no right to.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him.”

“If you think that’s best.”

“I do.” Jason turns to leave, feeling triumphant.

“Just stay the hell out of my cave.”

That night, Artemis arrives. They discuss their progress. Natasha tells them that she installed surveillance equipment on Thorne’s phones, and still has Jesse’s backdoor into his campaign’s equipment. Arsenal’s tracker starts moving. Natasha checks, no emergency communications from any of the known Snake King associates. Jason says that he doubts the Kings tell Thorne everything- only what he needs to know to keep them good with the mob- especially if we’re talking shipments of something a rival might decide to try to take for themselves.

So they follow Roy’s tracker. Red Hood and Artemis ride on a Batbike together. Jesse, mostly a blur, runs beside them, with Natasha in the air overhead. Jason asks Natasha if she’s sure she isn’t exposed. She tells him that with the cloud cover and the gray sky, she’s practically invisible to the naked eye. The rear of a moving truck opens, the back metal gate hitting the pavement with a shower of sparks. One of the King Snakes fires a stinger missile at her. It’s one of the men who Arsenal fought earlier, specifically Bird, tipped off by his falcon. Jason asks Jesse to confirm Arsenal’s location; last thing they want is for him to get hit in the crossfire. Jesse zips up to the truck, then zips back as gunfire hits a sideview mirror where she’d been. She tells them he’s in the cab, and she thinks he took a shot at her. Jason tells her he’s probably preserving his cover, then says, “Natasha, stop the truck.”

She plops down in front of it, planting her feet in the pavement and pushing against it, stopping the truck. Bird leaps out of the back, onto a follow car. “Artemis?” Jason says, but she’s already flying through the air towards the car, letting a spear fly. It goes through the driver and into one of the passengers in the backseat, and she kicks the front passenger through the windshield. We get a quick, brutal fight scene where she fights four men in a confined space and just dominates; it’s more about speed and skill than powers, though- think John Wick. Jason brings his bike to a stop beside Arsenal’s door. Arsenal kicks the door open, and it smacks Jason in the face, bloodying him. Jason opens the door violently, prepared to smack Roy for his little Joke. But we see Arsenal’s eyes- he’s stoned out of his gourd, and his blood is up, his veins bulging, maybe his muscles, too.

Jason’s caught flat-footed as Arsenal draws on him. Artemis leaps between them, her shield on her arm, as she dives past, deflecting the shots. As she clears, Jason flings a fistful of red batarangs into Arsenal, the pain making him drop his gun. Artemis relates that she’s seen that look, fighting Norse berserkirs- that Arsenal isn’t himself. There’s a gunshot, hitting the grill of the truck; there are more Snake Kings at the overpass. Jason and Artemis exchange a glance, and she flies off to deal with the assault.

Jason and Arsenal spar for a moment, Arsenal demolishing him, before picking him up and throwing him onto the hood of a car. From the pavement, Jason tells Jesse to put Arsenal down. Arsenal is suddenly hit with several dozen punches, before falling over. Jesse stands over Jason. “So, when you said ‘down’ I assumed you meant as in lying and not as in like a quadriplegic St. Bernard with a bad heart.” He nods.

Jason checks out the truck, and finds out it’s full of Venom, big enough containers that Jesse can’t lift them, and enough of them that while Natasha and Artemis could maybe each carry one or two, it that would leave too many. Jason calls Batman, and asks him if he knows a way to ruin a shipment of Venom. Batman asks what chemicals they have immediate access to. He says he might be able to whiz in one, and if they weren’t currently shooting at the truck, he might be able to siphon some gas- but the tanks appear to be hardened against heat, and there isn’t enough gas for an explosion- besides which aerosolizing a truckload of Venom in the middle of a city seems like a bad idea. Batman complains that they aren’t giving him a lot of options. “You’re the one with the head for chemistry. We might only be able to hold this truck for another sixty seconds.”

“And where are you- nevermind, I got enough tower pings to triangulate. Can you start the car? Because you’re only a couple blocks from Axis.”

He tries to start it, but the battery took a bullet in the fighting. He calls out, “Irons, start the car.” She routes power to her outer shell and shocks the car to life- also blasting off a couple of Kings who had grabbed her. Jason gets it to turn over, and peels off. “Axis? Thought it was a Superfund.”

“It is .It takes an average of 12 to 18 months to clean up a Superfund site- and this is the third time it’s been designated as such.”

“And that will destroy it?”

“Even if they manage to clean the toxins out of it, would you be willing to take a hit if it might turn you into the Joker?”

“For some people that might be a selling point.”

“Not enough to build a stable market.”

Artemis tells him over the radio she’s led a retreat- which was easy, because the Snake Kings are all following him- some on foot (could make for an interesting scene as several Kings pump after him, T2 style).

Jason says they should keep retreating, but he’ll need one of the flyers with him- to literally pull his ass out at the last minute. He thinks a moment before clarifying- just him- he needs the Venom to be contaminated.

Jason bursts through a chained gate onto the Axis property. Jason checks the side mirror, and sees a King chasing after him, getting close. He drops a batbomb out of the truck, blowing the King off his feet. Jason asks Batman what the shelf-life is on the gases in his grapnels. He says 18 months. Jason says he’s pretty sure the one he has is older than him, and his team aren’t responding. Jason drives the truck up a ramp of fallen wall, and the van tips into a chasm over the pits Joker threw Harley into. Jason jumps out the door, firing his grapnel… which sputters, barely gaining another couple of feet before dropping limply. His oustretched hand is grabbed by Natasha Irons, who flies him over the pit.

She flies him back over the pursuing Kings. They’re firing at them, and Jason gets agitated. She tells him she’s been thinking about his cute little gas bombs, and considering the need for crowd control. Panels in her suit slide open, and a couple of dozen gas canisters shoot out, into the Kings, enough to put even the enVenomed Kings down. “Cops may not be able to get all of them, but they should get some of them, and that should make all our jobs easier.” Jason congratulates her.

Arsenal is in the Snake Kings infirmary. He’s woken by Bane, who puts a bow in Arsenal’s hand; he has his own, even heavier duty, slung on his back. Bane leads him out into the night, specifically to a rival organization’s headquarters. He’s skeptical of Arsenal- that in the infirmary he refused more Venom. “It enhances healing, counters pain. It also makes my men more predictable, and dependable.”

Arsenal’s in pain, and irritable from the detox, so he can’t keep himself from sniping back, “And pliable.” Bane doesn’t deny it, and we get the sense, from his voice, that he’s amused that Roy’s so much more aware than the rest- he’s grooming him for an important position in the Snake Kings. He tells Arsenal to shoot the man in charge, who, on closer inspection, seems to be a ventriloquist dummy.

“Not the dummy, the man with his hand up its ass.” Arsenal pulls the shot at the last minute, only cutting the Ventriloquist’s throat- it’s a nasty wound, one the Vetriloquist may never speak again after, but he’ll live, if his mooks can keep pressure on it while they wait for an ambulance.. Bane grabs him by the arm and twists it behind him, straining it until it pops loudly and Arsenal screams in agony.

Bane releases him, and says that he refused to kill a criminal on command- even when it would save his life. That strength of will makes him very dangerous. Bane breaks Arsenal’s bow, and sets his own down at his feet. He tells him it was custom-made, that it cannot be pulled by a normal man, especially not one with a fractured radius. He puts a syringe down beside the bow, tells him he read about him; he preferred needles when he apprenticed to Green Arrow, yes? He offers him a choice. Shoot up with Venom, and he can use the bow to stop Bane. Or stand and watch while he kills an innocent bystander. He picks a woman at random from the street, and jumps down a fire escape. Bane follows the woman into an alley, and is reaching for her when an arrow strikes the brick beside his head. He sees Roy, with a second arrow waiting, aimed right at him. Bane smiles.

We cut to King Snake stalking powerfully around his chamber. Bane is cool and collected, with Arsenal standing by with Bane’s bow. King Snake is furious that Bane is trying to depose him, to use failures beyond his control- failures in part due to Bane’s hiring choices, to push him out. But Bane isn’t similarly passionate at all. He’s cold. Collected. “I inherited the tactical brilliance you used to turn a losing mercenary campaign into a successful coup, but none of your weakness: your vanity or venality. I synthesized Venom from the sciences I taught myself while serving out your prison sentence- from an infant. If I must end you to take my rightful place, I will do so, with regrets. But I will no longer stand by and excuse your failures.” My thinking is that, like in the comics, Bane was part of the experimentation in the Peña Duro prison, working from the Miraclo serum used by Hourman back in the day as a template, to create a longer-lasting formula. Most prisoners died from exposure. While Bane survived, it still only gives him a short burst of strength. However, Bane had taught himself many things, including enough science that he was able to help the scientist fill in the blanks on why his Venom didn’t work. Once it finally did, the scientist promised that he’d help him get out of prison, he’d see to it that he was granted a full pardon. Bane said he will help him escape the prison, but not the way he thought. Bane killed him, and uses his credentials as well as the Venom, to escape.

King Snake complains that he has no right. Bane corrects him, that it is King Snake’s short-sightedness that would have doomed their operations, because without the tribute to keep the other gangs at bay, the Snake Kings would become a losing proposition. But Bane refused to carry out his orders; only a portion of their shipment arrived the previous night- the rest arrives tonight by alternate means. Bane tells his father this proves his superiority of mind, but that if he must, he will prove his superiority in strength, as well. King Snake relents.

The Outlaws still have Arsenal wired for sound; they don’t know whether they can trust the intel, or whether they’re walking into a trap. Jason says it could be a trap, but Arsenal is snared in it. He’s getting him out, and trying to stop the shipment, too, if he can, but it’s his mistake, if they don’t want to come with him. The other Outlaws, in grand speechmaking tradition, relate their own mistakes, which brought them to the Outlaws in the first place. “The Outlaws are where you end up if you’re too traumatized for the Titans, too violent for a Justice League, or too good for the Suicide Squad.”  

They do a Fast and Furious heist of the rest of the Venom, with Jaime Reyes again showing up to assist in the finale. He says he’s sad he missed Jason’s crow-eating speech- but agreed to help, because Natasha says she taped it. He’s sure it’s a lie, before Natasha plays some of the speech over their comms.

The Outlaws win again, this time echoing the Dark Knight Rises having Batman pick up the armored truck of Venom in a batwing and fly off with it.

The Outlaws then travel to the Snake Pit (what the Snake King’s nest is called) and soften them up for the cops, who are finally coming because the Snake Kings can’t afford to bribe Thorne without Venom to sell- who was in turn keeping the cops as well as the cappos of their backs.

Bane and his three henchmen are absent, as is Arsenal. They attack the Outlaws back at their hotel, initially humbling all of them methodically. The foursome all sport Venom upgrades similar to Bane. Bane doesn’t bother with Arsenal, buying him off, essentially, with the narcotic form of Venom he’s been hooked on, expecting him to stay out of it.

Roy is able to resist his demons long enough to help turn the tide, putting an arrow through Bird’s bird, and one into Bane’s leg, buying the other Outlaws enough of an edge it becomes clear Bane can’t win. Bane manages to escape, remarking that he’s learned a lesson: to isolate his foes, removing their friends first, their strengths second, and finally, exploiting their weaknesses. It seems like a win, until they realize Arsenal is shooting up with Venom- in fact, he’s ODing. Luckily, Batman gifted Jason a Narcan derivative he mixed that can keep himalive.

I think next is a tough love moment between Arsenal and Red Hood, where he locks him up. At first, Jason is angry at him, it seems, saying, “You told me you could handle this.” His expression softens. “But that’s on me. I shouldn’t have asked what I did. You wouldn’t take a gambling addict to Vegas and stay on the strip. I put you on the casino floor and told you to stay put. ,I” Jason takes off his mask, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let this happen to you. But I am going to make it right.” Roy starts chattering at him to let him out, thinking he can talk his way into an opportunity to get off the chain. “I’m getting you clean. Whatever it takes.” As Jason closes the peephole, Roy realizes Jason’s his jailer.

“Don’t say it,” Jason says. Batman asks what he would say. “I told you so, or any variation on that theme.”

“I meant there’s nothing to say.”

“That’s… not like you.”

I’m honestly not sure if this conversation is better, or him just leaving it there, and sitting with Jason. But because it’s a pitch and not an edit of the movie, I can have my cake and eat it, too. “Every one of you reminds me of myself in some facet,” Batman tells him.

“Let me guess: I inherited your temper.”

“I don’t think I was ever as angry as you are. Dick… Dick is the me I wish I could be, that I wish I could heal enough to be; he’s the hope I usually don’t have the courage to live. Tim has the mind everyone thinks I do.”

“But no one can take a crowbar to the face from the Joker like me and you.”

“Kind of. In a lot of ways I’m lucky. Born with money. Health. A good mind. But the one thing that felt like it was mine, that I didn’t inherit, was will. To keep going. Keep fighting. Survive, even when everything inside me told me to roll over and die. To get up, even though you don’t know where you find the strength to. To build something that will outlive you, filled with people who are better than you. And to shoulder your failures. I know what you think, Jason, but you are not one of my failures. I failed you; I know that. Failed to keep you safe. Failed to teach you how to channel your rage, temper it, into something you can use to change the world. But you haven’t failed me. Not a day.”

“Not even with these?” Jason asks, pulling his pistols.

“There was a time they would have been a deal breaker for me. Watching my parents die the way they did… but fighting with Nightwing, of all people, taught me every man has to forge his own path. My path can’t be yours, as much as I might wish it, as much as seeing you so much as hold those hurts.” He sighs. “But I will ask that you use them as a last resort; only when there’s no other way-  that you only take a life in order to save one.”

“You know I can shoot to wound, right?”

“In a fight? With a hundred variables, including enemies moving at least as fast and erratically as you do? I’ve almost killed people with batarangs, and a grapnel, once. I don’t care how cautious you are, you’re going to kill someone with those things. So you should only use them when that’s an acceptable trade. But… I didn’t come down here to ask for that. I came because, I think you’ve been reckless, trying to accomplish more, and bigger. That when I said I wanted you to earn it, you heard I wanted fireworks. I wanted Joker in bracelets, with a few of his teeth left in his skull to show you’d learned restraint.”

“What, even that wouldn’t do it?”

“It might have. But this was what I was waiting for. Consequences, you accepting them, with maturity and grace. We all fail, son. Even Clark, though none of us shoulder it quite as well. But our failures only define us if we let them- and that includes trying to run from them. You made a call, and Roy got hurt. Accepting that you’re going to do the hard work putting him right, and accepting your culpability, that was how you earned it.”

They hug. Credits. Mid-credits scene. Batman and Red Hood continue to hug. Jason says, “If anybody asks I’m telling them I earned it kicking Bane in the nards.”

“I will too, son.” Resume credits. End credits scene. We start on a radar screen. An operator tells someone over radio that that’s negative, still no atmospheric radio contacts. The person on the other end says “Good. Then we still have time.” We recognize this voice from Outlaws 1, belonging to Lex Luthor. We can also see his face, because despite the fact that he’s built himself some Iron Man armor, he still really needs you to know it’s him sitting in it, so the face is see-through. He’s standing on top of the LexCorp. Tower, holding someone shiny in his hand by the throat. “I meant what I said when I thought you were dead, John, the world really would have been poorer for losing your genius. Lucky for it, I’ve got it- backed up every little thought you and that precocious little niece of yours ever had. Your recent stuff, I think we’ll live without. You’ve started repeating yourself, John. It’s sad, really; I know how we’d all prefer to go out on a high note.” He squeezes, crushing the armor around John’s throat, before dropping the armor.

Relevant Review: The Suicide Squad comic (2016)

“If Polka-Dot Man can have meaning, any of us can.” -James Gunn, to Fandom.com

James Gunn, the man whose career is single-handedly proving there are no bad ideas, only crummy executions, was given the Suicide Squad to retool at a low ebb, having temporarily lost the reigns of the Guardians of the Galaxy (it was a whole crappy saga of right-wing crybaby pants-wetting)- or maybe his talent is limited to alliterative comics thing. But his ‘secret’ really seems to be giving a crap about his characters in a way a lot of us don’t feel cared about, and in making his misfits loveable, he makes all of us misfits in the audience feel like we can be loved, too. But this isn’t a review of a movie I haven’t seen and isn’t even out here, yet.

This is a review of similar/related, “You liked X, what to try next” stripe. Everyone knew the idea behind Suicide Squad was cool, a supervillain deniable ops unit run by the shadiest of government operatives, oh, and always with a body count of colorful has-beens. Note, the 2021 Gunn film really shouldn’t be mistaken for David Ayers’ much less polished, We Really Wish This Hadn’t Been Suicide Squad from 2016 (in the year of our simulation crapping the bed 000001).

Suicide Squad Rebirth Deluxe Edition

There are certainly newer Suicide Squad things to cover, but both being budget conscious and being a book I snapped up a while back on sale, I’ve been looking for an excuse to read the Rob Williams/Jim Lee book, which is on Comixology Unlimited as well as DC Universe (no word yet on when it might be coming to Marvel Comics Unlimited- and yes, I will likely continue to make variations on this joke until forced to stop, so write my congressperson).

Okay, it’s genuinely bizarre that this book starts (after a prologue) with Obama shutting down Waller’s black ops supervillain ring (obviously it doesn’t take, or we wouldn’t have a book). But it’s hard not to imagine what would have happened under the other guy… imagine Orange Thanos with a More Pornographic Chin with his own villain hit squad; he’d basically become doughy and less honest about his comb-over Lex Luthor (and way, way dumber). There’s a plot bunny* there, is what I’m saying, one on super-steroids with cybernetic components (this plot bunny might have a further, nested plot bunny- Russian nested plot bunnies- which might in itself constitute another plot bunny).

Sadly, the interlude doesn’t last; I could genuinely have gone for a slightly angrier Obama getting pissy that his supervillain smart bombs were just as messy as drone strikes, maybe even build in an arc about how people were starting to protest, after their origins got leaked, and you could have done a version of the drone debate, but for the ethics of using supervillains as an elite strike force with a justifiable body count (both civilian and their own). I’m… really not sure if it’s a sign of quality that a work like this creates plot bunnies just as quickly as actual rabbits procreate, or if it’s a sign that it’s not fulfilling its promise that there seem to be so many of the little bastards.

But to the squad. This story introduces Hack, a Harley fangirl, which seems… dumb, at least within the world of DC Comics, because the horrific crimes of the Joker make her a party to mass-murder and potentially genocide, plus the abuse inherent in their relationship is on pretty stark display, and lionizing the Quinnpin of Crime because she’s ‘free,’ while showing she’s also free of the constraints of sanity… it just doesn’t serve to do anything other than make Hack seem either stupid or thinly written. She’s also massively overpowered; she’s a technopath, meaning she can talk to/control tech, can download the contents of secure computers into her memory, oh, and teleport groups of people across massive distances over the internet, but in doing so effectively scans them, allowing her the ability to basically xerox people and (potential spoiler) recreate them if they die. It’s… not great.

The team in the 2016 book seems like a less colorful version than even the ones we got in the Ayer movie- like the roster is similar, but they’re all doing variations on quipping action hero stereotypes whose butt-cheeks remain permanently clenched so tightly they can’t actually be witty or interesting, and Harley Quinn, who’s doing a nonsequitir but also not terribly interesting Coocoo’s Nest. 

I think even then, I might have liked the book if it was sticking the landing on serious realism (within the four-color comic reality), but it misses both the possibility of interpersonal drama and the pathos of the intrapersonal. Like, Enchantress and Killer Croc have a burgeoning relationship, largely because they both are treated like monsters but on the inside just want to be normal, decent people. They don’t deal with this in any real way, where June is kind of horrified that what is technically not bestiality but is really really close to it for comfort is part of that equation; it’s basically missing the interesting subtext of the beauty and the beast story it’s doing. And you might have even been able to justify it, if their eventual hook-up was played for a joke, even, the equivalent of a drunk one-night stand and waking up to someone you would not have chosen sober. But instead it just kind of… happens. It lands with a thud, no dramatic payoff, no pathos, no character having an interesting character moment, no romance, it just… exists. Story as shit happening, people quipping, but no one really caring (also known as the overly superficial read of the MCU’s house style).

Another example happens during the same story. Belle Reve prison (also the Squad’s HQ) has, through contrivance, had all of the people within essentially reverse polarities. That means most nice characters turn nasty, most sane ones turn homicidal, and Harley Quinn puts down her Coocoo Puffs. As essentially the only member of the Squad still capable, saving the day falls on her thin shoulders. This should have been a really interesting story for her, think Flowers for Algernon, but if, at the climax, the rat had to sacrifice his intelligence to save a bunch of people; it could have been both tragic and heroic, and cemented her as a character to be reckoned with (and Williams, too). And instead it’s mostly an excuse for Harley to put her hair up, wear a white coat and glasses, and use a little more strategy than her usually chaotic plans allow for. There’s if memory serves a line that tangentially mentions that another character is aware that she’ll be sacrificing something, but Harley isn’t even really conflicted, let alone devastated at what she’s about to lose.

I’ll spin this out into a separate blog, since it’s getting wordy, but the comic isn’t living up to its full dramatic potential. But it’s got good bones. Recognizing the story potential, and getting it most of the way there, isn’t the default. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Williams grows into one of the better comic story-tellers around. And of course, Jim Lee’s art, as always, is beautiful. High-tech, expressive, detailed and always very consistent.

I’d say at a minimum flip through it. If you’re looking for a place to start on Suicide Squad… I don’t know that I could suggest it be here. Maybe it’s just that, four years later, it feels very much like what it was, a companion to Ayer’s movie version: not as fun as it should be, not as smart as it could be, but also nowhere near as dark as is should be, either. Better, unequivocally (I made the mistake of rewatching the extended cut of the movie to prep for the sequel, and it’s… worse than I remembered, even though I remembered not liking it). For now, go see Birds of Prey, instead. I liked it enough I pitched a sequel, which no one will make, but hopefully you’ll get a kick out of. You’re welcome.

Pitchgiving 2020 Bonus: Birds of Prey 2

We open on a mugging/assault in an alley, filmed to remind of the opening of Batman 89, taking place on top of a rooftop. In swoops a younger woman in black, rubber armor, without Bat accoutrements. Underneath it is Cassandra Cain. The rescuer throws the attacker down, and the victim squeals while fleeing, and the camera follows her, revealing Harley, watching from the shadows, whispering, “You got this.”

Cassandra tries to make herself bigger with each word, building dramatically towards the ellipsis, “I am vengeance, I am the night, I am… still working on the name. What do you think of Bian-Fu?” The attacker turns his head, then dives at her, and they both roll over the edge of the roof.

Harley runs to the edge of the roof saying, “Shit shit shit shit shit.” There are two cracks, followed by the sound of zipping rope.

The attacker is suspended just above the concrete, close enough he could lick it, while Cassandra is holding onto a grapnel beside him. She drops down to the concrete. “You okay?” a woman asks from behind her. Cassandra spins to see Batgirl, looking really cool in her costume, but also confident and personable. Cassandra nods, a little starstruck. “I won’t be a hypocrite and tell you not to do this, but I will tell you it takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of training. Give me a call some time, if you want some tips, or just somebody to talk to.” She gives her a card with a bat symbol and a phone number on it.

Harley, a freaking wreck, runs up as Batgirl grapnels away, huffing and bent over. “Y’okay?” she wheezes.

“So cool,” Cassandra says, barely aware of Harley’s presence.

Cut to Harley’s car, as they drive away.

“So I’ve been thinking about the name. My whole thing kind of keeps petering out. How about Bat-Woman?”

“I’m not sure the homage comes through if you’re one-upping her in the name. Plus there’s already one of them.”

“Bat… wing?”

“There’s already a guy. Or person.”

“Bat… Rock… the Lepper?

“That is the stupidest name I’ve ever heard. How about Black Bat?”

“But I’m not Black.”

“Aw, honey, it’s not the 60s anymore. Black heroes don’t have to put ‘black’ in their names just so the cops don’t shoot them.” Very quick cut to Bat Wing getting shot by cops (he’ll survive, because of the armor- but it still stings). “Right, Bat Wing got shot by the cops just last Thursday; should have went with Black Bat. But there aren’t a lot of ‘Bat’ names left. Unless you want to be a Bat Hound.”

They sing spontaneously together with an Elvisy twang, “You ain’t nothing but a Bat Hound- you ain’t never caught a Riddler and you ain’t no friend of mine,” and then go back to the conversation as if nothing happened.

Harley: “Or, you could choose to name yourself after another woman who selflessly saved your life.”

“Yeah. I could be Harley’s Hemorrhoid.”

“Turned out that was just Chipotle. I wonder if that counts as product placement?”

“That depends on where you put the Chipotle.”

Harley’s phone alarm goes off. “Oh, we’ve got to meet the girls.” Harley drives out into the Gotham Hills, to a plant sanctuary. They get out of the car, and Poison Ivy descends from an open window of a glass dome atrium, riding atop a magnificent, vicious looking plant, looking both elegant and terrifying (if you’re looking for a casting suggestion Lake Bell is great and voices her on the animated series- a nested suggestion: go watch the Harley Quinn animated series).

“Hey, Harles,” Ivy says.

“Great, she’s babysitting again,” Catwoman says, melting out of the shadows. Cassandra flips her the bird.

Harley leans in to Cass and whispers, “Okay, I see why you didn’t want to go with Cat Girl.”

“That, and the weeaboos would never leave me alone.”

“We ready?” Ivy asks.

Harley: “Joker’s taken so much- from all of us. I think it’s time we show him how loss feels.”

Actiony scene, where Catwoman sneaks in and disables the security alarms, Ivy infiltrates the guard station and subdues them, all while Harley and Cass create a distraction.

They all meet up inside the warehouse, planning to mop up, only for it to turn into a shoot out. See, the warehouse in question is a weapons cache- most of the Joker’s arms storage. So the few remaining goons are able to arm up, and quickly, so we get a high caliber fight scene.

“I thought if we cut off their weapons supplies, the rest would be easier,” Harley says as bullets whiz past her.

“I don’t think we should let her do the thinking anymore,” Catwoman says, whipping her way up into the rafters. She drops behind one of the shooters, taking him out. Ivy uses undercooked broccoli in one of the gunmen’s stomachs to grow, popping out of him like an Alien. Harley fires a novelty gun that shoots a boxing glove wrapped around a brick into the third shooter. There’s a fourth, surprise gunmen that Cass takes out before he can shoot Harley in the back.

Cut to later, the Birds of Prey surveying the damage. “We’re too late,” says the Question (Montoya); and yes, she is wearing the faceless mask. There are burnt crates of weapons and ammo still smoldering.

“What the hell happened here?” Canary asks.

“Arms smuggling seems a given,” a new voice says, as Batgirl lands right behind Huntress. Huntress reacts by spinning, and jabbing with a knife from her belt. Batgirl rolls her, peeling the knife away and dropping her on her back fluidly. “Didn’t mean to surprise you. But these guns have been illegally modified, and there are enough to assume this is more than just a personal stash. It’s enough to arm a small army. Or a gang. Name on the deed is Jack White-”

“The White Stripes guy?” Huntress asks, dusting herself off.

“It’s probably an alias.”

“So we assume these are gang related. Who would trash their weapons? A rival gang would take them for themselves.”

“That is the question, Question; your name is kind of confusing.” I’m suddenly hearing Rachel Brosnahan as Batgirl… and I really like that idea.

I think we stay with the Birds, as they try to figure out where the next strike on Mr. White’s holdings will be, back at Barbara’s Clocktower. It’s here we meet Oracle, Batgirl’s logistics expert (in a wheelchair, and I’ll reiterate my support for casting Kiera Allen from Run because she- and it- are amazing). Babs saved her, once upon a time; for my money, I think it’s more compelling if she was already in the chair. Oracle used her savvy with computers to track her back down to repay her- by saving her life (I think her original attack was designed by Joker to smoke Batgirl out- which Oracle figured out, preventing Joker from shooting her). Since then, she’s been feeding her, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Bat Family, with leads, intel, research- whatever they need that she can provide remotely.

This includes an extensive web of Jack White’s holdings. She notes that Jack White doesn’t exist (Canary asks who wrote all the White Stripes’ music, then?), but that several of his businesses are definitely fronts for illegal activity. She theorizes that either he himself is dirty, or his anonymity or even his name are being used by someone as a shield. Oracle and Batgirl have figured out the five most likely targets, and each one of them is going to sit on one- not to engage, but to observe, and call in backup if and when anyone of interest shows. The targets are divided into the likeliest attackers: a rival gang would likely look to cripple White’s biggest money maker, a night club, on the assumption that it disrupts his legitimate cash flow, but also disrupts his ability to clean cash from his clandestine enterprises. A vigilante or rogue law enforcement would try to expose him as a criminal, which means hitting his shipping warehouse, likely the point of entry for the guns and also likely any other illicit substances. Anyway, they all take one, with Batgirl handing out assignments. Batgirl takes Ace Chemical, bought by White for pennies on the dollar after Harley Quinn destroyed it. Rumor has it that White uses it as a sort of de facto headquarters. She’s able to listen through the vibrations in an unbroken window to White making plans, but doesn’t see him, and is just about to confront him when Canary calls them in.

She admits she thought about taking Harley herself- until she saw her entourage, and thought maybe she’d need the backup, after all. They arrive after the fighting is done, as the Sirens are torching more of White’s merchandise (I’m going to say it’s a chemical supply company). The Sirens flee when the Birds arrive, and they give chase. The Sirens run into a sewer, and Montoya hopes they won’t have to fight any killer crocs down there, when a sewer plant grows to the size of a person (giving the middle finger), and blocks their entrance. Batgirl calls Oracle for a map of the sewers, but unfortunately they’re right at a junction point- the Sirens could have gone virtually anywhere. Batgirl, conspiratorially, asks Oracle how their tracker is working, and she says they’ve got a clear signal.

We zoom in on Black Bat’s new cape, black and fringed like Batgirl’s. There’s a tracker attached to it (with a blinking light, if it’s too subtle- but I otherwise want to be subtle with it). The Sirens are triumphant. They’ve not only knocked over two of the Joker’s places, but they managed to get away from Batgirl and ‘those other dorks’ (Harley’s words). They feel on top of the world.

Harley argues they go for the kill, now. If they keep nipping around at the edges, it’s only a matter of time before “Puddin’- I mean, Mistah J, sets us up an ugly surprise. He almost got the Bat a couple of times, with those surprises. He’s got a real knack for hurting people.” Catwoman argues the counter- wanting to be methodical. She wants to take his empire away a piece at a time, so that a broke, disarmed and alone Joker is their prey- and they don’t have to wade through an army of goons with guns. Black Bat sides with Harley, but Catwoman argues she’s a sidekick, and a trainee, and Harley’s Hemorrhoid, so she doesn’t get a say. So it all comes down to Ivy, who sides with Harley, because she knows him, and not just as a gross ex, but as a patient- about as intimately as a person can know someone like him. Catwoman refuses to get killed for their vendettas, and leaves. They ask Black Bat if she can handle Catwoman’s part of the plan; she reminds them she was a pickpocket and a thief.

Cut back to the Clocktower. Batgirl plays back audio for the rest of them of the end of the last line in the previous scene. She tells them she got a tracker on one of them, and Oracle picked up audio with a drone- that they can put an end to these break-ins if they work together. The Birds aren’t sure about her- especially her compartmentalizing, but reluctantly agree. Cut to later, them on an adjacent rooftop outside of Ace. They watch as Harley kicks in the front door, and we follow Harley inside. She doesn’t get far, before she’s picked out by a spotlight.

Jack White emerges, looking human for now, giving her a slow clap. He threatens her, not too subtly, pretty much confirming he’s who we think he is in the subtext, but with just enough gaslighting that we can’t know completely for sure. The lights go off, then all the lights come back up. White’s gone, and Ivy and Black Bat have arrived. They’re attacked by the Birds of Prey, who gain the upper hand until Catwoman emerges from the shadows to even the odds, telling Black Bat “Cats may seem fickle and disloyal- independence and stubbornness are in our nature. But we always come back for those we care about.” And they are very even, with Ivy as the only really super-powered one (Canary’s cry notwithstanding), it’s a very street-level fight; Barbara takes on Ivy, and has a bevy of gadgets Bruce has used on her in the past so she’s able to keep her at a manageable threat level.

Eventually, a disgusted Jack White emerges once more from the shadows on a gang plank. He’s having a good time, even if it’s clear he’s roiling with anger over the damage done to his operations. He tells his henchmen to end the stalemate and kill them all. There’s lots of possibilities, here, but probably I’d throw in Firefly (who I imagine fights Ivy and Batgirl), who’s always a colorful, visually interesting villain, and then some regular hench people for the rest of them to kick. When it looks like he’s winning, a triumphant White removes his mask to reveal that he is in fact the Joker.

Harley and Black Bat are able to break away from the fighting to chase him (because I like the idea that this mirrors the first BoP). He uses several joke shop gag weapons, all of which Harley is able to dodge while pursuing him. He stops, spins around, and says they’ve got him, only to drop into a folding chair, onto a whoopie cushion that fires a bullet in slow-mo into Black Bat. He tells her she can catch him- but her partner will bleed out by the time she gets back. She punches Joker, breaking his jaw (it dangles sickeningly in an exaggerated rictus grin). “That wasn’t funny,” he says overly seriously, standing by a hole in the wall that used to be a door leading to a fire exit. He grabs a life raft off the wall, steps to the ledge, and inflates it. It rips him into the air as it rapidly inflates with ultra light gases, carrying him away. He can’t help himself, laughing as he flees.

Harley attends to Black Bat. She can’t stop the bleeding herself- even her medical training can’t compensate for the fact that she doesn’t have any supplies and they’re in a filthy derelict chemical plant. Until Batgirl arrives. She has an adhesive to stop the bleeding, and one of Oracle’s drones is actually equipped with medical supplies; together they get Black Bat stable enough for transport to the hospital. As an ambulance arrives, Batgirl supplies them with one more item; a pair of surgical scissors. She tells them Cassandra Cain might have to explain a gunshot wound to the ER staff, but Black Bat would almost certainly be arrested on site. Black Bat says, “You knew?”

Batgirl says she knew the whole time, that she recognized her picture from juvenile records. She tells them both her secret is safe with her. Montoya comes in, barking orders at the medics, explaining the GSW. Batgirl swings Harley away from the police, dropping her off on the neighboring rooftop. Harley asks where that leaves them- are they going to fight now? Batgirl tells her she isn’t prepared to judge anyone else who chooses to fight for a better world- at least not while they’re picking worthy targets like the Joker. She says she likes her- and likes the kid even more- so she hopes they’re never going to be on opposite sides of that divide. As she swings away, Harley says she’s all right, for one of the bats. Then she realizes she’s been stranded on a rooftop, and looks over the edge and asks, “Wait, how do I get down?”

Back at the Clocktower, Huntress is annoyed she let them escape. Batgirl clarifies that they let Harley and Black Bat escape from the Funhouse (in the previous movie). Canary adds that they also let Catwoman and Ivy go, too. Batgirl smiles, and says she’s sure they’ll see them around. To black, with the text, “The Birds of Prey will return.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene. Ivy and Harley, in civilian clothes, are dragging a clearly uncomfortable Catwoman into the hospital. Cassandra’s eyes light up at the site of them. Harley’s got an oversized beaver for her, Ivy’s got a potted plant, and Catwoman has a jewel case, which she opens to reveal the Bertinelli Diamond from BoP1. “Helena’s going to be pissed,” Harley says. Things are kind of awkward, and it’s sort of clear Ivy and Catwoman are kind of looking for a reason to exit. Harley brings up their next big score. She says she’s been thinking, and the Penguin’s always been a dick. Last time she ate at the Iceberg Lounge, he pinched her ass- and not over the clothes, either, he got his flipper up her skirt. Prick’s just asking for it.

“The Arctic Bird does have a lot of nice ice,” Catwoman purrs.

“He bulldozed the only natural habitat for the Gotham Lilly to build his tacky little lounge,” Ivy says angrily.   

Camera pans to Cassandra, and the others are waiting for her reply. “Uh, I’m pretty sure he has fish-breath.”

Close on Harley. “Gotham City Sirens,” cut to black, as she says, quieter, “assemble.”

We’re going to play some games with text. First, white text on black: The Gotham City Sirens Will Be Back.

“We’re already here,” Ivy replies.

A red marker rearranges the sentence to, “Will The Gotham City Sirens Be Back?”

Harley: “Then it’s Clobberin’ time.”

“What does that mean?” Catwoman asks.

We do a circle zoom in on Cassandra. “Wait, I think I got it. Stop: Hammer Time.” Back to black. Over the rest of the credits, Harley, with her big mallet, Hammer Dances in Hammer pants to “Can’t Touch This.” You’re welcome.

Pitchgiving 2020 Part 2: Green Arrow and the Outsiders

Green Arrow & the Outsiders (Green Arrow fronted team, gathering together a lot of legacy characters like Kyle Rayner, otherwise a generally more street-level team); Black Canary will end up in this orbit, eventually, though maybe she splits her time with the Birds of Prey. Nightwing. We can add more, depending on exactly how big we want the fireworks at the end of this movie to be, but we might be better off adding them in the sequels, instead: Tempest. Donna Troy. Wally West. Plastic Man. Kyle Rayner. Black Lightning.

Opening montage, Oliver Queen partying hard as a wealthy d-bag as he narrates, with a Bruce Wayne cameo, spilling drinks on Oliver. “I grew up with more money than I knew what to do with. Literally. I burned through money so fast even Bruce Wayne once told me to slow up; he was four martinis deep- so he was one to talk. The only thing I ever earned for myself was this.” Cut to a young Ollie, hitting a target with a bow. Cut again, he’s at the Olympics as a young man, drawing back. “My parents paid to have me taught self-defense; if they’d been as interested in self-preservation they’d have gone into rehab- instead of into the Pacific Ocean.” Quicker cuts, as Oliver spars in a martial arts outfit, and we see his parents’ car go over a cliff, tumbling towards the Ocean. “I slid seamlessly into their lives,” we see him in a suit attending meetings, drinking too much at social gatherings, generally being a feckless socialite.

“Then my life changed.” He gets mugged by a teen, obviously living on the street. She’s going to be his Speedy, eventually. He reacts on instinct, bloodying her and getting the knife away, knocking her into the light enough to realize, “She was a kid, so desperate for a meal that she attacked someone bigger, stronger, better connected. I gave her my wallet. I gave her my keys. She offered to give me a ride home.”

Back at his apartment. “I won’t sleep with you,” she says, anxious.

“I think you misunderstand me.”

“I have HIV.”

“God,” he whispers, and moves to comfort her. Narrating again: “I got her the help she needed. Meds. A place of her own. And a job.” We cut to his work, where she’s interning (paid). But he can’t focus- he’s daydreaming. (insert statistics on homelessness, poverty, etc.). “I left Queen Industries shortly thereafter. I couldn’t keep trying to amass more wealth, when I knew how many people were struggling just to put food on their tables, or afford the meds they need to survive. I plowed most of my fortune into charity, only to find that a lot of charities are run like a business- by which I mean corrupt. Half the ‘charities’ the wealthy ran were just glorified slush funds to buy politicians to advance their interests, the worst run by a real estate developer with mob connections named Mandragora.” I haven’t figured out the mechanism, but Mandragora’s ‘charity’ stands in the way of some work Queen wants to do, or maybe steals money from one of his charities, something that puts them on a collision course. 

This version of Mandragora is going to riff on Trump, while also giving us a logical reason to loop in both Huntress and Black Canary (accompanying an out of her depth Huntress); Question has discovered that he was the power behind the hit on her family- or maybe he was their inside man who set her family up to take the fall, whatever fits. Ollie confronts Mandragora, assuming he can talk sense to him, man to man. Instead Mandragora kicks the crap out of him, and throws him out on the street, where he’s found by Black Canary and Huntress. “You should see the other guy,” he says, as they help him to his feet.

“From the look of you, I’d say the other guy was 97 flights of stairs,” Canary says.

“No such luck, I’m afraid. Would you ladies be so kind as to help me to my” he sighs, “right, I didn’t drive here.”

“How about we help you to a seat, and you can wait for a car, there?” Canary asks, gesturing to a diner down the street.

They eat, and talk, with Canary subtly interrogating him (and Huntress not-so-subtly interrogating him because she is adorably socially awkward). Ollie is entranced by Canary, and I think I want to set up a pattern of him asking her to go out with him, and her rebuffing him, because at a glance he’s a soft, entitled oligarch. “You should get a bite to eat with me, sometime.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Huntress asks.

Suddenly Dick Grayson slides into the booth beside him, and flashes a wide grin. He’s friendly, breezy, effortless. “Don’t worry about introductions. We all have a stake in dealing with Mandragora.”

Canary responds: “I don’t know what you’re”

The camera pans around the table on Ollie, Huntress and finally Canary. “He defrauded your charity. Betrayed your family, which lead to their execution, and I don’t know if you know this yet, but he sold the information that got your mother, the first Black Canary, killed.”

Canary gets up, fast, angry, ready to belt him. He stands, too, his body language saying nonconfrontational, but subtly preparing to handle a fight as he puts up his hands. “Just the messenger. Please, sit.” They do. “Mandragora is not what he seems. If he were just some two-bit hood, even one with some degree of superhuman ability, then any one of us could take him. Except Ollie.”

“Hey,” Olliver protests, before realizing that the protest hurts his bruised face.

“I would have given you the benefit of the doubt, but you can’t even protest without pain. But the reason Mandragora’s been successful is two-fold. One, he’s been using low-level supercriminals as enforcers. That’s not that uncommon, but where he’s innovated, is he doesn’t leave any evidence behind. No witnesses, nothing. You three are, sadly, just some of his latest victims. I’d like to make sure you’re some of his last.”

“Then you just have to get me close enough to take a shot,” Huntress says, her hand tightening around her crossbow.

Nightwing puts up a finger. “No killing.”

“Why not?” Canary asks.

“On the one hand, it’s a slippery slope, where vigilantes justify to themselves increasingly extreme methods of execution, until inevitably they become as bad as the villains they sought to counter.”

“And on the other,” Ollie interrupts, “he knows where all the money’s gone. He’s been preying on charities for decades. We can get that money back, and to the people who really need it.”

Nightwing points a thumb towards him in agreement. “He also knows where the bodies are. I don’t think I have to tell anyone at this table what that kind of closure is worth.”

They arrive at Nightwing’s lair, where he introduces the other member of the team. “Some of us have personal reasons to be in this fight, Black Lightning’s neighborhood was decimated by the gentrification Mangragora pushed with bribes,” he squeezes Black Lightning’s shoulder. “I trust all of you with my life. And that’s what this is. Mandragora doesn’t take prisoners. He doesn’t leave witnesses. We win, or they never find the beautiful corpses we leave behind. If anyone has any reservations, now’s the time to sort them out.”

Nightwing heads for the door. “Where are you going?” Huntress asks, grabbing his arm.

“I want to give people some time to think, without me pressuring them. I want to swing by Mandragora’s safe house one last time, make sure he hasn’t made any last-minute changes to his security. I’ll be right back. Don’t worry.” He exits. She waits a moment, before slipping off after him.

We follow Nightwing, swinging across the rooftops. The city is his trapeze. Subtly, Huntress is following from below, maybe on her bike. NIghtwing lands gracefully on a rooftop opposite Mandragora’s place, and checks it out through binoculars. He hears noise behind him, and Huntress steps out of the shadow. “You followed me. You shouldn’t have.” She doesn’t speak, doesn’t make eye contact, but continues towards him. “Look, I know I have magnetic charisma, but I haven’t showered in about 36 hours, and could really use the personal space.” Huntress’ face is wrong, shifting subtly as she closes in on him. “You aren’t Helena,” he says, as she turns to a puddle of clay crashing against him like a wave. The real Huntress, watching from a neighboring rooftop, flees.

She’s winded by the time she gets back to the safehouse. “They caught Nightwing. If we have any hope of saving him, we have to go. Now.”

“I don’t think the plan was just to rush them,” Black Lightning complains.

“Yeah, all due respect to Night Wing, was it, but I didn’t sign up for a suicide mission,” Canary says.

The merry band is disbanding, until Oliver says, “Wait. We’re all Outsiders, which isn’t a position that comes naturally to me. But I gave up most of my wealth, most of my access, and a lot of my privilege. People like Mandragora corrupt the system, so that change and reform aren’t just difficult- they’re impossible. If we want to fix things- and we’re here because we’ve all seen what happens with a system this broken and corrupt- we have to do it from the outside. This is our chance to fix something broken- maybe even some of the things broken inside of us. I’m going to help Nightwing. I don’t think I can do it alone, but I’m going.”

“Yeah,” Huntress says. “Us medieval weapon users have to stick together.”

“You’re my ride,” Canary says, annoyed. “She’s my ride,” she repeats, to Black Lightning, sighing heavily. “Guess I’m coming with.”

“Hell,” Black Lightning says, “compared to the rest of you I’m Superman. Can’t exactly chicken out, now.”

The Outsiders take on a handful of second string henchers, and Clayface. Oliver sneaks away and finds Nightwing in Mandragora’s room, a little beaten up, but on his feet.  We’ll be cutting back and forth between both fights for the climax, with Canary’s cry and BL’s L enough to make Clayface run away. Ollie gets his bow knocked away at the start of the fight.

“I half expected to find you here chained up in a Leia bikini,” Oliver says.

“Expected, or hoped?” Nightwing asks.

“I knew I should have left you here to die.”

The pair of them, already beaten pretty badly, take on Mandragora together, eventually overcoming him in a brutal, Old Boy-esque battle of attrition, with Ollie finally getting his bow back. This is when Mandragora starts monologuing. Obviously, Mandragora had a hand in killing the Queens, too, after defrauding their charity. This comes out at a pivotal moment, as Mandragora, looking to extract a small victory, goads Ollie. Who shoots him off screen. And again. And again.

“Jesus!” Nightwing yells.

“He’ll live,” Ollie says. We show enough to see that he’s been sticking arrows in limbs, but nothing vital yet. “If we get him to a doctor fast enough. Might walk with a limp. And those injuries are going to hurt. All but guaranteed to lead to arthritis.”

“Ollie.”

“Shut up, boy scout. He’s hurt a lot of people. Justice means he doesn’t walk away from that without hurting himself.”

“I wasn’t going to lecture you, just… we should hurry, so he doesn’t bleed out.”

“Right.” Ollie spins, firing another arrow. This one slices through the string on Huntress’ crossbow.

“Oh, come on, man,” she says. “You have any idea how hard it is to restring a crossbow?” She drops the bow, running towards Mandragora while producing a knife. Olliver intercepts her. “He took everything from me,” she rages, trying to break free.

“No,” he says, rolling her onto her back. “He didn’t. He can’t. Because you still get to decide who you’re going to be- whether or not you let him turn you into someone monstrous.”

“Yeah, well, I decide to stab him in his heart,” she says, standing with the knife. He rolls her onto her back again.

“Not today. Today is about more than your vengeance.” She stands up again, shoulder checking him, and throws the knife into the his boot, sticking him to the floor, before leaving angrily.

“Miss the toes?” Nightwing asks.

“Mostly? My sock is wet, so not a clean miss.”

“That was a brave, if stupid thing,” Canary says. “Ask me again.”

“You want to get dinner sometime?”

“Maybe,” she says, and slinks out.

“I hate to interrupt,” Nightwing says. “But you do realize we have to carry him out of here, right?”

“We can barely stand,” he protests.

“Don’t tell me. I wasn’t the guy who chose to shoot him in the legs.”

“I have more arrows. We could put one in each eye. Then we wouldn’t have to carry him anywhere.”

“Huntress would be so angry with you. Remember, lift with your legs.” They get him up, and Mandragora removes the arrow from his arm and tries to stab Nightwing with it. He drops Mandragora on Oliver while he wrestles for control off the arrow, eventually plunging it into Mandragora’s last uninjured limb, which goes limp.

“Little help?” Oliver asks from beneath Mandragora.

“Jeez… I think I’m going to have to wait for the paramedics.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene: A beaten Oliver is taking off his costume in his secret Arrow Lair. His intern walks in. Played a bit comedically, it seems like she’s now interested in sleeping with him- but what she’s actually interested in, which we find out when she gets hold of his bow and bullseyes his target, is learning from him.

 More credits, and then a post-credits scene: Wally West and Donna Troy are talking with Nightwing.

“So like the Titans?” Donna asks. For the uninitiated, this is Wonder Woman’s one-time sidekick.

“But we’re not teenagers,” Wally says, devouring his food and whipping through to the buffet for seconds.

“We’re not calling ourselves Titans, either. I think the kids are doing something with the name.”

Wally burns through another plate, and gets thirds.

“Ah. That’s cute,” Donna says. Then she turns to Wally. “We all know you just keep getting more so you can blow that poor girl’s skirt up.”

“Hey, I burn calories same as you- I just do it several hundred times faster. If a Flash doesn’t carbo-load pretty much constantly we waste away. It isn’t pretty.”

“I’m pretty sure she was just teasing you,” Nightwing says.

“You know, for one of the fastest men alive, Wally, you really are slow,” she teases.

“But there is one thing you should know. There’s this guy. Who seems to think he’s in charge. Dresses like Robin Hood. Uses a bow. It’s adorable.”

“And you want us to humor him?” Donna surmises.

“He is fronting the money for the team. Well, most of it.”

“What is it with you and soothing the ego of underachieving billionaires?” she asks.

“Wait. What rich dude do you humor? Does Dick know somebody famous?”

She sighs. “You really are slow, Wally.”