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SYFY WIRE Batwoman

Batwoman 'An Un-Birthday Present' recap: Turn on the light

By Tricia Ennis
Ruby Rose Rachel Skarsten Beth Kate Batwoman

It was a rough week for the heroes — and villains — of Gotham City, as the fallout continued not just from Crisis but from the events of last week as well. Kate returned to her office on her birthday to discover her once-presumed-dead-now-maniacal-murderer sister acting as though Alice was all a dream. Meanwhile, Sophie has the real Alice locked in an interrogation room at Crow HQ.

And things only get weirder from there.

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 11 of Batwoman, "An Un-Birthday Present."

An extra Beth on Earth-Prime means a prime opportunity for everyone to get up in their Beth feelings. Literally everyone, with the possible exclusion of Luke — who, if we're being honest, desperately needs some story time spent on his development. Although I love the rapport he and Kate have, he's not yet his own character.

Kate has, perhaps, the most complicated feelings about her sister, the one she always wanted to know, actually standing in front of her alive and well and a Ph.D. student in astrophysics. After their initial confrontation in which Kate attacked Beth and Beth responded by pepper-spraying her sister in the face, Kate doesn’t waste time in revealing to Beth that she is not on her own Earth. Beth is a Crisis Anomaly — something that will probably be popping up throughout the Arrowverse in this initial universe reboot — and she takes it pretty well, actually. Turns out having advanced degrees in astrophysics will prepare you for the possibility of falling through the cracks of the collapse of the multiverse. With everything figured out, Kate and Beth get right to the task of getting to know one another all over again, which is when Kate learns that in Beth’s reality, they were still in that car accident when they were 13, only this time Kate climbed back into the car and saved her sister.

Kate confronts Beth Batwoman

It’s something Kate always believed. She had always been told that if she'd gotten back in the car she would have died as well, but this version of Beth is confirmation, to her at least, that she made the wrong choice when she was a kid. Kate could have saved her sister from a life of torture and kept Alice from being made at all. This compounds the guilt she already feels for having been so close to finding Beth in that basement and still failing to. In Kate’s mind, what happened to her sister is as much her fault as anyone else’s. This kind of self-aggrandizing guilt — that you could have stopped a terrible thing from happening when you were a literal child — seems to be a prerequisite for donning the Batsuit.

Meanwhile, Mouse decides to get Alice back by offering a trade: return Alice to the Wonderland Gang and he won’t brutally murder the sons of Gotham's mayor and police commissioner. Oh, and he throws Kate in the mix as well, just to sweeten the deal. Sophie isn't about to cave to such demands, especially after Kate uses their secret code to tell her not to, but she's still going to use the opportunity to interrogate Alice, and Alice is all too willing to tell the next chapter of her sad little story. After all, it gives her the perfect opportunity to throw Sophie off her game.

Alice more or less completes the tale of how Beth became the woman sitting across from Sophie. It's sad and traumatizing and full of death and gore and torture. Trapped in that basement, she says, she needed an escape. She had to become someone else in order to deal with the terrible things around her, and so she found solace in a book. On the day she learned two terrible things at once — how to make a face out of human skin and that her family had moved on without her — and she also learned that she was never making it out of that basement alive. And Alice was born.

That, she says, is something she and Sophie share. Sophie, too, has lived her life trapped in a dark room, unable to be the person she always wanted to be, unable to be out. And so she too has created a new identity, not the person she was or is but the person she had to be. Sophie has all but admitted the same. She has never felt safe enough or secure enough to be true to the person she is or the people she loves. She became someone else to protect the person she was inside and in that way, Alice is right, they have a lot in common. It’s odd when you intend to interrogate a vicious murderer and end up in the world’s worst therapy session instead.

Back at Mouse's junkyard of evil, he’s tied Kate and the two young men inside a car which is now drowning in gasoline — but before he can light the match, who shows up but Alice. Or, should I say, Beth. You see, Luke just couldn't sugar-coat what was really going on, so he immediately informed Beth that Kate had been kidnapped and Beth, to her credit, decided she was finally going to get the opportunity to repay her debt to Kate for pulling her out of that car 15 years ago. Turning Beth into Alice offers Mary her own opportunity to deal with some complicated feelings toward her new sorta stepsister, and Beth says she doesn’t blame Mary for hating her after everything that happened.

Rachel Skarsten Alice in Junkyard

For all that she looks like Alice, though, Beth is not very good at playing the part and she quickly reveals her hand to Mouse, who locks her in the trunk of the car and sets it on fire. Thankfully, the delay has given Kate enough time to free herself, throw Mouse into some rebar, and finally do what she wished she had all those years ago. Unwilling to watch her sister die in a car all over again, Kate pulls Beth out at the last second and everything is candy and rainbows.

Or is it?

Back at Crows HQ, Sophie orders Alice taken away to Arkham, but as she is being dragged down the hallway, Sophie discovers that Alice has spent their time talking carefully removing the fishing wire that held her precious copy of Alice in Wonderland together. Outside, she uses that same fishing wire to help her take out the two guards and nearly kills Sophie. Instead, though, she leaves Sophie alive to be tortured by the thoughts that their conversation has likely stirred in her mind, as that will be a much more terrible punishment than death.

Later, as Kate, Beth, Mary, and Luke celebrate the twins' birthday at Kate’s new bar The Hold-Up, Beth suddenly doubles over in some kind of terrible pain … and Alice is feeling it too.

In Three Weeks: There’s only room for one Beth on this Earth, which means either Crisis Beth or Alice will have to die. Or … maybe merge?

Miscellaneous Musings:

- It didn’t feel like it fit in the recap but I wanted to take a moment to appreciate the way the show handles not just the queer narrative, but specifically the part about solidarity with queer people and the importance of that kind of community support. This week, we learn that the police commissioner refuses to turn on the Bat-Signal following her coming out because to do so would be making a statement taking a side in the political discussion of LGBTQ+ issues. By the end of the episode, though, Kate witnesses a mass of people descending on GCPD headquarters and demanding that he turn it on. They are there supporting her, taking a stand for her. This moment followed an earlier one in which the mayor's son remarks, "It's 2020. No one cares about gay or straight anymore." Kate, overhearing this comment in the front of the car, smiles just a little. Because she knows, as anyone among the LGBTQ+ community does, that there are people who care very much, who see our identities as political, or worse, as less than, and who judge us because of that. We know our LGBTQ+ family will love and support us for who we are (with some exceptions, but we don't talk about those people), but the same cannot be said for the rest of the world, for larger communities, for our co-workers, our neighbors, or even our actual families. We fight for ourselves and our lives every day, and when we see someone else fighting for us, with nothing to gain for themselves, it's beautiful.

- In other news, someone get me a The Hold-Up T-shirt NOW.

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