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Last week, Batwoman was all about getting us up to date on the Kane family drama, explaining in some detail how Beth went missing and came to be presumed dead. It was plot-heavy and character-light — at least outside of Kate, Jacob, and Alice and their relationship strained by issues of abandonment and, you know, murder.
This week, though, we’re finally relaxing a bit and seeing these characters stretch in new and interesting ways, including many of the supporting cast members.
**SPOILER WARNING! From here on out, beware of spoilers for Batwoman Season 1, Episode 3, “Down, Down, Down.”**
Last week I mentioned how difficult it was to care much about any character outside of Kate, because she was the only one with enough screen time to really do much of anything. This week, though, the writers did exactly what I was hoping, pairing off many of the characters and offering new looks at Mary, Sophie, and even Luke.
Pairing Sophie and Mary was a choice I didn't see coming since those characters have very little reason to hang out. Sophie’s entire story is about her relationship with Kate and Jacob, and even though Mary is part of that family, that doesn’t mean the two have anything in common. Instead, Sophie goes to Jacob with a request, which one can only assume is what makes him assign her as Mary’s personal bodyguard. I’m curious to know whether Sophie wanted to be paired with Mary or whether she suggested that his daughter needed protection, hoping he would put her with Kate, and ended up with a different daughter altogether.
Regardless of Sophie's intention, being paired with Mary offers a number of possibilities. First, it throws a wrench into Mary’s whole underground clinic situation. It’s going to be difficult for her to secretly treat Gotham’s poorest citizens in an off-the-books facility when her father’s right hand is constantly at her hip. Second, it offers Sophie the chance to ask prying questions about her ex. Seeing both of these women and the way they discuss Kate is actually quite sweet. Sophie obviously still has feelings for her, and Mary seems protective of her stepsister, aiming to project an idea of Kate that is much more over Sophie than she really is.
Later, when trapped in an elevator with Sophie’s husband, the two are allowed a chance for their relationship to grow a little as well. Mary doesn’t expose Sophie’s lies about Kate (she never mentioned knowing the boss’ daughter, let alone having been the reason Kate was kicked out of the academy, a lie Sophie doubles down on), and when they encounter injured people in the hallway, Sophie gains a new level of respect for the young woman when she sees Mary save a life, unprompted.
These scenes were only a small part of the episode, but they allowed the characters some time to breathe and to grow in ways that — while they still revolved around Kate’s existence — didn’t require them to interact with her as part of the main plot. Plus, the two are good together on screen, so here’s hoping Mary doesn’t ditch her new bodyguard too soon.
Speaking of Kate, this week she spent a surprisingly small amount of time dealing with the city’s Alice problem and instead had to deal with the Batman problem. In crafting the show as taking place in a Gotham that knows, but has been abandoned by, Batman, they put themselves and Kate into a difficult position. Batman represents something. There are whole storylines in the comics devoted to a conversation about who could possibly fill his bizarre boots. Kate taking up the cowl was a bell that was always going to be difficult, if not impossible, to unring, and since Alice knows who is under the mask her primary reason for putting it on in the first place is gone. Batman doesn’t scare Alice, but he does inspire a city, something Kate never intended to do, and now she has to deal with the fallout of that, but how?
It’s this conversation that makes the season’s other villain, Thomas “Tommy” Elliot — better known as Hush to comics fans — so perfect. Tommy’s entire pathology is his need to be better than Bruce, to be richer, to be more powerful, to take down Batman. He is Batman’s mirror image, but at the same time he is also a mirror of Kate. Both grew up in Bruce Wayne’s shadow. But where Tommy hated him for all he had, Kate admired her cousin. Both also had it out for Batman, and for opposite reasons. Kate hated him for what she saw as his role in the death of her mother and sister, while Tommy hated him for saving his own mother, keeping him from his inheritance longer than he wanted. Both also know that Bruce and Batman are the same person, but where Kate’s opinion of the Caped Crusader changed when she realized who he was, Tommy’s only festered further.
Kate could easily have been Tommy, but she chose a different path. Kate wanted (and still wants) to better herself, to prove something to the world — and in many ways herself — by being exactly as good as she needs to be and better than others expect. Tommy already has a high opinion of himself. He thinks he deserves these things and deserves to take them. Once again, the show takes a simple dichotomy and in many ways cuts to the meat of the still very gendered elements running beneath it. Tommy is entitled. He resents having to work to become something and sees other people’s adversities — adversities he does not face — as things that made it easier for them to get ahead. He even hates Bruce for having “one more dead parent” than he had, which he saw as Bruce getting an opportunity (his inheritance) while Tommy had to wait for his own.
Kate, meanwhile, has to work for everything, prove herself again and again, and she still sees herself as less than what she wants to become. She isn’t Batman, she will never be Batman. But, as she says, maybe she’s something better. She’s here, in Gotham, and willing to take on the responsibility abandoned by her cousin as long as she gets to do it her own way. Turns out facing Tommy and his injured male ego actually allowed Kate to shake off much of her anxieties about not being able to measure up, and finally got her into the Batwoman suit we’ve been waiting for.
On the Alice side of things, while the episode didn’t focus on her, she’s certainly still hanging around causing a bit of mayhem. This time, though, she’s set her sights more pointedly at Jacob, breaking into his home and tormenting him with further images of Beth, and guilt over not looking for her longer than he did. Alice is very good at getting under people’s skin, and this time it seems like Jacob was only part of the equation. His home is also Catherine’s home, and Alice left a little greeting card for her stepmother in the form of three playing cards that certainly meant something to the new (ish) Mrs. Kane.
After learning last week that Catherine has some agenda tied to Alice, this only goes further in cementing the idea that perhaps she isn’t as good as she seems. In the comics, the exact nature of what happened to Beth is murky at best, though Jacob did hide her identity from Kate, which led to a rift in their relationship. Is Catherine perhaps associated with where Beth has been this whole time? We don’t really know much about what she does other than help to craft an external image of Gotham that is very different from reality. Either way, I’m looking forward to learning more about her and what exactly those playing cards mean.
This week really started to peel back some layers on this series. Three episodes in, it’s also the first time we’ve gotten a chance to take a small break from the constant churning of plot to spend some time with these characters, and it was a welcome change. I’m actually starting to care about Sophie for more than the pained looks she causes on Kate’s gorgeous face!
Next Week: Trouble in paradise as Jacob seems to have learned something about Catherine that’s got him upset. Plus, another new villain in Magpie. And more gay stuff!
- I don’t know what to think of Regan? She’s cute. I’m glad to see Kate flirting and not being a complete disaster, but also that last scene was weird.
- If you’re keeping score, we got a reference to the Riddler from Tommy.
- Elliot Estates continues to drive home that split between the real Gotham and the one the wealthy are trying to create. I really hope the show continues to explore that more directly.
- With Tommy heading to Arkham, I wonder how close we are to catching up in the timeline? At the end of the crossover last year all the Arkham inmates escaped, so at some point he and everyone else will be back out and causing mayhem, right?
- Speaking of which, what villains are you hoping to see? My vote is always Condiment King, but he might have too many primary colors for this universe.