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Batwoman ‘Through the Looking Glass’ recap: When you play with monsters
It's taken a while, but this week we got an episode of Batwoman that really shows how solid this show can be when it strikes a balance between character-driven drama and plot-churning procedural. After the extremely intense and life-altering events of last week's episode, "Through the Looking Glass" serves as both the fallout and as a reset going into what should be the final few episodes of the season — though a set number of episodes has not been confirmed.
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Batwoman Season 1, Episode 16: "Through the Looking Glass."
In addition to being generally an overall solid episode from start to finish, this week was also blissfully linear and followed three somewhat intersecting adventures with varying team-ups of our main cast and a few friends. In the interest of clarity, let's break it down team by team.
Kate and Alice
We begin where we left off, with Kate and Alice together (along with Jacob) burying Cartwright's body following his not-at-all unfortunate demise by Kate's hand. After everything she went through last week, and with Kate spiraling, Alice seems to have settled down a bit. Her mission is more or less complete. She's calmer in her interactions with her father and sister, and she has real, substantive conversations with Kate. She honestly seems to want to connect with her family, even though she knows they're still on opposite sides.
Case in point, the majority of their adventures this week revolved around Alice needing Kate's help to find Mouse, who was wandering the streets of Gotham high on Fear Toxin. Under any other circumstances, Kate never would have agreed, but things are different now. Kate took a life, and what's worse, she doesn't feel bad about it. In addition to this being a great capper to the push and pull between Kate and Alice — two sides of a coin, twins whose lives diverged so drastically — this is also a perfect call back to Kate's experiences during the Crisis on Infinite Earths event. When Kate met the Batman of Earth-99, she met a man who had been broken down by vengeance and anger. That Bruce Wayne told Kate that when you spend so much time toiling with monsters, you inevitably become one yourself. That glimpse into her possible future shook Kate more than I think she was willing to admit, and now she has faced her own demons, her own anger and hate and vengeance ... and discovered that she is not above falling down that hole. In a different version of events, she could have become Alice just as easily as Beth.
And so Kate helps her, because she feels guilty that she doesn't feel guilty, because she feels a sense of responsibility for her sister and for the chaos she has caused, and, maybe deep down, I think she really does want to have a relationship with her. Kate has always wanted to believe that Beth isn't gone, that she's still in there deep under all the Alice violence and terror, and this week Alice sort of let that veneer drop. She was vulnerable and almost kind, in her own way, and really did keep her promise not to kill anyone, and that's saying a lot for someone like Alice. This is why betraying her sister devastated Kate almost as much as committing actual murder. Kate is losing it, and putting her sister in prison (or Arkham) is at least some semblance of control, some modicum of proof that she can do the "right" thing, even when it hurts her because that's what good guys do.
Alice, though, is probably the one who is really hurt by all of this. She was just starting to let down her guard, to become a person again, and now, confined and isolated, she's going to break all over again. Alice never really got out of that basement. This time, Kate was the one who put her back.
Luke and Mary
Speaking of trauma, Luke is facing down his own demons as his father's alleged killer gets a shot at freedom thanks to the corrupt officials Luke helped Batwoman take down weeks back. I'm glad they didn't let this story go, despite the amount of time it's been since it was first introduced. In addition to the fact that Lucius Fox was an important figure in the Batman mythos, tying his murder into some kind of larger conspiracy running through Gotham also serves to bring Luke deeper into the show itself. He's been the character most on the edges of the series' overarching plot, serving largely as Batwoman's sidekick without much development of his own. That started to change as the show put him with Mary more and more and now we get an entire B-story the fleshes out his history and personality.
Putting Luke and Mary together before bringing Mary into the Batwoman operation is an excellent move since they both have wonderful chemistry and complement each other perfectly. Luke, ultimately, will probably be the one who actually brings her onto the team and both last week and this week laid the groundwork for them to trust each other. Plus, both of them need someone to lean on other than Kate. She has a lot going on.
It was also good to see that Luke doesn't necessarily harbor the same black and white sense of justice or the same stubbornness as his boss. He's willing to believe that his father's murder was part of some elaborate setup much more easily than Kate might have, and he feels genuine empathy for the man who took the fall. Luke still hasn't had nearly as much screen time as he deserves, but he's taken leaps and bounds toward becoming a fully realized character.
Sophie and Julia
Unraveling the twisty conspiracy involving Lucius Fox's murder is Sophie, tasked by Jacob to uncover what the Crows may have had to do with the setup. She's joined by Julia Pennyworth, who we previously met when Batwoman took on The Rifle and then left us all in big gay puddles on the floor of her unfinished club. I was right when I said it seemed like Julia only appeared in that episode to get the introductions out of the way for later because she and Sophie waste little time teaming up to find out who is killing people who knew about the frame-up.
This might have been the most satisfying story of the episode, even if it was the shortest and the one without any type of conclusion. It was satisfying not because of what it uncovered, but because it proved that this show can, and honestly should, do on-the-ground detective work and do it without sacrificing character development or at the cost of a compelling story. What Batwoman has been missing all season long is this element of procedural and Sophie can and should be the character that anchors it. Batwoman has never been the world's greatest detective in the same way her cousin always was, but Batwoman also always dates cops. In the comics, Renee Montoya and Maggie Sawyer are the ones who do the work while Batwoman serves as the larger-than-life hero.
The show is also missing the human element, the faces to put to the injustices, and a real human cost of the crime-ridden streets of Gotham City. They've toyed with it all season long and this is perhaps the first time we've really gotten to see what the show could be like if at least one of the characters was solving crimes among the people rather than wrangling supervillains.
Of course, in addition to their detective skills, Sophie and Julia have another thing in common: they're both Kate's exes. And while Sophie may still feel a little awkward around Kate, Julia has no such concerns. Despite the strides it seemed Kate and Sophie may have been making over the last few weeks, we end the episode not with Kate and Sophie but with Kate and Julia, drinking and kissing and somehow not at all concerned that they could fall off that balcony at any moment.
- We got only a small glimpse of what may come, but it seems like Alice may not be this season's big bad after all. The Rifle warned about his employer, and this week all of Alice's minions were murdered, with a note left behind from a friend from Coryana. In the comics, Coryana is the seat of power for the Many Arms of Death, a terrorist organization. In the comics, it is Kate who has a history with someone there, a woman named Safiyah. Could this be who we might be seeing down the line?