Things have gone a little sideways in the world, as you might have noticed. Society is under lockdown and production on television and movies has ground to a halt, putting many shows on hiatus, including Batwoman, which finally made its return this week. It was a relatively quiet episode, too, even while it dealt with a bad guy intent on blowing up Gotham. Ultimately, it asked one important question: What makes a hero?
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Batwoman Season 1, Episode 17 “A Narrow Escape.”
When it comes down to it, the entire first season of Batwoman has been about that very question. What about Kate makes her a hero? Perhaps really, what about her makes her think she is good enough to follow in the footsteps of a hero like Batman? Episode after episode, Kate has struggled with her insecurities, slowly finding her way as her own hero, rather than just a new version of Batman. She makes choices Bruce never had to or never would and she does things with her own flair and sense of purpose and morality.
This week, her morality and purpose are at odds as she continues to struggle with her actions in killing Cartwright two episodes ago. Last time, she made amends by putting her sister in prison. Now, her own fear and trauma are keeping her from putting on the suit at all. She’s taken a full week off from being Batwoman, and the villains are starting to get brazen. A man called the Detonator is back in town, and he’s testing people throughout Gotham to see who really is a hero and who is a coward.
How does the test work? He straps a victim to a bomb and tells them they can either allow the timer to tick down and die, or press a button and destroy a building, but live. His first victim, a GCPD officer, chooses to save his own life at the expense of others. The second victim, thankfully, is not so quick to press that button, allowing the Crows to sweep in and start evacuating the area wired to explode. Kate notices, however, that the building they’re clearing is the same one that houses a certain underground clinic run by a certain medical student.
Still too afraid to don her suit, despite the fact that it can sustain the explosion without killing her, Kate heads down to the clinic to rescue her sister just moments too late. The Crows clear the building (or think they have) and hit the button, bringing it down around them.
Mary is no idiot, though. She knew the building was being evacuated and did her best to get everyone out of the clinic before it blew. But Mary is also a hero in her own right and knew there were patients unable to evacuate. She stayed behind to protect them, which is why, covered by mattresses, she and the others survived long enough for Kate to arrive.
There are other big moments in this episode which perhaps mark it better, but this one in Mary’s clinic, as she and Kate attempt to rescue the remaining patients, is the one which sums up so much about what the show tells us about heroism. Among the victims of the explosion is a young woman in a Batwoman suit, trying to keep hope alive while the genuine article is out of commission. The sight of someone in the suit, hurt, sends Kate into a panic but Mary isn’t about to let her sister off the hook. She follows Kate into the hallway and finally reveals that she knows Kate is Batwoman because of course, she is. Everything Mary knows about Kate, about her bravery and her recklessness, matches perfectly with the person Batwoman has shown herself to be. No one else could wear that suit or inspire a city the way that she does. When Kate says that she isn’t a hero, Mary shuts her down. Gotham doesn’t need her to be a hero. It just needs her to keep going.
And isn’t that at the core of what it means to be a hero? It’s not just about putting on a suit and fighting bad guys. It’s not just about having the courage to go into the exploding building. It’s about having the courage to get back up when it knocks you on your ass, to go back in again and again — even when you have nothing to gain from it. It’s not about being so good and so pure that you never kill. It’s about not letting one mistake control you or change you into a villain, or worse, allowing your fear of what you might become drive you away from your higher purpose. Kate is a hero because, with some light prodding, she does eventually put the suit back on. Because Batwoman isn’t just the hero Gotham needs, but the one Kate needs to be.
It’s a good thing, too, because The Detonator has one more victim planned: Jacob Kane. Turns out, The Detonator is a Crow, and not just any Crow, but the Crow who staged Lucius Fox’s murder. Sophie, Julia, and Luke figure it out together, just in time to tell Batwoman, who hunts him down. Wayne Tower, of course, is the building set to explode next and Luke has decided to trap himself and Kate with The Detonator and his explosive in a fortified room. No one else will die but them, and Luke wants a confession.
And he gets it. Turns out Lucius wasn’t supposed to die but he refused to hand over a notebook full of Wayne Tech plans. When his son was threatened, Lucius rushed the person threatening him and was shot and killed and his murder framed on a local criminal. The Detonator wasn’t even in charge of the operation. He was working for Tommy Elliot, otherwise known as Hush, now locked up in Arkham.
Confession obtained, Luke is happy to let his father’s killer die in his own explosion, but Kate convinces him not to become a killer, too. She confesses her own crime to Luke and together they save him and themselves just as the bomb goes off.
So ends the career of The Detonator, but Tommy Elliot is still around and he obviously has a larger vendetta. Alice and Mouse are also locked up in Arkham and spend this week clashing with Tommy as Alice attempts to plot her escape, or rather, her takeover. Alice and Tommy teaming up in some regard would actually be pretty brilliant, even if it isn't likely to happen very soon. Both of them are mirrors of Kate in some regard, her twin sister and another who lives in Batman’s shadow. She could have become either of them and this first season is all about proving what makes her different.
We don’t know yet exactly how many episodes we will get this season, but at least we’re in a place now where things are beginning to feel somewhat finished. Mary is on the team, Sophie and Julia are teaming up on a new task force, and Alice and Mouse have more or less taken over Arkham Asylum, plotting their revenge under the guise of safety. Everything is in a place where we can see moving into season two, bad guys on the horizon, and new challenges ahead for the team.
- For you Vampire Diaries fans, this week’s episode was directed by Paul Wesley.
- With Sophie and Julia teaming up and Kate and Julia rekindling their thing and Sophie still dealing with all her personal issues, we are primed for peak awkward.
- Gotta say, I feel a little bad for Mouse. Dude has been through a lot. Let him chill.