Last week on Batwoman we got a whole slew of introductions. Everyone from the titular hero to her complete mess of a family and childhood to her former girlfriend and her former girlfriend's new husband got at least a little screen time — as did the brand-new villain who has arrived in Gotham to terrorize, well, not so much the entire city as much as Kate Kane's distant private military-running father Jacob.
Oh, and said new baddie Alice is also Kate's long assumed dead sister Beth. Or is she?
Spoilers for Episode 2 of Batwoman from here on out!
The debate over Alice's true identity is an odd — and oddly large — part of the second outing for the series. Kate is fully convinced that her sister has returned with blonde hair and some new friends, but the journey toward convincing anyone else, especially her father, proves to be a long and difficult one. She drops this bombshell of a theory right out in the open at the family breakfast, and it does not go over well.
Kate wants to solve the issue of Alice's identity the simple way, by testing the DNA on Alice's knife, which she stole during their fight last week. Her first stop is Luke, who claims he does not have the expertise to run said DNA, prompting Kate to point out that his father, Lucius Fox, could have done it. This was a nice little confirmation of Luke's identity after his sparse introduction last week. (For those who don't know, in the comics Lucius is an ally of Bruce Wayne and Batman and ran Wayne Industries. Stands to reason he played the same or similar role here.) It also has me wondering what in the world happened to all of these people. Batman taking off for some reason or other makes sense, I suppose, but it doesn't explain what happened to Lucius or Alfred or any of Batman's other friends and allies.
Luke, for his turn, points out that Kate is no Bruce and that she really shouldn't be running around using all his stuff without knowing what most of it is. Something tells me "not living up to the person whose shoes you're trying to fill" is going to be a capital-T Theme.
Naturally, Kate takes the knife to her next best option: Sophie, who also refuses to run the DNA in the Crows lab, not because she can't but because Kate's dad would not be happy about it.
Side note: What is Sophie's rank in this organization, exactly? Did she spend any time in the military after the academy? She and Kate are somewhere around 27-29 if you go by the age Kate seems to be in the flashbacks. Add 15 years and yet that would mean she only graduated from the academy five to seven years previous. Also, how is she so close to Kate's family if their relationship was top-secret the entire time? Am I thinking about this too much? OK, I'll stop.
Anyway, before Kate can continue arguing with her over the DNA, Sophie jumps right to her big question, which is "Are you Batman?" to which Kate obviously says "No" before adding that if she were going to save Sophie as a superhero she would have dressed as Wonder Woman, which immediately sent every queer woman watching at home into cardiac arrest. This is also the first time a super outside of Batman has been mentioned on the series and isn't from the established Arrowverse, so I guess Wonder Woman exists on Earth 1? If she does, I'm so down for an appearance or two, or perhaps a reference outside the one we got last season on Legends of Tomorrow. I'd also love to know why this is the first time anyone is referencing the character.
Kate makes some followup quip about how if she'd known Sophie was getting married she would have come back sooner to stop it. Then — presumably to cut the tension — they both promptly get jumped by a bunch of Alice's rabbits, who steal the knife from Kate. Jacob is sufficiently annoyed that they brought the rabbits right to the Crow's doorstep, while Kate is annoyed that he continues not to believe her admittedly out-there theory. After all, as Jacob tells her, they never found Beth's body, but they did find skull fragments, which means she's dead. Anyway, he's placed a shoot-to-kill order on Alice and her being Beth would be inconvenient and emotionally difficult, something a stoic military type like Jacob Kane does not do, except at the very end of the episode.
Jacob reveals to Kate that they found a blood trail that stopped near a location. A location that Kate is familiar with because (surprise!) it's where Mary has set up her secret clinic. Time to pay Dr. Step-Sister a visit. In addition to the dozen or so laws the clinic is breaking, Mary is also pretty lax about HIPAA so she just shows Kate to the rabbit that showed up with a Batarang sticking out of him — which she pockets. I love Mary.
Despite her obnoxious introduction at the very beginning of the first episode, Mary is quickly becoming my favorite character. Yes, Kate is my ass-kicking lesbian superhero, and yes, Rachel Skarsten's Alice does a shocking amount good with a character that should be over the top, but Mary is something you really don't get a lot of in anything set in Gotham: She's kind. This is a young woman who could (some would say even should) be spending her time as the wealthy socialite she is. Instead, she's risking a lot — her safety, her career, possible jail time — to help people who need it. She's also somehow still a generally happy person, which can't be an easy feat in that environment. I'd love to spend more time with her. Also wondering when she's going to figure out who Kate is, and whether they're setting her up to become this universe's Flamebird (but that's way down the line).
Back in the show, Kate roughs the rabbit up a bit and then tells him to tell Alice "waffles," which turns out to be a super-secret sister code for Burnside Park (yes, I was excited at the mention of Burnside, too). Kate and Beth used to get chocolate waffles and play on the swings at Burnside. So, of course, this is where Kate finds Alice, swinging away as creepily as possible. It's here that Skarsten really shows off her ability to say any and all of Alice's dialogue in a way that actually works, flipping between a semi-normal conversation and the Lewis Carroll-esque dialogue that is her overall aesthetic. Alice plays with Kate, pointing out that she might be Beth, but she also might just know a lot about Beth since her death was widely publicized.
Throughout all of this, it is difficult to tell whether Alice is meant to be sincerely unhinged or just playing a part to both get attention and stoke fear. Certainly, as Kate points out a few times throughout the episode, Alice is not a good person by any measure, but does her apparent insanity make her sympathetic? She flies off the handle over issues that a sane person might find trivial, such as her missing knife, but she has also proven herself calculating. She knows what to do to hurt her sister and her father, and she doesn't seem to care all that much whether they make their apologies.
Alice also seems to know an awful lot about the players in her long-lost sister's life without knowing much about Kate herself. When Kate brushes off a text from Mary, it prompts Alice to ask if she's not in the mood for "painting your nails and gossiping about boys?" It's a question that delivers a smirk from Kate, followed by the best exchange of the episode as she tells her "We really have a lot to catch up on." And man, I love having another lesbian in the superhero club.
During that same conversation, Kate realizes that Alice wasn't the one who sent the rabbits to steal the knife, which means someone else is pulling some villainous strings in Gotham.
Their family reunion is cut short by a bunch of armed Crows, including Jacob, who Kate convinces to take Alice in alive. He orders her taken to Arkham, which is his 80th mistake regarding Alice, and as she's being packed away in a GCPD van, Alice reminds Kate that she never did like to share when they were kids, and she won't be sharing her sister with another girl. Mary is in trouble. Kate manages to slip away (and take the time to change into the Batsuit, which seems like a questionable decision as Mary knows Kate is a talented fighter) and save her from Alice's main henchman in time to see that same GCPD van hit by an explosive and fall off a bridge.
Unwilling to let her sister drown a second time, Kate pulls her from the sinking van and gives Alice her rebreather, accidentally allowing her to escape in the process. Luke finally manages to figure out some of the Batcave controls and comes to Kate's rescue, keeping her alive and her identity intact for another night, and proving he might not be a completely useless sidekick after all.
With Alice on the run again, it's time to regroup. Kate visits Mary and apologizes for missing dinner (and getting her attacked), and Mary asks if Kate can tell her "real" sister that she isn't a threat. After all, she knows she and Kate aren't really sisters, and this relationship might also be the one in which I am currently most invested.
In flashback land, we learn that no one actually found skull fragments 15 years ago. Jacob made it up when he realized that Kate was never going to give up looking for Beth despite the evidence that she did not survive the accident. In a rare moment of humanity for the character, he breaks down crying before the young Kate discovers him and he forces her to stop looking and accept her sister's death. This relationship seems like it could be so interesting and so complicated, but with all of Kate's other relationships the series has to balance (Mary, Sophie, Luke, Alice/Beth), it does leave me wondering which they'll end up prioritizing in the immediate future.
Meanwhile, Kate's stepmother turns out to be pulling the aforementioned strings. It was she who hired the men to jump Kate and steal the knife. So what, exactly, is she really up to?
Oh, and Alice? She knows Kate is Batwoman.
That final reveal wasn't all too surprising, ultimately, as Sophie proved near the start of the episode that anyone sufficiently familiar with Kate's face isn't likely to be tricked by the Batsuit's cowl once they've been up close. Plus, who else would have saved Alice from the river? Her stepmother's role, however, does lend a level of intrigue to both that character and the Kane family dynamic as a whole. Since it's only the second episode, we don't know very much about the second Mrs. Kane or her role in Gotham, but she is obviously someone of great influence. In the comics, Catherine is smart and tough in her own right and even helps out in the family business. We'll have to wait and see if this version of the character turns out to be friend or foe.
Next Week: THE SUUUUUUUIIIIT
- I thought I was going to mind the voiceover, but strangely I don't. The comics are heavy with melodramatic voiceover and I loved it there, so maybe I've been trained.
- I appreciated Mary's confusion over Sophie's "deal" at breakfast if only because this might be the first time I've seen a show recognize the variety of forms of sexual expression.
- Starting to think Alice might need to stop hiding out in places important to Beth/the Kane family. Do they get under her dad's skin? Yes. Are they stealthy? Obviously not.
- I'm still very confused by the timeline of this show. At some point it's going to have to catch up to the other Arrowverse shows, right?