This Batwoman review contains spoilers.
Batwoman Episode 10
“Sometimes the best way to save someone is to be yourself.”
It’s a powerful quote, and one that might end up serving as Batwoman’s mission statement, as a show as well as the hero herself. Kate Kane has spent quite a few episodes wrestling with conflicting ideas around courage, living your life out loud, and keeping people safe. It’s not the way superhero stories usually talk about secret identities – it’s so much more substantial than that. For Kate Kane, wearing a mask is denying a part of herself. And how do you separate out one aspect of your identity? How do you choose to only put the mask on one part of your soul?
This week, Kate Kane said no to secrets, something that has only ever been harmful to her, and Batwoman stepped out into the light. She did it in her own way, in her own time. She did it to the trusted ear of a friend, Kara Danvers, who knows (part of) her plight all too well. And she did it, in part, because she saw what her example could mean to the younger generation coming up behind her.
It was pretty painful to watch Slam Bradley fawn all over Batwoman, get credit for her work, and encourage people to ship them. Their first interaction of the episode makes Batwoman coming out an urgent, pressing matter. I can see how not saying anything is one thing, but ignoring outright lies is another. Slam, the press, and the assumption that straight is the default was forcing Batwoman (and Kate Kane with her) back into the closet. Batwoman shutting him down at the end was so incredibly satisfying. As a side note, it was interesting that GCPD was trying to use this as some kind of a PR move, and by interesting I mean creepy. Straightness sells, I guess.
All of this is far more rich, far more urgent, far more vital than so many hand-waved calls to not let so-and-so’s best friend/coworker/boyfriend/sister know the truth about their vigilante heroism. Wearing the mask has real life implications for all heroes, but this is one set of consequences that falls on Kate Kanes shoulders differently, just like many consequences fall on Jefferson Pierce’s shoulders differently. This is, fundamentally, a queer story. Not simply because she’s coming out, but because of the relationship Kate has to secrets, owning her truth, and standing in her power in order to live her life more fully.
Because with Parker, we see a version of what can happen if you don’t. Parker references wishing she were dead, and we know that LGBTQ youth and adults alike have higher rates of suicidality than their cis and/or straight peers. Her parents let her stay in her home, but other parents might have kicked her out, considering how high the rates of homelessness are for queer folks, particularly queer youth, a topic I hope comes up as Kate Kane takes on affordable housing. The consequences to living a life of secrets and shame are real and they are stark.
I struggle a bit with Parker. I don’t love how the whole thing is seeded in crime. Her speech to Batwoman was very on the nose and a bit cringey. That said, once we got past that, and especially once Kate took off the mask, everything opened up and the relationship between Parker and Kate became so genuine and lovely. It’s important that Kate differentiated between the morality of the circumstances Parker is in and resorting to, frankly, terrorism.
I almost thought Kate was going to offer Parker a job at the end of the episode, and found myself disappointed when she didn’t. Hopefully we’ll get to see Parker again. Kate’s general lack of tech knowledge says that Luke alone is not enough. More on that in our interview with showrunner/episode writer Caroline dries here.
Poor Mary cannot catch a break. She has every right to be upset with Kate for not trusting her and (sometimes actually, sometimes seemingly) choosing Alice over her. Meanwhile Sophie seems a bit…unhinged in her pursuit of justice this week. Her husband left her, her boss/proxy father is in jail, and she’s finally attempting to work through her identity issues. She’s fraying at the edges, which is reasonable, but scary because she has access to weapons and near-carte blanche to use them. It’s interesting to see the way that people push the label “crazy” on Mary and want her to take a break so badly, while almost no one checks in on Sophie. That’s not to say that Sophie’s crazy, but she definitely needs to take a step back and figure out what’s going on with herself. Without the ability to pistol-whip anyone.
That being said, it looks like Sophie is going to get the room to explore her identity, without any sort of love triangle pressure. That’s the best-case scenario, and I’m grateful for it. It’s also important that this episode sent a clear message that outing people is not okay and that people struggle with coming out for any number of reasons, and that’s valid. When people ask what difference it makes if a queer person gets to tell queer stories, this is why. Giving Parker the mentor she needed in that moment and Sophie the space she needs to figure herself out are both nuanced stories that just don’t happen on shows stacked with cis, straight folks making all the editorial choices.
Mouse and Alice’s antics took a relative backseat in this episode, although Mouse showed an unusual level of insight when he said murdering Catherine wasn’t a gesture of love to Kate. Although I suppose there was that one thing they did get up to…did anyone else think Mary saw Mouse dressed up?
The Crisis on Infinite Earths bringing back a non-kidnapped Beth (among other things) is one helluva way to do one of several “Beth is back!” storylines from the comics. I’m completely here for getting to have my Rachel Skarsten cake and eat it too, but I have a lot of questions about how this is all going to go down. If only the Paragons remember life before, why doesn’t Mary know about Beth? Wouldn’t everyone else know to suggest that? Wouldn’t Alice be obsessed with the other sister, too? Perhaps there’s some other, non-Crisis explanation? Buckle up, bats. It’s getting real.
Even in a time of extreme sorrow, Mary is a ray of light on this show. Nicole Kang‘s performance, from the way she delivered the Dateline reference to her heartbreaking video on Instagram, was as stellar as always.
I get Luke’s pragmatism around protecting Kate’s identity, but I love that he was on board.
Is it just me, or are there even more references than usual in this episode? Scarecrow, Captain America, the Advocate? Get em while they’re hot!
The fact that the internet, STEM and social media-related villain is a teenage girl is *chef’s kiss*
Mary: “as a doctor, you should really remove crazy from your daily vernacular.” Correct! Here’s hoping that the clinic shutdown is only temporary. There’s more narrative goodness to come from that.
Read and download the Den of Geek Lost in Space Special Edition Magazine right here!