This Batwoman review contains spoilers.
Batwoman Episode 12
Kate Kane was finally forced to make the real-world, tangible version of the choice she’s been turning over in her mind since she figured out Alice’s identity: does she save who Alice is, or who she might become? After another short hiatus, Batwoman returned to find Kate reckoning with her own personal consequence of the Crisis. On the whole, a solid episode that found a new way to force Kate to reckon with the season’s central conflict.
The Arrowverse continues to use other earths as a Magic 8 Ball; for every major “what if” a character might ask, there’s an alternate earth waiting with a living answer to which they can hold up their feelings. For Kate, she has a living, breathing, non-traumatized Beth, and Alice, her real sister. The episode largely ended the only way it could, with Kate choosing the non-murderer and someone else intervening so that Beth died and Alice lived.
One emotional beat that hit but felt underdeveloped was Kate’s feelings about the fact that she could have saved Alice in this world. She learned that last episode but it still doesn’t feel like she’s processed that. Alice will likely metabolize that information along with Kate choosing Beth as pure betrayal which she’ll turn into violence, but Alice acting out leaves less room for Kate to have whatever feelings she may.
It’s too bad to lose Beth this soon. Rachel Skarsten has rightly been held up as one of the best parts of the show, and seeing her pull double duty is fun. Her Beth is as grounded, cool, and casual as her Alice is manic and unhinged, while both of them have a kind of magnetism that makes it hard to take your eyes off of them. It’s easy to see other characters (and even the actors themselves) drawn to Skarsten onscreen. I have confidence in her and the writers’ ability to have continued to come up with interesting places for Beth’s story to go, particularly considering that the comics were able to mine a rehabilitated Alice/Beth for several decent story arcs with Kate. The possibility of a rehabilitated Alice still exists, especially in her Red Alice form, where she hangs onto the vast majority of her current character quirks, including quoting Lewis Carroll.
The reveal of Dr. Campbell as Johnny’s deeply creepy abusive father was one part surprise, one part we-all-know-Dr-Campbell-was-evil, right? Bringing back a bigger bad than both Alice and Mouse allows the audience to view both of those characters more sympathetically, and Mouse’s dialogue specifically reminded us that he’s the victim of some deeply disturbing child abuse. Still, the reveal felt like it could have packed a bigger punch. While I’ve been wondering what happened to the father, since Alice and Mouse clearly got out from under his thumb, it’s not like we ever saw an apparent death. So on the one hand, his appearance is a bit of a surprise, but we had no reason to believe he wasn’t still kicking around out there. That makes his reappearance less of a surprise and taking the wind out of the sails of any future “how Mouse and Alice escaped” flashback episode that Caroline Dries and the Batwoman writers might’ve had planned.
This was a great episode for Luke and especially Mary, who went toe to toe with Alice. Luke and Mary’s chemistry continues to be the stuff of Grade-A banter/bicker dreams. What do we have to do to keep having those crazy kids in scenes together? Barring that, I simply want more of both of them on the screen. Beth was all of us when she took an immediate liking to Mary and asked Kate to protect her – Alice is definitely coming for Mary in a big way. But seeing the clinic not fully gone yet and Mary fight back so fiercely against Alice hinted that Mary could be coming out of her own guilt and grief enough to open up her clinic again and fight back in her own way. It has been great seeing Nicole Kang’s range as Mary works her way through grief over her mother’s death and step-father’s arrest, but it was great to see the kind, upbeat, hyper-competent Mary we all fell in love with back on screen again.
In a break from the rest of the Arrowverse, both the character and the show made several pointed jabs at overreach from law enforcement. Barry Allen took how many season to stop locking methumans up in his own personal extrajudicial supermax prison and Oliver Queen’s daughter/heir apparent just got a pat on the back for not murdering a suspect she had already disarmed in cold blood on the Arrow series finale. Meanwhile on Batwoman, our hero called out her ex/romantic lead/possible soulmate for roughing people up on unlawful searches without probable cause. And Rachel Maddow as Vesper Fairchild literally said, “Holy police state, Batwoman!” because in this Gotham, even the gossip columnists respect human rights and the rule of law.
Another bit of realism: Luke Fox’s reaction to the entire sequence where he and Mary tried to smuggle Beth out of Gotham. Batwoman – and Camrus Johnson, whose performance is consistently one of the best parts of the show – continues to quietly make choices to show that law enforcement treats Black men differently. It may seem like a small detail, but Luke’s unwillingness to lie to cops and his immediate reaction to seeing cops, to hold his hands up and narrate what he was doing before unbuckling his seatbelt, lent a realism and an acknowledgment that this isn’t all fun and games for everyone, even if we’re playing in a genre that’s meant to be escapist and playful.
Mary knows Batwoman likes her and owes her a favor, and if that isn’t the attitude we all need to carry with us into 2020 then I don’t know what is.
The coolest piece of Bat-tech this episode? The scrambling license plate on the van Luke and Mary were driving with Beth hiding in the back.
Batwoman seems bound and determined to have Kate tell pretty much anyone other than Mary about her wigged activities and it’s killing me.
Any bets on who that prisoner who saved Jake Kane might turn out to be, and what favor he might want once Jake Kane is back on the outside?
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