This Batwoman review contains spoilers.
Batwoman Episode 14
Batwoman has really hit its sweet spot and continues to deliver one great episode after another. With Sophie’s storyline, we have a more complicated version of queerness than we often see on television. She’s not flattened into a stereotype of a confused straight girl or a self-hating lesbian hiding in the closet. Until now, we didn’t even know if Sophie was lebsian or perhaps queer, bi, or pan, but her tone when she told her mother that she never loved Tyler seemed to indicate that it wasn’t about Tyler so much as all men. Not everyone comes out right away, and there are many reasons for that. Some people still aren’t welcomed with the kind of support they should be, even in 2020, even in places that we think of as tolerant or welcoming.
One thing I’m hoping the show will explore is the fact that Batwoman could impact the way Gotham views queer folks. Like Ellen before her, as the show referenced with the magazine cover, Batwoman is a cultural icon that the people of Gotham already trusted and believed in before she came out. While we’ve seen the impact of Batwoman coming out on an LGBTQ teen, it would be great to see how people like Sophie’s mother might someday change their perceptions, as Batwoman’s sustained public presence and heroism works its way into their consciousness.
Batwoman continues to use its villains to open up conversations around social issues, especially those pertaining to women. When the villain of the week says that she sees disfiguration when she looks at influencers with plastic surgery the same way they recoil when they see her facial scars, it’s hard not stop for a moment, if for no other reason than it’s such an incendiary claim. Once again, the Batwoman writers do their level best to come up with villains who force the audience to consider if they might have some merit, even if it’s only a sliver.
While the execution on her muddled storyline could have been better (it seemed to go from a body dysmorphia plotline to lashing out in response to a hyper-perfectionist mother), the fact that her mother made her get corrective surgery for the scars against her will is the strongest argument in her favor. It’s not so much the women who enjoy influencing or plastic surgery as it is the pressure they may feel to do so, or to only do so in a certain way.
It’s also worth noting how many of the villains – and main characters generally – are women. It feels natural, but on many other shows, including those named after a wonderful bold woman character, there’s a Smurfette Syndrome in place so she’s surrounded by men. Instead, on Batwoman, Kate has her “smart and perceptive” sister Mary, her delightfully unhinged sister Alice, her one-time (and now hopefully again?) love (former) Sophie who tries to follow the rules, and a whole slew of villains, some of whom have been more villainous than others.
It turns out the incarcerated man who helped out Jake Kane wasn’t just anybody – he’s the man convicted of killing Luke’s father, Lucius Fox. This adds a great layer to the favor he promised to come calling for, since it will eventually pull in Luke. Luke has been slowly opening up more to those around him, especially Kate, but it’s painful to watch this knowing how devastating it will be. While Mary is the beating heart of the show, Luke is it’s moral center. He wouldn’t want an innocent man in prison, but that won’t make it any easier to relive his father’s death. And why do the circumstances around Lucius’s death seem so fishy?
Batwoman continues to complicate the concept of justice – is the legal system providing it? Are the Crows really a fair player in it, or are they just an unchecked military contractor? What’s Batwoman’s role in it, as someone who actively breaks the law, while trying to protect people and fight back against the failures of both the legal system and the Crows? Arrow held itself increasingly accountable by first having Oliver stop murdering people and then examining the role of vigilantes and even attempt to integrate them into some kind of system with oversight. But it still feels unusual for a superhero show to push back on so many different forms of injustice without exempting itself from that conversation.
Jake’s look into Reggie’s arrest and conviction for killing Lucius Fox is the latest version of this, and shows that he’s still fundamentally a man of principle, but it’s also important to remember that the reason Sophie has time to team-up with Batwoman this week is that he suspended her for pointing out the way the Crows have abused their power – and the fundamental rights of everyone in Gotham.
One of the things this episode did best was folding different layers of the story back in on itself. Jake’s favor ended up being to the man accused of killing Luke’s father. The lead on the villain of the week was the world’s creepiest plastic surgeon, AKA the caterpillar AKA Mouse’s dad/his and Alice’s abuser. Alice managed to tie herself in with the villain of the week, too, using that as her way to exact revenge on her oldest foe, her longtime abuser. All of these layers felt dizzying, but also very Gotham and they each make complete sense, like a puzzle falling into place.
I love Mary pitching herself as a sidekick. Get with it, Kate!
The villain is the niece of a “beloved DA” named Dent – oh hi Harvey!
What’s Sophie and Batwoman’s couple name? BatMoore?
“You live in a cave?”