This Batwoman review contains spoilers.
Batwoman Episode 17
Tonight’s episode of Batwoman feels like something of an homage to the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, at least when it comes to villains. Directed by CW veteran Paul Wesley of The Vampire Diaries fame, Detonator’s little morality plays smack of Bane’s bastardized 99%-er agenda, and the flair for dramatic twists certainly feels like something out of the Heath Ledger Joker playbook. Detonator is a great villain, made even better by his tie to Luke Fox.
It must be said that this episode belongs to Luke Fox and Camrus Johnson, who gives us a performance it feels like he’s been waiting to unleash all season. Johnson is able to show both all the pain Luke’s been tamping down for years and the logical, robotic remove that would allow him to follow through with it at the same time, making it look like he might actually kill the man responsible for his father’s death. This episode puts Luke’s violence impulse surrounding his father’s murderer and Kate killing the man who desecrated her dead mother in direct conversation with one another, something I hope continues. For fans hoping Luke will one day become Batwing, this seemed like an important first step as Swole Luke made his first appearance on this Earth and the mystery of Lucius Fox deepens.
The writing also allowed Fox to articulate something Johnson has mentioned to us interviews, that Fox thinks of Team Batwoman as a job. That’s not to say he doesn’t care for Kate – on the contrary, she’s the only person we’ve seen him truly let in thus far. Rather I suspect it’s a statement of how seriously he takes their collective endeavor – and he does see it as a collective. Kate referring to Luke as her partner felt like a meaningful acknowledgement of Luke’s work and the fact that they do this as equals. She may wear the costume, but there’s no Batwoman without Luke Fox.
What will it look like to officially add Mary to that team? Likely more banter, a lot more squabbles, better medical/lab science, and using her social media/popularity to their advantage, especially if Mary resurrects her public image after going dormant, likely for the greater good. In the meantime, I’m worried about Mary’s clinic and frankly, her time. When does she find time for med school? How is she going to be able to get up and running again? She was providing a valuable service for quite the cross-section of people – perhaps her emerging real estate tycoon of a sister could offer her some off-the-books space in one of her buildings.
Unlike Arrow’s Oliver Queen, Kate Kane didn’t come to this with a clear idea of how to achieve success. It feels more human to see her wallow in her loft for a week, have some PTSD symptoms while in the suit (we were seeing panic attacks and dissociation, right?) and skip out on being a hero until the criminals of Gotham City forced her back into the cowl. When the scene cut to Kate’s apartment littered with the refuse of someone writhing around in their own depression, it kicked me in the gut. What would it feel like to never be able to take a break from helping people? It must be like multiplying the feeling of being an activist or working at a nonprofit times 10 or 100. And as we limp our way through quarantine, seeing someone struggle in their own space feels painfully real.
One of the biggest revelations in this episode that will carry forward is Kate learning that Bruce also took a life. Getting to see this version of an origin story – one that’s less focused on watching Kate try on outfits and aliases and more interested in how being a hero impacts her life, how she works with her team, and her moral code – feels rare but fare more interesting. I don’t necessarily need a ton of childhood flashbacks to Kate going to Wayne Manor, when we can watch Kate waiver and return to her moral center, refining what it means to be a hero as she goes. It’s powerful to see Kate lean on her steadily growing circle of friends, Luke, Penny, and now Mary, as she pulls herself out of a pit of self-loathing and despair and goes back to doing the work.
Narratively, this bit of information from Luke took me by surprise, mostly because I wasn’t expecting to hear about Bruce Wayne. But it felt like the right moment to give Kate comfort that her “perfect cousin” wasn’t so infallable, as well as a good moment to tease the audience with a small puzzle piece about his disappearance.
I’m not a viewer who is all that concerned with Bruce Wayne when I watch this series, just like I didn’t worry all that much about where Clark Kent was during the first few seasons of Supergirl. I know for some viewers, it’s the only thing they can think about, but I think that reflects more on their need for a male hero or unfamiliarity with the lead than anything else. At one point, however, Supergirl did a little too much tomfoolery with Kara instant messaging her cousin, which only served to remind us of his absence.
In contrast, Luke telling Kate that Bruce killed the Joker feels like it’s adding more to Kate’s story in the present tense and playing up the long-range “where’s Bruce?” story for the background, which Batwoman seems to be engaging with far more deliberately. It certainly helps that the show is working from a blueprint where Kate Kane was created irl as part of a larger brand-wide arc involving the absence of the big three (Supes, Wondy and Bats), and therefore Batwoman’s genesis has always been grounded in Bruce Wayne’s absence. There are also some amazing stories of what happens when they’re both in the picture, so fret not, Batwoman fans. Whichever way they take this longer story, there’s no need for Kate Kane to lose her cowl.
- The Kane sisters looked like they were having so much fun together and it kills me.
- Kate Kane saying daddy…? I cannot.
- Sophie and Penny working together is fun but also makes me nervous. Kate will not handle this well if they get together.
- Mouse and Alice running an asylum feels like a fun project for them! Glad to see they’re making good choices like remaining in relative safety and only killing like one guy this week.
- Hey remember Safiyah? Mouse mentioned her again so let’s get ready for an evil ex…