This Batwoman review contains spoilers.
Batwoman Episode 7
Alfred’s daughter Julia Pennyworth blew into Gotham City for a high-octane episode with plenty of action, twists, and emotional intensity – if a bit light on Alice. On the positive side, there’s some new mythology coming into the mix here, the kind that seems like it might carry Batwoman forward for the extended episode order.
An emotionally aware superhero show (if not a fully emotionally hero just yet), Batwoman works out her feelings out in her letters to Bruce, instead of silently brooding and taking it out on others with anger. It’s reminiscent of her comic book storyline when she finally went to therapy on the advice of her (ex) fiancé, Maggie Sawyer. She also has more direct emotionally aware conversations earlier on than Oliver Queen, the character and show she’s most often compared to.
In this episode, Julia and Kate have an overt conversation about secrets and honesty that ameliorates their own relationship while helping to unlock some of Kate’s trust issues with others, like how the relationships with her father and Sophie inform everything else, and making progress with her sister Mary. Once again, Batwoman is reimagining what it looks like to be a superhero, rather than merely swapping out pronouns.
The theme of secrets isn’t just for Kate – Sophie and her largely forgettable straight lump of a husband (with apologies to Greyston Holt, who’s doing the best he can with a thankless part) are both coming to terms with the secrets in their own relationship, as Sophie finally comes out to him. It’s understandable that Tyler (apparently he has a name) is upset about his wife clearly having feelings for someone else, but he’s also incredibly dismissive of Sophie’s sexuality and her previous relationship, referring to Kate as a “chick,” and making it about his anger rather than being accepting or supportive and aware of how scary this must be for Sophie.
Sophie has lived with this secret for so long, from so many people. She must be so incredibly lonely, and her husband’s reaction is only going to make her mistrust him and then lie to him about her feelings, which she eventually does. It’s well written and unfortunately realistic, it just makes it hard to care about Tyler at all. That said, I think we’ve all spent enough time prioritizing the Tylers of the world, so it’s probably fine to put him on the back burner for just this one show.
Another reality is that people like Alessandro exist, a man who’s happy to laud the work of a (unbeknownst to him) queer superhero but doesn’t want to serve her a meal. Kate Kane is visibly queer whereas Sophie can pass, so Kate could have gotten kicked out all by herself. Still, I’m glad she brought backup to Alessandro’s. Taking up space as a queer person – especially reclaiming assumed straight spaces – is exhausting and always carries an element of danger, even for Batwoman.
Kate might have also been testing whether Sophie would stand up to Alessandro (a way of answering Luke’s question as to whether she can still trust Sophie) and while that kind of gatekeeping is intense and can be harmful, seeing who will put themselves on the line for queer people is not a bad way to determine trust as a superhero. It’s just far more complicated for a queer Black woman, a concept Batwoman dances around but hasn’t fully dived into. This episode pinned that responsibility on Sophie’s mom, which some might say resonates with them while others would say feeds into harmful racist tropes about the Black community as anti-LGBTQ when the white community is plenty homophobic but lacks the label. I’m still hoping that Batwoman as a show will come through with a more nuanced take on how the burden is spread disproportionately throughout the LGBTQ community.
One fascinating detail that this episode illuminated almost by accident is that while Kate Kane is out and proud, Batwoman is not. She can wear all the red wigs in the world, but she’ll probably have to wait until June to paint the inside of her cape with the Pride flag. It’s wild that a superhero who is famous irl for being lesbian is in the closet in-universe because…well, think about it. Outting Batwoman would narrow the list of possible suspects, and she’s already struggling to keep her secret.
I understand that narratively, putting Jake Kane between Sophie and Kate might feel neater, more emotionally wrought, but it robs sophie of her autonomy. There are plenty of good reasons for a black LGBTQ woman not to out herself in the military under DADT, some of which she explored earlier in the episode. Even if they wanted to keep the element of a conversation of Jake Kane, Batwoman could have done so while keeping his role as a mere catalyst, someone who heard her out on her fears that Kae was too idealistic and privileged to hear (remember, Jake Kane grew up without money, unlike either of his wives). Instead, as Kate points out, this version gives him far too much responsibility in the story
The end of this episode packed in some serious twists and turns, and right now Batwoman has enough irons in the fire that it worked. This show has just enough madness going on that there was no obvious answer when Kate showed up at the same time as Batwoman – my first thought was Mouse again, and I was not prepared for the vast majority of Jake Kane to have been a face-stealing lie!
As far as reveals are concerned, it seems both Jake and Sophie knew and then un-knew, because of Kate and Julia’s trick. However, that Jake wasn’t Jake but Mouse, so Kate’s actual father had no idea. I was initially frustrated that they were walking back multiple reveals, but Mouse knowing Batwoman’s identity is incredibly dangerous (though doesn’t he already know after tricking Alice?) so I supposed that’s for the best. Hopefully next episode will include some clarity on what Mouse knows, and Kate hearing Jake’s voicemail and clarifying Mouse’s abilities as a result. It was an absolute wild ride and it’s always great to be surprised, but it was almost too confusing to understand in just one watch.
To end things on a high note, just as this episode did, it was great to see Mary and Kate working together, and Kate finding a way to give back to her community through her new business venture. Queer spaces are few and far between, even in supposedly progressive urban spaces – especially for women and femmes. This means that Kate Kane has a chance to make a change both in Gotham and in our world, as she educates through the screen about what just housing policy can look like, and the importance of neighborhoods belonging to those that built them.
Good on Luke for pointing out how Kate doesn’t ask how he is or about his detective work. We appreciate you Luke!
Luke also has the correct take when it comes to Sophie and the secret of Batwoman: can you trust her? Then just be real with her.
I missed Alice this week, but it was for the greater good. Also: we all knew Alice would never help someone kill her sister, right? It was just a matter of how.
Mary seeing them opening the door to the bat cave and thinking it was to a safe room and MY GOD this is killing me. Please tell her already!
Why on earth did Kate lie about who Julia is to Mary? Why not say an ex is back in town?