Batwoman Episode 8 Review: A Mad Tea Party

Batwoman's deadly mid-season finale is full of twists and turns as it takes aim at Kate Kane's family and the military industrial complex

This Batwoman review contains spoilers. 

Batwoman Episode 8

In Batwoman’s (pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths) mid-season finale things get deadly as Mouse continue to impersonate Jake, Alice makes Catherine confess her sins to the world, and Sophie has some real talk with her husband.

Sophie and Tyler were sidelined in this episode so they could deal with their marital issues, and because Sophie’s so competent that if she were on the scene, none of Alice and Mouse’s plan could’ve happened. Is this how all of their evil plans will start? Step 1, incapacitate Sophie. Step 2, world domination! On the positive side, Tyler seems to be both more realistic about his wife’s feelings and more supportive of what’s going on with her, rather than dismissive. I can’t imagine this has any ending other than Sophie and Kate at least trying to make it work (and there’s no way the CW does poly or open relationships, right…?) but I suppose we’ll see.

It’s still unclear what Mouse’s larger goal is. Alice obviously has more in store, but at least we know the through-line: revenge based in her emotional pain and trauma. Ruining Catherine and putting her in agony was a way to get her back for lying to Jacob about Beth’s death. The apology was pure human need. Making her sacrifice herself for her daughter was a way to balance the scales, as it were. A villainous mother’s death to make up for a good mother’s death.

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Landing Jake in jail at the end of the episode was brilliant, in an evil sort of way. It’s still unclear what the ultimate end is for Mouse, but if nothing else, Kate now has two fewer people in her corner. Sophie, Mary and Luke better watch out. Speaking of Jake – Dougray Scott did an excellent job as Fake Kane. He slipped right back into Mouse’s posture after he tranqed Sophie and Tyler. That slouchy slump is pure mouse – there’s nothing of the weary commander there.

It’s surprising how hard this episode went after the military industrial complex, and the way it has involved Jake Kane and the Crows. Catherine was made to tell the (not particularly concealed truth) about her arms deals and was poisoned with her own disturbing military bio-weapon. Involving Jake and the Crows is an interesting wrinkle – will Batwoman continue to indict them as well, or will it label that as a villain’s statements? How close will we get to Killmonger was Right? The comics managed to criticize the policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell while largely maintaining American platitudes about honor, duty et cetera about serving one’s country, largely through Kate’s parents. But now, Jake runs a military contractor that’s clearly running a paramilitary state as part of an oppressive system in Gotham. How long can Batwoman critique gentrification, racial profiling and other social ills without going after the not-so-monopolized force that upholds those oppressive systems?

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about Catherine’s death. If the writers couldn’t find a better way to use her, cutting the narrative dead weight is a good choice. It makes the show feel free of one of its only real trouble spots and hopefully frees up some time to focus on both Alice and other business in the space of the same episode. On the other hand, it felt like awfully early to give up on trying to make that character work. Without her, there’s no familial antagonist, no one for Kate to push back on.

Perhaps more importantly, Catherine’s death lets Kate off the hook from seeing Mary’s point of view when it comes to who Kate considers family, and to whom she grants endless second chances. It seems obvious that Mary and Alice are both Kate’s real family while Catherine is expendable, but that’s only because Batwoman hasn’t invested in her as a character. In reality, Kate spent the better part of 15 years with the woman, even if most of that was brooding and door-slamming.

It’s a lot easier for Kate to make nice with Catherine now that the Mistress of Munitions (never change, Vesper Fairchild!) is dead. I’m not really all that concerned with a fictional dead woman who was barely in the show to begin with, but I am concerned with our very much alive fictional hero. One of Arrow’s flaws was continually allowing Oliver to not learn lessons while pretending he did, something that led to the show spinning its wheels from an emotional and narrative standpoint in the mid and later seasons. I hope Batwoman finds another way to ensure Kate Kane has to come to terms with her familial priorities so this show doesn’t hit the same plateau of emotional growth.

One option: let Kate tell Mary that she’s Batwoman. Or at least let Kate make some smarter decisions regarding keeping Mary in the loop. Why not warn Mary that Mouse is pretending to be Jake? Kate learned about it through non-Batwoman means and with Mary sitting next to Mouse, she was in so much danger. Of course the script needed her to be, but Kate could have at least tried, with Fake Kane’s cell phone swipe preventing it.

This episode featured what was probably Batwoman’s best fight in the dark or semi-dark as she took on the goons in the theatre. Steadier camera work, intentional illumination of strategic body parts. It’s not bad, but perhaps we’ve been spoiled by other CW shows. There’s still a lot of room to grow when it comes to fight choreography, with too much of her movement cut off and happening off screen in a way that doesn’t feel intentional. It feels a bit unfair to compare Batwoman’s action choreo to arrow, especially in its final season where it’s had so much time to find its voice and James Bamford has risen up the ranks to inform the entire show as a director and executive producer, but that’s the kind of vision Batwoman needs – not necessarily that much focus on it, but a fight coordinator like Bamford who prioritizes it.

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Other notes:

The white tuxedo jacket Mary picked out for Kate is absolutely GORGEOUS and now I want to see her wear it! I LOVE that Mary knows exactly what Kate’s taste would be – she’s not gonna bring her some frilly ball gown that doesn’t suit her. Come on Kate, she’s obviously your sister!

Is it just me, or is there a weird vibe in the Bat cave between Luke and Kate? She needs to invest in all of her relationships in a big way, rather than just breaking weapons and taking people for granted.

That wide shot of Alice tossing clothes in her warehouse was great – Batwoman is still finding its feet, but it definitely has at least a couple of stylish shots every episode that make me sit up in my chair.

Will any critic ever be better at giving Batwoman color commentary than in-world commentator Vesper Fairchild? Probably not! I never figured Vesper to stand up to capitalism’s war machine but “Not sure how they’re gonna fit a tomahawk missile into a grab bag” is one helluva zinger!

Wait, there’s one-way windows and soundproof walls in Jake Kane’s office? Who is he, Matt Lauer?

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4 out of 5