Batwoman Reveals Kate Kane’s False Face

This week's Batwoman brings back a familiar face in Arrow's John Diggle while also spending time with Kate Kane's unfamiliar visage.

Batwoman Season 2 Episode 16 Rebirth
Photo: The CW

This article contains spoilers through Batwoman season 2 episode 16 “Rebirth”.

At the start of the season, Roman Sionis took down Kate’s plane with information obtained from Safiyah. The two are strange bedfellows, united in their misguided hate for the Kane family. Roman’s vendetta, while extra AF, does make sense in a twisted way—he blames Jacob for Circe’s death. Safiyah’s revenge, on the other hand, feels petty, given what she’d already done to Alice—and Ocean—in the immediate aftermath of their perceived slight. Both of these characters are serving outlandish comic book villainy, which Batwoman should lean into more against its contemporary realism.

Last episode, Jacob disbanded the Crows, and Alice revealed to him Kate was still alive. This episode, Alice and Jacob kidnap Kate from Black Mask, but they struggle to make her remember who she really is. Alice breaks through with a memory she shares about Kate coming out—a rare tender memory—then an internal battle begins between Kate’s subconscious and Circe’s. When False Faces find them, they capture Jacob and Alice, but Kate escapes. Batwoman finds her and takes her to Wayne Tower, a place she’d hopefully recognize. Sophie is unsurprisingly able to unlock even more of Kate’s memory, but Circe gains an upper hand in the mental tête-à-tête and attacks Mary. She eventually flees back to Roman, and questions him about who she really is. Kate was dangerous when she knew who she was and what she was capable of, imagine how dangerous she is now.

When Safiyah saw Circe’s finely crafted face, she realized Alice had met her, and warned Roman that Alice is Beth Kane. Roman has his masks in the GCPD arrest Jacob for aiding and abetting Alice, and they reveal to the world that she’s Beth. When Jacob is asked for comment, he defends Beth, and asks the public to empathize with her as a victim. This is a pivotal moment for Jacob, who has spent his entire adult life making up for not saving Beth, and a lot of this season living in a Snakebite-induced fantasy where he actually does. He’s finally able to do what he couldn’t do before, save Beth, or at least give her a chance. He still puts the onus on Mary to save her sisters—one of whom killed her mom—so he’s not winning Father of the Year, but it matters.

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Everybody wants Kate to remember who she is, and since Alice is the best chance of that, Ryan offers to trade her Desert Rose to Safiyah for Alice. Ryan doesn’t like Alice, or trust her, or want to lift a finger to help her. But Alice has a way of always being necessary, and Ryan can’t let anything happen to her when she’s the key to getting Kate back. The Desert Rose Ryan has was a gift from her adoptive mother, and it’s been the one constant in her life since her mother died. Giving it up for anything is huge, but giving it up for someone she despises is major. Batwoman has played with the Ryan/Alice dynamic a lot throughout the season, and it has been satisfying to watch their relationship evolve, and to watch Alice evolve as well. Just when Alice believes she’ll finally get it all—her sister, her lover, and her dad—Safiyah takes Ocean off the board. Alice was never going to have everything, but the illusion could have lasted a bit longer. Hopefully saving Kate will keep Alice sane.

In last week’s episode, Luke made the choice to go gentle into that good night, to ultimately succumb to his gunshot injuries. But the Desert Rose his friends treated him with healed him, pulling him back to the land of the living, much to his dismay. Luke now has to process his grief at having that choice snatched away, and the deeper issues of having to make that choice at all, the circumstances that put him there. Luke asked Bruce—or his subconscious manifestation of him—why he’d want to live in a world where he can be killed just for being Black. He asks Ryan the same, adding “a world where murderers go free.” Whatever faith Luke had in “the system” is gone, and he’ll have to decide what justice looks like for him going forward. 

Luke requests a sabbatical from Bat Team duties to work through his stuff, and uses the alone time to visit an gambling establishment frequented by local law enforcement. Once he’s seated at the bar, and greeted coldly by his attempted murderer, former agent Tavaroff, it’s clear he’s there for more than a friendly game of poker. Diggle (guest star David Ramsay) notices the tension, and after Luke wins spectacularly against the house—dressing Tavaroff and his men down in the process—Diggle stops Tavaroff from beating Luke up in an attempt to get his money back. Luke gets to win in his own way. And after all is said and done, Luke realizes he was brought back because he was wanted and needed by people who love him. In that way, he and Kate are the same.

When I go to cons or alternative shows, or anywhere I’m an extreme minority, I search the crowd for other Black faces and feel immediately more at ease when I find  someone and we lock eyes—especially when it’s another Black woman/femme, because I know they know. It’s a silent agreement that we got each other. It’s a distinct feeling that this episode synthesizes—maybe unintentionally—when Diggle gently inserts himself into the conversation with Luke and Tavaroff. Diggle is a perfect character for Luke to connect with because their paths are similar. As a fan of the character on Arrow, I was often frustrated by narratives that seemed to disregard his Blackness. In Batwoman, Diggle’s presence is meaningful because he’s Black. His presence doesn’t necessarily embolden Luke—who was gone do what he was gone do—but it strengthens him. I hope they spend more time together.

Batwoman is making bold narrative choices and exploring real-world issues in a surprisingly thoughtful and nuanced way. The show isn’t without its flaws but the writing feels purposeful… I see the vision and I’m here for it.