This article contains spoilers for Batwoman episode 1. We have a spoiler free review here.
On the CW’s Batwoman, Alice (Rachel Skarsten) is a mysterious leader of the Wonderland Gang, a terrorist group kitted out with eerie rabbit masks responsible for kidnapping Agent Sophie Moore, killing a bunch of nameless Crows, and threatening an entire park full of helpless Gothamites. By all indications, she seems like the villain of season 1. It’s not uncommon for an early villain to be eclipsed by a bigger bad later on, but the 11th hour reveal in the first episode packs a serious punch: Alice is actually Beth, Kate Kane’s long-presumed-dead twin sister.
Den of Geek spoke to actor Rachel Skarsten at New York Comic Con to get all the behind the scenes details about Alice’s gang, what it’s like to play the villain, and how much of her back story we’ll learn this season.
Who is Alice?
TV’s Alice commands the Wonderland Gang, a group usually headed by the Mad Hatter that comes from Batman’s Detective Comics, just like Kate Kane’s Batwoman. For the small screen, however, the Wonderland Gang replaces the 13 covens of the Religion of Crime, a fanatical criminal organization that possesses magic and pursues a prophecy from the Crime Bible to kill a “twice-named daughter of Cain” who they think is Kate Kane/Batwoman.
On the CW, Skarsten says, “As for the Wonderland Gang, there’s a specific sort of take on how Alice constructs that in our show which you will see, and we have characters come in which is great. There’s already one character who I cannot name, but I love her gang and I think it’s it’s really, really cool to sort of bring in other villains, and then we have villains that actually are not really associated with Alice at all.”
Alice’s Victorian-era appearance is still very much inspired by the comics, with lots of lace and red lipstick, though not quite her Queen Amidala-esque look. In both the on-screen and comic incarnations she has a wild platinum-blond bob, skin powdered porcelain white, and a tendency to speak in riddles. On the show, she is less sexualized, leaving behind a corset and garters in favor of a long pale blue coatm a vest, and a longer skirt.
Alice’s evil plan
In the comics, Alice and her crew of magical misfits kidnap Jake Kane to hurt Batwoman and plan to blanket all of Gotham with cyanogen gas, a real-life chemical warfare agent. The toxic gas would kill millions if they could get the plane they rigged over the city.
It’s hard to say what Alice’s long game on this season of Batwoman might be, but it certainly seems to include taunting her sister about not being a good enough daughter for Jake and taunting Jake for not being a good enough father to look for her body, with a healthy dose of general terrorism thrown in. The personal villains always seem to be the most fun, like the reveal that Slade Wilson was Deathstroke, the first season mystery of Dr. Wells’s treachery on The Flash, or the early years of Malcolm Merlyn on Arrow.
Skarsten shed some light on the emotional depth of the conflict, saying, “They’re twins, so physically, intellectually, emotionally, they’ve had very similar upbringings until the time of the accident, and then their lives obviously diverge. But there’s still an incredible amount of love there and what do you do when your greatest enemy is also your sister and someone that you really love? So it creates this very complex layered relationship and Ruby and I really enjoyed playing that.”
Who is Beth Kane?
Kate Kane has a twin sister named Beth. Throughout the first episode of Batwoman, we see Kate flashback to memories of her younger self (Gracyn Shinyei) with her sister (Ava Sleeth), whether playing in the Wayne Enterprises building or taking photos in the back seat of their mother’s car. The two sisters wore matching ruby necklaces – perhaps an inspiration for Batwoman’s eventual color scheme – which we see Kate wearing to this day.
Skarsten shared, “I actually talked to Ava, who plays the younger version of me or Beth, and I said to her ‘actually I’m kind of mirroring what you’re doing because you are creating Beth, I’m already Alice.’ And so it’s been interesting to watch what she does and be shamed because she’s so good [at acting].”
In the comics, the girls were natural redheads, and Beth took after their mother, Gabi, while Kate took after their father, Jake. Beth was always more sensitive, crying when the twins saw their father put down the terminal family dog. In both versions the memory of Beth clearly guides Kate to this day – Kate taped a photo of herself with her sister in her personal Bat cave and often addressed Beth when she speaks aloud or thinks to herself to sort her way through a case.
In the comics, Beth and Kate’s mom took Gabrielle took them out to lunch for chocolate and waffles (their favorite meal) for their twelfth birthday. Both Kane parents were in the military special forces, and Jake was gone a lot. On the way back home, Gabi noticed a car following them and mentioned it to their driver, who agreed, when a car rammed into them and all three Kane women were kidnapped. The events are shown to us through Kate’s memories so we don’t see much, since she was kept blindfolded, but she was scared and Gabi tried unsuccessfully to negotiate to save her kids.
Jake led a rescue mission and Gabi was executed. Kate wasn’t supposed to see anything, but she saw dead bodies throughout the compound where she was being held as she was rescued. Jake decided to tell Kate that Beth was killed in the crossfire, and they had a double funeral. In reality, he never stopped looking for Beth, but by the time he knew for sure that she had survived, he felt like Kate was in a good place and had moved on and decided not to tell her. Jake marries the ultra-wealthy Catherine Hamilton, making Kate Kane an heiress.
In contrast, on the CW, a car with just Gabi and her two daughters goes over a bridge (although a car does seem to come suspiciously out of nowhere, so maybe we’ll explore that…). Batman shows up to help save them, and while they’re related, none of the Kanes know it. Kate makes it to safety but due to poor manufacturing of the car, Batman’s grappling hooks tear the bumper away and Gabi drowns while Beth’s body is never recovered.
From then on, Kate hates Batman, while her older cousin Bruce lives with extreme guilt for feeling responsible for the deaths of two of his only living relatives. He tries over and over to figure out what he did wrong and does his best to be there for his cousin Kate, who seems to feel abandoned by her father, who can’t look at her without seeing the daughter and wife he’s lost. Jake eventually re-marries Catherine, bringing her and her daughter Mary into the Kane family.
When it comes to their diverging paths on the show after the car accident, that remains something of a mystery – but not for long, according to Skartsen.
“We will actually get the opportunity to see what happened from the crash up until present day. It’s been really interesting because I I’m sort of learning it as the scripts come out and it’s not just something that we only deal with in one episode. It will sort of continue in flashbacks and we have two incredible actresses who play young Ruby.”
The reveal that Jake Kane lied (and Alice making Batwoman an accomplice in her death) messes Kate up in a serious way. But later on in Batwoman’s self-titled run, Director Bones of the DEO, a literal sentient skeleton chomping on a cigar and up to no good, decides Batwoman is becoming too insubordinate. He reveals that he and Agent Chase of the DEO have Alice – the Religion of Crime found her and put her in some kind of magic sarcophagus that brought her back to life.
Bones holds Alice – who seems split between her Alice and Beth personalities – over Batwoman to get her to reveal Batman’s identity and ultimately take him down. It gets more complicated from there, but eventually Beth is restored and goes on to fight crime as Red Alice, alongside her sister. All this is to say, if we see Alice die, she might not actually be dead, and if they’re taking their cues from the comics at all, there’s hope for Beth yet.
It remains to be seen how closely the CW’s Batwoman will follow the source material, but whatever story they pursue, Alice is a character with a rich comics history. A captivating and highly personal season 1 villain, Alice offers plenty of narrative avenues for the current and potential future seasons.Read more about the Batwoman TV series here.Delia Harrington a freelance writer and photographer focusing on social justice and pop culture through a feminist lens. She loves post-apocalyptic sci-fi, historical fiction, and feminist comic books. You can follow Delia @deliamary.