I started the season with every pure intention of keeping up with Batwoman weekly. I did not and Episode 7 is about to air as I write this. Oops! After the holidays I’ll be more on top of this, especially considering that Infinite Crisis is coming up!
At this point it’s silly to do a recap for each episode, so let’s dig in with a recap of the story and how I feel about the show. The short version is: this is not the show I expected. It’s weirder and more delightful than I’d ever anticipated.
Our Story So Far
Kate finds out in the SECOND EPISODE (?!?!?!) that Alice is her long-lost twin sister Beth. The Crows trace Kate and attempt to arrest Alice, but somebody sabotages the convoy and she escapes. Turns out it’s Katherine Hamilton, who forged Beth’s original autopsy results, which convinced Jacob, their father and chief of the Crows, that Beth was dead. She’s also married to Jacob and is Kate’s stepmom. Oops! Also, Katherine owns an arms manufacturing business that has devised a suit that can pierce Batman’s suit.
Mary, Kate’s step-sister and the show’s real heart, gets embroiled in the action when Kate/Batwoman keeps dumping perps at her illegal clinic to stitch them up. She’s devastated when she learns about her mom’s cover-up.
We also learn a bit more about Alice’s backstory. After falling off the bridge, she wakes up in a basement in rural Bludhaven with a creepy man and a son with a scarred face. The man carves faces (FACES!) off of corpses to make skin grafts for his son, Mouse, who is a master mimic. The father holds Beth hostage, insisting that Mouse needs a friend. When Jacob and Kate show up looking for Beth, who tipped off the cops, the father insists it was a sick prank and forces Mouse to mimic her voice. This is where we learn the true root of Alice’s rage: she thinks Jacob and Kate gave up on her too quickly.
As a result, Alice and Mouse have stuck together. Mouse uses a face mask (from a real live person!) and his talent to pose as a Hamilton Dynamics researcher and steal the Batman gun.
We also have forced tension between Kate and Sophie, Kate’s ex and Jacob’s second-in-command, who is married to a man. I think the tension is supposed to be sexual but that would imply some kind of chemistry between Ruby Rose and Meagan Tandy. I’ll wait to see how it plays out, but I feel this relationship plays into a dangerous trope that bi people are either fake straight or fake gay and will “switch sides” when given half the chance. Sure, Chad (not his name but might as well be) is a bit of a doofus but we haven’t seen anything to suggest that the marriage is a bad one. Basically, she’s willing to give up her marriage just because she’s horny for Kate. Also, she’s figured out that Kate is Batwoman because True Love or whatever.
So far, we’ve had three villains of the week: a Riddler-lite who looks, acts, and talks A LOT like Jared Kushner; a quirky and criminally underused Catwoman-lite jewel thief Magpie; and a former Department of Corrections executioner with a crisis of conscience called — cleverly– the Executioner. His story is meant to be a commentary on abolishing capital punishment, I think, but since the show isn’t willing to go as far as advocating prison abolition, the whole storyline just falls flat. There isn’t much source material to draw on from the Batwoman comics, so it makes sense that the writers are leaning heavily on Batman’s rogue gallery. I haven’t seen episode 6 yet, but it sounds like they’re going to pull in the Many Arms of Death from the last Batwoman arc, which should elevate Alice from Lady!Joker into a full-fledged character of her own.
The Good: Alice and Kate
There are plenty of shows that feature a cat-and-mouse relationship between the hero and villain, but nothing quite like this. Rachel Skarsten is delighting in devouring the scenery, making Alice the most compelling character on the show. Ruby Rose’s acting has become progressively less wooden, but in spite of that, Kate’s desire to win her sister back shines through.
Beyond the perverse delight Alice gets from torturing Kate, typical of the cat-and-mouse trope, we see these two characters desperately trying to recognize each other in their respective pasts, understanding how they’ve grown into the people they are, and grappling how to fit each other into their futures. It’s unlike anything else on TV and makes the show unique and fascinating.
In an early episode, Kate blows off Batwoman duty for three (3) days to fuck a bartender she rescued from Jared Kushner’s party. Super relatable and super gay, so now we know there’s at least one lesbian in the writing staff.
(I don’t mean to harp on this, but it’s not clear to me if any Jews work on this show at all. The creators have said that being Jewish is an integral part of Kate’s story, yet there’s a scene where Kate and Jacob are gassed in a locked room and nobody seems to have thought that that would be A Bad Move.)
Kate Kane is one of the few butch lesbian characters on TV. Even Shane in The L Word can best be described as futch. Boo in Orange Is the New Black was ultimately reduced to retrogressive stereotypes of lesbians as oversexed predators.
Kate approaches the world with swagger. She’s hard-nosed and confident and knows she’s going to get what she wants — and has a sense of humor when she hasn’t quite mastered all of her Batwoman tricks. It’s a kind of exaggerated masculinity described in Mikaella Clements’ “Notes on Dyke Camp,” which is one of those articles that doesn’t capture A Thing very well but now that we have the term we can’t help but use it.
At least, that swagger is what the script calls for. Rose carries herself with all of the bravado of a vaguely menacing 12-year-old; she spends a lot of time squinting at people and slouches around in clothes that are a little too big. I think she’ll grow into Kate, eventually, but for now Kate feels most human when she’s the butt of the joke — not the one delivering the perfectly placed quip.
If you took Riverdale, make it ten times less sexy and ten times more deranged, you’d get Batwoman. (I’m still having a really, really hard time with the corpse dissection.) This show is crazy as hell and has a lot of heart. It gleefully tosses the tropes other CW shows have created out the window: six episodes in, everyone knows who Alice is and what Mary has done, Alice knows Kate is Batwoman and Sophie has figured it out. The first season isn’t even halfway over. Batwoman has been quite a ride and I’m looking forward to wherever it’s going to take me next.
The show has some growing pains, but I give it 5 out of 6 sodas.