Batwoman – Season 1 Episode 19
“A Secret Kept From All the Rest”
Batwoman continues the search for the secrets contained within the journal of Lucius Fox as hidden truths start to become known.
Who would have thought a handwritten book could cause so much trouble? It’s just one of those accepted conceits that someone as intelligent and resourceful as Lucius Fox would keep a handwritten journal of dangerous information that could lead to Batman’s demise written in a code that would be easily solved by his son. If really thought about then it doesn’t really work as it makes no sense for him to keep all of this information written down because it can so easily fall into the wrong hands. It’s a bit ridiculous but it fits into the storytelling style of this show where even the sane characters behave in ways that could be considered completely insane so it’s something you just have to roll with.
The discovery that the journal is written in code prompts Alice to aggressively kidnap people known for their ability to crack codes. Of course being the impatient villain that she is, she doesn’t give them enough time to have a good run at it meaning she finds herself with an abundance of dead geniuses and no headway on cracking the code. Her impatience does her no favours here and Tommy is the first to point out that she actually has to give people time to make an attempt at deciphering the journal. It’s not something that can be easily figured out in a matter of seconds so Alice isn’t giving her victims a fair chance. Tommy as the voice of reason could have been an interesting dynamic in their villain partnership if more time had been spent developing it outside of this but at least Alice’s current brand of insanity doesn’t go unaddressed.
Tommy makes his transition into Hush with a comic accurate look but a less than comic accurate execution. This version is more of a henchman for Alice sent to kidnap people who can help in her quest to decode the journal. He turns up, says the word “Hush” and brings them in which prompts the media to give him his comic book villain nickname. This is something I don’t really have an issue with as the usage of the character makes sense in the context of this show. Decoding the journal is in service of finding a way to penetrate the Batsuit in order to kill the person inside so it does fit in with his Bruce Wayne impression as the knowledge could one day be used to kill Bruce Wayne. He has a personal vested interest in gaining this knowledge because it fits in with his long term goals and his more measured approach to taking the required amount of time to find that information makes him a good foil for Alice. He has also been a fixture on the show for long enough that he has potential to grow into a more significant antagonist at a later date, especially now that he physically resembles his comic book counterpart.
Team Batwoman encounters a few internal problems in this episode. Kate and Luke let their emotions as well as their pride get the better of them which leads to Luke deciding to leave for a while. This leaves Kate at something of a loose end as she is without her most valuable resource to help her deal with the problems in Gotham. She doesn’t know how to do things like track pacemakers on her own so knows what needs to be done but has no idea how to actually do it. Teamwork and heroes being supported is a consistent theme throughout all of the Arrowverse shows where the leader of a superhero team has a support structure with skills that are necessary in ensuring the hero is as effective as they can be. Batwoman is no different and it acknowledging that requirement early on by giving us an episode where Kate is without that support structure and clearly struggles to be at her best. She is able to compensate by drafting Parker after saving her from being kidnapped by Tommy but there is still a Luke shaped hole in her life that is always evident throughout the episode.
Thankfully this doesn’t come across as creating conflict for the sake of creating conflict as Luke is clearly taking his leave to prove a point to Kate about her behaviour while also giving into his own frustrations. It’s a learning experience for each of them with Kate getting an idea of her own stubbornness and Luke realising that his sense of purpose is tied to the work he does with Kate. Revelations like this are the best reasons for separating characters as it allows the bond between them to grow stronger and helps renew their commitment to the cause they both fight for.
Having Luke separated from Kate provides some good opportunities to see how he functions when not acting as Kate’s backup. Confronting Julia about her secrecy makes for a great scene that offers both actors and opportunity to deliver some really strong material. From a character point of view it’s interesting to see the children of well known iconic characters interact in this way especially when the interaction showcases how they differ from their parents. Julia is very confident, skilled and secretive where Luke lacks that same confidence but has finely honed instincts that he doesn’t realise that he has. How easily he decodes the journal proves that and Julia’s insistence that he’s every bit the genius his father was is something he needs to hear in order to find a way to believe it himself.
It seems that I wasn’t anywhere near correct when I concluded that Julia is working for either Alfred or Bruce. She mentions the name Safiyah as a likely villain tease for next season. How she managed to be fired from the SRR and not have the Crows find out about it is beyond me unless we have to accept that the Crows don’t do reference checks on their employees. It’d be different if she was actually any good at hiding the fact that she was fired but it seems to take almost no effort to find out the information. Pushing that aside, it’s clear that Julia is motivated by a desire to protect those she cares about. Stealing the journal was in exchange for Kate no longer being a target though almost nothing is known about Safiyah so there’s no telling if she can be trusted to keep her word.
Despite throwing her into what might amount to a largely pointless secrecy plot, Julia’s presence on the show feels essential and feeds into some of the key relationships in really natural ways. I mentioned in my previous review that I wasn’t overly keen on the romantic link between Julia and Sophie and that’s still the case but I do like how it’s being handled in terms of how Kate reacts to it. Sophie and Kate have a very open discussion about the growing connection between Sophie and Julia where Sophie offers to keep it platonic if it’s going to be a problem for Kate. The only response Kate has is that she wants Sophie to be happy which doesn’t entirely count as her blessing but it’s certainly an acknowledgement that she has no right to stand in the way of the happiness of others. It hasn’t been easy for Kate to see this connection grow as she is aware that Sophie has opened up to Julia in ways she never did to Kate which affects her deeply as she likes to see Sophie being true to herself but also feels left out. This gives an idea of the burden of being Batwoman for Kate. Her double life combined with the fact that Sophie spent so long unsure of her true self means that Kate hasn’t really been there for her so Julia is in a better position for Sophie to confide in. Having Kate be there to witness their first kiss is a bit much but it is believable how close Julia and Sophie have become.
The episode does a good job playing with that relationship drama through the lens of Parker who watches them through the Batcave’s monitor. She takes on the audience perspective as she observes a conversation between Kate and Sophie where she yells for Kate to tell Sophie she loves her. It’s nicely done and a good moment of levity in the episode. Parker’s more youthful perspective compliments her recent clarity shown by her being in a relationship with a woman. In her previous appearance she was angry, confused and in desperate need of guidance which Kate was able to give her both in and out of costume. Parker returns having admitted who she really is and gone after what she wants which made her life more positive as a result. She urges Kate to do the same though it’s clear she doesn’t think it’s as simple as that. Parker’s return was welcomed and she definitely deserves a place on Team Batwoman with her impressive skills along with her innovative thinking.
Mary is as great as she always is. She’s now an accepted member of Team Batwoman but still has a fair bit of resentment to get rid of. Learning that Parker was in on the secret before her definitely stings because it does appear that Kate was deliberately shutting Mary out of a big part of her life for reasons that aren’t entirely justified. Mary’s less than welcoming attitude towards Parker is always amusing to watch and highlights the adjustment period that she is in the midst of before she can be a focused and committed member of the team. Her particular area of knowledge proves instrumental to Kate here as well therefore justifying her usefulness.
One thing that remains majorly out of place is Jacob’s vendetta against Batwoman. His argument that the presence of Batwoman invites criminals like Alice isn’t really fair considering Alice was active before Batwoman’s first appearance. It could be argued that theatrical villains rose up in the wake of Batman and Batwoman could be seen as part of that but one thing that’s clear is Gotham is a diseased city that needs more than the law enforcement agencies it has protecting it. Jacob declaring War on Batwoman feels like a massive step back at this point as there has been no attention given to his vendetta against Batwoman for so long. His declaration does have one major positive; the suggestion that Batwoman and Alice can’t function properly without one another. This likens their relationship to Batman and the Joker even if it doesn’t work as a comparison but it does tie into the idea that costumed heroes can’t give up that life because of an addiction to it and a symbiotic relationship with a villain is one way to represent that. Despite that interesting idea, this feels like a backwards plot that has no real place at this point of the season.
A strong episode that showcases how important Luke is to Kate’s life as a vigilante, makes great use of a returning supporting character and offers an impressive take on a comic book villain. Kate and Luke separating for an episode is largely so that both of them can learn how much they value the other. Luke leaves to prove a point and Kate struggles to swallow her pride until she admits she was wrong which is a brief yet believable arc in context. This allows Luke to step outside of his comfort zone and have a really compelling interaction with Julia about her secrecy while also coming to realise that he isn’t inferior to his father. In general this is a great acknowledgement of how what the public know as Batwoman is actually a team effort. Tommy makes his transition into Hush complete with a comic accurate look. He’s different to how he appears in the comics but works in a way that makes sense for this show and could easily transition into something resembling what he is known for in the comics. For the purposes of this episode he’s basically a henchman for Alice with a defined gimmick and acts as an appropriate foil to her reckless insanity.
The romantic connection between Julia and Sophie becomes official in this episode and I still don’t feel that it’s necessary but the handling of it is strong. Kate giving her reluctant blessing to Sophie who understands how difficult it might be for Kate to see them together and offers to keep it platonic is nicely done because it’s not an unconditional blessing. It’s more of an acknowledgement that this connection has proven to be very positive for Sophie and she doesn’t want to be the one to stand in the way of that. Having Kate present at their first kiss was a bit much but otherwise this works well. The episode does a great job playing with that relationship drama through the lens of Parker who makes for an excellent temporary member of Team Batwoman. Putting Parker in the audience perspective as she observes the drama through a monitor was a really nice touch and her more youthful perspective coming from a place of contentment in her life made sense in the moment. Mary is used well as always with her lingering resentment being intensified by learning that someone else knew Kate’s secret before she did. There’s a lot for her to work through but having her on Team Batwoman is definitely as it should be. Jacob declaring War on Batwoman feels completely out of place at this point in the season as his resentment of her hasn’t been a fixture for such a long time.
- Tommy as a decent foil to Alice’s impulsive emotionally driven behaviour
- Tommy’s transition to Hush fitting the current narrative
- Kate and Luke having to separate to find out how necessary their partnership is to each of them
- Luke and Julia’s interaction highlighting how they differ from their more famous parents
- a measured and mature approach from Kate regarding the growing Sophie/Julia bond
- Parker’s youthful perspective on Kate’s love life
- Parking making for a natural temporary addition to Team Batwoman
- Mary’s reaction to finding out Parker was in on the secret before her
- Jacob declaring War on Batwoman feeling like it came out of nowhere
- Kate being present for Sophie and Julia’s first kiss being unnecessary
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