Batwoman – Season 1 Episode 10
“How Queer Everything Is Today”
Batwoman continues to explore the concept of identity when Kate is once again grapples with the sacrifices that come with living a double life.
The major unique selling point Batwoman offers is its take on the superhero double identity trope. Most costumed heroes are motivated by not allowing people to see the person behind the superhero persona. Spider-Man becomes everything Peter Parker is not when he puts on the mask, some depictions of Bruce Wayne hide behind a selfish playboy persona, Superman is a beacon of confidence as a counter to Clark Kent’s retiring nature and so on. The Arrowverse heroes live their own versions of a double life and the individual shows cover that to various extents but Kate is the only one who struggles with her decision to live that life in the first place.
As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, Kate is comfortable in her own skin. She’s an out and proud lesbian, exudes confidence in her own abilities and makes no apologies for the person she is because she has fought so hard to be recognised for it. She took on the role of Batwoman to protect both herself -in terms of the physical protection the suit offers- and those closest to her with the anonymity that the life of a costumed hero offers. One thing she never fully understood was that she would have to be selective with how much of her true self to share in order to divert suspicion. In other words, she has to voluntarily put herself back in the closet. This isn’t something she’s comfortable with due to her comfort level with her own sense of identity so one of her arcs this season is focused around cultivating the Batwoman persona into something she’s comfortable with.
Arrowverse shows often approach a particular issue with a lack of subtlety and that’s what happens here. Kate -as Batwoman- is saved by a Gotham City cop after she stops a runaway train which leads to a media frenzy that invents a relationship between them. It’s heavy handed but it’s enough to get the ball rolling on the question of Batwoman’s sexual identity. Kate is openly gay but Batwoman hasn’t self identified either way so the societal assumption is that she must be straight. It’s a brief commentary on how far things still have to progress in order to remove these basic assumptions made about the sexuality of others. Luke and Kate make a similar mistake when assuming that the hacker is male which provides another example of conditioned assumptions.
This episode serves to highlight how different Kate is to Bruce and how different Batwoman is to Batman. Little is known about the Arrowverse version of Batman but there’s enough information to reasonably conclude that he wasn’t an outgoing public figure. Batwoman is immediately different to Batman in that respect as she does interact with the public albeit without her choosing to do so. It happens twice in this episode; the first time is when she is saved by the cop that becomes connected to her by the media and the second is when she gatecrashes a high school formal to track down the villain. In both cases she is photographed and her image shared with the people of the city. It isn’t something Kate is comfortable with but she has been forced into this role and now has to live with it.
Luke makes a good point about the assumption that Batwoman is straight. It’s common knowledge that Kate Kane is a lesbian so if everyone thinks Batwoman is straight then it’s less likely that the connection between the two will be made. As logical as that is, Kate still has a problem with that because she’ll wilfully denying a major part of herself in the name of protecting her identity. She is still figuring out what Batwoman is and needs to make decisions on what her public persona is going to be, especially if she is going to be forced into becoming a public figure.
This allows for commentary on what heroes are to people through the villain of the week. Parker Torres (Malia Pyles) is a teenage hacker who acts out by inflicting digital pain on the city. She starts by hacking the brakes on a train that Kate stops and follows that up by blackmailing the city so that she can extort money out of them. Once Kate tracks her down she learns that the Terrier is a teenage girl acting out because she is also struggling with her sexual identity. It’s the right kind of villain to compliment the internal struggle Kate is dealing with in this episode. Parker acts as a dark mirror for Kate in some ways as she represents what life could look like when the true self is suppressed in some way. Not that I would ever assume that Kate would become a villain because everyone believes that Batwoman is straight but it’s a strong example of how damaging it can be not to be true to yourself. Parker is very confused and messed up because she had her sexual identity forcibly outed by a bitter ex and now her relationship with her intolerant parents is damaged. Her reaction to this is to use her technical skills to escape her life until she is found by Batwoman.
When confronted, Parker makes some cutting comments that reference the current public perception of Batwoman as a straight woman who can be romantically linked with media friendly men. She also talks about representation in the media and how it’s lacking for young women like her which certainly serves as a meta commentary on the journey that led to making this show in the first place. Batwoman is a show with an openly gay lead which bucks the trend of “ancillary characters” as Parker puts it, being the only source of representation for many. This show by itself doesn’t solve that problem but it’s an important step on a long journey and the continued success of the show will help the CW’s commitment to diverse representation in its prime time programming.
Kate understands exactly what Parker is going through but can’t comfort her at that point because she hadn’t made a decision on what Batwoman represents. Shortly after, Alice forces Kate to unmask and Parker finds out who Batwoman really is. As soon as this happens her perspective changes because she sees a role model in Kate as a successful lesbian. This shows Kate the sort of hero that Parker needs and helps her define what she wants Batwoman to be. Parker is a case study for a lot of people who struggle with their sexuality and the intolerance that comes with it so having a strong symbol to look up is important to them. There are plenty of straight heroes so Batwoman can be something different and necessary to those who need someone to look up to.
The public outing of Batwoman as a lesbian is a really big deal as it allows Kate to be true to herself, offers her as a costumed role model for the gay community and solidifies her as a public figure that truly stands for something. This will mean her actions will be more heavily scrutinised because she now officially stands for something but it’s clearly a decision Kate is comfortable with because she is being true to herself and giving others something that she never had. It remains to be seen how this will impact her in the future but for now it allows her to be a better hero and makes the notion of a double life a lot more palatable. It’s also a great touch that the story breaks in CatCo magazine and the author of the article is Kara Danvers. This makes for a natural example of how the new universe operates and how the characters can interact in meaningful ways even when they don’t physically appear.
Even though Parker’s purpose is to be a physical representation of Kate’s internal conflict, I felt that there was a lot of potential for this character. The finale scene Parker has with Kate felt like it was going to lead to her being offered a job. It was surprising when it didn’t happened as she has all the hallmarks of someone who would be useful to Kate. She has great technical skills, already knows that Kate is Batwoman and can definitely learn a lot about self confidence from her. Perhaps this will come in time but this would have been the ideal point to start a working relationship and add some much needed extra hands to Kate’s costumed crusade.
Alice is part of the Parker story but not to a huge degree. She mainly adds tension that forces Kate to unmask in order to progress towards the resolution of her internal conflict but there is some attention given to her as a character. She is spending her time having tea with mouse over Catherine’s grave confused as to why Kate doesn’t see the benefit of Catherine’s death. Surprisingly, Mouse is the voice of reason here and points out what should already be obvious to Alice. Kate doesn’t see what Alice did as a positive thing nor does she accept it as the olive branch it was intended to be. For Kate, this is Alice going too far and proving herself as someone who has to be stopped rather than someone who can be helped. Alice’s desire to induct her into her warped view of family isn’t something that’s going to happen because it couldn’t be further from what Kate wants.
Unfortunately, Alice isn’t ready to see that as she takes the wrong thing from what Mouse says to her and assumes that outing Kate’s identity to the public is what she needs to do next so that Kate will come around to her way of thinking. The logistics of her attack on the school and forcing Parker to send a message to every device in Gotham are confusing as she would have no way to figure out that Parker is the Terrier nor would she be able to place the C4 without being noticed but the emotional stakes make a lot of sense because it further reinforces that Alice is spiralling further into madness due to her inability to accept that Kate is basically done with her.
Sophie being separated from her husband is a definite advantage to her character as it removes the shackles of the tedious love triangle from her. Now the focus is on defining who she is rather than who she might be in a relationship with which is a significant improvement. Recent events have made her a little unhinged which makes sense given that her husband left her and her boss/father figure is in jail. She has a lot of responsibility to shoulder in the wake of the latter and there are signs that she is starting to crack under the pressure such as almost going too far during an interrogation. She does get the chance to put her feelings into some kind of context when Kate -as Batwoman- approaches her and lets her talk about what’s bothering her. Kate’s advice is to take off her “mask” and be true to who she is which also doubles as advice that she should heed when it comes to figuring out how much of herself to put into the Batwoman persona. Sophie has a lot of soul searching to do and Kate provided the ear that she needed to help her realise that. Hopefully this will progress into Sophie becoming a more rounded presence on the show rather one side of a love triangle as she was before.
As always, Mary is one of the major strengths of the episode. She is characterised differently here as her grief has consumed her to the point that she is refusing to stop and deal with it. Her focus is on making sure that Jacob’s name is cleared which means getting an expert witness to confirm that it’s possible for someone to do a perfect impersonation of someone using plastic surgery. For whatever reason, no plastic surgeon will consent to delivering that testimony which continues to frustrate Mary. The more doors that are slammed in her face, the more strung out an desperate she becomes. Nicole Kang’s performance is excellent and helps add to the growing list of Arrowverse depictions of grief. She constantly rejects offers of help from others because she isn’t emotionally ready to accept it and sees Catherine’s death as the loss of her family because Jacob now has no reason to remain connected to her and she already feels betrayed by Kate because she feels that she sided with Alice and had a part to play in everything that led to her mother’s death. None of this is anything she actually believes in any rational sense but grief causes people to act irrationally and that’s exactly what Mary’s doing. Jacob tells her that she’s still his daughter and she eventually gets to the point where she’s ready to accept support from Kate which allows her some acceptance that events are somewhat out of her control. It’s interesting to note that when asked what she’s doing she is able to diagnose exactly what is happening to her but knowing isn’t enough to help her deal with it.
Mary’s resentment of Alice is founded on her desire to be recognised as a sister by Kate. She wants them to be close and sees Alice as an obstacle to that because Kate was so fixated on regaining her “real” sister. This forms part of Mary’s attitude to Kate in this episode and it’s something that Kate isn’t able to recognise right away. Notably Jacob and Kate both recommend that Mary see someone rather than actually understand what she actually needs and talk to her themselves. Healing is able to begin once Kate acts like a sister and offers her the support that she has been craving. Their hug is a really endearing moment and allows Mary to start processing what she’s going through. It all feels organic and is deeply rooted in who these characters are.
The end of the episode begins to suggest the consequences of the recent “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover. Beth’s appearance after a semester studying abroad brings up a lot of questions because Alice is still active in the form that viewers have known her. The creation of Earth Prime would appear to have created a duplicate Alice/Beth that none of the characters are aware of. It’s a great cliffhanger to end on as it raises a lot of intrigue and possibly creates a scenario where Kate gets exactly what she wanted in a way that she didn’t expect.
A strong episode with a compelling exploration of Kate’s experience of living a double life that covers the question of what form she wants that to take wonderfully. Parker is a great case study for the hero that Kate wants to be after a media blitz assumes that Batwoman is straight which makes it harder for Kate in her Batwoman persona to get through to Parker. Ultimately it’s about representation and how difficult it is for some to find the representation they need. She responds much better to Kate once she learns her identity because Kate Kane is someone she looks up to. Luke’s argument about the assumption that Batwoman is straight meaning that people are less likely to connect Kate to her alter ego is a fair one but Kate also doesn’t want to put herself back in the closet after being true to herself for so long. Ultimately Parker helps her to decide that lesbians need a symbol to look up to and she outs herself as a lesbian hero. Batwoman now stands for something which means she will be under greater scrutiny but it’s a decision that Kate is happy to live with because she is being more true to herself within the double life she has chosen to lead. It’s a shame that Parker doesn’t become a part of Kate’s Batwoman team as it seemed that she was being set up to take on that role but perhaps that will come later. She’s an interesting enough character within this episode and there’s certainly room for her to grow if the opportunity presents itself.
Alice takes a back seat in this episode though she is portrayed as being delusional as she thinks that killing Catherine should have encouraged Kate to subscribe to her warped sense of family when it was never going to. Mouse is the voice of reason though Alice fails to understand what he’s actually telling her and formulates another plan based on a false assumption. Sophie’s separation from her husband has been to her advantage as a character as her contribution to the episode is more about defining who she is as a character rather than confining her to a tedious love triangle. Kate’s advice about being true to herself works for her personally but also helps Sophie realise that she needs to do a lot of soul searching. Mary continues to be a strong presence on the show. Nicole Kang’s performance is excellent and helps to add to the long list of depictions of grief in the Arrowverse. Her ability to diagnose herself without that being enough to help her process what she’s going through is a really nice touch and her frantic obsession with keeping herself busy works really well in context as does the moment she slows down once Kate embraces her. The ending opens up a lot of questions and has a lot of potential so we shall see how it pans out.
- a unique approach to the superhero double identity concept that works perfectly for Kate
- Parker as a case study to help inspire Kate to define the sort of hero she wants to be
- Kate outing Batwoman as a lesbian making her stand for something as a hero
- Sophie being characterised more on her own terms
- Mary’s self diagnosed coping mechanism
- Nicole Kang’s excellent performance
- a tender sisterly moment between Kate and Mary
- no possible way for Alice to have engineered the threat the way she did
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Ratings” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.