Batwoman – Season 1 Episode 20
Batwoman prematurely ends its first season with an escalation in the conflict between Kate and the Crows as well as shifts in the Alice/Mouse power dynamic.
As with The Flash, it’s very difficult to analyse this episode properly as it was never intended to serve as a season finale so it’s arguably unfair to think of it in those terms. On the other hand it is the season finale that we get so has to be acknowledged as such. Batwoman is somewhat unique in the sense that it’s less serialised than the other running Arrowverse shows which means that most of the episodes do have a bit of finality to them. For the most part they tell a complete story that is resolved by the end with some threads carrying across all of the episodes. This one is no different with the only difference being that we won’t see what happens next in the ongoing stories until 2021.
The main plot this episode involves a villain by the name of Tim “The Titan” Teslow (Terrence Terrell); a former sporting celebrity who has lost the ability to feel physical pain and has gone on a killing spree. Very little time is spent on his origin or motivations because it can be attributed to an imbalance in his brain chemistry caused by steroid abuse. It’s flimsy and the episode doesn’t pretend that it’s in any way important which doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s yet another shallow villain with no memorable features beyond what makes him a temporary threat. There is the suggestion that he’s a product of Gotham City in the sense that the city has a way of slowly destroying people but there isn’t enough focus on that to compliment the overall development of the city as a character in the show.
One thing he does provide is a significant physical threat to Kate and an opportunity to explore the ongoing Batwoman/Jacob Kane tension. By now it’s self evident that Kate can handle herself both in and out of costume so when someone comes along that gives her a run for her money it’s believable that it would throw her. She very quickly finds herself at a disadvantage when an encounter leaves her badly injured so she has no choice but to ally herself with the crows. Jacob promised in the previous episode that the Crows would go to War with Batwoman which puts Kate in a very problematic position when she has to ask for help. Thankfully Mary volunteers to help make the case for cooperation. At this point Jacob comes across as completely unreasonable; something that isn’t at all justified in the context of the story but it’s a prominent fixture in this episode so has to be addressed. Mary makes the case for working with Batwoman because she feels that she’s the only person who is able to get through to him. She makes the point that working with Batwoman would go a long way towards improving the Crow’s image within the city but she’s also appealing to him as her father. Even though he doesn’t know that Kate and Batwoman are the same person, he is still rejecting part of his daughter’s identity by declaring War on Batwoman so Mary could see that as her family being in disarray. Her decision to put herself in the position of convincing Jacob to work with Batwoman could be a step towards making her family whole and united once again. Her determination and near desperation certainly points things in this direction and it ties in with the ongoing theme of fractured family that is one of the pillars of this show.
Jacob’s behaviour is a bit over the top and putting him in the position of making Batwoman his enemy because he hates vigilantes isn’t well developed enough to be believable. When he learns that Mary and Batwoman have a connection he comes across as crazed and unstable. Throwing the phone against the wall and yelling are not the actions of a reasonable man. It’s odd that his subordinates would go along with this without any trepidation though he does smartly divert the two people who are likely to disagree with him and wouldn’t be shy about standing up to him. Instead of Sophie feeling sidelined her absence in this plot feels like it serves an important purpose and is the only sign that Jacob’s ability to think rationally -or at least tactically- is intact.
The Batwoman/Crows confrontation with The Titan is an impressive visual spectacle. Using the stadium as a setting ties into what little identity The Titan has and the space is used well among those involved. Kate appealing to The Titan’s Humanity and reminding him of the kind things he once did for others in order to stop his rampage was a really nice touch as it shows the symbol of hope that Batwoman can represent. She has a voice that she can use to convince people to stop rather than resolving every conflict with a combination of gadgets and fighting prowess. If The Titan was a better developed antagonist his change of heart and his subsequent death would have had more impact but the moment itself was powerful. The fact that The Crows killed him without giving him a chance to stand down clearly shows that their morality is askew and highlights why the people of Gotham trust Batwoman over them. At the moment the use fear to keep people in line and call it protection where Batwoman serves as a symbol of the fact that people can be better and can stand up against corruption. Until the Crows define themselves as standing for something pure like that then they will always be rejected by the people they claim to want to protect.
I’ve mentioned this before but Arrowverse shows are never subtle in their messaging. They don’t have to be and they aren’t somehow worse because they’re overt with the point they’re trying to make. The big hot button topics for this show are acceptance and being true to who you really are. Kate has already achieved this having proudly come out as a lesbian and making no apologies for that. She’s very comfortable with who she is, the choices she’s made and the direction this has taken her life at least in terms of her identity and her sexuality. She hasn’t come out to everyone in her life as Batwoman and that’s uncomfortable to her because she’s still not used to hiding who she is from others. It is a necessity to protect both herself and those she cares about but it’s not easy for her to keep a big part of who she is hidden from others. This is directly referenced when she laments the fact that Jacob is unlikely to ever accept Batwoman as a force for good in Gotham City. She mentions that she always pictured coming out to him. The use of that term will be no accident and the connection is obvious. She is accepted by her father for her sexual identity but fears that she will never be accepted as Batwoman which makes for a different but no less powerful example of intolerance. It’s something very personal to her that she feels needs to be kept hidden because it will never be accepted. It’ll be interesting to see how her knowledge of her father’s animosity towards Batwoman will affect her interactions with Jacob in future.
Mary is the best source of emotional support for Kate at this stage because she knows her secret and understands how she thinks. She demonstrates this by pointing out several points in her life where Kate defied Jacob and was punished for it. Mary has to remind Kate that Jacob is her father too and that their families combining has provided her with a unique insight into Kate over time. There’s an interesting contrast between what Kate says and what her behaviour suggests in regards to Mary. She talks about family and sisterhood but when it comes to actually demonstrating that she seems to forget that the familial connection exits. Mary’s early efforts to offer her support are dismissed because Kate assumes that she doesn’t understand where her mind is at where Mary has a much deeper insight than anyone else does. Kate is growing closer to Luke all the time but their connection is more of a professional one so he’s not the person to support her on an emotional level in terms of family issues. He can be sympathetic and he can offer advice based on his own experiences but there are lines that he can’t cross quite yet. Mary is ideally placed to fill in that gap and Kate still needs to come around to the idea of letting Mary be that for her. It’s demonstrated perfectly here and the fact that Mary is so insistent on demonstrating that she does have that knowledge of how Kate’s mind works as well as an awareness of Kate and Jacob’s relationship before this point. It’s important for Kate to have that perspective and further cements Mary’s worth to her role as Batwoman.
That final scene between the members of Team Batwoman after Luke has managed to destroy the Kryptonite shard is an excellent moment that shows how they are becoming a cohesive unit. The approach on this show has always been that Batwoman is the face of a small group effort that has now expanded to include Mary. Having all three of them share a moment where Kate pledges to have no more secrets between them is an excellent stop forward and firm declaration that the show is going into its second season fully committed to this idea with plans to expand what that means for each of them. Kate does keep the secret of how she happened upon that second piece of Kryptonite but that has the important distinction of not being hers to tell. Luke and Mary don’t get to know about Kara/Supergirl because Kara hasn’t chosen to open up to them. Kate respects Kara’s right to privacy and won’t budge on it which is a very admirable quality on her part.
The great thing about Team Batwoman is that the characters have different dynamics with one another. Kate’s dynamic with Mary is distinct to her dynamic with Luke and Luke has a unique dynamic with Mary that is always a joy to watch. I like that he’s perpetually irritated by her presence but isn’t too proud to admit that her suggestions are useful. It’s almost as if Mary is Luke’s little sister because she irritates him but he does care about her.
Alice’s current situation means that she’s limited in her interactions. The only people she has access to are Tommy and Mouse and her main struggle for this episode is to decide what her next move should be. Does she fixate on gaining access to Kryptonite so that she can penetrate the Batsuit and kill Batwoman or does she take the opportunity to leave Gotham and start over without risk of being tracked down by her sister.
There are a couple of problems with this plot. I’m less than enthusiastic about the prospect of Kryptonite being Batman and Batwoman’s only weakness in that it’s the only thing strong enough to be fashioned into a weapon capable of penetrating their suits. I’ve written before about how unnecessary it is that the Batsuit be invincible. It means that the majority of action sequences are lacking in stakes because Kate is basically invincible unless someone targets her mouth. Many renditions of the Batsuit are made of some sort of fictional lightweight material that offers incredible protection but this is one of the few where it’s actively impenetrable aside from a few notable exceptions. Having Kryptonite be Kate’s…well…Kryptonite is a weird decision because it feels so out of place and unnecessary. It does offer the potential to make further use of Kara placing her trust in Kate to keep a hold of a shard of Kryptonite in case she ever went too far and had to be brought down but beyond that it has little other function other than being a hypothetical silver bullet that represents the only threat to her life.
It also makes no sense for Alice to be so obsessed with gaining access to the Kryptonite because she already knows who Batwoman is so if she really wants to kill Kate all she has to do is go after her when she isn’t protected by her suit and shoot her with a regular bullet. For that matter she knows who Batman is so just has to pick her moment carefully and kill him too. Another thing that doesn’t make sense is that Alice would be fixated on killing Kate because it hasn’t been made clear enough that she has distanced herself from that connection to the point where she’s willing to kill her own sister. She definitely feels betrayed by Kate and that is certainly informing some of her decision making but for her to want Kate dead isn’t believable. It would be more realistic for her to want to remove Kate’s support system as she started to do earlier in the season as a way to send Kate further down the path towards becoming her. That was an interesting aspect of their dynamic earlier that seems to have fallen away. Alice simply wanting Kate dead is uninteresting and lacking in depth. It doesn’t make any use of the relationship that has been built between them or set up anything all that compelling.
Alice and Mouse have really interesting interactions. Mouse is the one encouraging her to leave Gotham behind and start fresh in a new place. They have a strong connection and the episode makes use of the brother/sister dynamic that was forged by necessity under abusive circumstances. They value each other a great deal but Mouse has a tendency to try to control her. It comes from a place of love because he believes that he knows what’s best for her but doesn’t account for what she wants from life. He sees Kate as an obstacle to their relationship so has a particular interest in making sure that Alice can’t interact with Kate. It comes as a real shock when Alice poisons Mouse but it makes sense that she doesn’t want anyone to get in the way of what she wants to do. Mouse also announces that he’s leaving and Alice likely doesn’t want to lose him on those terms. She doesn’t want him to leave her alone and doesn’t like the idea that he can survive without her because she doesn’t think she can live without him.
The scene where Alice poisons mouse is chilling. It comes right after she pledges that they will be together in “the beautiful garden”. Her description is very Wonderland focused as expected but it takes on a distinct paradise flavour which automatically invites comparisons to the afterlife and leads the viewer in the direction of Alice promising that she and Mouse will die together to be reunited in their version of paradise. It seems that Alice has “kill Kate” on her to do list before joining Mouse and just can’t have him in the way before joining him in Wonderland. It pains her greatly to have to do this but she acknowledges that Mouse will never understand her desire for revenge and regrets that he made her choose between him and the catharsis she needs in order to be able to move forward. It’s a great scene and comes as a real surprise as I wouldn’t have predicted Alice to be capable of ending the life of the one person who has been there for her since she was separated from her birth family.
Alice involves Tommy in the next phase of her plan which requires him to waltz into Wayne Tower to simply take the Kryptonite shard. To make this possible she gives him Bruce Wayne’s face (Warren Christie) which gives us our first look at the Arrowverse version of this character outside of his appearance in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” played by Kevin Conroy. This confused me somewhat as when Kate was confronted with that version of Bruce she recognised him which suggested that Kevin Conroy could return to play the Earth-Prime version of the character. Perhaps this will be addressed in future though it remains to be seen how Warren Christie will take to the role considering he won’t be playing the real Bruce Wayne initially. It’s an interesting spin on giving viewers their first look at this version of the character and sets up interesting complications for the next season. It’s unknown what the plans were for the remaining episodes but this is a good note to end on.
A strong final episode that celebrates the growth of Team Batwoman, highlights the value that each of the characters brings to it and sets up interesting complications for the next season. The episode does a great job of showing how important Mary is both to the team and to Kate personally. She repeatedly demonstrates that she knows and understands Kate better than anyone especially when it comes to her relationship with Jacob. Her efforts to get Jacob to agree to a temporary truce because she’s the only one who has a chance of getting through to him is a great use of the character and the help she provides Luke even though he’s obviously irritated by her is really charming. The villain plot was weak as no real attempt was made to characterise him beyond the minimum that was necessary to make the story work. Potential did exist to use him as another example of how corrupting Gotham City is but it doesn’t quite come through. As the catalyst for Kate’s conflict with Jacob it works really well even if Jacob’s behaviour is wholly unreasonable. The angle that does work is the ongoing desire for acceptance and Kate’s constant struggle with having to hide a part of herself from someone she cares about. As always the messaging isn’t subtle but she fears “coming out” to her father as Batwoman because she thinks he won’t accept her.
The Kryptonite plot leaves a lot to be desired as it links into the fact that it’s unnecessary for the Batsuit to render the wearer almost invincible. This means that action sequences are lacking in stakes because Batwoman can’t be killed by pretty much anything she comes into contact with. It also doesn’t make sense that Alice would be so fixated on killing Kate despite how betrayed she feels. It would be understandable if she wanted to hurt those around Kate as she did earlier in the season but wanting her dead doesn’t really fit. She could also make that happen when Kate isn’t wearing the Batsuit easily enough so it doesn’t make sense that she feels Kryptonite is the only way for her to win. The Alice/Mouse interactions were excellently done with Alice rejecting the fact that he’s trying to control her by making her choose between her desire for revenge and their plans to live in a paradise together. Ultimately she poisons him which comes as a shock that works brilliantly. Her pledge to join him after she gets the revenge she needs is chilling and the whole scene is a very powerful moment. Alice giving Tommy Bruce Wayne’s face made for an excellent cliffhanger with lots of potential for plots in the next season while also providing a unique spin on introducing Bruce Wayne to the show.
- the strong rapport within Team Batwoman
- Mary constantly demonstrating that she is the perfect person to support Kate on an emotional level
- Mary acting as the only person who can get through to Jacob
- the connection between the consistent message about being true to yourself and Kate’s fear that Jacob won’t accept the fact that she’s Batwoman
- the complex Alice/Mouse dynamic
- Alice killing mouse acting as a genuinely shocking moment
- Tommy impersonating Bruce Wayne being a fun twist on introducing the character
- Jacob’s behaviour failing to be justified and coming across as unreasonable
- a villain with very little character or personality
- Kryptonite also being Batman/Batwoman’s weakness
- Alice’s underdeveloped fixation with killing Kate
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As I write this, it has just been announced that Ruby Rose will be leaving the series effective immediately with the role to be recast for season 2. This throws a lot of my speculation into disarray as I now believe the show won’t survive long after her recasting. People love the Arrowverse shows in part because of being invested in the characters and the actors that play them; I know I certainly do and Ruby Rose has put such a definitive stamp on this character that I can’t imagine anyone else stepping into the role. The show could probably survive recasting Jacob Kane or Sophie but I doubt it’ll survive recasting the lead. The issue the production team have is whether they need to address it in some way in universe or just carry on and pretend that nothing has changed. Neither option is particularly good and I don’t envy those involved in continuing this show after such a profound loss to its very identity. It’s possible that they could decide against recasting and put Julia Pennyworth in the role of Batwoman instead. Whether such a thing would work or not is unknown but sadly I think the writing could soon be on the wall for this show.
Since Batwoman was more episodic than its Arrowverse cousins there isn’t a great deal to continue in the second season. The ongoing Kate/Alice plot will need to be addressed and a decision will have to be made over whether Alice can be redeemed or not because I can’t see this being dragged out endlessly. It’ll become very tedious if it does. Her desire to kill Kate is certainly a complication that will need to be dealt with and using Tommy to pose as Bruce will be a big part of that at least initially.
The door is well and truly open for Bruce Wayne to actually appear now that he has an imposter wearing his face and likely discrediting his name in some way. Kate may very well see through this very quickly and the plan will fail or Luke may be suspicious and have Kate not listen to him until it’s too late. I’ll be interested to see how Bruce will be used if he actually does return and how that factors into Kate’s development as a hero.
The ongoing tension between Kate and Jacob is a big fixture at this point. Kate has to deal with the fact that she knows her father won’t accept a big part of her life which means there will always be this distance between them. Since Kate can’t let Jacob see that she’s upset with him over that there could be some really tense interactions between them with so much being unsaid between them. This will likely create a rift between them that neither of them can fully address. The natural end point will be Jacob learning Kate’s secret and then having to decide what that means for him. On top of that, the character of Gotham City should continue to develop whether that be things improving because of Batwoman or continuing to decline because of the Crows. Either way, the setting is one of the most interesting things about this show so should continue to receive attention.
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