Batwoman – Season 1 Episode 12
“Take Your Choice”
Batwoman sees Kate faced with a difficult choice and very little time in which to make it.
The previous episode focused on a Beth from another universe stranded on Earth Prime. This gives Kate everything she wants as she now has a well adjusted version of her sister that never went down the dark path that led to becoming Alice but also intensifies her guilt as she learns that she could have saved Beth and spared her family the pain of losing her. It’s a lot to take in and the emotional consequences of learning an uncomfortable truth are explored really well.
For a while it looks like life might be good as Kate has the version of her sister that she always wanted which means that she could let go of a lot of the pain she carries around. Of course this oasis of positivity couldn’t last forever; it’s almost immediately threatened when Beth starts experiencing unbearable pain with Alice also being affected. The reason for that is that the universe can’t support two Beth Kane’s being in it and still remain in perfect balance. It’s unclear why two versions of the same person being in the same universe wasn’t a problem before this but maybe the shift in physics after the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” means that the rules surrounding multiverse travel have changed. It’s curious that the multiple Brainys weren’t similarly affected over on Supergirl though it wouldn’t be the first time that consistency was sacrificed for plot purposes. This may be irritating but it doesn’t make for a bad episode though it would be nice if the various production teams would agree a set of universal rules and stick to them as it sends the message that they don’t care enough to build a truly consistent universe. The problem with this is that nothing has any meaning if the established rules suddenly don’t matter because they prove inconvenient for the story that is being told.
Consistent or not, Beth and Alice are on borrowed time that is rapidly running out and there’s nothing that can be done to save both of them. For one Beth Kane to survive the other must die. If there is another solution then there isn’t enough time to find it so Kate has a difficult choice to make that will result in the loss of her sister no matter what her decision is. It’s curious that nobody makes an attempt to contact Cisco given his expertise in these matters but that is me nitpicking and gets away from the point of the story. It particularly stands out here because Supergirl and The Flash are explicitly mentioned so it’s odd that nobody suggests turning to them for help in this matter.
From a certain point of view there’s no real choice to be made here. Alice is a known murderer who terrorises Gotham just for fun and has proven herself to be beyond redemption in the eyes of Kate and Mary. When considering that side of the argument, letting Beth live would be the clear choice as Alice has been given ample chance to redeem herself and has rejected it at every turn. Beth has done nothing to hurt anyone else so letting Alice die would appear to be the clear choice as it would arguably be doing the citizens of Gotham a favour. Mary certainly thinks along those lines for reasons that are obvious by now. She is still very early in the grieving process and is full of rage at this point so sees no problem with letting Alice die if it means a far better version of her gets to live on.
Alice makes reference to Mary’s Hippocratic Oath and how that means that she isn’t allowed to discriminate when someone needs medical attention. We know from previous episodes that Mary’s medical training is very important to her and that she’s ordinarily a very ethical person so her willingness to let Alice die in favour of Beth says a lot about her emotional state as she is prepared to ignore the ethics she swore to uphold. This is something she would definitely come to regret had events played out the way she thought she wanted them to.
Mary’s hatred for Alice is one of the driving forces of the season as it flows from who Mary is as well as what she wants from life. She sees Alice as a barrier to a close relationship with Kate and couldn’t understand why Kate would be so committed to redeeming her when she seems so far beyond it but had that hatred intensify when Alice killed her mother. Everything about this is completely understandable and Mary remains a consistently strong presence on the show because everything about her flows so well into the various plots that are developing. Her brief connection to Beth also works really well and it’s clear that she was prepared to accept a sisterly connection with Kate that included Beth. Unfortunately this is prevented from happening which will only add to Mary’s grief.
The Mary/Alice antagonistic relationship is every bit as interesting as the Kate/Alice relationship. It’s very different and grounded in such strong emotions that it can’t help but be compelling whenever it’s featured. It was great to see Mary best Alice in a physical confrontation and chilling to witness her deliver what amounts to a death sentence for Alice as she is left handcuffed to a hospital bed. There’s irony attached to her being sentenced to death in a hospital and a real brutality from Mary who betrays no remorse when leaving her there. Hopefully her magic cure-all blood won’t be a crutch the writers lean on.
It’s not as simple as picking the best Beth for Kate as Alice is still her sister which means there’s a profound emotional connection that can’t simply be ignored. As much as she says she is committed to bringing Alice down and is done with giving her chances to reclaim the parts of herself that she has lost whether she actually means it or not is completely in doubt. Prior to this episode she hadn’t been put in the situation where she has to put her resolve to the test. This is the first example of her being tested and it’s not as simple as dismissing Alice because Kate will always feel connected to her. Ultimately she makes the choice to save Beth and let Alice die but the episode makes it clear that this isn’t an easy decision for her. She goes to Alice so that she can be there as her life slips away. This shows real strength of character from Kate as she doesn’t run from the consequences of her decision and fully accepts the pain that comes with it. The episode is edited in such a way that makes her final decision ambiguous as she appears to be with both Beth and Alice at the same time. It had been previously established that they were both prone to hallucinations so what’s real in that moment is initially completely up for debate.
This makes the realisation of Kate’s choice all the more impactful as there is a brief mystery surrounding what the final decision was. Alice’s perspective becomes that of the audience as the reality of the situation hits at the same time for both and the realisation is powerful when it hits. Kate’s final moments with Alice are beautifully performed by Ruby Rose and Rachel Skarsten who embody the devastation wonderfully. Ruby Rose taps into a vulnerability that we haven’t seen for and completely falls apart as she watches her sister’s life slip away. It’s a tough scene to watch because it hits its emotional mark s completely.
Alice’s survival comes as no shock as there was no chance that she would be killed off in favour of Beth but that doesn’t rob Kate’s decision of any of its power because it will be known by both of them that she had it within herself to make that choice and it will definitely impact how their relationship plays out over the coming episodes. Redemption for Alice will be far less likely now that she believes that Kate has given up on her. Any connection she might have had to her former life could be completely eroded away by this so it’s possible that she won’t ever come back from that. I don’t think she will be too far gone because this is a CW show and the entire season has been built around the possibility of redemption for Alice so I’d be surprised if it were abandoned completely. The hallucination of Catherine shows that Beth is still in there somewhere however deeply buried but it remains to be seen if Kate’s decision makes it impossible to reach her.
Beth’s death is also a devastating turn of events for the show as she had already been established as a meaningful presence. Rachel Skarsten’s performance is so good that it’s easy to forget that Alice is played by the same person and the dynamics she creates with other members of the cast are so effortless that Beth had quickly solidified herself as a meaningful presence. Ending those relationships so soon is definitely a tragedy though that’s exactly the point as she could never actually be a permanent fixture considering the circumstances.
Her relationship with Kate was such a strong one and it gave Kate an idea of what her life could have been liked. I really liked the scene where she told Kate what their sisterly dynamic was like in her universe and shared some information on what her universe’s Kate’s life was life. There’s mention of a soulmate which is something else that Kate longs for in her own life so what Beth describes is pretty close to everything she wanted. To be so close to getting something resembling what she wants out of life and to have that ripped away as quickly as it appeared is brutal.
Kate confides in Beth about her secret identity as Batwoman out of necessity though she does so without hesitation. This further shows her desire to have her sister in every part of her life with no secrets between them. Beth’s perspective helps validate Kate’s choice to take on the role of Batwoman. The mention of her failure to save her own mother and sister encouraging her to save every mother and sister is a really strong observation and sums up part of Kate’s motivation perfectly. She tries to deflect the compliment by telling Beth that her double life is motivated by guilt but Beth sees it as being courageous which gives Kate something to think about at the very least. Beth’s value to the show is cemented in moments like this which makes her death all the more tragic. It’s a testament to the writers and Rachel Skarsten’s performance for endearing Beth to us so quickly. I also liked Beth’s flirtatious dynamic with Luke and that they bounced off each other on an intellectual level. Luke gets something out of his interactions with her that he never would with Kate which once again shows her value.
The appearance of August Cartwright outside of flashbacks was a surprise though shouldn’t have been in retrospect as there is a chunk of story missing around Beth and Mouse’s escape from his influence. His return into their lives reveals that they never truly escaped him. He could represent a larger problem than Alice and Mouse because he’s the one who created them through how he treated them as children. If he is still able to get inside their heads as he did before then he could end up being very dangerous for them. Having him be the one to shoot Beth suggests that he has a larger plan that he is starting to put in motion but it’s unknown at this time if he has the potential to ascend to “Big Bad” status. He certainly seems to have a profound hold on Mouse who is terrified when he sees that his father is alive. He is able to defy him after remembering being strong enough to stand up to him. His loyalty to Alice is stronger than his fear so he is able to find the strength to defy him. It’s a good scene that gives insight into Mouse’s reasons for being so loyal to Alice; it’s very much founded on her acceptance of him despite his deformity. She showed him affection where August made him feel worthless which prompted a much stronger connection.
After some reasonable efforts to make Sophie a better character this episode reverts back to her being problematic. Her lack of confidence in her role as the interim Captain of Crows Security doesn’t make a lot of sense and seems to be plot driven rather than coming from Sophie as a character. She has to be portrayed as uncertain and reckless because there needs to be a background conflict involving Crows Security turning Gotham into a Police State. The moral implications of that will likely be an ongoing fixture and Sophie has to be central to that whether it makes sense for her character to be there or not. I do like the idea of Crows Security doing Gotham more harm than good but it would make more sense for Sophie to be complicit in maintaining a regime she doesn’t necessarily agree with rather than have her actions be a response to her own lack of self confidence.
The Jacob in prison story also fails to be interesting on almost any level. Every episode features a scene of him in prison that serves as a reminder that he isn’t very popular in there because he’s responsible for putting so many of the inmates in there. It’s what you would expect but it has been done better elsewhere. The mention of Crows Security only benefiting the rich and the suggestion that he will have to compromise his values in order to survive in prison has potential but it’s by far the weakest part of the show at present and would be best quickly resolved before it drags the rest of the season down with it.
A strong episode that explores the impossible choice Kate is facing brilliantly with strong focus on her relationship to both versions of Beth. On the surface it may seem like an easy choice considering everything Alice is done and it’s Mary’s job to embody that argument because of her personal experience. Mary going against the oath she swore to uphold and refusing to help Alice survive is really powerful and reinforces how consumed by grief she is at this point. It would be something she would end up regretting had things played out this way but her willingness to let Alice die is telling of her current emotional state. Kate struggles with the decision as she still has a strong emotional connection to Alice despite her promise to not grant her any more second chances. This is the first true test of her resolve and ultimately she makes the choice to let Beth live because it has the most positive result for more people. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy for her to let Alice die and she faces the consequences of her decision by making sure she’s there for Alice in her final moments. It’s a brutal scene that is wonderfully performed by Ruby Rose and Rachel Skarsten. Kate choosing to be there with Alice as her life ends is a testament to her strength of character as she doesn’t run away from difficult choices.
Alice’s survival comes as no shock and neither does Beth’s death but neither of these diminish what has happened. Kate still made the choice to let her die which will likely have the consequence of Alice being further beyond redemption than she already was because she has clear evidence of Kate giving up on her. There is still hope that Beth is in there somewhere as evidenced by her hallucination of Catherine but it will now be buried deeper than before. Rachel Skarsten continues to do a great job portraying Beth. It’s easy to forget that both characters are played by the same actor as they are so distinct. Beth quickly establishes natural dynamics with all of the characters and the scenes she shares with Kate are especially strong because they give Kate a flavour of what her life could have been like. She even validates Kate’s decision to live a double life and sees her motivations in a more positive light. Everything that Beth does in these two episodes cements her value and makes her death appropriately tragic. The return of August Cartwright shouldn’t have been a surprise but it was still unexpected in context. He has the potential to be a greater threat than Alice and Mouse because he was the one who created them and appears to have his own plan that he’s putting into motion. Mouse is terrified when he realises that his father is alive but also finds the strength within himself to reject his influence because his loyalty to Alice is so much stronger thanks to her acceptance of him as he is. Sophie continues to be a weak link even after the work put into rehabilitating her in recent episodes. Her lack of confidence in her ability to run Crows security doesn’t make sense even if it is interesting to play around with the idea of Crows Security maintaining a police state and doing more harm than good in Gotham. It feels like something Sophie should struggle with on principle rather than be responsible for implementing it. The Jacob in prison plot also fails to be interesting because it has all been done better elsewhere and would be best resolved before it drags the rest of the show down.
- the enormity of Kate’s choice being given room to breathe
- Mary embodying the anti-Alice side of the argument
- the portrayal of Mary’s all consuming gried
- Beth’s value being continually demonstrated
- Kate making her decision and accepting the consequences by being with Alice at the end
- the tragedy of Beth’s death feeling earned
- Sophie falling back on old habits
- the Jacob in plot failing to generate interest
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