Batwoman – Season 1 Episode 2
“The Rabbit Hole”
Batwoman continues to develop the relationship between Kate and Alice while adding to the mystery surrounding Alice’s identity.
The previous episode revealed that the villain known as Alice is actually Kate’s sister Beth who was believed killed in an incident when both of them were children. This episode largely focuses on exploring the impact this revelation has on Kate who now has to find a way to prove it for her own sanity more than anything else. Interestingly there is some doubt attached to this as it could be that Alice is just familiar with the well documented story surrounding that particular disappearance. This is something that Alice taunts Kate with to create a constant sense of doubt.
So far Kate’s career is Batwoman has a very personal focus for her as she used the persona to help those she cares about rather than benefit Gotham City at large. There are background reminders that she has inadvertently brought hope to those who lost it when Batman disappeared but she isn’t equipped to realise that quite yet with her focus being as specific as it is. This is a really good take on a superhero origin as the character takes time to realise that they can do much more than their self imposed mission. Of course this is a lot like Oliver Queen’s journey in the first season of Arrow as that show started with him crossing names off a list to make up for his father’s wrongs. Kate’s journey is more about finding answers and taking action where her father and the authorities can’t. It looks as if her realisation will come far quicker but I like the idea of her being oblivious to the impact she’s having on a broader scale.
At the moment there isn’t much difference between Kate Kane’s outward persona and the Batwoman identity which I think is exactly the point at this stage. She’s still finding her feet as a vigilante and doesn’t even have a defined mission at this point so the lack of distinction between the two identities makes a lot of sense. Her costume is a visual representation of how uncultivated the Batwoman identity is as it’s still the modified Batman suit without the distinctive red hair and emblem seen during “Elseworlds“. It’s also in character for Kate to not differentiate the two identities as her unwillingness to hide anything about herself whether it reveals her as flawed or not is well established. She is very confident in herself and doesn’t make any apologies for the person she is so it’ll be interesting to see how she ultimately decides to keep a significant part of herself hidden.
One notable surprise is how forthcoming Kate is with information around those she cares about. She mentions her theory about Alice being Beth during breakfast with her family which ends up causing distress for Jacob who doesn’t want to accept it. Kate does resolve to get proof one way or the other so that the question can be put to rest but it’s clear that it’s not something Jacob wanted to hear. In his mind Alice is a criminal who needs to be put down and he doesn’t want anything getting in the way of that. Having to deal with any personal connection he has to her will make it more difficult to bring her down and he clearly doesn’t want that. If it proves true then he’ll have to make a difficult decision around how to manage this situation and his judgement will be impaired by that familial connection. Dougray Scott’s performance conveys this brilliantly and adds texture to the Jacob character who is otherwise lacking in depth. More work needs to be done to develop his relationship with Kate and explore the sense of loss that he carries with him. The flashbacks are somewhat illuminating on that score but aren’t quite enough to flesh him out as the aim of those scenes is very specific rather than being character defining.
The most interesting thing at play is the Kate/Alice relationship. For the sake of simplicity it’s better to refer to her as Alice rather than Beth as it will be too confusing otherwise. Kate summoning Alice to a meeting by freeing one of her goons and sending him back with the message “Waffles” was a simple yet effective way of playing on that sisterly connection and adding history to it. If this sort of personal relationship is going to work in the context of the show then it will have to remain grounded and making use of simple imagery or key meaningful words is a great way to do that.
Kate and Alice’s scene together is the strongest one of the episode. Ruby Rose and Rachel Skarsten bounce off each other wonderfully and there’s a visceral quality to Alice’s description of what it was like to be in the car as it filled with water. She taunts Kate with the possibility that she is embellishing on the documented events but the way she talks about being trapped in the car and the terror that she experienced in that moment certainly feels legitimate. Ruby Rose conveys familiarity in her performance suggesting that she feels as if she’s around her sister though she could simply be projecting that onto her based on wanting to believe it. For now it’s still an open question but Kate still feels protective and wants to have the answer to that one way or another. This is why she won’t let Jacob kill her and risks her own life to make sure that Alice survives.
It’s no accident that Alice is trapped in another vehicle filling with water towards the end of the episode. It’s a very deliberate callback to the incident that separated them as children with a very different spin on the outcome. Kate is able to rescue her which offers her a limited form of catharsis as she wasn’t able to do so all those years ago. They are conveniently separated by an explosion which allows Alice to be at large and continue this hero/villain relationship. There is real potential for complexity here and there are steps in the right direction. Alice’s message to Kate saying she has their father’s eyes with an enclosed bat is an appropriately theatrical way of letting Kate know that her Batwoman identity isn’t a secret where Alice is concerned. I’m intrigued to see how this continues to develop as it’s a somewhat atypical hero/villain relationship.
Kate and Luke’s dynamic continues to be really engaging as well. I like how it’s gradually progressing into where we can all see it going. I would have expected Luke to be a willing participant fairly quickly but the fact that he’s still finding his feet makes him more engaging. There is the suggestion of an inferiority complex where he sees himself as being in a long shadow cast by his father, Lucius Fox so he is definitely heading down a path towards finding his own self worth. Kate is somewhat keen to encourage that but the fact that he takes it upon himself to help her before being asked to an finding a way to save her life is an important step forward for him. It’s significant for Kate as well as she comes to realise that she has to rely on others to achieve what she wants.
Mary is a really fun presence on the show so far and is being set up as the heart of the show. She certainly embodies that function within her own family and has a particular role in Kate’s Batwoman crusade with her random illegal clinic. Alice going after her because she refuses to share a sisterly relationship creates an enduring sense of peril. Kate may save her this time but she will always be a target and Nicole Kang’s performance is a realistic portrayal of someone who has had a significant threat on her life. Showing her to be capable when she is under attack adds more weight to the Gotham City setting as it suggests that ordinary citizens have to be able to defend themselves from the constant dangers the city offers.
The Kate and Sophie dynamic really doesn’t work so far. There’s a flatness to their interactions that makes it difficult to believe there was ever this profound romantic connection between them. Mary theorising on how Sophie married a man brings in the notion of fluid sexuality and highlights that relationships are far from simple. The major problem in the Kate and Sophie relationship at this point in time is that there’s the suggestion of friction in the dialogue but it’s never felt. There is a great moment where Kate flatly tells her that if she had known Sophie was getting married she would have come back sooner to stop it. I suspect Kate’s bluntness will be a problem in later episodes but for now it feels like a tick-box exercise because a CW show needs a love triangle of some sort. It comes across as bland and predictable which makes their scenes together difficult to engage with.
Revealing that Catherine is behind hiring thugs to prevent Kate from running a DNA test on Alice’s knife and the suggestion that she’s responsible for the attack on the prison convoy fails to deliver the shock value that it’s supposed to. For one thing it’s pretty much the same plot point that was used on Moira Queen early in the lifetime of Arrow and for another Catherine is barely defined as a character so characterising her in a villainous light at this point has no impact since there’s no sense of who she is or what her relationship to Kate is. Having her act behind the scenes to derail Kate’s investigation in some way feels like an unnecessary addition that is unlikely to go anywhere interesting. I could be wrong but for now it feels like a tired trope and unnecessarily tacked on.
In general, Batwoman is not without merit but it’s struggling to find an identity. In my view going back to explore Kate’s origin story and devoting multiple episodes to it is a mistake because a clear sense of who she is was delivered in “Elseworlds”. Viewers who haven’t seen that should be able to follow the basics of Kate Kane as a person and what she stands for with flashbacks filling in the rest. This approach means that the show is off to a really slow start and isn’t as compelling as it could be as we are awaiting Kate becoming the character we have already seen. Slow isn’t necessarily bad but in this case the time isn’t being used to great effect.
A solid episode that deepens Kate and Alice’s relationship while adding texture to some of the other characters as well as Gotham City. Kate’s career as Batwoman having a very personal focus is working really well so far as she is inspiring hope within the city without even realising it. She doesn’t pay much attention to it as it’s not a priority for her but it’s happening and will inform how she grows into this role. The lack of difference between the Kate Kane and Batwoman personas says a lot about how Kate lives her life and how she isn’t ashamed of any particular aspect of herself. This is reinforced through how open she is about her theory that Alice is her long lost sister. It’s not something that Jacob is prepared to accept but Kate won’t rest until she has proof and she’s not interested in keeping it to herself. The dynamic between Kate and Alice is really well done thanks to some strong acting in their scenes together. Alice taunting Kate with the possibility that she’s living out the well documented story around Beth’s disappearance adds mystery to it and her sincere delivery when talking about what it was like to be trapped in the car acts as an appropriate counter. The fact that this moment is recreated and Kate is able to save her that time is really effective. Kate’s dynamic with Luke continues to be really engaging and the beginnings of an arc towards self worth for Luke who needs to step out of his father’s long shadow is handled well. Mary acting as the heart of the show as well as a constant target for Alice who refuses to share a sisterly bond is compelling so far.
The show suffers in its portrayal of the relationship between Kate and Sophie. Everything required is there on the surface but it’s impossible to invest in it as it comes across as being really flat. There’s a playfulness in Ruby Rose’ performance when Kate is very blunt about how she would have tried to stop the wedding given the chance but there doesn’t seem to be much below the surface which makes it feel like a tick-box exercise because a CW show needs a love triangle whether it makes sense to have one or not. Similarly Jacob’s characterisation isn’t quite where it needs to be. There’s a sense of what he’s going through, the self imposed denial he has around Alice and flashbacks go some of the way towards fleshing out the emotional connection the audience is supposed to have towards him but it doesn’t come together in the way it needs to. Dougray Scott is really good in the role but stronger material is needed for him to work with. The reveal that Catherine is trying to derail Kate’s investigation for reasons known only to her is a really tired trope that fails to be interesting in this context as there’s no sense of who Catherine is or what her relationship to Kate looks like. In general, Batwoman isn’t without merit but it is struggling to forge its own identity. A lot of that has to do with the decision to detail the origin story and devote multiple episodes to something that could be neatly covered in flashbacks. Perhaps it will get better when it catches up to where she was in “Elseworlds” but for now the slow burn plotting does the show no favours.
- a strong sense of who Kate is as a character
- Kate’s focus on her personal mission blinding her to the hope that she is starting to represent
- the Kate/Alice relationship and how that is developing
- Alice taunting Kate with the fact that she might be lying
- impressive symmetry in a recreation of the action that separated Kate and Beth with a different outcome
- Kate and Luke’s dynamic continuing to be engaging and establishing an arc for Luke
- Mary acting as the heart of the show
- the evil stepmother trope
- Jacob not being as well developed as he could be
- The Kate/Sophie dynamic having little depth to it
- a general lack of identity to the show and the slow burn plotting doing it no favours
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