Look, not all of us are horny for Batman. Thankfully, there’s a show for that.
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
Alice dreams of herself as a young girl walking into a basement full of surgical tools and finding a skinned human face floating in liquid. I have no idea what that’s about, but I have a feeling it’s going to be significant later, so we’re putting a pin in it.
Alice summons Kate by shining the Bat-signal and making a rabbit shadow puppet with her fingers. Alice taunts her about putting on the Bat-suit and making everyone “horny for Batman.” I love Alice so much. She’s got a presence and style that many of the other Arrowverse villains lack. Wait, with Arrow ending can we still call it the Arrowverse? How about the Beeboverse? That’s better.
Alice wants her boyfriend Dodgson back. Kate says he’s “hanging in there’ and since Alice likes damaged men, he’s “badly damaged.” Ha ha, get it? Because she’s holding him captive and torturing him. Yikes. Kate promises to give him back if Alice can go twenty-four hours without killing anyone. Alice accepts these terms. Is this going to be like the Seinfeld episode “The Contest?” Because I’m pretty sure Oliver Queen already lost. The killing thing, not the Seinfeld thing.
Sophie spars with her husband, but her mind is on Kate. Ooooh, I have things to say about this, but I’ll let it develop a bit more first. She then goes to see the boss who’s grumpy about the convoy being attacked and Alice getting away. Jacob puts Sophie on a special assignment, which turns out to be bodyguard duty for Mary. Mary is not enthused. She does get in a few digs for her stepsister and even asks Sophie if she only took the assignment to get info on Kate.
Kate gets a visit at Wayne Tower from Tommy Elliot (oooooh noooooo), who brags about finally having more money than Bruce Wayne. He’s giving off real Donald Trump Jr. vibes here and it’s creeping me out. He also bought a building next door that’s five stories taller than Wayne Tower, just in case the dick-measuring contest wasn’t clear. Tommy rants about Batman being back and then seems very sure Bruce Wayne is back too. Oh. He leaves an invitation for Bruce to attend his next party.
Luke calls. There’s been a break-in at a Wayne facility and a prototype portable railgun was stolen. The big issue is that the gun was developed to penetrate the Batsuit’s otherwise bulletproof armor. Ehhh…I don’t buy that Bruce “My Parents Are Deeaaaaaad” Wayne built a gun, even as a failsafe in case someone used his own suit against him. I can see him building a railgun to penetrate the armor of an unstoppable robot, though. Yeah, a lot of interpretations of Batman have him as the “guns for me but not for thee” type.
Kate puts the pieces together – someone going after that gun in particular would know what it was for, so whoever it is knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman. She shows Luke the invitation Tommy left and mentions how sure he was that Bruce was back in town. She concludes that Tommy knows Bruce is Batman. Holy crap, that was better detective work than we usually see in these shows. She picked up on the clues that are normally supposed to just inform the audience of a thing that the protagonists won’t figure out until the third act. Bless this show for making Kate smart. Luke tries to convince her to put on the suit and kick Tommy’s ass, but she insists she’s not Batman.
Kate goes to the party to ask Tommy why he wants to kill Batman (like a boss) and shares an awkward elevator ride with Sophie and Mary. Sophie asks why Kate is there, so Kate reminds her she’s supposed to move on. Poor Mary is on the worst elevator ride of her life…so far. Kate hits the bar to look for Tommy and flirts with a bartender named Reagan. Sophie’s husband Tyler comes over to say hi and he’s really confused about how Kate knows Sophie. He doesn’t know. Yikes. Reagan picks up on it because she has eyes, can see that Kate’s style is a giant neon “LESBIAN” sign, and recognizes the awkwardness.
Alice is botching that no-kill promise. She breaks into Jacob and Catherine’s penthouse while they’re not there, snoops around, and kills a guard who catches her in the act. Then she calls Jacob to play the cello for him. She snipes at him over abandonment issues while he has the call traced. He gathers his family (minus Kate, whom he thinks has already left) and heads for the elevators to get them safely out of the building. Alice finds a lunchbox with the maps young Kate was using to try to find her sister years earlier.
Kate finds Tommy and casually mentions a GPS tracker on the gun that was stolen, then follows him to his office when he goes to check. Tommy says knows who Batman is because he “paid a man to riddle me the answer.” Oh please put the Riddler in this show! Tommy’s grudge against Batman is simple: The Bat saved Tommy’s mother from a car accident when he wanted her to die so he could collect his inheritance. That’s a slight shift from the comic incarnation of Thomas Elliot, who tried to kill his parents by cutting their brake line but Thomas Wayne (a surgeon) saved his mother’s life.
Tommy uses an app on his phone to halt the elevators in the building and send one containing caterers plummeting to the ground floor. He warns that if Batman doesn’t meet him on the roof, he’ll send the others down – and two of those elevators have Kate’s family in them. (Little sidebar here because I thought it was funny: As Kate is leaving, she finds the caterers laying on the floor in the lobby outside of the elevator with some debris scattered around because the crew couldn’t get a smushed elevator for the set.)
Sophie and Tyler pick right then to have an awkward conversation about why Sophie never mentioned her good friend Kate the Boss’ Daughter whom she went to Point Rock with. Mary just sits there probably wishing she had popcorn or an escape route. The couple pry the doors open, and Mary heads downstairs to help the EMTs with injured caterers, impressing Sophie.
Meanwhile, back at the Batcave, Kate comes to terms with the mistake she made in making everyone think Batman was back. She asks Luke if he thinks Bruce is ever coming back. Luke says no.
KATE: “Tommy wants Batman. The city needs Batman. And I’m not Batman. But maybe I’m better…because I’m here.”
I’ve had mixed feelings about the changes to Kate’s origin and what gets her in the suit, but this is maybe the most Kate Kane part of it all. Stepping up and taking responsibility, filling a needed role because someone has to do it. Because she can. That’s my Batwoman.
They fix up the suit and Kate meets Tommy on the roof in full Batwoman regalia. Red wig, red bat symbol, the works. She’s also got a fancy disruptor gauntlet that will disable the railgun…but she forgot to charge the gauntlet. Oops. She stalls Tommy with a Batarang and some hand-to-hand combat, then disables the gun just in time. However, she isn’t able to stop Tommy from severing the cable on the elevator containing Jacob and Catherine. Kate catches the elevator with a cable gadget and Alice arrives to save her sister by knocking Tommy out. Alice isn’t impressed with Kate’s suit.
ALICE: “Let me guess…red, the color of our birthstone.”
KATE: “To remind us where we came from.”
Alice shows Kate proof she lost the bet (a picture of the guy she killed) thinking that’s also proof that Beth is gone. Kate isn’t so sure, because Alice did save her. She warns her that if she keeps killing, she’ll stop thinking of her as her sister. Alice is fine with that.
Tommy is taken to Arkham, Kate hooks up with Reagan, and Sophie looks jealous. Catherine and Jacob return home to the penthouse. Catherine quickly hides three playing cards that were left on her vanity. Later, Kate stands atop a building in her Batwoman uniform, giving a passing helicopter a clear view of the city’s new hero.
A few quick things first before two longer points. One, I really like this version of Tommy Elliot/Hush. The actor does a great job of both making him an obnoxious rich guy and then throwing a lot of menace in his voice when he goes full villain. Also he calls Kate “Candy Kane” which could be a childhood nickname in this version but in the comics, “Candy” was her cadet nickname at West Point (Sophie’s was “Gimme” Moore).
Speaking of Sophie, I wasn’t sure where they were taking her arc and I’m still not very sure. The obvious explanation for her character is that she’s bisexual, since many bisexuals settle down with a partner and remain monogamous with that partner. However, I don’t think it’s just about bisexuality with Sophie because of the jealousy angle they’re playing up. Either she’s bi and just not over her ex (and possibly in an unhappy marriage), or…they might be implying she’s a closeted lesbian in an unhappy heterosexual marriage. On the surface, yeah, either of those can be problematic if done poorly, but in the former case I don’t think that necessarily says anything bad about bisexuality. The lack of adequate representation gives this bad optics.
On the other hand, if they’re playing this as a closeted lesbian thing – that’s a thing. And if you don’t think someone can be in the closet or in denial about their true identity both to themselves and loved ones for years, hi, nice to meet you, I’m Kate Danvers.
Then there’s another change to Batwoman’s origin – or rather the origin of her suit’s aesthetic. In the comics, her early suit and gear was provided by Jacob, who was 100% behind the whole Batwoman thing. He surprised her with her first suit when she came back from training abroad. He picked the color scheme himself and when she saw it, she identified the red as being symbolic of Gevurah from the Kabbalah tree of life, and together with the black, it represented “the colors of war.” I’ll be real here, I’m not an expert on religion and I’m mainly quoting from the comic and from a Wikipedia article, but what I do know is that the colors were an important tie to Kate’s Jewish heritage in the comics. For it to be discarded in the series for something as shallow as a birthstone is a bit yikes. However, I do understand how they got from point A to point B here.
In the comics, Kate is more military-minded. Her focus is on winning the war against crime and making people safer. She refers to her suit as a uniform, not a costume. A lot of that was lost in the show’s removal of her father’s influence in her early career, along with the change of where and when she became Batwoman. The main focus of the series so far – and one of Kate’s driving points – has been saving Beth. Their bond was signified by matching necklaces bearing their birthstone, the thing that first clued her into Alice being Beth. Kate’s wearing the red as a constant reminder of her goal (to save Beth) and hoping that while wearing those colors, she can guide Beth home. At this point in the show’s narrative, the tie to Beth makes more sense than a tie to a religion and a personal mission statement that so far haven’t been present in the series.
Then again, maybe if they had established Kate as Jewish earlier, they could have made it work. >.>
Things like that continue to bug me about the series, and my own failings at being able to properly address the discourse have made me question whether I should be reviewing it at all or if I should pass it off to someone with a more critical eye for the show’s missteps. I’m actually typing this out far closer to the deadline than I’d prefer, because I was really torn about how to go on. I decided that I trusted myself to critically examine the show’s positive and negative aspects even if I’m not fully qualified to go into detail. If you’re reading this and you think I didn’t hit the problems with the red or the implications of the Sophie storyline harder, I’m sorry. I encourage you to speak up yourself or seek out voices that are better equipped to handle those topics.
I will continue to praise the stuff the show is doing well. Can I just say how unbelievably refreshing it is to watch a show where out of the seven main characters, five are women, four are persons of color, and at least two are LGBTQ+? Or to have a show that blends female empowerment and flawed characters into one? Or how we have a tragic villain whose motivation isn’t solely “because evil”? The things that Batwoman gets right, it gets really right, and that’s why I watch.
Next time: a villain after shiny things!
Batwoman airs Sunday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on the CW. Kate can be found on Twitter @WearyKatie.