written by Kate Danvers
This episode, we meet another villain from the comics who’s slightly altered for TV. Wait, who?
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
We start with a flashback to 2011, where a young woman named Duela is getting ready in front of a mirror. Unhappy with her appearance, she breaks the mirror and uses a shard from it to cut her face.
In the present, Sophie runs into Mary at The Hold Up and they have coffee together. At the same time at Wayne Tower, Luke and Kate are starting their day. Luke and Mary both notice Kate’s and Sophie’s respective chipper moods and find out about the rooftop kiss. Sophie doesn’t know Batwoman’s identity, though, which Luke and Mary have concerns about. Luke warns Kate that a relationship puts Sophie in danger. But Sophie is (or was) a Crow! They’re the most elite private security firm in the okay yeah, I see your point.
The Crows still suck.
Alice reads her obituary in the newspaper and isn’t happy about her legacy. I’m actually surprised too. Biggest supervillain currently in Gotham gets taken out and it’s not headline news? Later, she kidnaps a psychiatrist to talk through her rage at August Cartwright. Then she has him killed.
A lawyer visits Jacob at Crows HQ. His client, Reggie Harris, is the one who saved Jacob from Dodgson in prison, and also happens to be the man convicted of killing Lucius Fox – perhaps wrongly convicted. The lawyer suggests that someone in the Crows helped frame Reggie for Lucius’ murder.
Batwoman meets Sophie at her place. She tries to break it off with the “I have enemies” and “it’s dangerous being close to me” excuses, but she keeps forgetting her number one villain knows who she is and knows all of her loved ones and by not knowing that she’s Batwoman, those loved ones are put in more danger because they don’t know who’s coming for them or why. Sophie presents the “let’s make out anyway” defense. They get interrupted by Sophie’s mother coming for a visit.
Elsewhere, a masked slasher attacks a social media influencer with a box cutter, and yep, “influencer” is still the word in that sentence that makes my skin crawl.
Since this is the second influencer to be attacked in the same way and since Mary was big in their social circles, Kate goes to see her sister. The not-murdery one. The still alive not-murdery one, I mean. Stepsister! That’s the word I’m looking for. Mary gives her the rundown of who stole whose nose and points her to Doctor Campbell. She also offers to be Kate’s sidekick in an “I totes don’t know you’re Batwoman” way.
Sophie’s mom questions her about her marriage and job. Sophie brushes off the first by saying she fell out of love with Tyler, and the job came down to not agreeing with how the Crows do things anymore and liking the way Batwoman does things better. Her mom was a fan of Batman, but is no fan of Batwoman. Sophie says it’s because Batman wasn’t gay and her mom doesn’t deny it.
Look, I went through like twelve jokes about Batman and Robin during the ’50s and ’60s but nothing felt right. Short version: Sophie’s mom can go fuck herself.
Batwoman persuades Sophie to ask Doctor Campbell about the victims, since Campbell wouldn’t know that Sophie doesn’t work for the Crows anymore. This is super illegal even if the guy you’re questioning is a kidnapper and murderer in disguise. But together, Sophie and Campbell figure out that the slasher is carving the same scars into others that she has and that can only be one person: Duela Dent.
Did you know the latest version of Duela Dent to appear in the comics was one that called herself the Joker’s Daughter and was wearing the real Joker’s face (which he had cut off)? Then she injected the Joker’s blood into her veins and had the skin mask sewn onto her actual face.
I don’t know if this is better. I hate both versions. At least pre-New 52 Duela was just a name-dropping poser claiming to be the daughter of Joker, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Riddler, Penguin, Two-Face, Doomsday, Doctor Light, Punch, and Jewelee. Not all at once, I mean separately at different points in her career. She wasn’t so delusional she thought she was some offspring of a supervillain polycule…at least I don’t think? Hang on, how do you even pretend you’re the daughter of Doomsday?
Kate investigates Duela’s home. Duela is the niece of “beloved A.D.A. Harvey Dent” so someone hasn’t had his supervillain origin story. Duela has, though – she was operated on by Campbell to fix her self-inflicted scars, but didn’t consent to the surgery. She had also been in and out of psychiatric hospitals before and after. Kate finds Duela’s hitlist and a yearbook with a picture of “Myrtis Dinker” circled. Hearing a noise downstairs, Kate finds Duela’s mom with her face cut open. Duela attacks but can’t fight Kate, so she slits her mom’s throat, forcing Kate to stay behind to help her while Duela flees.
August has Mouse tied to a chair. He shows Mouse the article about Alice’s death. Then he puts an oxygen mask on him that’s connected to a tank of some kind of gas.
Kate, as Batwoman, goes to ask Mary about Myrtis Dinker. Mary recognizes Myrtis and says she changed her name to Veronica May. I love how confident Mary is in this scene now that she knows she’s talking to Kate. She’s talking to Batwoman exactly how you’d expect someone to talk to their stepsister who’s in her superhero disguise. After Kate leaves, Mary catches Alice raiding her medical supplies and finds out about the blood transfusion that saved her life…and that Alice knows who Batwoman is.
Kate tracks Veronica down, but she’s already been abducted and taken to the plant where her cosmetics are made. She and Sophie head there to stop Duela, who is dangling Veronica above a vat of acid. We get a little of Duela’s motivation: When girls like Veronica have plastic surgery it’s all good, but when Duela cuts herself open with a bathroom mirror she’s institutionalized. Kinda disappointed that for the real psychological problems alluded to here, it all boils down to another harmful portrayal of mental illness.
Anyway, Duela drops acid. Hang on, that’s not right. *checks notes* Ah, no, she begins to drop Veronica into the acid.
The dynamic duo arrive to save the day. Sophie stops a fleeing Duela while Kate saves Veronica. Afterward, Kate finally talks Sophie out of their fling by saying they can never be more than this if she has to hide behind a mask and keep the relationship a secret. Sophie realizes that by being involved with a woman wearing a mask, she’s just wearing a mask, too. And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? She had no problem being with Batwoman because no one had to know. Batwoman, ironically, was the safer option over Kate. Sophie has some stuff to do.
Kate calls in the GCPD to take care of Duela, but Alice gets to her first. Sorry, there was a subplot about Alice finding out about Duela and, based on a kidnapped psychiatrist’s advice, using Duela as a buffer of sorts so she wouldn’t be afraid when confronting August. The GCPD find Duela, but her face has been removed and she claims she’s now “perfect.” At Dr. Campbell’s office, Alice, wearing Duela’s face, walks in and abducts Campbell/August.
Jacob discovers that the Crows made a large payment to the convenience store where Reggie supposedly killed Lucius Fox. And since the cameras at the store mysteriously weren’t working that day, Jacob thinks the Crows covered something up. He leaves Sophie a voicemail asking her to come back, saying her questioned her decisions regarding Batwoman but he never questioned her integrity. Uh…yeah, you kinda did? That’s why you suspended her? Whatever, he’s crawling back because he realized how much more the Crows suck without her.
Sophie tells her mom that the reason she broke things off with Tyler wasn’t because she stopped loving him, it was because she was never in love with him. Holy crap, she finally admitted it. She tells her mom about her first love at Point Rock and her desire to find that love again. Her mom tells her to find “him” but changes her tune when Sophie says it’s a “her.” It, uh…doesn’t go well, and Sophie’s mom tells her that she’s disappointed in her before she leaves. I don’t even know if we ever got a name for Sophie’s mom, but I now loathe that character.
Mary tries to talk to Kate about why the latter is day drinking, but Kate is as secretive as ever. Then Mary says some of the realest shit I’ve ever heard from a supporting character in a superhero story:
MARY: “Do you remember the day that you came back to Gotham? I threw you that welcome-home party, and then six hours later I was stitching up your shoulder, telling you that I owned an illegal clinic?”
KATE: “Of course I remember.”
MARY: “It never once occurred to me that you would tell my mom or your dad that I was living a double life. Or that you’d try to shut me down, or tell me that I could get sued, or kicked out of school, or arrested. I knew I didn’t have to worry about you judging me. Because I trusted you. So I hope one day that you feel the same way about me.”
Mary Hamilton, you are too good for all of this secret identity bullshit. I know it, you know it, and the look on Kate’s face at the end of that scene tells me she knows it too.
At Alice’s hideout, she unmasks August and demands to know where Mouse is. August says he’ll tell her where she can find him. In the final shot, we see Mouse still tied to a chair being dosed with a gas that the camera reveals to be Scarecrow’s fear toxin.
Wow. I thought August was giving Mouse an anesthetic to prepare him for some twisted surgery – that’s almost worse somehow, knowing what that gas does to people. Guess we’ll find out…in a week? Hopefully a week. The release schedule lately has been ridiculous.
I don’t know what more I can say about this one. Duela Dent was always a strange character in the comics and the New 52 really didn’t do her any favors, but this? She’s not sewing a discarded skin mask she found in a sewer to her own face, but they didn’t exactly do much better. Body dysmorphia and self-harm are real problems that people struggle with without turning into kidnappers, murderers, and slashers. I didn’t like seeing those thrown together and not be confronted, but instead used as another flavor of the (and pardon my language, I hate the word too) “bitch be crazy” trope.
After the Batman franchise’s long and frankly horrible history of portraying mental illness, I hoped this show would be better about this sort of thing.
Next time: Mouse gets gassed, Alice gets gassed, everyone’s taking a hit from Jonathan Crane’s hookah.
Batwoman airs Sunday nights at 8 Eastern/7 Central on the CW. Kate can be found on Twitter @WearyKatie.