“Living this double life is a sacrifice…but our city is worth it.”
Through the ups and downs of the first few weeks, one thing Batwoman has consistently addressed is Kate’s discomfort at taking over as Gotham’s protector in the shadows. “Who Are You?” further emphasizes this as, for the first time, Kate’s role as vigilante interferes with her personal life.
For all their issues—often in the constraints of budget and/or time—the CW superhero genre shows have all done an adequate job in presenting the dilemmas these heroes face when trying to keep their secret lives hidden from the ones they care for. Kate’s issue is two-fold; not only is Sophie suspicious of her possibly being the woman under the cowl but her nascent affair with Reagan spreads Kate that much thinner. Based on what we’ve seen of her character (and been told through her narration), Kate is an honest and straight-forward individual. Therefore, the act of constantly lying about her behavior does not come naturally. She’s a terrible liar—which, if we’re talking about admirable traits, is not the worst one you can have—and for someone as keen on reading people as Reagan, it eventually causes a rift between the would-be couple. It’s a shame because not only is Reagan an interesting character (methinks she has her own secrets) but the chemistry between the two is pretty darn good. It may not eclipse the ever-growing rapport Kate shares with Luke, but it far exceeds the awkward and forced attraction the show has been trying to push between her and Sophie. The sooner these two former lovers move on, the better show will be.
That’s not to say Sophie is a bad character; point of fact: she has the potential to be a relevant staple on Batwoman. The key here is not to continue to have her (and, by extension, Kate) ride this trope of the lover who has sort of moved on but still has strong feelings about her ex. The moments of discomfort between the two this week worked well enough and felt organic in the larger narrative, but I’d caution the writers not to focus in on this too much as there’s plenty to do with these two than to continually have them making moon-eyes at one another.
Being the most consistent episode in Batwoman’s early freshman campaign, “Who Are You?” is not without issues. The biggest culprit of the series continues to be the action pieces. Unoriginal, slow-paced, often done in a way where it’s difficult to tell what’s going on, these sub par scenes take away from the impressive nature Ruby Rose cuts when she’s all suited up. Her two fights with the cookie-cutter antagonist Magpie (Rachel Matthews, Happy Death Day, Looking For Alaska) were thankfully brief, and just as forgettable as Magpie and her feeble excuses on adopting a life of crime. Unless there is more to this character than meets the eye, it’s better off she be nothing more than a one-off rogue. Still, the action is something that needs to be cleaned up if this show is to reach its full potential.
Falling behind Kate’s struggles is Alice discovering Catherine’s role in getting Jacob to stop looking for her. Blackmailed by Alice to deliver a top-secret weapon project lest the truth come out, it’s a refreshing change-of-pace when Catherine comes clean about her lie regarding Beth to Jacob. We don’t spend that much time with him after getting the news but one can only imagine the pain (and guilt) weighing down on the man now that he knows his wife knew all along. Whether this helps him reconcile with Alice remains to be seen but the family drama continues to add to the show’s depth.
Even with the stumbles here and there, each week Batwoman adds more to its ever-strengthening foundation. Ruby Rose gets more comfortable as the lead each episode while her chemistry with Camrus Johnson continues to be a particular highlight for me. Add to it Rachel Skarsten’s impressively psychotic Alice as the mainstay antagonist along with some, thus far, decent arcs for the supporting cast and Batwoman may, if given a chance, prove herself worthy of the cape and cowl.
From the Journal of Kate Kane
- In addition to Kate wrestling with the mental gymnastics of leading the double-life, she’s also trying to gain her footing on the technical. It would have been easy (and a major mistake) to have Kate instantly be proficient as Batwoman but thankfully she’s learning on the job. The faux pas this week with the batarang was a laugh-out-loud moment—even if they pseudo ret-conned it to be a programming mistake—but, like Barry learning how to be the Flash, one of the best parts of Batwoman thus far is watching the character navigate the steep learning curve of becoming a part of the Bat family.
- Even in Catherine’s moment of honesty with Jacob, it wasn’t lost on me how she redirected his inquiry into the weapon her company was developing. It’s almost a given that this secret weapon will become part of a later arc though just what it is, remains to be seen. I also wonder if it has anything to do with Alice’s plans for this Mouse character…which begs the question, what the heck is Alice’s plan?
- I love how this series has been able to subvert my expectations. As I mentioned after the pilot, the social media buzz (and trailer) did a disservice to people like me who, while accepting of a bit of social justice and politics in our shows, do not want an overabundance of it. The actual series has handled things to this point with a deft touch, never lecturing, rather allowing the characters to work things out for themselves in a way that comes off naturally and not like some sort of preachy lessons on how we should act (see Supergirl). There are instances of pointing out class disparity—both Magpie and Kate have lines about the invariable difference between the haves and have-nots—and there is certainly a chance the series goes harder towards a more ideologically-derived arc, but I can only judge the show on what it’s done so far. It may be balancing act but, to this point, the creators have done a bang-up job in keeping the series fun but with moments of poignancy sprinkled in.