Kate’s wish to have her sister Beth back is answered thanks to a Crisis-born anomaly and Sophie tries reaching for a spark of good in Alice to prevent tragedy.
For years now, all Kate has wanted was to have Beth back in her life. Not the twisted and murderous version that is now Alice, but her sister. With all the trickery she’s seen from Mouse and Alice, it’s understandable why, on first seeing Beth, Kate nearly throttles her. It’s not until Luke positively ID’s the woman as Beth and Kate does her own research that she finally accepts that this isn’t a Wonderland Gang trick, but a version of her long-lost sister in the flesh. As much of a surprise as that is to Kate, “An Un-Birthday Present” may be an even bigger surprise, taking the top spot as the best non-Crisis Batwoman episode of the season.
“My wish came true.”
After tracking down a confused and weary Beth (no one recognizes her), Kate gives her the 4-1-1 on the entire Crisis event. Beth takes the news rather well and, as we’ve already seen with the lives of other dopplers in the Arrowverse, only one thing separates her fate from that suffered by Alice. Instead of jumping out of the car, Beth’s Kate risked life and limb to save her sister. Hearing this twist of fate is a gut-punch to Kate who’s always blamed herself for not doing more. Hearing that she did something different in another world to save Beth presses even more guilt onto Kate’s shoulders. Ruby Rose shines in creating that tangible pain in Kate you can’t help but empathize with her. But as much as she wants to beat herself up, Mouse’s determination to get Alice back by kidnapping the sons of both the commissioner and the mayor forces Kate — with a bit of tough love from Luke — to refocus on the real problem and get with the heroics… until she’s blindsided by Mouse and finds herself being used as a pawn to free Alice.
While Kate is working through Beth’s arrival and then captivity and potential death, Sophie’s doing everything she can to probe Alice in hopes of discovering some spark of the girl she once was to still be there. Instead, any potential redemption Alice showed in the first few weeks of the series is all but gone. Rachel Skarsten is at her best this week, toning down some of Alice’s more over-the-top and distracting embellishments (think Jared Leto’s Joker) and channeling a much more menacing version of the character than we’ve seen thus far. While her off-the-wall nature makes sense, it diminishes Alice to a certain point. If Skarsten maintains the balance she achieved this week, it makes for a much better show going forward.
The narrative theme of the week is guilt, not just with it resurfacing with Kate and her perceived failure to save Beth. As Alice so deftly points out, Sophie lives with a guilt of her own making. Too afraid of showing her true self in military school and continuing the lie even after that, Sophie’s life since then has been a façade she convinced herself was the proper life to lead. How ironic it is that Alice exposes Sophie’s truth, albeit for the wrong reasons. Based on Sophie’s interaction with Kate after Alice threatened to kill her, it’s only a matter of time before she professes her feelings to Kate. Hopefully, Kate rejects her, not because of their past but because I’m more interested in Kate’s journey, one that a rekindling a relationship with Sophie lessens. A secondary reason is that they’re missing that knockdown, drag-out chemistry needed when two leads are in a romantic entanglement. Should Batwoman continue in the direction I think it will, reuniting Sophie and Kate will be a disservice to the series charm.
Not bogging itself down too much with last week’s overt political agenda “An Un-Birthday Present” showed that Batwoman can be a decent show when it focuses on story. In fact, nothing the show has done before this week has ever had me concerned about a character’s safety the way it did when Beth was trapped in the trunk of a burning car. Considering how this week ended, she still may not be safe—both Alice and Beth experience head-splitting pain—but, at least for the moment, she lives to see another week. As for Batwoman, the series moves forward and hopefully away from this incessant need to make statements rather than impactful stories.
From the Journal of Kate Kane
• I may not be Sophie’s biggest fan, but even I didn’t like how wrong they did her this week. With Jacob Kane incarcerated, she’s leading the Crows and while I think she’s unworthy of that role, it’s hers for the moment. So why have her constantly checking in with Jacob Kane for advice on what to do? There is nothing wrong with seeking advice but having a character do it to the level of Sophie strips them of agency and any real strength. Add to that her inability to keep tabs on Alice (granted, Kate’s had the same issue) and from a power rankings standpoint, Sophie’s at the bottom of the list.
• Ruby Rose continues to excel as our titular heroine. We may not have seen Batwoman in action but, and this may be even more important, we saw Kate face her biggest disappointment. There’s no mistaking that Rose (with Camrus Johnson a close second) has been the most consistent actor on the series and she only solidified that this week. In a show that has maintained an overall B and C-level acting, it’s vital that the protagonist pick up the slack. Rose has done that so well that I often find myself ignoring some of the show’s lesser moments, from both a writing and acting standpoint.