Batwoman 1.11 – An Un-Birthday Present

Marie and I decided a couple of weeks ago to take Batwoman out of rotation after episode eleven for the rest of this season, because we are completely sick of Alice and Mouse. And man, I wish we’d have stopped last week, because it was a really good episode and this time, we’re back to more endless, gruesome flashbacks from Beth’s captivity. Making things worse, this time we had the incredibly fascinating development of the Good Beth from one of the other infinite earths (Black Lightning’s, maybe?) merged into this one and learning that everything she knew is upside down and she needs to find a place here in a world that does not know her. THERE’S YOUR STORY. THAT IS INTERESTING. CREEPY KIDNAPPER GUY KILLING KITTENS IS NOT.

Initially, I figured that we’ll look at the season finale and possibly resume the show next season if Alice is retired. We also might stop in if I hear about a good guest star, an interesting crossover, or some Gotham City character like Dick Grayson or Barbara Gordon or Mr. Freeze or Egghead showing up. However, in light of yet more Silence of the Lambs serial killer crap in this flashback, I’m also going to cross my fingers that this grisly tone we see in the “basement of horrors” gets retired permanently before the producers choose to view any of those classic characters through such an ugly prism.

Batwoman 1.10 – How Queer Everything is Today!

The above photo is not the finest this blog’s ever provided, but the scene is excellent and otherwise lacking in a good two-shot. I thought the whole adventure, up to a point, was very good, but they knocked it out of the park with this scene.

In “How Queer Everything is Today!,” a prep school hacker, who has been revenge-outed by her ex to her strict and terrible parents, arranges a fake runaway subway train as a prelude to demanding five million dollars, a “prank” which she hopes will collect her enough blackmail money to start her life over. This ends up colliding with Kate’s dual identity when, stopping the train, she ends up being saved from her own failed grappling hook by a super-dreamy cop called Slam Bradley. Photographed by a million people, the city thinks this is a wild meet-cute. Luke’s in favor of this. The more people who see Batwoman as straight, the less likely anybody will think she’s really Kate.

But in the end, and after this gut-punch of a scene where Batwoman confronts the hacker, Kate realizes that Batwoman needs to be honest. There isn’t a superhero show with a gay lead on the CW-equivalent of the Arrowverse; all that the hacker can hope for is to be “represented by an ancillary character on her favorite TV show.” And honestly, if, with an extra twist or two in the middle, this scene was the climax of the episode, it would be a triumph. Unfortunately, Alice has to get involved. There aren’t any words left to describe how utterly bored we are with this villain. This was the most disappointing derailing yet.

But our son had words. He wasn’t as put out as the grownups with the villain, and wanted me to tell all you readers “I liked it all the way through and then, at the end, one big giant question mark.” Because at the end, there’s a delightfully strange cliffhanger in which Kate’s sister Beth – not Alice, who is (for now) in custody – arrives as if she only went away a semester ago. Is this some “Crisis” fallout and the Beth Kane from one of the other two worlds merged into Earth-Prime has been inserted into this one? Is it Clayface? Stay tuned…

Oh, some other observations:

* Whoever’s running that prison needs to lose their job for putting Jacob Kane in general population, I say.

* Even though the long-running Batman-Joker rivalry explained in earlier episodes means that this can’t be the same Gotham timeline as the three Bat-films with Christian Bale, there was once apparently an incident with the Scarecrow and subway trains similar to what happened in 2005’s Batman Begins.

* That is cool as heck that Kate called on Kara, since they’re on the same planet now, and asked for a Catco Magazine cover scoop for Batwoman to come out. However, I’m sorry, but I have to question the “stop the presses” requirements to get that arranged, because the episode suggests that was the cover feature maybe two mornings after this episode’s climax. And according to the “Winter 2020” date on the cover, it’s a quarterly magazine!

Batwoman 1.9 – Crisis on Infinite Earths (part two)

The second episode of this crossover was much, much better than the first… eventually. It starts with an endless all-talk opening about the new goal to track down seven “paragons” who will save the day in the end, but things get a lot better. I particularly enjoyed how the stakes kept getting higher with each cut to what the heroes on their missions were doing. The structure was very similar to the time-heist second hour of Avengers: Endgame.

Anyway, this time we got to catch up with Tom Welling, from Smallville, as he stares down Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor. Brandon Routh gets to play Superman again, but this time his Superman has gone down the same path as the Superman in the popular comic series Kingdom Come. There was a fine fight between the Routh and Hoechlin Supermen, and a subplot involving John Constantine (played by Matt Ryan) leading some of the other heroes to a life-restoring Lazarus Pit.

But the meat of the story came with Kate and Supergirl tracking down the Bruce Wayne of one of the Infinite Earths, finding him visually similar to the Batman from Kingdom Come who wore a steel rod exoskeleton to make up for all the bones in his body being broken in combat. But this isn’t Kingdom‘s honorable Clark, it’s one of those gone-crazy Batmen from comics that invariably have to kill Superman with kryptonite. This Bruce is played by Kevin Conroy, who’s been the voice of Batman in hundreds of cartoons, and his appearance left me hoping that when Batwoman finally introduces us to the sane Bruce of Kate Kane’s world, they invite Conroy to play the part.

It’s mostly splendid and unpredictable and done with a lot of love for the characters, but whoever is in charge of the music is set on stealing the show. This time, we get the themes from the nineties Batman cartoon and John Williams’ legendary music from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies dropped in at key intervals. How could you not smile?

Batwoman 1.8 – A Mad Tea Party

There’s a fairly amazing one-take/one-shot bit in this episode where Batwoman beats her way through a lobby of goons. Other than that, none of us really enjoyed this installment much at all. It ends, like I fear much modern television ends, at a crisis (no pun intended), with one major character dead and several relationships strained to breaking point, nobody ready to trust anybody again, and everything left in limbo until things pick back up in January.

Isn’t eight episodes enough for one non-superpowered villain? I’d really have preferred it had this one ended with Alice either arrested or killed, wiping the slate for next week’s crossover, and then we could start a new villain arc in episode ten. So color me disappointed.

Photo credit: BatwomanTV.com

Batwoman 1.7 – Tell Me the Truth

The comic book stuff this week is far less important than the relationships, but “Tell Me the Truth” does introduce us to Alfred’s daughter Julia Pennyworth. Seems a little unlikely to me that she’d be yet another super-expert in unarmed combat, but there you go. Julia’s part of some super-secret organization tracking this week’s villain, who goes by the name The Rifle. Why they didn’t just use Deadshot I couldn’t tell you, especially since he gets away at the end. And he’s working for some other Big Bad Supervillain – apparently called “Soofiyah”? – who has some very bad blood with Alice.

Anyway, with Julia in town, Kate at last has a chance to throw her ex Sophie off her trail, by having Julia dress as Batwoman while Kate’s in civvies. And that’s what this episode is really about: Kate and Sophie finally letting the past stop controlling them. They broke up six years ago with a lot of very bad feelings that neither ever addressed and, through flashbacks and a discussion that gets interrupted an absolutely criminal number of times, including once by the bigoted owner of the restaurant where Kate’s trying to finally open up, they finally resolve things and move on. The episode even gets a happy ending with Kate buying the derelict building across the street from the restaurant and intending to open a gay bar there, with her stepsister helping with the design.

We had a really good discussion of the story with our son afterward. He’s understood that there are gay men and women and is an accepting child, as we’ve hoped. He just doesn’t like seeing anybody doin’ any smoochin’, period. But of course he’s young and while he understands and accepts people for who they are, he has not understood why Kate got kicked out of military school, why Sophie acts so ashamed, and why that restaurant owner was so snippy about Kate’s sneakers. So we had an upbeat little chat about how important it is to be free to in a loving relationship with people who accept you, and how important it is for other people than white guys to have representation on adventure TV shows. I also added that Supergirl got some praise early on because Kara was adopted, and foster families need representation on TV too. That’s more important than wondering why that guy who was so much like Deadshot had such a silly name. Why wasn’t he Deadshot?

Batwoman 1.6 – I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury

Tonight’s episode of Batwoman was much, much better, largely because the focus was on another villain and another case and the resultant fallout, and the endless Alice story was consigned to a small running subplot. The Executioner, played by Jim Pirri, appears to be an original-for-the-show creation, and no, I wouldn’t say that he’s the most original idea ever seen in adventure TV. But there are some very topical elements to him as well, and the very real issue of crooked DAs, cops, and judges conspiring to prosecute easy cases against poor minorities is one worth highlighting.

One thing we can’t help but notice is just how bad Kate is at superheroing. She’s fine with fighting and she knows to save civilians, but we got confirmation this week of two more characters knowing her identity. We also got confirmation that the Penguin had served as Gotham’s mayor at one point – that was the plot of the funniest episode of the ’66 series – and that the Joker of this Gotham either went by or goes by the name Jack Napier, which was the name that the Jack Nicholson version used.

Also this week, probably inevitably, Batwoman has to save Jacob Kane from a deathtrap while he growls and snarls about vigilantes and Kate probably prayed that this story wasn’t going to finish with a hat trick and have him learn her secret as well. It’s a good scene, but I guess I’m too old fashioned for liking a Gotham where the cops are glad to have superheroes around. Some other police commissioner – not Gordon, surprisingly – is mentioned this time. I hope that he and the GCPD are on Batwoman’s side, so our hero can have somebody in charge of this dump who appreciates her.

Batwoman 1.5 – Mine is a Long and a Sad Tale

One problem with television series that rely on serialization and constantly churning subplots is that it’s occasionally tough to let the narrative just stop long enough for the next episode to feel like it naturally takes place a few weeks later. Episode five of this story is apparently set long enough after episode four for Batwoman to briefly meet the Flash and Green Arrow and to tell them to get outta Gotham, because Luke briefly mentions an Arkham Asylum breakout, which we saw in Arrow last year. On the other hand, the subplot with Kate’s stepmother and sister seems to have had a break of maybe two days, so it doesn’t fit like a glove.

I’d really been hoping that the show was going to reveal something a lot more fanciful about Alice’s origins than what this episode shows us. I was thinking the Mad Hatter and hypnotism, which would have been a million times more pleasant than the intense and very frightening kidnapping that we learn about in this story. Alice’s kidnapper is a horrible “just an ordinary guy” serial killer-type, a mundane and scary real world evil. His son, whose name is Jonathan Cartwright but who goes by Mouse, was one of the Arkham escapees, and he and Beth, renamed Alice, grew up together. Mouse, whose face is scarred and who has the talent of perfect mimicry, is based on a Batvillain of more recent vintage called Jane Doe, and who went by “Jane Cartwright” when she was used in Fox’s recent Gotham TV series.

Because Beth’s kidnapper is so humdrum and ordinary, full of the banality of evil instead of comic book grandiosity, it put a chain of events together that had our son briefly get upset. The elder Cartwright tells Beth that he will kill anyone who comes looking for Beth, and it will all be Beth’s fault. So Beth stays silent when she had the chance to call out for Kate. Our son rebounded, but that scene hit him hard enough that both of us parents were worried. We asked whether he’d like to shelve the show. He’s emphatic that he likes it and wants to watch more. I’ll be happier if the show would stick to jewel thieves and bombs in elevators. Or bring the Flash back through so Kate can snarl at him again. Maybe a Frosty Freezy machine or something.

Kate and her dad share a good scene right at the end. I sincerely hope that everybody’s resolved to stop treating Alice with kid gloves from here on and stop letting her get away because she might be Beth and everybody wants answers instead of an arrest. Everybody knows, so let’s take out the Wonderland Gang, okay? After all, the show and all its subplots have to have enough of a conclusion very soon in order to close the curtain and pretend a few months have passed so it can catch up to all the other Arrowverse programs and tie in to “Crisis on Infinite Earths” with them next month.

Batwoman 1.4 – Who are You?

This week’s villain is a D-lister called Magpie, who I probably only saw in the comics just once, thirty-odd years ago, when she was introduced. She was created by John Byrne and is a jewel thief who uses explosives. I liked how this version of the character uses 3-D printing to make her bombs. Her television version looks a lot less ridiculous than the one in the funnybooks.

I confess that Alice’s level of violence is enough to make me a little uncomfortable. This time a rival – and I’m simplifying this spectacularly because if you want episode recaps, I’m sure the AV Club will help – sends three thugs to try and muscle in on the villain, and one of them reports back to his boss missing a finger. The scene where he loses it is really visceral and awful, certainly not made with any eight year-old viewers in mind, and left us all wincing.

We’re the sort of parents who don’t object to the smoochy stuff – Kate spends a few morning minutes in bed with a cute girl she met last episode, but their relationship quickly hits the skids and is probably finished by the episode’s end because Kate has no idea how to tell convincing superhero fibs – but violence that intense and that personal is enough to make me cringe. They could have made the point much more effectively without being so graphic.

Batwoman 1.3 – Down Down Down

Better. This show badly needed another villain. Proving that time marches on, it really, really seems like just yesterday that some pals with whom I used to game in Atlanta were telling me about this completely amazing year-long epic that introduced a major new Batvillain called Hush, played here – without the supervillain name – by Gabriel Mann. Yesterday. That story started seventeen years ago. I never read it myself, but fans really like the character, and I’m glad they’re going to dip into Batman’s rogues gallery. Alice is already boring me.

Does Batwoman, in the comic books, have much of her own collection of rogues yet? On TV, The Flash used to do a fine job bringing in several other villains for one-offs and recurring threats while the season’s Big Bad made occasional appearances; I’m glad it looks like they’re ready to do the same here.

The climactic fight this time features Kate in her proper costume at last. I like the believable way the story addressed the huge baggage and expectations that came with Kate impersonating Batman, with Hush – who had, with the apparent offscreen help of the Riddler, deduced Bruce’s identity – demanding that Bruce show himself now that Batman seemed to be back. So with a little things-happen-very-fast-on-TV magic, Kate puts some color on the super-kevlar suit to show Gotham that Batman isn’t back; she’s her own person.