Batwoman has had an interesting, and, in my opinion, well-written first few episodes. I like that they’re spending so much time on the central story of Alice/Beth and all the ripples from that fateful car crash. This episode gives us a lot more of the story of what happened to her in the aftermath of the accident. There’s a small bit of costumed action, but most of this episode is flashback and family drama. As Alice herself says, “Mine is a Long and a Sad Tale.”
The show opens in a morgue with the requisite bad lighting (I guess coroners never really need to see what they’re doing on most shows?). As Kate provides a voiceover wondering about how she and her sister got to be mysteries to each other, Alice is indulging in a disturbing new hobby. Luke later briefs Kate about the “Skin Pirate” and they debate who could be behind it. Whatever else you want to say about Luke, he’s good at what he does, and he solves that mystery quickly, although it’s an answer Kate didn’t really want. Kate begins prepping for a new adventure and there’s some banter about Night Vision Goggles.
In yet another hideout, Alice is treating Dodgson after his time in Batwoman’s not so tender care. Alice does seem to care for Dodgson, but she’s clearly as unstable as ever. Her threats and endless Carroll quotes (she’s got a theme, we get it, maybe lay off on those a bit?) get interrupted when Batwoman comes calling. It’s a great fight, showing some new gadgets and a collapsible bo-staff ala the Tim Drake Robin. In classic Bat-style, she goes through a lot of henchmen before capturing the villain herself.
Alice awakens in her new accommodations and seems more amused than worried. Kate tries to get some answers and Alice is evasive and eccentric. After not getting anywhere, Kate ups the ante by making a call that could bring a lot of pressure on both of them, and involves the blunt object that is Jacob Kane. Alice finally agrees to give out some information, but wants to do it in a show and tell format. Eventually, Kate reluctantly and cautiously agrees. On the drive to the countryside beyond Gotham, Alice tells Kate about the faked DNA test Catherine did all those years ago which is coming back to bite her. Alice strings Kate along with vague hints about what happened to her.
This is the beginning of the first of many flashbacks showing young Beth and the very strange father and son that found her along the riverbank. They seem nice at first, although Johnny, the son, has clearly had some physical trauma in the past. Even this continues to be short on facts as Alice keeps her statement vague but intriguing. Back at the Crow’s Nest, Sophie and Jacob discuss the newest information from Kate.
Out in the streets, Catherine breaks some hard news to Mary. Mary at first doesn’t understand, then tries hard not to understand, and then finally flees the scene. Alice guides Kate to a diner where the villain talks more about her tragic life after the car crash. Young Beth begins bonding with Johnny, and we get a mention of Bludhaven, Nightwing’s former stomping grounds, before Beth hears something on the news that contradicts what she’s been told. Things go from bad to worse when the father hauls Beth down the stairs, tosses her in a room in the basement, and Beth learns something new and disturbing about her host that ties in to the opening scene.
The episode takes a comedic turn, both with another good line from Alice, and then a drunken Mary showing up at Wayne Enterprises demanding to speak to Kate. Kate, as we know, isn’t there, but Luke is, and he bears the brunt of Mary’s inebriated tirade. Luke would love to get rid of her and go back to his research, but Drunken Mary doesn’t take hints. Or direct statements. Sophie and Jacob, on their own road trip, talk about the situation with Alice and her claims. Jacob is clearly starting to rethink his earlier blanket denials.
In the diner, Alice offers to share her burger with Kate for some more laughs, then brings us back to her time with the crazy family, who were evidently named Cartwright. Mr. Cartwright gives Beth an odd lecture about needing a purpose and Johnny’s sad history. Cartwright is polite, but absolutely not interested in freeing Beth or listening to her wants. Alice shares some of what the Cartwrights were up to, and Kate learns that she has been far too trusting of sister/arch-enemy. Sophie and Jacob get to the diner a bit later, and have a run-in with more of Alice’s Wonderland Gang. It’s a shoot-out that gets very 80’s action movie vibe. At Wayne Enterprises, Luke tries to work while Mary shows she’s not a bartender (I miss Reagan), and Luke looks like he might be considering going out the window, even without Batman’s grapple gun. Kate finds herself in a position that mirrors something earlier in the show, as Alice continues her tale.
Young Beth almost manages an escape, and does get in a desperate phone call to her sister. Cartwright catches her, ends the call, and does some serious psychological warfare on the young girl. A shocked Kate in the present remembers this, as she talks about how the GCPD wouldn’t listen anymore. Alice takes up the tale again and we see Jacob storming the Cartwright’s house, and Mr. Cartwright demonstrating one of Johnny’s talents. There’s a heartbreaking near miss of Kate almost finding Beth, although part of it doesn’t really track with what we saw earlier. In the present, Alice looks up the stairs we just saw young Kate leave by and rages about the mythical connections between twins. Alice leaves Kate in a familiar place and takes off to further her evil schemes. Jacob starts to realize where they are and tries to charge off to the rescue.
The long-suffering Luke still can’t get rid of Mary, who gets nosy about his laptop and they talk about internet searches, the Skin Pirate, and pizza. There’s also a passing reference to the events of Elseworlds. Jacob gets to the Cartwright house and has a confrontation with Alice. There are a lot of severe ups and downs in a very short time. Sophie goes looking for Kate and finds Johnny instead, which also gets violent. The whole mess ends up with a family reunion (plus one) that doubles as an armed standoff. Once again, Alice gets away. Speaking of getting away, Mary and her pizza finally leave Luke alone. He does get in a great, snarky parting line she probably misses.
Jacob and Kate talk over what happened with Beth/Alice while Kate does more of her journal to Bruce Wayne, worried that she doesn’t understand Alice enough to stop her. Alice herself reunites with Johnny, as we see them together in the present and past. They share yet more Carroll quotes and laugh about insanity.
What I liked: Batwoman herself was largely absent from the episode, and they made that work. The Mary/Luke scenes were entertaining, although I wonder how much of them she’ll remember later. What we saw goes a long way towards explaining how Beth Kane became Alice. Rachel Skarsten got off some great funny lines as Alice throughout the episode.
What I didn’t: Kate was far too trusting, too quickly. I don’t get why Jacob and Sophie didn’t bring more backup. This is a few too many times Alice manages to slip away. Themes are all well and good, but maybe ramp down on the Carroll quotes a bit here, guys.
I thought it was a good episode with some very good writing. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5.