One of the things that’s been impressing me about Batwoman is that the writers are taking time to develop the subplots. It’s easy for hero shows to turn into “villain of the week,” but that hasn’t really been happening. As things have been unfolding, the various stories are actually progressing. A great deal changes in this episode, which is a bold move for not quite halfway through the first season. Living up to her Lewis Carroll obsession (do we know why that’s a thing for her?), Alice decides to have “A Mad Tea Party.”
Once again, the show opens with one of Kate’s journal entries to her missing cousin. She talks about hope and optimism, and choosing to believe she can still reach Beth inside Alice’s fractured psyche. This is an odd framing device for Batwoman attacking one of the Wonderland Gang (do they roam around on the streets in those costumes?), stealing something, and grappling away as the cops roll up. The masked crimefighter brings her new acquisition to Luke, who manages a decent few lines of snark before she tells him what she wants. He also comments on how hard she is on some of the equipment.
Following the clue Luke found, Kate goes to confront Alice yet again. The mad villain is having a very stereotypical suburban housewife moment, which is entertaining. The sisters debate recent events, and Alice gives her own odd spin on what she’s been up to and why. Showing a bit too much faith, Kate accepts this at face value and leaves without a fight. She’s going to regret that.
The out of town Commander Kane calls in and leaves a message as he stops for gas and snacks. I guess he’s been under observation and sloppy enough to not catch it as he gets jumped by some familiar assailants. He does all right to start, but loses to numbers. Trying to keep at least some good things going, Mary stops by the club Kate is in the process of renovating and tries to appeal to her sister to come to the big gala tonight. Right there, we know what’s going to happen. Big parties in comic books, and especially in Gotham, never go well or smoothly. Kate handles this whole thing particularly badly, and Mary leaves, full of hurt and grief about her family. Following up on what she heard, Kate storms off to have some words with someone, but things aren’t as they seem and she leaves confused and unsatisfied.
Jacob awakens in his new accommodations, and isn’t a big fan of the décor or service. Alice is on hand to taunt him and make a lot of cutting comments about their family history. The Commander makes some heartfelt, grief-stricken confessions, and appears to actually touch Alice with what he says. Then again, she keeps prattling on villain mode, so who can tell? At the Wayne Enterprises offices, Kate fumes at Luke, drinks, rants about past injustices, and then comes to an important realization. She makes a quick phone call to confirm her suspicions, and realizes there’s a lot wrong with this picture. Kate sends out a warning, but Sophie gets it just a bit too late as she and Tyler fall prey to part of Alice’s scheme.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Vesper Fairchild’s occasional voiceovers, but she’s back, making some good points about the gala. On the way to the affair, Mary lives up to her vapid social media influencer life. The maddened Kate finds Alice yet again, who comments she really needs to relocate. Kate presses for details and gets the usual indirect hints. The villain sends Kate off on a mission of mercy with some warnings about who she’s going to save. Kate feels even worse when she gets where she was sent and finds indications she’s too late.
Luke is tapped into various surveillance cameras, and gives some grudging respect to some of the bad guys. He learns a few things, although it might be too late to help much. Catherine Hamilton-Kane gets called up on stage to be given a special award, which is when things go to hell. Her teleprompter gets hacked, and she’s forced into giving a very different speech than she intended, encouraged in part by Alice, all dressed up and lurking in the auditorium. As this goes worse and worse, Sophie and Tyler have to both escape from where they were left and deal with some enormous relationship complications. In all fairness, they are entirely Sophie’s fault for various lies and omissions of hers over the years, much like the rift in the Kane family comes from Catherine.
Speaking of, her coerced speech mentions both the Joker and the Riddler before she passes out on stage. Mary takes charge of the medical issues, and the emcee tries to keep everyone calm, which gets harder when the Crows all pull their weapons and threaten the attendees. Just as things are looking really bad, Batwoman shows up and starts wading through the Crows. This is not going to help her fraught relationship with that organization. Tyler and Sophie finally get free, and he asks her some hard questions. He doesn’t hear what he hoped to, but give the man points for dedication, he stays on task. Jacob apparently picks this time to argue with Commissioner Forbes, who is a minor character in Batman lore.
Backstage, Alice joins Mary and Catherine. The madwoman is definitely a villain, there’s no mistaking that, but she makes some really excellent points about Catherine’s conduct over the years, personally and professionally. Alice is taunting and menacing. I feel really bad for Mary in this situation. She’s caught in a mess that’s not her fault at all, and it’s devastating for the young woman. Batwoman keeps fighting her way through the various hallways while the Catherine and Mary’s situation gets worse, much to Alice’s amused delight. Showing she’s not the ditz she pretends to be, Mary figures out an important piece of what’s going on. Alice poses a nasty dilemma to the two and then leaves, because it’s villain tradition to not stick around for the victims to die most of the time. While mother and daughter argue impassionedly about what to do, Batwoman catches up with Alice. Even now, the caped hero has some conflicting emotions, and gets taken off-guard when Alice gets some help.
Catherine admits she knows some things Mary had been keeping hidden and they have a very emotional scene. Finally, a decision gets made and, at the risk of using a cliché, things will never be the same on the show. A very confused Jacob wakes up someplace different from where he lasts remembers being, with several other changes having taken place as well. Kate calls and does her best to clue him in, but it’s too late and the next part of Alice’s plan ensnares Jacob, and probably gives the police some satisfaction.
Switching back to her civilian identity, Kate tries to touch base with who she can get to, but they are not in a receptive mood. I don’t blame them, really. They ask Kate a very stinging question that the hero is going to have to wrestle with for a while. Sophie tries to come to the aid of her boss, but is dealing with resistance and red tape. Things get worse as Tyler very calmly confronts her, points out some things, and walks away. The last few scenes deal with Kate realizing what a mistake she made, and us checking in on a few cast members. Kate has clearly changed her mind about Alice at this point. The final scene is the repeated link we’ve seen before that serves at the introduction to Crisis on Infinite Earths, the big crossover that’s about to start.
What I liked: They really shook things up this episode, and did it well. Alice’s plan is sick and twisted, but makes sense, especially from her point of view. I can understand where she’s coming from. Sophie is getting hit in the head with her own bad choices, and she richly deserves it. I feel very bad for the two innocent bystanders here, Mary and Tyler. None of this is their fault. I liked the mention of Mayor Adkins and them finally showing us the current commissioner, Forbes, which is a nice deep cut from Bat-mythos. I really wonder now what happened to Gordon. It was nice to get the confirmation of Joker in this world.
What I didn’t: Luke is getting marginalized more and more. I just realized writing this that we have no idea where either Luke or Kate live, and it seems like an odd omission. With so much emotional drama and chaos around her, I wonder how Batwoman will do with the Crisis that’s about to come calling.
This was another excellent piece of a really well done story. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.