I’ve enjoyed Batwoman since the beginning, but a lot of the credit for that goes to Rachel Skarsten’s Alice. Alice is a well-written character and Skarsten brings energy to her that makes her impossible to ignore. She’s not the only good character, but she’s easily the best. And so when an episode tones down Alice to let Batwoman tackle some other crime, I can’t help but notice her absence. This week, Kate Kane suits up to fight an ax-wielding villain calling himself the Executioner. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 1, Episode 6, “I’ll be Judge, I’ll be Jury.”
“I’ll be Judge, I’ll be Jury”
The main thread of this week’s story combines mistaken identity and social justice into a compelling idea for a villain. We get some good and much-needed character development for Kate as both herself and Batwoman, a few steps forward for both Mary and Luke, and a reminder that one character is being sorely under-served by the story.
This week’s villain seems at first to be going after well-regarded members of the justice system. A bit of simple cross-referencing points both Batwoman and the Crows toward a man that the two now-dead men put into jail, but the inconsistent methods of murder make Batwoman think something else is going on. She finds out that a former federal executioner (an ex-ecutioner if you will) is responsible, and discovers a video file from the guy explaining his motivations. He explains that the men he was asked to execute, he realized, were not, in fact, guilty, but were the victims of profiling by the now-dead men looking for easy targets.
This is an interesting twist on an old DC villain who was more of the bog-standard criminal-killer. This take imbues him with some of the Punisher’s sensibility with more theatrics.
All of this opens up a few interesting avenues to explore. First, it gives Batwoman the chance to make a judgment call that doesn’t involve her family, and that puts her in the Crows’ crosshairs again. When she tosses a Batarang with a USB drive attached to it and it lands inches away from Jacob Kane’s face feels like a classic Batman moment, even if it does punch a plothole in the whole Batarang accuracy thing from the Magpie episode. Now Batwoman has to pursue justice that opposes the Crows despite wanting to improve Batwoman’s image.
An image problem
And Batwoman’s image does indeed crop up in two ways. On the radio is Vesper Fairchild, ready to call out Batwoman at the drop of a hat. Earlier in the episode, Batwoman is investigating the scene of an expected heist (the one warehouse in the city that happens to carry the one bottle of the thing the killer needs). There, a guard evades her questions in favor of hitting on her. Of course, Batwoman can’t just punch him out without compromising her image, and the dude wouldn’t try it with Batman (Probably. You never know.).
But it also pits Kate against her father, though he doesn’t realize it. The two battle it out in the locked, airtight chamber that’s slowly filling with the same gas used in gas chamber executions. Batwoman and Luke find a clever way out, but in the meantime, Kate has to listen to her father tell Batwoman how Batman ruined their lives. He doesn’t realize that version of reality is a lie and that Batwoman is his own daughter even as she shields him from a fireball with her cape.
Who killed Beth?
Listening to her father admit that if he stopped blaming Batman—that he’d have to blame himself—starts Kate questioning her interpretation of reality. She blamed her father for leaving Beth behind at that farmhouse all those years ago, but she’s the one who didn’t try to open the door or knock on it, and also the one who marked the house off on the map; Kate feels that she is ultimately to blame. Later, Kate and her father end up crying together over the revelations about Beth/Alice, and it seems like Ruby Rose is getting to be more and more at home in this character’s skin. The Arrowverse doesn’t spend a lot of time on tearful scenes, generally, so this scene really stands out as a strong moment for Kate and Ruby both.
Sophie deserves better
While all this is going on, Kate’s ex, Sophie, is planning to tell Jacob that his daughter is Batwoman. She gets caught in a crossfire, though, and Kate leaves her with Mary the med student in her back-alley clinic. Mary feels like a real-world person dropped into an absurd comic-book world. She knows Batwoman is definitely more dangerous than Sophie, and she knows that knowing Batwoman’s identity would be dangerous to her. I hope she finds out soon, though, and gets pulled into Batwoman’s world. She loves her step-sister so much that it feels like she deserves to know. Mary adores Kate, and it comes through whenever Mary is on-screen.
But then there’s poor Sophie. Sophie is there to cause trouble and get shot at. She’s a damsel in body armor. She should theoretically be capable, but she spends a lot of time chasing after Kate (who she isn’t supposed to have feelings for) and often comes out injured. She should be as capable of determined as Jacob or Kate, but she comes off as a desperately lovesick person with terrible judgment.
We do get a few minutes with Alice and we finally get to meet the adult Mouse after seeing him for just a few seconds last week. As usual, the minutes with Alice on-screen are some of the strongest in the episode. Mouse might be even further gone than Alice; while Alice has her sister and father chasing her, Mouse has no one but Alice. The two have a twisted relationship built on manipulation. Mouse is a tool for Alice to get what she wants (such as Bat-armor penetrating technology, in this case). Alice is a security blanket for Mouse, and he regards any attention she gives Kate jealously.
In a chilling exchange, Mouse manipulates Alice into admitting that Kate is Batwoman, and Alice seems genuinely shaken both that Mouse manipulated her and that he knows the truth. Alice tells him, though that he won’t have to share her with Kate but rather that they will share Kate. Ew.
What comes next?
Again, Alice is the best part of Batwoman right now. She’s creepy, exciting, and complex. She absolutely owns every scene she’s in. So what is the show going to do once Alice is gone? Because at the pace that thing are going, Alice’s story arc can’t go on for too much longer. Without her, the show could lose a lot of steam. That means that Ruby and the Batwoman writers are going to have to work extra hard at filling out Batwoman as a character to make her a star that can hang without help from her destined villain.
I have faith that Batwoman can do that, but it still has to prove itself in that way.