Since Batwoman began back in October, the show has managed to tie most everything that goes on back into the main story. Batwoman stepped away to defeat Magpie and Executioner, but things have been on track otherwise, and each week we learn something new about Kate and about Alice. This week is no different. We’re faced with a pretty boring villain in the Sniper (name check), but he’s almost secondary to the story. At front and center is Kate’s relationship with Sophie. Meanwhile, Alice is plotting away and we get to know a few of the secondary characters a bit better. Even so, the end result is one of the less-satisfying episodes of the season thus far. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 1, Episode 6, “Tell me the Truth.”
“Tell me the Truth”
Kate is getting used to the day-to-day of being Batwoman. When we catch up with her, she’s taking down a sniper that has killed twice already. Despite stopping him, he gets away thanks in part to the Crows. Instead, Kate runs into Sophie, who has now had a few very close encounters with the Gotham vigilante. Unlike most comic-book characters, Sophie immediately figured out who was under the Bat Mask, potentially making her the smartest character in the Arrowverse. Take that, Ray Palmer.
Despite that, the way Batwoman is handling Kate’s secret identity is frustrating. Sophie has figured out that Kate is Batwoman, and she plans on telling Kate’s father, Jacob, so that he stops trying to kill Batwoman on sight. The writers use the idea to dig into Sophie and Kate’s past.
And that part works quite well. We learn that it wasn’t simply that Sophie accepted the plea bargain from her school and agreed to denounce her relationship, but that she and Kate had decided to stand against the tribunal and speak out about their sexuality together. Kate’s father, Jacob, intervened and pointed out to Sophie the reality of the situation for a young LGBTQ+ woman of color. It seems less like he was trying to break up the couple and more like he was trying to protect Sophie after realizing that Kate couldn’t be talked out of her decision. Also, Kate is filthy rich and doesn’t need to graduate from a military academy to get by in life the same way Sophie might.
We get to witness the pair in the height of their love for each other and to see the heartbreak of Sophie’s betrayal, and that helped us understand why Kate doesn’t trust Sophie.
Superhero identity stuff is boring
Where the show’s focus on the two starts to fall apart revolves around Kate’s secret identity. This week, a woman from Kate’s past shows up: Julia Pennyworth. You guessed it, that’s Alfred’s daughter. Apparently the two had a tryst when Bruce sent Julia to check on Kate, and Julia’s in town chasing the sniper. After Kate’s attempt to talk to Sophie about Batwoman is interrupted by a homophobic restauranteur, she gets the bright idea to have Julia suit up as Batwoman so that she can walk in on them talking.
Of course, the whole thing goes sideways in the most obvious of ways. First, Sophie gets very real with who she believes is Kate right in time for Kate to walk in. When Sophie eventually finds out—which she will—this moment will feel like a betrayal worthy of Lena and Kara over on Supergirl. And then, BatJulia gets shot, knocking her out and putting her directly into the hands of the Crows. This is such a silly, hackneyed plot that it feels like it should be below the writers, who I know are capable of better.
All of this also unnecessarily pits Jacob and Kate against each other. In the comics, Jacob is typically supportive of Kate’s adventures, and I’m sure he eventually will be, but it also feels like a rehashing of Oliver and Quentin Lance on Arrow. The serious hero and the hard-nosed cop who does things by the book, except when he doesn’t.
Knowing makes Alice more interesting
But this feels like a direct contrast with how Alice’s relationship with Kate has worked. Batwoman never messed around with the question of either characters’ identities; scenes with Kate and Alice are fascinating and tense. There’s no “who” left, only “how,” and how is much more interesting. With Sophie, on the other hand, it feels fake and forced. We’re forced to watch Sophie pretend to like her milquetoast husband because she’s afraid of being honest with herself and upsetting her life. It’s true melodrama, and it hurts both Kate and Sophie as characters.
We then contrast this in the episode’s latter moments with a short visit from Alice. We find out that Alice, loving sister that she is, is behind the killings of the scientists who created the anti-Batman gun. Her reasoning, in short, was to make sure that no one else could make a gun that hurts Batwoman. I love this. It’s a twisted kind of love that fits Alice’s modus operandi well.
Of course, I’d be remiss in not mentioning Mary, my second favorite character after Alice. There will come a day when Mary is brought into the fold to patch up Batwoman and discovers her identity in the process, and I’m looking forward to it. Despite their step-sibling relationship, Mary desperately wants Kate’s approval and Kate doesn’t understand how to respond, thanks in part to the trust issues she developed as a result of Sophie’s betrayal and Julia messing with her.
The relationship aspects at the core of this episode work really well, but the identity stuff feels hollow and often overplayed.