The Arrowverse is doing a bunch of doppelganger stuff over the last couple of weeks. Supergirl had extra Brainys, then double Winns, and now Batwoman has twice the usual Beth Kanes. Was this planned or is it just happenstance? The end result is that we’re getting to see a lot of CW actors flexing their Actor Muscles. Beware spoilers for Batwoman Season 1, Episode 11, “An Un-Birthday Present.”
“An Un-Birthday Present”
Last week things left off on a cliffhanger as Kate walked into her office to find her sister, Beth–not Alice–greeting her. Things pick up right from there. Kate attacks the doppelganger, even going so far as to try to peel off her face. Beth pepper sprays her and runs off, terrified. Kate eventually finds her, and she’s surprisingly accepting of the whole Crisis thing. She doesn’t know anyone on Kate’s Earth, and she happens to be a full-on astrophysicist, so she’s primed for the idea.
Across town, Alice is in Crows’ custody. Jacob warns Sophie not to interrogate her, but Alice’s bestie Mouse has taken a pair of high-profile hostages and acquires a third when he manages to crash Kate’s bike. Sophie’s interrogation, as ill-advised as it is, gives us some deep insight into Alice’s origin story.
We already know that young Beth was kidnapped by a man named August and kept in his basement as a captive friend for his disfigured son, Johnny. We know that Beth and Johnny develop a friendship that transforms the pair into Alice and Mouse.
But this week we watch that happen. I wanted to say that actress Rachel Skarsten carries this episode, but Ava Sleeth, who plays young Beth, does her part too. Johnny brings Beth a kitten to take care of. They manage to hide it from August for a while, but it’s hard to hide a kitten in one room, and soon the deranged doctor is killing the kitten in front of them (but mercifully off-screen). He doesn’t miss the quality stitching on the sweater that Beth made for the cat, though, and asks Beth to help him stitch skin for him in his ongoing facial replacement project.
Johnny and Beth have developed a language centered around Alice in Wonderland, and communicate to each other in code. Johnny tries to protect Beth, but can’t. Ultimately, the trauma pushes Beth under the proverbial water. We watch as Beth closes her eyes, and then Alice opens them and deems Johnny her “little Mouse.”
This is all delivered in that slow-boil kind of creepy where you know the bad stuff is inevitable and all you can do is watch it happen. This isn’t a tone we often get in the Arrowverse, and Batwoman really nails it.
A clever plan
Back in the real world, Kate wakes up in a car with the other two hostages as Mouse splashes it with gasoline. One of the other hostages, it turns out, belongs to Gotham’s current police commissioner. Thankfully, it’s not Commissioner Gordon, because this guy is a dingus. Despite his son having been kidnapped, the Commish won’t turn on the Bat Signal, and it becomes clear pretty quickly that it’s because Batwoman came out as gay.
Knowing they have little time and few options, Beth talks Luke and Mary into dressing her up like Alice and giving her some stage direction. She does an admirable job, but the language that Alice and Mouse developed clues Mouse in. Mouse stuffs Beth into the trunk of that gas-drenched car. That gives Kate enough time to get herself free, though, and she easily takes care of the Wonderland Gang, accidentally impaling Mouse in the process. Though, not before Mouse can light up the night.
Kate saves Beth and gets Mouse into Crows’ custody just in time for Alice to pull a garrote wire and kill two Crows guards. She shows how easily she outclasses even trained soldiers in combat, and then mentally outclasses even top Crows agents like Sophie.
Gothamites protest the Commissioner’s stance on Batwoman, and Batwoman makes an appearance to show her gratitude; this marks the only appearance of the Bat this week. With her sister back, Beth and Kate celebrate their birthday with Luke and Mary, but Beth collapses just as Alice does the same. Something about the connection the two have, and the unique trauma that destroyed Alice’s identity is causing some kind of interference.
There are some parts of this episode that I really like. Alice’s backstory is awesome, and I’m glad they’re spending so much time on it. The more time they spend with Alice, the more every scene between Alice and Kate means to both characters and to the story. Alice is definitely one of the Arrowverse’s best villains. On the other hand, did we need a third doppelganger plotline in two shows in two weeks? But then I also care about Beth a lot more than Evil Winn or Extra Brainys, so I have to give Batwoman credit for that.
And while I’m all for Crisis giving room for these shows to do weird stuff, I don’t want the list of weird stuff to just be “doppelgangers,” and only that.
I’m also left genuinely curious as to what the solution for this interference is. Does Beth have to die? Can she go to Europe and just give the interference enough space? What happens if they get into the same room?
I’m continuing to enjoy Batwoman thanks to some very good performers and characters, but I hope next week has a bit more, you know, Batwoman.