One of the best parts about Batwoman thus far has been the dynamic between Alice and Kate. The sisters, separated at age 13, grew into wildly different people thanks to their experiences, and watching how they alternately clash and come together has been a pleasure. This week, that comes to a head in the wake of Kate’s murder of August Cartwright. The man who traumatized Alice is dead, and that seems objectively like a time to celebrate. But Kate is Batwoman, a superhero. She holds herself to a higher standard, and what follows is difficult for Alice and Kate alike. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 1, Episode 16, “Through the Looking-Glass.”
“Through the Looking-Glass”
Last week, things went sideways when Kate strangled an already-wounded August Cartwright in a fit of anger when she found out that he’d not only kidnapped and permanently traumatized her sister but also carved up her mother as well. This week takes place in the aftermath of Kate’s rage. Jacob, Kate, and Alice are working together to bury August’s body.
The exchange is tense. Alice is elated. Her long-lost sister just killed her personal devil. Kate, meanwhile, knows that she crossed a line, and so does Jacob. And Jacob is with his two daughters, still not entirely clear on how one of them is alive after having seen her dead body in the morgue. Alice lets her family know that, now, she knows the location of a dead body covered in their fingerprints. Kate goes out to do some of her Batwoman work and, still in shock from her surprise rage, she almost chokes out a random criminal.
Alice needs help
Alice, meanwhile, finds her Wonderland Gang dead to a man, with a note from her “friend from Coryana.” That’s a fictional nation in DC comics, and the one from whence Alice’s cure-all flower came. At the same time, Luke finds out that the trial of the man he thinks killed his father, Lucius Fox, is being revisited that very day. I think this episode lays the groundwork for a bunch of stuff that could last not just through the end of this season but into next.
After Alice finds her crew dead, she goes to Kate for help finding Mouse. Kate reluctantly agrees; the two almost manage to get ahold of the Fear Toxin-addled Mouse before the Crows intervene and take him to Arkham. Back at Kate’s bar, Alice confesses that she put Cartwright in front of Kate–with that Mommy Dearest prompt–so that Kate would find out about her mother and fly into a rage just like Alice had against Cartwright’s mother. Kate attacks Alice, and the two fight and end up on the floor. Alice tearfully thanks Kate for killing the man who tormented her for so long, and Kate eventually concedes and agrees to help Alice break Mouse out of Arkham.
Kate kicks ass
The breakout itself is a blast. Alice and Kate drop into Arkham in rabbit masks. It’s as easy to get into as it is to get out of. There’s no lack of logic here, the comics, movies, and animated shows support this entirely. They get in and split up, and Kate kicks tons of ass. The show is often so busy giving her villains that can get past her suit that we rarely get to see Kate fight off groups like she does the Arkham guards.
There’s some great physical acting in this sequence, especially on the part of Rachel Skarsten as Alice. The two are wearing these identical bunny masks, but even without seeing their hair they would still be trivial to tell apart because Skarsten does so much acting with Alice’s body language. Alice informs her every movement with whimsy. The militaristic Kate is reserved right down to how she expresses feelings.
Once the pair gets to Mouse, though, Kate locks the door behind Alice. It’s a devastating betrayal, and one that I for once didn’t see coming. The two seemed to be finding some common ground as sisters. I knew it couldn’t last, but it was fun to see them working together. Alice trusted Kate completely, and the betrayal hits Alice like a ton of bricks. Her tears are painful and believable, especially when Jacob walks in and she realizes her whole family was in on it.
Luke gets some agency
While this is happening, the Judge finds Reggie’s conviction questionable enough to deserve retrial, thanks in part to Jacob Kane pushing the hearing forward. Sophie is investigating the murder and finds the shopkeeper from the crime dead in her apartment. Sophie herself finds a laser sight on her chest, only for someone to save her in the nick of time: Julia Pennyworth. Pennyworth’s reappearance seems really convenient here, which I’ll get into in a little bit.
Disappointed by the Judge’s decision, Luke confronts Reggie. Reggie is honest with Luke, and he’s just starting to see that Reggie might not be the killer when an unseen sniper kills Reggie with a bullet to the heart, the same way Sophie nearly died. Jacob almost suffers the same fate, too. Julia finds out about Reggie’s death and goes to check on him, where she runs into her ex, Kate. The two kiss.
But who is Julia Pennyworth?
Between Julia being conveniently available to save Sophie and showing up to make out with Kate, it feels to me like she’s manipulating some key players. She might not be, admittedly, and the fact that she’s a confirmed Pennyworth makes that seem even more unlikely.
There’s a lot I like here, though. The show is setting up a truly adversarial relationship between the two. The confusion and heartache thus far as been believable, but Alice’s actions went beyond the pale, and it makes sense that Kate would be at a point where she’s willing to manipulate Alice to put her away. Meanwhile, Luke now has something to do other than be Kate’s gender-swapped Felicity. In the comics, Luke becomes Batwing. I don’t think that’s likely to happen anytime soon, but that he’s getting more agency could eventually put him down that path the same way that Roy Harper eventually took on his destined role as Arsenal on Arrow. At the very least, he’s an active player the same way that Sophie is.
Kate’s decision to put Alice behind bars also seems like a big step forward for Kate’s relationship with her father, and that seems like a step toward him finding out that she’s Batwoman. Again, pulling from the comics, Jacob acts as a big supporter for her work there, and I want to see that relationship shift here from the adversarial “Oliver and Police Captain Lance” relationship they have going on right now.