Batwoman 1×20 Review – Work with what you have

Batwoman -- ÒO, Mouse!Ó -- Image Number: BWN120B_0450r -- Pictured (L - R): Rachel Skarsten as Alice and Sam Littlefield as Mouse -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

How do you deliver a solid finale when a worldwide pandemic shuts down your production? Well, I guess we can look toward Batwoman. The CW’s latest Arrowverse show has struggled throughout its freshman outing, but it manages to deliver a killer finale that leaves us with some great twists and cliffhangers. Spoilers follow for Batwoman Season 1, Episode 20, “O, Mouse!”

“O, Mouse!”

While this episode ends up being a solid finale, it sure doesn’t look like it’s going to start that way. An Arkham escapee wielding dual machetes hops on the Gotham tramway and decapitates a guy scissor-style. Jacob Kane is hot on his heels, and nearly loses his own head before Kate jumps in in civilian garb to save him.

We learn shortly after that the terrifying man is Tim Teslow, a former football player nicknamed the Titan. Tim “The Titan” Teslow is played by Terrence Terrell. I’m not kidding.

Teslow feels less like a villain and more like a random killer of the week, and he’s there more to act as a metaphorical statement than to be a literal character. As Kate investigates, it comes out that the brainscans meant to keep him from becoming permanently injured playing football were falsified to ensure the success of Gotham’s football team, the Gotham Goliaths. Teslow is a stand-in for the many real-life football players who have watched CTE-related injuries, steroids and the side effects of both wreak havoc on their lives. He’s the worst-case, fictional scenario; the human victim of corporate concerns, turned from a gentle man to an unfeeling killing machine.

But thanks to the necessity of an early finale, Teslow becomes something more than a heavy-handed (if still important) metaphor for athlete exploitation. Teslow is not only a huge guy that is literally built like a linebacker, but his condition also means he doesn’t feel pain. Both Jacob and Batwoman end up bested by him, and the latter is unable to stop him from paralyzing his own brother in an act of revenge.

A short-lived alliance

Kate, as Batwoman, tries to get Jacob to team up to stop Teslow. He agrees, of course. But when it comes time, he and the other crows pump Teslow full of lead so that they can surround Batwoman and try to arrest her. This is the one part of this storyline I’m still not sure about. The idea of the bitter cop relentlessly chasing the selfless vigilante, declaring war, saying she’s as bad as Arkham inmates, it’s all just so thoroughly trodden. I do like that the Crows’ logo, a symmetrical bird in profile, is disconcertingly similar to the Bat symbol, because of the whole “We’re Not So Different You And I” thing.

Even so, it leads to a great scene with Kate and Mary, where Kate talks about how her father’s betrayal hurt more than all the violence she’d endured. She talks, tears rolling down her face, about how she’d imagined herself unmasking in front of her father, essentially coming out to him a second time, and how it hurts to know what she might never be able to do that. Ruby Rose and Nicole Kang have some really good chemistry. Now that Mary knows about Kate’s night job, she can be emotionally involved in it, and I really believe the two have a sisterly bond.

This is the first moment that makes this whole thing feel like a finale–the showdown between Jake and Kate, and the emotional fallout that follows.

Single-minded Focus

Elsewhere in Gotham, Alice is still reading Lucius’ journal with his magical Tony Stark glasses down in the sewers. Bats swarm the pair, which probably isn’t a metaphor or anything. Then, Hush shows up, barking about how Alice owes him a face. Surprisingly, she agrees; this sets off the other two big events.

Alice goes off in search of materials for Hush’s new visage but makes a pit-stop at the University in a very cute pink hoodie. She stops by a geologist’s office to inquire about a glowing green rock and ends up clubbing the poor guy over the head with a pretty boring-looking rock when he doesn’t have the information she wants, though he does tell her that the last-known location of the rock was in Wayne Tower.

Good Night Mouse

batwoman 1x20 review

While all this is going on, Mouse is becoming increasingly agitated by Alice’s insistence on seeking revenge on Batwoman. Her single-minded focus is putting the happy life they’d dreamed up in grave danger, and he wants that more than he wants Batwoman’s head. When Mouse finally says he’s leaving, Alice suggests the two try a “trauma-bond exercise,” acting very cute the whole while.

And it’s not long before Mouse has blood dripping from his nose; Alice would rather see him dead than off on his own, and he dies in her arms as she sobs. This scene is as heartbreaking as it is messed up, thanks in large part to Rachel Skarsten’s performance as Alice. She’s definitely the MVP this season. The most disappointing thing here is that the show doesn’t linger on her crying for very long. It felt like we got a split second to watch that before it cut to whatever plaque psoriasis or migraine medication commercial followed, and that cut deeply into the intensity of the moment.

Bruce, is that you?

But Alice is a mission-oriented woman, and when we cut back to her, she’s sewing on Tommy’s face. He looks at himself in the mirror, horrified. For a second, I was expecting Sloth from Goonies, but I knew what was really coming. I just didn’t think the CW would be brave enough to do it. Thomas Elliot now has Bruce Wayne’s face. Check out that link for our thoughts on why that’s a huge move for the show to make. Why Bruce Wayne, though? For Alice, it means that Tommy can walk into Wayne Tower and get the one thing she needs to kill Batwoman: Kryptonite.

Kryptonite: it’s everyone’s weakness

batwoman 1x20 review

I know what you’re thinking. She’s an earthling. Apparently, in the Arrowverse, Kryptonite is a massively hard substance, and it’s the only thing that can pierce Batwoman’s bulletproof suit. I’m not sure how canonical that is, but I like the way it ties together the fates of Supergirl and Batwoman. It’s a good reminder that while Kryptonite is a weekly point of discussion for Supergirl and her friends, the rest of the world knows very little about it. The geologist that Alice murders doesn’t know Kryptonite by that name, and Luke believes the shard he has to be the only shard on our planet. We, dear viewer, know better. But then, we’re privileged with information Gothamites aren’t.

Kate eventually reveals her own shard of the material, and explains that she has to talk to Supergirl, who trusted her with the rock, before she can destroy it in good faith. My hope is that this will lead into a lower-key crossover that isn’t a big headliner event but rather a mid-season aside.

None of these season finales are going to be perfect, but Batwoman managed to fit a lot in; Mouse’s death, Bruce Wayne getting a face, and the emotional moments between Kate and Mary all made this episode feel like the big deal it’s supposed to.