Review: Batwoman 1×03 “Down, Down, Down”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Dermott Downs
Writers: Holly Henderson and Don Whitehead
Starring: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, Elizabet Anweis, Dougray Scott, Gabriel Mann, Brianne Howey, Greyston Holt, Rachel Maddow (voice), Michelle Lefler, Ava Sleeth, Sam Littlefield
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
While Kate grapples with both Alice knowing her secret and Gotham believing Batman’s returned, Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Tommy Elliot comes home with an agenda.
The theme of masks dominated this week, as all major female players struggling with duality got equal billing. But let’s first focus on the Villain of the week.
When news of Tommy Elliot was joining the cast, I had doubts that they’d do his character justice. Created by Jeph Loeb in 2003’s “Batman: Hush” story, his backstory with Bruce was complex and left to interpretation. The sequel penned by Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini added the dimension of a complex relationship with his mother. The fact the writing team had reinvented him as a real estate developer rather than a surgeon left me hesitant to buy into their version. I feared that they would water him down. This episode proved me wrong. Gabriel Mann gives a perfect duplicitous performance as Bruce’s “bestie,” and peppering his dialogue with Aristotle quotes and how he knows so much about Bruce is great fan service.
Providing Kate with a fleshed-out criminal with a grudge against her cousin was the final push she needed to go full Batwoman. The sequence of Luke providing the aesthetic differences – nice symbolism behind the choice of red – with Kate’s overlayed “journal entry” to Bruce was a great declaration. With Tommy’s crimes and social media, Kate realizes the burden she has put upon herself and the level of commitment it requires. Maintaining the journal narrative is brilliant; it’s a move that Arrow writers should have maintained beyond the second episode. Great to see Luke actually showing competency as a quartermaster after that lackluster Bat-computer operation last week.
This week we got to see more of the relationship between Sophie and her husband, Tyler. Meagan’s performance in the training, beyond the flashbacks driving her forward, is telling of self-denial. The kiss she gives her husband is the performance within a performance. Sophie chose to pretend to be straight instead of bi for the sake of her career and a cookie-cutter marriage. And, in keeping the duality, she tells Kate to move on while she clearly has not, as evident in that awkward elevator scene and her glare at her ex with newcomer Reagan.
The mystery of how Beth became Alice is deepened this week, and how twisted she intends for her relationship with Kate. Like the Joker, Rachel’s whimsical performance leads the viewer in one direction, yet veers in another at a moment’s notice. Deliberately failing Kate’s test and showing little remorse sends a clear message: She will not compromise herself. Her breaking into the Hamilton-Kane penthouse serves the purpose of revealing to her that while Jacob had moved on, Kate never did. The rage in her voice towards her father, and the decision she makes to come to Kate’s rescue demonstrates she can separate the two. The second roof conversation between sisters suggests that while Alice comes off as a trickster villain, she may also be in self-denial. But, as the title suggests and she herself earlier, the girl she was is buried very deep beneath the blood and the madness. Moments like this provide the audience, and Kate, with a vague notion of redemption for this character. In that sense, Alice relates more to Two-Face than the Joker, and traditional Batman fans can understand the distinction. Good idea implementing flashbacks for Alice and reserving Ava Sleeth’s services as Young Beth. The notion she is tormented by her memories also creates sympathy for her. Given the Lewis Carroll reference, and how a notorious Batman villain was almost name-dropped, is it too much to assume Beth had a run-in with a certain Alice-obsessed psychopath?
While Elliot was handled very well, reducing him to a villain of the week is a waste. They could have reserved Hush for the second season’s big bad. His story worked in that he was a friend-turned-foe that had first earned the trust of the reader. Mann is a complete chauvinistic schmuck from the get-go. What could have been an extended story became a filler for Alice’s threat and cheats the fans. Revealing everything in one episode is cartoonish at best. This was the first live-action adaptation of Hush and it could have been handled with more respect. While admittedly better handled than the recent animated adaptation, it felt like a shallow grab for attention from the writers. Also, Tommy encountered Kate and then Batwoman later, yet still failed to make the connection? That level of coincidence is too transparent to fool anyone. Ruby is also having difficulty masking her Australian accent at certain points. Also, the introduction of a possible love interest and the melodrama of a triangle feels tired. What’s also tiring is seeing Jacob continuously in doubt over Alice’s true identity. The security detail Sophie requests for Mary is very obvious and works against her moving on herself.
I give this week a 3.5 out of 5. While we finally had the unveiling of the fleshed out costume, wasting a complex villain like Tommy Elliot loses a lot of points. And admittedly it’s tragic since the comic variant is just as engaging as this show’s chief antagonist. Rachel and Kate have excellent chemistry and Rachael Maddox is killing it as Vesper Fairchild. It’s just the melodrama and needless obliviousness of Kate’s father.