Review: Batwoman 1×04 – “Who Are You”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Holly Dale
Writers: Nancy Kiu and Denise Harkavy
Starring: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skaarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, Elizabeth Anweis, Dougray Scott, Rachel Matthews, Brianne Mowrey, Brendon Zub, Rachel Maddow (voice), Sam Littlefield
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
Batwoman 1×04: A new criminal with an obsession with all things shiny invades Gotham and the Batcave, and Alice continues to cause friction in the Kane-Hamilton household.
This week’s episode focused on the burdens of secrets and lies, regardless of good intentions. With, of course, a psychotic thief and a psychotic killer with Daddy issues.
The burden of Kate’s double life start to finally dawn on her, and it works in that it’s a progression. The voiceover of Kate’s latest journal entry perfectly bookends a woman out and proud realizing by episode’s end she has to keep some parts of herself a secret for her chosen path. Ruby and Breanne had fantastic onscreen chemistry together, and the steamy bed scenes sold a possible connection. It’s those moments that made you feel for both of them when Batwoman inevitably came between them. Breanne felt like a breath of fresh air and it’s a shame to see her character be just a passing phase in Kate’s life. But again, that probably is the point. After all, Bruce Wayne’s romantic history has had few bright spots in his life, but all come second to his mission. Speaking of, hats off to the writers for throwing in Luke describing how the Bruce-Batman dynamic worked…and didn’t. Back to Kate and Reagan, her story about how she was evicted provides the perfect reason why Kate wished to turn WE into a real estate firm. It not only shows the impact Reagan had on her, but also synchs up with where we meet Kate in last year’s crossover. Again, the events of this show take place two years prior. The story about the pearls is spot on and reveals how heartless Gotham could be if he had to buy his own mother’s stolen pearls back. Making that Magpie’s focus added that personal investment in this case.
The writers were smart in employing Katherine as a Moira Queen figure in that the ends justify the means. Without Arrow influence, she could have come across as another gold digger. Her wish to alleviate the grief young Kate and Jacob were consumed by was well-meaning, albeit morbid and wrong. Now the past has come back to haunt her, as she is the reason Beth became Alice more so than The Joker. If not for Alice herself blackmailing her, Katherine may never have come forward. Nor would she have taken such extreme measures to bury the truth. That works against her sincerity, and the scene with Jacob is very telling. Great acting by Dougray this week in those bookended moments listening to that cello recital. His daughter is alive, and his wife lied to him about her being dead and even tried to kill her. It remains to be seen what happens next to their marriage.
Mary, as previously mentioned, is becoming something of Leslie Thompkins to Kate’s Batwoman. Besides Luke, she provides the levity and comedic moments as her stepsister’s quirky oblivious sidekick. Week by week, the writers are showing her ingenuity, such as this week by using the anaesthetic to interrogate Alice’s goon. (I sincerely hope we learn how Alice managed to brainwash so many “rabbits” into submission) Also, through Mary we see Kate use a voice modulator to lower her vocal range, a complaint from last week’s confrontation with Tommy Elliot. The fact that she’s a Bat fan and fine with getting her hands dirty, I don’t see her being completely out of the loop for long.
The design of Magpie harkens to that short-lived CGI Beware The Batman! series, right down to her signature “Shiny, Shiny.” The investigation into her crimes also provides comedic moments from Batwoman (i.e., her actual allergy to feathers, the Batarang issue rant by Luke via radio, yanking Magpie down via Bat grapple), as well as another “worlds colliding” moment for Kate. Making her actually a genius bomber as well as a photographer/thief worked to legitimizing her threat level. Her cover as a professional photographer – a person hired to take pictures of these rare, expensive items she can never own – speaks to the essence of the original concept. A Post-Crisis creation, she first appeared in Man of Steel #3 as a museum curator that lost her mind. Rachel Matthews’s performance shows that perfect duality, that damaged psyche that it’s her right to take back from privileged society. She nailed that characterization. There was no need for a fist fight. It was a battle of wits and aerial maneuvers. What works in this episode regarding Magpie is that they break away from the Arrowverse pattern of an entire installment devoted to seeing the villain of the week’s behind the scenes moments. Alice has that covered so we don’t need to see any fill-ins.
Ruby’s accent slipped again during the voiceover at the end. And the journal entries shouldn’t start with “Dear, Bruce.” It sounds too Felicity. Also, the writers are pushing Sophie and Kate too close together and making it too convenient for a reconciliation. Although Meagan’s presence is not unwelcome, it’s providing cringe-worthy moments. You want this woman to make up her mind as to what she wants, but it’s the wrong kind of want. The Kate-Reagan relationship ended too quickly. Also, for the first time I’m criticizing the marketing team because they not only got the title of this episode wrong, but they released eight photographs from last week’s episode “Down, Down, Down.” The fight choreography is toned down – probably due to Ruby’s neck injury – and it works against the final product.
I’m giving Batwoman 1×04 a 4 out of 5. We see Batwoman start to form as a presence as well as a weight on Kate’s shoulders. The price you pay to do this kind of work is not just torn ligaments and bruises. It’s an emotional toll, a social toll, and even a psychological toll. The weight on Bruce has been alluded to, and Kate has only he to look to at this point as how to do the job properly. Again, however, Sophie being pushed into Kate’s orbit works against the plot and feels cringey. Great character development in the Catherine-Jacob relationship and also the new relationship Mary’s building with Batwoman. I sincerely look forward to next week’s episode where we FINALLY find out what happened to Beth to lead her down this path. Happy Halloween in advance, Bat-fans!