Review: Batwoman 1×08 – “A Mad Tea-Party”
Director: Holly Dale
Writers: Nancy Kiu
Starring: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Camrus Johnson, Elizabeth Anweis, Dougray Scott, Sebastian Roche
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
Kate and Alice continue their mental duel while Alice and Mouse prepare their “Mad Tea Party”; Mary invites Kate to an impromptu event hosted by their parents.
The midseason finale blew away all expectations with its complexities and twists worthy of Wonderland. Let’s go through this as rationally as possible.
This week saw all relevant relationships endured a seismic shift. Kate’s perceptions of the possibility of Beth’s redemption and salvation are slowly and irrevocably dashed away by Alice’s vengeance. Hers and Alice’s verbal jousting is paralleled with hers with Mary on the subject of Katherine. The element of choice rings strongly in the writing. Choices on Katherine’s part, Jacob’s, and even Kate’s led to the creation of Alice. And choices are what ultimately lead to Katherine’s downfall, Jacob’s arrest, and Mary’s distancing herself from her stepsister. In the case of Sophie and Tyler, choices led to a marriage where only one person is all in while the other one isn’t. Of course, Alice’s choices to exact her revenge – the catalyst for all collateral damage this week – rob her of any remaining sympathy from her father and sister. Kate’s willingness to strangle her sister nearly to death, and the later destruction of the photo of her and Beth as kids speaks volumes before Jacob’s vow to end her permanently in prison. She has not gotten that physical with Alice since the pilot, not since learning she was her sister. The writing is clever to show the gloves being torn off gradually with each and every offense. Her journal entry to Bruce perfectly bookends the before and after. Ostracized by her stepsister, and burned by his daughter, Kate and Jacob Kane are left in a truly dark place worthy of Gotham. And Batman.
Hats off to Rachel Skarsten this week. No longer the puppet master behind the scenes, her character had fantastic scenes with all major players. There is a noticeable psychological defense that is shown through her performance. She leads both the characters and the audience – for lack of a better word – down the rabbit hole in her aloofness and misdirection. However, it’s only when she is in the presence of those she holds responsible for her torment when she is her most honest. It’s clear that Beth is using the persona of Alice as a coping mechanism and weapon to exact her ends. She and Kate, in her role as Batwoman, are not that dissimilar. It’s only when you hear the pain in her voice, and her declaration that she doesn’t want to stop, that you get brutal honesty from her. There is a definite Stockholm Syndrome effect in her personality where she wishes to exact revenge on the family led to give up on her rather than her actual captors. The whimsical part of her psychosis is her way to befuddle and prey on her victims. Rachel’s scenes with Dougray – as the REAL Jacob – and Elizabeth are the highlights this week beyond the usual hero-villain battle. The writing is clever to show how brilliantly she enacts her revenge beyond just a hack-and-slash job. She has ruined her father and stepmother personally and professionally. It cannot be denied that the poisonous drawing out of Catherine’s apology stood out the most. Elizabeth delivered a brilliant performance as a person truly remorseful of her actions, however misguided. Her character, beyond the Joker, had been directly responsible for Beth’s transformation into Alice. Hands down, I can see Rachel getting awards for her work this year on the show. She leaves the stage wanting more.
And now, the Crisis. Tying in the upcoming crossover via Tom Cavanaugh’s Nash Wells finally gaining entry into the Monitor’s tomb – if you’ve been following The Flash – the perfect teaser. The abruptness of the crossover’s entry into the story right after the midseason finale is perfectly timed to throw everyone off. This is a situation that has to involve everyone, regardless of present circumstances.
One word: Tyler. You and your wife have been drugged and placed in a soundproof room while your boss is vilified, and yet all you can focus on is your wife’s ex-girlfriend. The collateral damage should be enough to put your focus on damage control, not your relationship. While this was significant, the breakup does not fit in with the overall plot. While a curve ball, it feels like a cliffhanger that is painfully wedged in.
I give this week a 5 out of 5. Brilliant writing, astounding performances from all involved, and amazing teaser to “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” The midseason finale is an episode that either makes or breaks a series in general. This one, in particular, keeps Batwoman flying high.