After much anticipation, Batwoman is finally here. As many of us have heard from various headlines and hype, this first arc will hearken back to the acclaimed Batwoman run, “Elegy” by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams. If you’re familiar with the story and some of the later themes, you’ll want to grab your easter egg basket, because there are many. If not – well, buckle up and enjoy this trip through the looking glass.
This is a full recap of the episode: AKA beware of spoilers.
“Stories, like the people who tell them, aren’t always what they seem.”
We open up with narration from Ruby Rose as Kate Kane. She alludes to the fact that not everything is always the way it appears to be; it’s an opening line that’s, honestly, pretty solid considering how things play out. Kate is diving into the frozen depths of a lake – probably for some sort of training – only to realize she has no way out.
Now, one of this episode’s many flashbacks: Kate recalls a traumatic memory from her childhood involving a car accident and the resulting death of her mother and sister. Again, if you’re an “Elegy” fan, this scene reads almost exactly like its comics counterpart. Though there is one major difference; Batman arrives on the scene, only to sort of save the day. We’ll return to this scene a few more times as the show develops, but it doesn’t answer many questions.
From there, Kate flashes back to the frozen pond. She busts out, revealing that apparently, yes, it was a training exercise, albeit with a small improvisation from her quirky mentor.
“Keep it on! Keep it on!”
Now, to the old homestead, the heart of crime itself, Gotham City. A mob of notably middle to lower class citizens chant to keep the light on outside one of the city’s notorious rich-people-only hang outs and we get our first glimpse, though not introduction of Kate’s dad, stepmother and stepsister, who are basking in the fame and of Kate’s old flame, Sophie. Kate explains that a) Batman is gone and b) that her dad has founded crow security to fill the vigilante void.
We then learn that the light those common-folk want to keep on is the Bat-Signal. I thought it was especially poignant here that Gotham’s wealthy folk don’t seem to care about the light’s presence, while the working class, those who are more likely to be affected by crime, desperately wanted to keep it on.
But, as the show says, more important things! The festivities are, naturally, interrupted by Gotham’s latest baddy (batty?). Batty Baddy. Alice makes her first appearance, in an excellent costume riffing off of the comic and sends her threat out to the city. Cue chaos.
Sophie goes after a cronie, only to be outnumbered and captured in spite of her best efforts. Concurrently, a “girl who talks too much” gets in touch with Kate via walkie-talkie and it’s then that we officially meet Mary, Kate’s stepsister (and one of my personal favorite characters). It’s now that we get another quick flashback showing Sophie and Kate kiss – and then Kate makes the call to return to Gotham after being away for so many years of training.
“You take after your cousin. You’re female Bruce Wayne.”
So, the queen returns to her castle. Commander Jacob Kane gives a rousing speech to his team of Crows that Agent Moore (Sophie) must be found no matter what. Kate arrives on the scene and has a conversation with her dad that definitely hints at some cracks in their relationship. Despite her father’s promises that she could work for him after her training, he turns her down. In another flashback, Kate and Sophie’s relationship builds – and falters as she’s expelled out of the academy for being an out lesbian.
With that in mind, Kate heads for her cousin’s old stomping grounds, Wayne Tower, in search of more clues to Sophie’s disappearance. After recalling playing there with her sister, Beth, she’s discovered by Luke “Guy in the Chair” Fox, who tries his best to apprehend her, but fails. Kate logs onto the computer with a funnier than it should be password, finds what she needs to find, and heads out on her merry way.
“Curiouser and curiouser.”
Kate tries to take the info back to her dad and the Crows but – surprise! – seriously it’s a surprise party, courtesy of stepsister Mary and stepmom Catherine. Tally up an Alice in Wonderland reference and cue a time skip, back once again to Sophie, who cracks under the pressure of expulsion and heart-wrenchingly denies her love for Kate.
Back in the present, Kate meets up with her dad to analyze the footage she nabbed from Wayne’s computer and discovers a clue pointing her to an old orphanage she and her sister used to explore. She heads over to kick some butt and take a name or two, but is overwhelmed and knocked out.
It’s Alice’s voice who wakes Kate up. The batty baddy monologues, telling Kate that Jacob Kane is a bully in need of punishment and, while she’s at it, tells Kate she’s essentially worthless in her father’s eyes. “I’m Alice. How do you do?” she asks before giving Kate another whack over the skull.
The next time Kate comes to, it’s Mary’s voice she hears. The seemingly surface-y stepsister, it so happens, is actually a back alley doctor providing health care on the cheap. Hell yeah, Mary. Also, another Wonderland ref.
Fixed up, Kate heads out to meet up with her dad again, this time fueled by the mind games Alice has started playing with her. Kate admits her anxieties about their relationship and leaves again for Wayne Tower.
“Find your own way.”
Observant as she is, it doesn’t take Kate long to uncover the Batcave and for Luke to plead with her not to go any farther. In a slow burn of a scene with bats swirling all about, Kate understands. Thanks to an explanation from Luke, she learns the truth of Batman’s failure to rescue her family (though it’s still kinda weird?) and that he regrets their deaths still today. They go deeper down the rabbit hole and Kate finds the suit. She gives Luke the order to fix it up for her with a very memorable line and, just in time, Mary calls with info about Sophie’s whereabouts.
Cut to the movie at the park, where the city jams out to pop tunes and Jacob Kane, in unparalleled TV cop wisdom, points out a dangerous looking building where Alice happens to be holed up with Sophie and cronies. Alice gets in touch with Commander Kane to reveal her delightfully moustache-twirling evil plan, giving him a choice (and TWO more Wonderland references). Kane can either save Sophie or the people of Gotham.
But Batwoman presents a third option. She swoops in, fighting Alice one on one, hoping to take her out before Sophie plummets to her death. She does plummet – but Batwoman is there to save her. They share a steamy stare and Kate grappling-hooks back into the sky, where Gothamites see and mistake her for Batman.
The show’s falling action zooms out to show Gotham’s reaction to the Caped Crusader’s supposed return as kids and adults alike are inspired and Commander Kane scoffs and says “he’ll die in some spectacular fashion.” (And my favorite, “We Batlieve”) Then, the moment we’ve been waiting thirty-eight minutes for – the reunion of Sophie and Kate. It’s touching and even a little exhilarating until Sophie’s dumb husband turns up and ruins everything. Maybe he’s not dumb. Sorry, Sophie’s husband.
At least, though one of Kate’s rocky relationships has a satisfying resolution. Dad admits that he pushed her away, hoping to keep her safe from the danger in a patronizing sentiment only a dad could utter. He admits his selfishness, and even apologizes for it before offering a spot on the Crows.
Kate, though, has found her own way. In a final monologue, she finds herself back in the Batcave. She was running toward everything that didn’t want her, searching for a place she is wanted in spite of it. “Some see fear, others hope. I see the freedom to be myself, to play by my own rules,” she says.
Then, in the final moments, Kate puts the puzzle together; uncovers the first clue in her first case. She finds her thought-to-be-dead sister Beth through the looking glass and calling herself Alice.
After I finished my first watch of this episode, I was a little lukewarm on the show. Although, having written this recap and watched a second time, I have to admit I’m fully in on Batwoman. Her, Mary and Luke already have great chemistry together, and Rachel Skarsten’s performance as Alice is equally so. Yes, there’s cheese aplenty in this show – but I am far from lactose intolerant.
See you next week for my recap of episode two: “The Rabbit Hole.”
(ANOTHER Wonderland reference!)