Warning: this review contains full spoilers for Batwoman: Season 1, Episode 14!
For a while it seemed as though Crisis on Infinite Earths was just the shot in the arm Batwoman needed. No Arrowverse series improved quite so dramatically in the aftermath of Crisis, with the emphasis on Alice’s refugee doppelganger doing a lot to address some of this series’ biggest flaws. Unfortunately, that momentum seems to be waning the farther we get from the crossover. Batwoman is beginning to feel more and more like its 2019 self again.
A lot of that has to do with the renewed emphasis on Kate and Sophie’s romance – never one of Batwoman’s strong suits even on the best of days. The whole idea of Sophie carrying on a clandestine affair with Gotham’s newest costumed vigilante just seems silly, to say nothing of her inability to recognize the bottom half of her ex’s face. There’s something to be said for the need to give Kate a victory of some kind after everything she’s suffered in recent months, but there have to be better ways of accomplishing that than this painfully awkward and very fleeting relationship.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=batwoman-grinning-from-ear-to-ear-photos&captions=true”]
The one advantage here is the series is finally able to give Sophie some badly needed character development and finally give viewers reason to empathize with her. Before now, Sophie had mainly been defined by her weaknesses. She lacked the conviction to stand alongside Kate when their relationship was discovered at the academy. She couldn’t be honest with herself or her fiance about her sexuality. But this week, we finally get a sense of Sophie’s difficult upbringing and why she has such difficulty being true to herself where it comes so easily to Kate. It’s tempting to dismiss the bigoted, overbearing mother figure as an overused storytelling trope in 2020, but the sad truth is that it’s a trope for a reason.
The series also seems to be moving backwards when it comes to Jacob’s storyline. His prison stint ended so abruptly it’s a wonder that plot point was ever introduced in the first place. Granted, there are some ramifications playing out in terms of Jacob grappling with the corruption inside his own organization, but this seems like a very roundabout and inefficient way of getting from A to B. And based on this episode, it doesn’t appear as though Sophie’s suspension will do much to alter the status quo,either. Hopefully the payoff to this corruption investigation is at least worth the plodding buildup.
At least Episode 14 does a better job with its villain of the week subplot than Episode 13’s botched handling of Nocturna. This time we meet Duel Dent, a character who tends to go by the name Joker’s Daughter in the comics. There’s no hint of a Joker connection for now, and we can probably assume Warners is very protective of that corner of the Bat-verse. Instead, this version hearkens back to the early Joker’s Daughter stories when Duela was depicted as being Harvey Dent’s daughter (or in this case, his niece). An interesting shift, and certainly an appropriate one given her obsession with faces and hidden darkness.
Sidebar – it’s hard to parse Luke’s offhand mention of Harvey being “Gotham’s favorite DA.” Was it meant to be a sarcastic remark, or is Harvey still Gotham’s most revered public servant even this long after the rise of Batman? Maybe the Arrowverse’s Harvey Dent never became Two-Face? Or given how frequently this show pays homage to the Burton and Nolan movies, it may be using The Dark Knight as a model and we’ll eventually learn Batman covered up all evidence of Harvey’s crimes. Whatever the case, I’d like to see the series eventually dig into Harvey’s backstory eventually, along with some of the other key Batman rogues.
Duela makes a strong impression despite playing more of a supporting role. Alessandra Torresani strikes a nice balance between a tormented, mentally ill young woman and a sadistic killer, helping give Duela a dose of humanity even as she targets social media influencers with all the gusto of a slasher movie villain. This episode probably could have benefited from a slightly more adult-oriented approach rather than trying to downplay the gore, though. One of these days The CW might want to look into swapping Batwoman and Supergirl’s time slots and letting the former get a little darker. Still, Duela is definitely one of the better minor villains of the season, and there’s plenty of potential for her to return in a a bigger role.
It should also be said that, as much as this episode slogs through unwanted romantic subplots and generally spins its heels, at least it presses its advantage the Alice front. Seeing Alice confront her old captor, Dr. Cartwright, is a treat. If you’ll pardon the pun, there’s a compelling game of cat and mouse developing between the two. It’s no longer clear which of the two will emerge as the final threat in Season 1. Even now, just as Alice seems to finally outwit Cartwright, he proves he still has the upper hand. Next week looks to be a very Alice-centric episode, so hopefully we’ll learn more about her time in captivity and get a better sense for where all of this is headed in the final two months of the season.
SHOPPING DISCOUNT UPDATE: