Warning: this review contains full spoilers for Batwoman: Season 1, Episode 12! If you need a refresher on where we left off, here’s our review for Season 1, Episode 11.
At this point it seems safe to say no Arrowverse series has benefited more from Crisis on Infinite Earths than Batwoman. Sure, Supergirl has arguably been affected more in terms of the overall status quo, but that series was already on solid footing before the crossover. It’s not so much that life in Gotham City has drastically changed in this new Earth-Prime era, but that Batwoman has used the foundation of Crisis to address its greatest recurring flaw.
If Alice has been the regular weak link in the Season 1 formula, she’s a whole lot better off thanks to these most recent two installments. “An Un-Birthday Present” and now “Take Your Choice” have gone a long way toward humanizing this villain (a process previously reserved for the flashback scenes) and giving her a clearer and more understandable set of motivations. The series has quickly managed to flip the script on the new status quo established in the midseason finale. Where once Alice was the heartless villain who drove a wedge right through the Kane family, now she’s become the loner betrayed by one of the two people she cares for the most.
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Rachel Skarsten has never really managed to nail that dreamy, surreal quality that makes Alice such a unique villain in the comics. Her Alice performance is very stiff and forced. By now it’s clear that’s an intentional choice on the show’s part, as recent episodes have really started to emphasize how much this persona was created as a coping mechanism for a young Beth Kane. Even so, it often feels like there’s been something lost in translation with Alice. “Take Your Choice,” more than any other episode before it, succeeds by downplaying Alice’s supervillain shenanigans and trying to find the fragile human beneath the cruel facade.
In the process, Skarsten is able to shine in a way she’s never managed before. She excels here in playing two vastly different versions of the same character – both of whom are confronting the possibility of their imminent death. That these two Beths look and behave so differently only highlights the tragedy of Alice and how much was taken from the Kane family when she vanished. There are repeated signs that Alice isn’t as cruel or heartless as she’d like the city to believe, including the reveal she purposely saved Mary’s life and the very genuine shock and remorse she feels after realizing Kate came not to save her, but to watch her die. That scene may well be the highlight of the series so far. Though Alice’s hallucination of a vengeful Catherine come to gloat is a close second. An inspired use of a character we all assumed had run her course.
In general, this episode makes terrific use of what could have been a very silly and convoluted premise. It proves there’s still room in the Arrowverse for more grounded, metahuman-free stories even in a world of Kryptonians, speedsters and time travelers. The idea that the universe can only permit one Beth Kane to live creates a palpable tension that only grows over the course of the episode. With the Crows hunting for Alice and Kate struggling to find some way to save her new sister without dooming the old, there’s a certainty that nothing is going to work out well for our heroes. The only question is how exactly Kate’s reunion with Beth will end badly.
The reveal is certainly satisfying. Faced with an impossible choice, Kate chooses the sensible option – save the sister who isn’t a homicidal maniac. Instead, she winds up enduring all the heartache of watching Alice die without managing to save Beth in the end. Just as Alice gave Kate reason to loathe her in the midseason finale, now Alice has reason to despise the only family she has left. Somehow, this episode has managed to make that rivalry even more personal.
My only disappointment with the way things play out is that there would have been a lot of potential in the idea of the two Beths merging to form a new Beth who remembers both lives. What does that do to her mind and her plans for Gotham? But to be fair, that’s me complaining about the story I want to see rather than the story being told. And anyway, it’s not impossible the series won’t still go down that road.
Another big plus is that “Take Your Choice” gives a better sense of how the various pieces of Season 1 fit together, with Sebastian Roche’s Dr. Campbell taking on a more prominent role and revealing himself to be Dr. Cartwright in disguise. Cartwright is quickly shaping up to be the real endgame villain of Season 1. His quietly sadistic personality and ability to hide in plain sight make him well-suited to the task. His is a brand of evil that could only exist in Gotham, and I look forward to seeing him step into the spotlight in the weeks to come.
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