30th Jan2020

‘Batwoman 1×11: An Un-Birthday Present’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, Elizabeth Anweis, Dougray Scott | Created by Caroline Dries

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This week’s episode strays from the usual formula as there is no “Villain of the Week” for Batwoman to fight and instead the episode focuses on the relationships between our regular cast. It’s a nice change-of-pace episode and allows the audience to see more into the background of the characters they watch each week.

Thanks to the massive crossover of Crisis on Infinite Earth, Beth 2.0 (dubbed by Mary) is now in Kate’s universe and while this Beth was saved from a similar car accident on Earth 2 by Kate 2.0, she is now all alone on Kate’s Earth, now dubbed Earth Prime. Yes, it’s still a little convoluted and it still bothers me that we haven’t seen other versions of people from Earth 2.0 yet, but I think it’s only a matter of time.

Kate, thanks to Beth 2.0, learns that life on Earth 2 wasn’t that much different: she is a commander in the military, her mother still died in the accident, and her father is still in charge of the Crows. Meanwhile, Beth 2.0 is having a little more difficulty accepting her new planet as she has no one left to confide in on this new planet except Kate. It doesn’t help Beth 2.0’s psyche is shaken even more when she finds out her other Earth Prime version is the psychotic Alice. Beth 2.0 eventually gets up-to-date on all the issues in her new city as Mary, Fox, and Kate eventually all welcome her into their tight knit group. It’s a clever way of keeping actress Rachel Skarsten on the series once Alice (if it ever happens) eventually is locked up for good. The new group dynamic reminds me of Barry Allen’s group of friends on the Flash series and the universal need for everyone needing a “family” in their life.

Despite Jacob’s warnings from jail, Sophie decides she can be more cunning than her prisoner, Alice, and interrogates her. Alice proceeds to garner sympathy for herself from Sophie by revealing her warped childhood stuck in confinement with her kidnapper. Long-story short, Mouse brings Beth a new pet, a kitten, on her birthday but they must keep the kitten hidden from her captor. Her kidnapper learns Beth is good at needlepoint (she makes a sweater for her kitten) and is recruited in making skin masks for experiments for Mouse…no wonder she became deranged!

Eventually Beth’s kidnapper learns of the kitten and disposes of it, and to make things worse, her kidnapper shows her a newspaper confirming Beth’s father has remarried and now has a new daughter, Mary. This revelation, along with the killing of her cat, finally breaks not only Beth’s heart but also her psyche. Mouse only makes things worse by bringing her another present, the novel Alice in Wonderland, which is the final piece of the puzzle as Beth states she is now known as Alice; her transformation is now complete.

The only “action” this week is Mouse holding two citizens hostage, Commissioner Forbes’ son, Stephen, and Mayor Aiken’s heir apparent, Brian, in an abandoned junkyard. All Mouse wants is for Alice to be released and he’ll gladly release his hostages. I’m sure that seems realistic.

Kate fails in her attempt to break-up the kidnapping plot and becomes a hostage herself so it’s up to her merry crew to figure out what to do. Fox comes up with a idea of sending Beth 2.0 to Mouse dressed as Alice in order to fool him. It works for a bit until Mouse realizes Alice isn’t really Alice and Mouse traps Beth 2.0 in a car on fire. Yes, Kate, after impaling Mouse on a piece of rebar, must save Beth 2.0 from another car and this time she succeeds.

The episode ends with Mouse in the hospital and under arrest, Alice tricking Sophie and escaping from the Crows custody (shocking!) and Kate and her crew celebrating Kate’s and Beth 2.0’s birthday. All seems well until a high-pitched noise in her head causes Beth 2.0 to fall to the ground, unable to move. We then see Alice, in an undisclosed location, crippled by the same noise in her head. Looks like having two versions of the same person on the same Earth isn’t feasible after all. The teaser for the next episode, in three weeks, states only one can survive…cue the dramatic music!


Easter Egg!
:

  • Arkham Asylum! The famous Gotham prison for the superpowered and mentally insane is present in this version of Gotham. Jacob, by prison pay phone, advises Sophie not to interrogate Alice, as Alice will only play games with her, and to let Arkham Asylum handle her. At this point, I’m not even sure Arkham could handle Alice.

One Good Thing!:

  • Gotham. Gotham, the city and the citizens, continues to be a highlight for this series. Since Batwoman came out of the closet, the commissioner of the Gotham Police (no, it’s not Gordon!), refuses to use the Bat-Signal in fear of the possible backlash from politicians and society since Batwoman announcing she is gay is a “hot-button” topic. The commissioner decides his police force can do the job just as well as Batwoman, but spoiler, it can’t. Once the citizens of Gotham learn Alice has escaped again and the police are failing its citizens, they rally in front of the police station, chanting for the commissioner to turn on the Bat-Signal. After Batwoman makes a surprise appearance at the rally, the commissioner gives the citizens what they want and eventually turns the signal on. It’s another small detail that adds personality to Gotham and makes the audience care about the city that Batwoman has sworn to protect.

This Episode’s Grade: B-

The last two episodes of Batwoman has deviated from the similar formula the first half of the season relied on and it’s a stronger series for it. The emphasis on Alice and how she came to be, Beth 2.0 adjusting to her new home, and how Kate reacts to having another sister provided for a strong episode. Even though Batwoman only shows up for one scene, Kate continues to show how great of a character she is, with or without a mask. It’s unfortunate the series is on hiatus for a few weeks because the series was just finding it’s footing after its mid-season finale and hopefully its momentum doesn’t slow down due to the break.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here.
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