13th Mar2020

‘Batwoman 1×14: Grinning From Ear to Ear’ Review

by Jason Brigger

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

batwoman-poster

After a week off, Batwoman is back this week with a villain that is eerily similar to Batman’s arch nemesis, the Joker, but while the idea was good, the result was lackluster.

The story of our new villain, Duela Dent (Alessandra Torresani), starts in 2012 as she stands in the mirror applying makeup. Her mother, who has her own issues, berates her and body shames her own daughter, resulting in Duela punching the mirror and using a shard of glass to make a Joker-like smile on her own face. The social commentary regarding appearance and how we all perceive ourselves is a nice change of pace for a villain and very poignant in our society today.

Duela doesn’t just disfigure herself though, she decides to take on all the models that call Gotham home. Duela’s story comes across as a minor backstory this week (her grudge against pretty people) and while she is out killing models and disfiguring them, including her own mother, she never really gets a chance to shine. Batwoman and Sophie both figure out Duela’s plan and stop her with little difficulty, which has become an issue with this series. A hero is only as good as her villains and outside of Alice, Batwoman’s rogue gallery has been pretty weak.

Quick note: After Batwoman takes down Duela, Alice shows up before the police or the Crows can get to her and decide that Duela’s face would make the perfect sample to make a new mask, much like Dr. Cartwright used to do. Maybe Alice has become more like her captor than she realizes.

Sophie finds herself falling for Batwoman (she doesn’t know Batwoman is Kate), which will not end well for her. Fox advised Batwoman that she can’t have a relationship with Sophie as her enemies will eventually learn of this and it puts a target on Sophie. That is one reason. The other reason is because it’s a vigilante that you know nothing about! Come on Sophie… be smarter than that. After a few weeks in the background, Sophie has a big storyline this week as her disapproving mother is in town for a surprise visit. Her mother doesn’t know about Sophie being a lesbian and after Sophie tells her mother that she split from her husband (seriously, where is this guy lately?) and is no longer working for the Crows, her mother goes off on a tangent stating she can’t support someone that doesn’t have the same values as her.

The relationship between Sophie/Batwoman plays out throughout the episode and Kate knows she can not string Sophie along in this “relationship” with Batwoman. In fact, it’s Batwoman calling Sophie out as hiding behind her own mask, which is the reason Sophie has never come out to her mother. Sophie eventually tells her mom the truth about her and her mother turns out to be homophobic, even with her own daughter. The conversation between the disapproving mother and Sophie regarding her lifestyle is heartbreaking and comes off as one of the most realistic scenes this whole season.

Jacob Kane, who is now firmly back in charge of the Crows, is blackmailed by the attorney for the prisoner that saved his life in jail. It seems the prisoner is in jail for killing Luke Fox’s father, Lucius, and the attorney is requesting Jacob to speak to the judge about reviewing the case. Yes, we are going down the typical trope of corruption runs rampant in the organization that one of the main characters leads. Jacob runs into roadblocks when he starts asking questions about a possible “rush to judgement” in the Fox investigation, including the surveillance cameras not working at the crime scene, so it seems Jacob will open up a Pandora’s Box of secrets regarding the Crows.

Alice finally realizes her captor, Dr. Cartwright, is alive and is the person responsible for killing Mouse. What does an insane criminal do? Kidnap a psychologist and ask his advice on what the best approach is to confront her prior captor, who is now living a new life as a cosmetic surgeon! The psychologist gives Alice some hard truth about why she chose the life she did and when he tells her that she is still scared of her captor, the psychologist wrote his own death sentence.

The episode ends with Alice cutting off Duela’s face and using it as a mask to sneak into Dr. Cartwright’s office, revealing she is still alive. Cartwright pleads for his life and just before Alice starts her plan to torture him, he reveals Mouse is alive. Alice now has to switch her plans, yet again, and determine what is more important: getting revenge on her abusive captor or saving Mouse.

Easter Egg:

  • This episode is more of a tease than having actual Easter Eggs. Duela’s last name is Dent, and while it’s not confirmed, they do mention her father is an assistant district attorney, which make me ask, is her father Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face? It’s a nice little tease and with her father having his own appearance issues, and it would make sense for Duela to inherit them.
  • Next week’s episode teases Alice being captured and being exposed to the Fear Toxin…a gas that is famously used by Batman’s villain, the Scarecrow. Does this mean that Dr. Cartwright is a fan of Scarecrow or is it just a small homage to a classic villain?

One Good Thing:

  • Representation. As a straight man, I will never know the fear or hardship that a gay person goes through in their life but as an outsider, Batwoman seems to get it right when discussing LGBTQ+ issues in society. The series does a lot of little things right with this topic, whether it’s Sophie finally coming to terms on her lifestyle, to Batwoman realizing she can be a role model to people struggling with their own identity, Batwoman has become an important series about representation in our society.

One Bad Thing:

  • Lack of threat. Batwoman is running into the issue of introducing a possible interesting villain each week, making them look like a threat for the first 40 minutes of the episode and then losing to Batwoman in less than thirty seconds. Black Lightning has Whale, someone that looks like he can take down an army and is a formidable adversary to Lightning, but unfortunately, Batwoman doesn’t have that. Alice may challenge Batwoman mentally, but we have yet to see anyone that physically pushes Batwoman to the brink. It’s something the series needs in order to make these “Villain of the Week” a more realistic threat, instead of the same repetitiveness each week.

This Episode’s Grade: C (Average)

Maybe because there was no new episode last week but Batwoman seemed to lose a little momentum this week and never seemed to hit it’s groove. The “Villain of the Week” was part Joker, part serial killer but the backstory was lackluster, and she served no reasonable threat to Batwoman. Sophie’s season-long arc of coming to terms with who she truly is was a highlight this week and brought a realistic emotional touch to the episode. Breaking down the psychology of Alice was an interesting twist and her kidnapping a psychologist in order to figure out the best way to confront her captor was a good side story but overall, this episode missed it’s mark more than it hit.

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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