18th Mar2020

‘Batwoman 1×15: Off With Her Head’ Review

by Jason Brigger

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


After a lackluster episode last week, Batwoman returned this week with possibly the best episode all season. A villain is killed off, Kate crosses the one line that Batman never did, and we learn why Alice is Alice.

Batwoman is hand-delivered a captured Doctor Cartwright with a note stuffed in his mouth stating, “Ask about mommy dearest”. Kate proceeds to take Cartwright back to the private section of her club, The Hold Up, and calls on her father, Jacob, to help interrogate the good doctor. Jacob is then caught up to speed on a few things: His daughter Alice is actually alive, and Cartwright is a master manipulator and a villain the Crows should have devoted their time to investigating instead of chasing Batwoman.

Cartwright explains that Alice was sent to an abandoned house where Mouse is being held and strapped to a canister of fear toxin, courtesy of Cartwright’s old friend, Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow! The fear toxin does just what it describes: it brings your deepest fears out, similar to a virtual reality game. Unfortunately, if you are tied up to the fear toxin too long, it will break your psyche and leave your brain mush. Alice arrives to save Mouse but due to the fear toxin, Mouse thinks Alice is his enemy and turns on her, strapping Alice to the chair and pumping fear toxin into her. Mouse leaves Alice in the house, alone with her deepest fears. What could a psychotic like Alice fear? Cartwright’s mother, Mabel (Debra Mooney).

Throughout the episode, and thanks to the fear toxin, Alice relives the days of horror she experienced with Mable as we see flashbacks of Beth (before she became “Alice”) in captivity at Cartwright’s house. Mabel, along with her oxygen tank, moves into the house and brings nothing but anger towards a young Beth. Mabel is jealous of Beth’s youthfulness and for months, scolds her, burns her with hot tea, and physically abuses her. It was only a matter of time until Beth flips on Alice, but the final straw was when Beth finds her own mother’s severed head in a refrigerator in Cartwright’s garage!

Yes, the twist is that Mabel wanted her son to find someone he could murder and then transfer the victim’s face to his own mother in order to regain her youthful appeal. Cartwright thought Beth’s mother would be perfect for this experiment and is the one that actually murdered Beth’s mother! Well, once Beth finds this out, she burns Mabel to death by opening up her oxygen tank and lighting a match, thus fully making Beth’s transition into “Alice” complete. After watching Beth’s abuse at the hands of Mable throughout the episode, one can understand how Beth “snapped” and become the villain we love.

While Alice is going through psychological torture with the fear toxin, Kate and Jacob are interrogating Cartwright to get him to reveal where he is holding Alice. Eventually enough clues are revealed for Jacob to leave and search for the house that Alice is at and while he is away, Cartwright attempts to kill himself by slicing his neck open. Kate calls her step-sister Mary and is able to staple the gaping wound together in Cartwright’s neck, delaying his untimely death. I never knew an office staple gun could be that strong.

Cartwright bargains for his release and in return, he divulges more information about Beth/Alice’s life in captivity, including how evil his mother was to Kate’s sister. Kate begins to realize that maybe Alice’s evil ways are not her own fault but the environment she was raised in. It makes Kate, and the audience, realize that maybe Beth didn’t have a choice to become Alice. Eventually Cartwright admits to killing Kate’s mother, which causes Kate to snap and murder Cartwright by choking him! Kate may not be that much different than Alice after all.

While Kate is committing murder, Jacob is able to find Alice and begins to realize, just like Kate, that maybe his daughter is still somewhere inside Alice. Jacob hugs Alice and his face shows the pain and anguish of years of torment of not knowing where his daughter is and the hell she endured. It’s a turning point for Jacob and one that I think will make him start to realize his hard-edge approach is not the correct way to handle her. Upon returning to Kate, Jacob and Alice are shocked to see Cartwright’s now deceased body and Kate admitting to the murder. The episode ends with Jacob, Alice and Kate making a pact to bury Cartwright’s body in order for no one to know what happened after this life-changing day.

Easter Egg:

  • As noted above, Cartwright was friends with Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow, one of the greatest villains in Batman’s rogue gallery! We don’t know what happened to him or if he will show up in future episodes, but it would be a great reveal if he does show up, looking for revenge on Kate for her killing his protégé.

One Good Thing:

  • Not the norm. This week’s episode deviated from the normal “Villain of the Week” and is better for it. Batwoman is a better series when it focuses more on the background stories of their characters than a new villain and this week proved it. Whether it was learning about how Beth became Alice, the wonderful villainy of Mabel, Alice’s descent into madness due to the fear toxin, or Kate crossing the one line that Batman never did, this episode packed a lot and still gave everything enough time to impact the viewer.

This Episode’s Grade: A- (Amazing)

As noted throughout this review, Batwoman delivered one of the best episodes of the season. Unlike most villain origin stories, the story didn’t seem forced and allowed the audience to understand why Alice is Alice. This doesn’t excuse her behavior, but it does allow Jacob and Kate to handle Alice a little differently. Plus, with Kate murdering Cartwright, it will be interesting to see if she changes her philosophy regarding being Batwoman. Overall, just a great episode.

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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