This week, Batwoman continues to blend the best of all the action Gotham has to offer, a new villain of the week, and continues to up the stakes for our main characters. At the center of the episode are Kate/Batwoman (Ruby Rose) and Sophie (Meagan Tandy), and their relationship and the realities of both dealing with a secret identity and the challenges faced by out queer people everywhere.
Our villain of the week is out slashing social influencers' faces up, so Kate turns to former Instagram star Mary (Nicole Kang), who helps flesh out a connection to plastic surgeon Dr. Ethan Campbell (Sebastian Roché) who we, the audience, know is actually an assumed identity of August Cartwright, the man who held Beth/Alice (Rachel Skarsten) captive for all those years. After some sleuthing, they identify the perpetrator as Duela Dent (Alessandra Torresani)– yes, of that Dent family — whose personal psychoses led her to cutting, including her own face. Dr. Campbell treated her to try to remove the scars, but now she is lashing out at Gotham's elite and trying to deface them just as much. Yuck. But also cool.
But the best parts of the episode are Batwoman and Sophie's evolving relationship. An opening scene where we cut back and forth between Mary and Sophie in a coffee shop and Kate and Luke (Camrus Johnson) each talking about the rooftop kiss in our last episode is nearly perfect. It exposes all the potential problems in them having a real relationship but also shows just how "twitterpated" Kate and Sophie are for each other. There's also a lovely bit of acting where Mary is asked point blank if she knows who Batwoman is and it's such a great moment of very good but not 100% convincing lying. Tandy and Kang continue to be the acting MVPs of this show.
Later, when Batwoman goes to break it off with Sophie, they're interrupted by a surprise visit from Sophie's mom. And guess what? She hates Batwoman because she's gay. A later scene where Sophie has to finally come out to her mother is also heart-breaking. As she lays out all of the roadblocks placed by society already for a black woman, to add being anywhere in the queer universe on top of that is, as she points out, nearly insurmountable. Of course, what isn't said (and really should have to be) is that Sophie's attraction to women is no more a choice than the color of her skin. It's so heartbreaking to see her lose this support from her mother, and even more heartbreaking knowing this is the reality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks already.
The show quickly makes a hard turn from this being about one person's secret identity to really being about both characters' secret identities. And it's writing and characterization like that which separates Batwoman from a lot of other shows.
After some dramatic rescuing of another Social Media Influencer, Sophie and Batwoman have a heartbreaking discussion in an alleyway.
"If I were to tell you who I am right now, would you want to know? … Because once that happens, I'm no longer a secret. I'm a face. I'm a person. I'm a woman. And I bring all the complications that come with that. So do you want to be in a real relationship, or do you want to be with someone you can keep a secret? We can never be more than this. And that shouldn't be enough."
"You're right. As long as I'm with a woman who wears a mask, I'm wearing one myself. I think I have some things to figure out."
So much of this show is about identity and how we hide, what we put towards the public. And it's good to see Sophie grappling with these, and hopefully coming out the other side unscathed.
On the other end of the spectrum is, of course, Alice. Learning of Dr. Campbell's identity as that of her tormentor and captor all those years, she does what any normal person does: go to therapy. Bringing in one of Gotham's no doubt pre-eminent mental health officials, Alice gets some great advice to seek out an intermediary when confronting her abuser. And then, of course, kills the therapist. Because, you know– psychotic.
But, of course, the intermediary she seeks out is our villain of the week, who also has a beef with the good doctor. Alice, of course, goes full Hannibal Lecter/Castor Troy and takes her face. . .off. Luckily, Duela seems to have consented, saying she's "finally perfect."
This reveal is so great, as is the tease of exactly what Cartwright has done to poor little Mouse, leading into next week's episode. This episode has a few weaknesses in that in so many places we, the audience, know so much more about what is happening than our characters do. However, it's effective in ratcheting up the tension. But the real meat of this story at this point is how all of our characters are lying to one another, which secrets they know about the others, and wondering how that's all going to play out.
Next week stay tuned for "Off With Her Head," as Scarecrow's fear toxin is apparently released on at least parts of Gotham.