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Batwoman shows how Kate's family can make—or break—her

Photo: Jeffery Garland (The CW)
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The source of a lot of strife for Kate Kane so far has to do with her twin sister, and the grief that’s followed Kate since Beth’s supposed death 15 years ago. Even this early on, Kate’s ongoing struggle with those she’s closest to could feel redundant. To its credit, Batwoman manages to do the opposite, making the audience feel more connected to all these new characters in intimate ways.

Coming off of its pilot, Batwoman has already improved. The odd, disjointed feeling from the first episode is gone, with strong emotional performances elevating the second outing above the premiere. Instead of jumping around, “The Rabbit Hole” primarily focuses on sisterly bonds. Kate still has a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to her mission. Despite a whole city being insanely hungry for a Batman-like hero to come back and save them from the mess Gotham’s in 24/7, Kate is solely focused on using her new batsuit for Alice-duty. This includes trying to prove Alice is her sister Beth, while protecting said villain at the same time. And in the midst of all that, her non-evil sister Mary—ironically her step-sister—is getting the short end of the sibling situation.

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There’s a push and pull between loss and revival in this episode, as far as Kate’s sisters go. Beth died, and in that moment, Kate’s life turned into a never-ending, internal struggle where hope is threatened to be squashed by despair, and later doubt. But her hope is brought to a fever pitch by what could be Beth’s resurrection, but the fact that happy occasion is marred by the Alice persona, which now threatens the life of Kate’s stepsister. The Alice In Wonderland lines may have been a bit hokey last time, but one pivotal moment makes them almost chilling in tonight’s episode. Alice says to Kate,“‘Tell us a story,’ said the March Hare. ‘Yes, please do,’ plead Alice. So the Dormouse began, ‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’” declaring her possessive hold on her sister. As this happens, Mary is attacked in her makeshift hospital, which leads to the strongest part of the episode.

I initially thought that Mary’s storyline felt random, but now it’s actually starting to feel like it could be one of the best on the show. Mary was set up to be this rich, influencer-type step-sister, who was kind of vapid but also not smart enough to be so on purpose. But it was revealed that she’s in med school and treats under-privileged Gotham citizens at a black market hospital that she seems to run on her own. Mary’s caring nature is more fully developed in tonight’s episode, as she’s shown to be helping make up for the gaps in Gotham’s failing healthcare system. And Mary’s pestering is just her way of getting Kate to notice her, which, as anyone with younger siblings can attest to, is pretty realistic. We see how hurt Mary is that Kate has always keeps her at a distance, when all she wants is a sister, too.

Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)
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Family takes center stage this episode, which isn’t all doom and gloom—at least not on the surface. It was refreshing to see how open Kate is with those she trusts, like when she just came right out and told the family that she suspected Alice was Beth at breakfast before the coffee even hit. You could already see this with Mary and Kate, but there is no “step-family” syndrome going on with the Hamilton-Kanes. They all seem to get along; Catherine isn’t inserting herself in Kate’s or Jacob’s business, and I thoroughly enjoyed their little unit for the small bit that it was on screen.

That is, until Kate’s stepmother Catherine Hamilton-Kane decided to pull one over on all of us and hire hitmen to steal Alice’s knife from Kate. It was a surprise, but considering she’s a successful business woman who is all about appearances, it makes sense. Just like when she puts up a front for the city of Gotham to instill a sense safety, she’s able to fool her family, and the audience. However, it’s still not clear whether her plans are malicious. Could Catherine be hiding Alice’s identity to spare Jacob and Kate the harsh truth that she’s an evil villain who slits the throats of the elderly in their quaint homes? How would she even know, for sure, that Alice is Beth or what the knife looked like? Given the way these stories usually unfold, this new development most likely wasn’t the doing of an overprotective mother figure, but rather a more sinister plot behind the scenes.

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Like the show, Kate is still figuring out what her place is stumbled—she stumbled onto Bruce’s secret, into the batsuit, and then into the citizens of Gotham’s lives. Serving as a protector to the city’s populace isn’t her main goal yet; right now, Kate is mainly focused on getting to the bottom of the Alice/Beth situation. Only Luke seems to be aware of what Kate’s appearance in the batsuit has done to the city—he points out that, inadvertently thought it may have been, she’s raised the people’s hopes. Kate does seem invested in helping people on a grander scale, but “The Rabbit Hole” gives us a chance to see her in a more intimate setting. The way Kate interacts with others and cares for her loved ones with her whole heart is truly one of my favorite things about the character. With this foundation set, it’s only a matter of time before she dons the bright red wig to distinguish herself from Batman and start saving the city of Gotham from all the evil things that go bump in the night. Oh, and crime. Fighting crime, outside of her villainous sister, will likely commence soon.


Stray observations

  • I didn’t fully catch, last time, that it was the result of a Joker attack that sent Kate’s sister Beth and their mother into the river. Someone in the comments had pointed it out that there’s possibly a connection between Alice’s now evil, crazed state, her disappearance, and the Joker.
  • Something that glaringly stood out to me is the fact that Wonder Woman exists in this universe, confirmed when Kate jokingly said she’d be more likely to dress up as the Amazonian warrior than Batman. Since it’s a DC world, yes, a lot of the Justice League members most likely exist. However, heroes are not often mentioned unless they’re in a show. Batman was the exception, but then an extension of him finally showed up. Themyscira exists in the Arrowverse, so will Diana show up in the future as well? Fingers crossed, but it was also just a funny callout.
  • I know I included this in this section last time, but Luke and Kate’s work-relationship/budding friendship is truly one of my favorite things about this series so far.
  • Alice’s note to Kate, “You have our father’s eyes,” was puzzling. It seemed to be from Alice, which makes the most sense, but that line is odd. The peculiar bat inside does confirm that she knows Kate has been the Batman everyone’s talking about, but what does her father’s eyes have to do with that?
  • Fun fact: Rachel Maddow is the voice of Vesper Fairchild who narrates the town’s collective mind in a more gossipy way than maybe we’re used to from her. It’s not exactly new information, but I thought it was cool, and maybe not well-known yet.
  • As a Chicagoan, I always love when I see the city used in shows or movies. Some beautiful shots in this episode had me geeked, for sure.
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About the author

Alani Vargas

Alani Vargas is an entertainment writer and A.V. Club contributor. Her work also appears on Showbiz Cheat Sheet, INSIDER, Bustle, Refinery29, and Elite Daily.