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In “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury," Kate Kane rescues Batwoman from its villain problem

Ruby Rose
Photo: Liane Hentscher (The CW)
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Coming off the high of last week’s episode, “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury” has a lot to live up to, but unfortunately chooses to offer a lackluster look at how the Crows and Jacob Kane are dealing with Batwoman. The show also introduces viewers to a new, one-episode villain with a noble, yet still malevolent, mission, while reducing Alice’s contribution. Overall, the episode falls flat, but at least it gives Ruby Rose a chance to shine as Kate Kane and show more of her emotional range.

The Executioner is the baddie this week, and we get an interesting take on the comic book character. Instead of releasing inmates for personal gain, this version is on the side of these prisoners. The guilt of his government-issued killings creates the man (villain) we meet this episode. Even though The Executioner is killing people in gruesome ways, there’s a part of me that felt for him. Working in a hierarchy of corrupt judges and lawyers, he’s near the bottom but he thought he was doing the right thing for society, keeping killers off the street. But to learn he was killing minorities because they were the easiest scapegoats? His aggressive reaction seems almost justified. Of course, he was still killing people (prisoners) beforehand, so the viewer’s response to him depends on your thoughts on capital punishment, to begin with. It’s an intriguing commentary on the real-life reality of an unjust justice system that has sent innocent people to their death or, more often, prosecutes certain sects of people harsher than others.

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There’s a bit of foreshadowing intertwined throughout the episode when it comes to the tension surrounding Jacob Kane. Alice is completely off the deep end when it comes to her hate for him; her relationship with Jacob doesn’t seem salvageable at this point. And Kate has been falling into this trap too, as she becomes increasingly frustrated with Jacob. Of course, Kate’s blame towards her father, for dropping the search for Beth, was parallel to his blame on Batman for his family’s death, to begin with. Both characters placed accountability elsewhere because they didn’t want to turn it on themselves. Kate snaps out of this by the end and has a tender moment with her father. However, this is the second week in a row that Jacob has gotten injured or attacked. His time—and luckmight be running out.

A question I keep asking each week is, “Where does Sophie fit into all of this?” Yes, she’s vital to Kate’s backstory, and Kate may or may not still have feelings for Sophie. However, right now, Sophie is the weakest character. It’s not that she’s underdeveloped, but her characterization is very vain. Her selfish ploys to get closer to Kate or get into her business just muddles things and makes her look bad. That’s probably the point (hopefully), but Sophie won’t leave her alone. Kate’s out here trying to save Gotham in a leather cape and wig, and she has a married ex that just won’t quit.

Sophie is clearly confused at her remaining feelings for Kate, and she carries her hurt around with her. As Mary points out, she inflicts that pain onto others in an attempt to stay on top or keep people safe. She’s borderline insufferable, but at least we get to see a protective Mary. This is, of course, one of the best versions of Mary, high up there with drunk Mary.

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Photo: Cate Cameron (The CW)

Alice and Mouse’s relationship opens up more for the audience in this episode, and it’s just as sadistic as ever. Mouse is even more unhinged than Alice, which you could see when Beth was held captive. Alice fused to Mouse’s presence despite that traumatic “upbringing” in his father’s household. Mouse is the only person whose insanity matches Alice’s, the only person that can elicit fear from her with his threats and voice impressions. Again, this episode ends with eerie words from these two: “We’ll be sharing her,” in reference to Kate.

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Alice has her moments but she’s mostly on the sidelines this episode, which is one of the reasons “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury” falls short of last week’s heights. “Mine Is A Long And Sad Tale” had such dynamic performances by Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, and company. The writing fails to compensate for the loss of Alice in this episode. The fact that her absence is so keenly felt this time puts into perspective how much power Skarsten’s presence has on the show, just like Alice has in the city of Gotham.

On top of that, it’s worrisome because she won’t be a villain forever. The show is hurtling towards some sort of resolution. Alice might die in a heartwrenching end that brings Beth back once more before she succumbs to death in poetic, CW fashion. Or she is significantly deterred and has to flee Gotham, leaving the door open for a future return. But there doesn’t seem to be a way for her to continue as a regular or consistent guest forever, unfortunately. There could be some type of reconciliation, but that would require a 180° from Alice’s character and current trajectory. Right now, it’s hard not to think that there will be a sharp decline in storytelling if and when Alice does leave, as there are currently no antagonists who can live up to her.

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Photo: Cate Cameron (The CW)

Ruby Rose’s performance saves the episode for me. I know there’s some concern that her portrayal of Kate has been “bland,” but this episode pushes back against that. She ensures Kate’s resolve is felt throughout the episode. Kate isn’t some lovey-dovey individual; she doesn’t wear her emotions on her sleeves. When Kate sets out to do something, she’s all business. Her past trauma and heartbreak —with Sophie and with the loss of her mom and Beth—have made Kate guarded. Rose’s performance is a very internalized one because that’s Kate’s personality. This week, it’s the saving grace in an episode that struggles to show a way forward for its darker forces.

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Stray Observations:

  • “Jack Napier” is the name they use for the Joker in the newscast. As most of you probably know, the insane villain doesn’t usually get a name or backstory, except for recently. So it’s interesting that they put in that little detail from Tim Burton’s Batman.
  • Mad Hatter should be an obvious tie-in at some point, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen on the CW show. The best bet would have been for the writers to make Beth’s captor, Mr. Cartwright, Jervis Tech aka the Mad Hatter. This would really tie it all together and allow another Alice In Wonderland-obsessed villain onto the scene. But as we saw last week, Alice’s affinity for the Lewis Carroll character is thanks to Mouse.
  • Kate really needs to tell Mary her identity soon. For one, can you imagine that girl’s heartbreak when she finds out Alice and Sophie knew she was Batwoman first? Plus, it would allow Mary to have a bit more of a heads up before Kate just dumps another injured body on her again.
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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.