Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The "Mad Tea Party" flips all of Batwoman on its head

Rachel Skarsten
Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

So, this is it. Tonight’s episode brings viewers the Mad Tea Party Alice has promised for the past couple of weeks. Ever since Mouse came onto the scene, this “party” has represented pinnacle point of their devious planning, and it did not disappoint. “Mad Tea Party” episode inverts everything so quickly—by the end, all the characters are at a completely different point than they where they started. Emotionally and physically, Kate and her family are damaged, and their journey to the end of the season is looking rough.

In “Tell Me The Truth,” Alice teased the sinister Mad Tea Party as the best Gotham has seen. While it wasn’t full of Mad Hatters and tiny sandwiches, it was truly devious and on par with Alice’s productions. This episode is one of the climaxes of the season as a whole, but it starts off rather tame. Kate strolls in and out of Alice’s lair, no weapons cocked or present; no backup or suit. Alice has shown that she isn’t out to kill Kate, but this is still a pretty chill way to approach a villain. Kate puts a lot of faith in Beth coming back in the end. Things are also looking up for Catherine and Mary’s relationship. Even though Mary is very disgusted by her mother’s actions, she’s turning a new leaf and supporting her for the gala. The audience knows that Mouse is parading around as Jacob, though, so the other shoe is bound to drop any second.

Advertisement

As Alice, Rachel Skarsten has given one of the strongest performances on the show and the Arrowverse as a whole, which this episode celebrates. Skarsten brings Alice’s humanity, a.k.a. her inner Beth, to the surface on multiple occasions. In her dealings with Kate and her weirdly sweet gesture of delivering the fatal Batwoman bullet, Beth peeks through now and again—or rather, what Beth would do. It’s “weirdly” sweet because Alice had to kill people to obtain it and stop people from remaking it, but still. She was looking out for Kate in her twisted villain brain.

Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)

With that said, Alice’s inner “good” has been squashed before. With Mouse in her ear and her irrepressible desire for vengeance against Jacob, it’s not a surprise that her evil side wins out big time in “Mad Tea Party.” Both Jacob and Catherine show genuine remorse when faced with Alice. It’s not just for show or because they’re facing death, but because even they can see how the horrors Alice faced have made their way onto her face and into evil demeanor. How can they not be sorry for ending their search for Jacob’s poor little girl? Alice is affected by Jacob’s sincerity as he says, “I failed you,” but it’s not enough to stop the fallout.

Advertisement

Mary (Nicole Kang) and Alice come face-to-face for the first time this season. They are the two strongest characters on Batwoman, hands down, with the most emotional pull with the audience, so it’s no wonder their confrontation is spectacular. These are Kate’s two sisters: Mary, who’s convinced she’s playing second fiddle to a psycho, and Alice, who is violently jealous of Mary. Despite Kate putting Mary on the backburner for a bit, Alice revels in her victory of not only killing the woman she holds responsible for her years in captivity but also in one-upping Mary in her sick way. Mary’s anguish and heartbreak are nearly palpable.

Finally, Kate’s eyes are wide open in regards to Alice. Kate put every member of her family below Alice on her list of priorities and stopped at nothing to get Beth back. After Mary asked multiple times before if Alice was worth all the trouble Kate was going through, Kate now realizes that she wasn’t, far too late. Kate took up the mantle of Batwoman to save Beth. She risked everything for her. She, of course, realizes the power and duty—to all of Gotham—she has as Batwoman. But that doesn’t change that the root of her vigilante identity is based on her sister. Now that Alice has shattered Kate’s family again, it’s war. Kate will not save Alice from death or the law anymore.

Advertisement
Photo: Jack Rowand (The CW)

At the beginning of the episode, we hear Kate’s refrain: she chooses hope. She’s always chosen hope. Kate chose it the moment Beth fell into the river, and her body went missing. She decided to see the bright light at the end of the tunnel, even when Alice was at her most vile. But now, all hope is shattered. It took a death to make Kate see that Alice isn’t the sister she lost as a kid. And in the process, she lost Mary, too. Kate’s hope is a shambles. Beth is dead to her now, and Catherine’s death is weighing on her conscience—not to mention, her father is now in jail.

Advertisement

Next week, the crossover episode probably won’t touch on the events that took place here, as most crossovers don’t. So any commentary regarding Mary or Kate’s family life won’t happen until the new year. But Kate is beaten and down. Everything falls apart for her, which is not a good place to be when you’re a pillar of strength in your city.


Stray observations

  • This episode was just so good at showing both sides to the Alice/Beth outcome. I literally have in my notes, “Beth is still in there somewhere,” because Alice shows the cracks in her armor often this time around. However, in the end, Alice won out, and it was heart-wrenching to see all of Kate’s faith and work destroyed.
  • Again, Luke is underused in this episode, but you can’t blame the show for making Alice and the Hamilton-Kanes the center of attention.
  • Even though Sophie and Tyler broke up, for now, I hope this isn’t a ploy to get her together with Kate in the end. For one, Kate doesn’t need that right now, although support is probably welcome. And two, Sophie hasn’t proven to be a reliable, loyal, or good partner. Much to think about.
  • Also, I know Tyler is going through some shit, but is it the appropriate time to bring up relationship milestones he wants with Sophie right after Jacob is put in prison? Read the room, sir.
Advertisement

Share This Story

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.