“Batwoman” 1×4 Review: ‘Who Are You?”
Last week, Kate Kane finally committed to taking up the Bat Mantle. In ‘Who Are You?’ she has to come to terms with what that means for her in practice. It’s hard to juggle a normal life and superhero obligations, which she’s having to learn on the fly. Also, Magpie is running around stealing things, so that’s fun.
The pacing and structure of this episode continue the upward trend we saw last week. I have a few small issues, but overall I’m very happy with where the show is going. ‘Who Are You?’ is a playful, lighthearted episode that focuses on Kate’s growth as Batwoman while slipping in a few hints at the larger plot lines.
Let me just say, I love that Kate didn’t just pick up all of Bruce’s old equipment and walk right into the superhero life. That would be ridiculous. Kate may be tall, but she isn’t a clone of Bruce Wayne. The gear is going to need some adjustments. The whole system is gonna need adjustments, really, but high-end specialized gear like this definitely has to be customized a little further.
It was a little frustrating to watch Luke dismiss Kate’s feedback about the Batarang. I guess it would be unrealistic for a guy not to try to explain weaponry to a woman even when she’s a trained fighter and he’s a… materials engineer? I’m not exactly sure what training Luke has. Whatever it is, I’m hoping the writers stop giving him mansplaining lines. It frankly made me like him a little less, especially when he picked a time to admit his mistake when she couldn’t respond or point out what a terrible non-apology it was.
Maybe I’m just frustrated by the reality of that ugly little tendency. Batwoman is a woman, she’s going to face the same problems all us women face even if she is cushioned to a certain degree by money. Luke seems like a cool guy otherwise, so maybe he’s learned his lesson?
The Villain Of The Week, Magpie, was a nice lightweight baddie to add action to what would otherwise be a very introspective episode. This is what episode two was missing: someone for the characters to fight between talking. Superhero comics always have a villain to break up overly emotional moments. Magpie’s monologues were a little overdone for my taste, especially when there’s no way Magpie is suffering for money if she can afford such high-end equipment. Still, it adds to the overall class warfare theme Batwoman seems to be pushing.
Another major win for this episode: it’s awesome to see Batwoman openly addressing the reluctance a lesbian woman might feel about living a secret life. Kate isn’t one to hide in a closet. She changed her whole life plan rather than deny who she is. As Batwoman, though, the shadows are a vital part of the job. Being open would defy the whole purpose of putting on the cowl. It negates the fear criminals fear about the Bat and puts innocent family members at risk. Kate has to hide that part of herself- but she doesn’t have to like it. Not when it costs her nice things like witty new girlfriends.
On that note, I’m not thrilled to see Reagan go but WOW is it amazing to see a superhero have a grown-up conversation about something. Too many times a love interest tearfully demands the truth while the hero stands silently with a constipated expression. Usually in the rain. This time both Kate and Reagan acknowledged they had conflicting hard limits, expressed regret, and parted like adults.
We see this same emotional maturity again later when Catherine is blackmailed by Alice. Sure, Catherine makes an attempt to take care of the issue on her own, but when the cards are down she puts on her big girl pants and just tells her husband the Big Secret Alice is holding over her head. I may not agree with what she did in the past (or let’s say while I understand it if the family was so broken up, I wouldn’t do the same). In the present, I was relieved to see her own up to her questionable life choices.
Wait a minute, fresh insights, innovative story choices, people acting like grownups but still remaining human with human mistakes… who wrote this episode? [Pause for a quick IMDb break] Oh look, ‘Who Are You?’ was primarily written and directed by women: director Holly Dale and writers Nancy Kiu and Denise Harkavy. This is the real value of diversity in storytelling. Instead of another boring “why can’t you trust me” comic scene we get something just as impactful but different. Instead of sparking a melodramatic “Alice is making up lies to drive a wedge between us” C-plot we have a morally grey situation between a husband and wife that’s much more interesting.
Diversity in storytelling. Amazing. Tell your friends.
Alice is barely in this episode. I did like that she’s still got the spark of life she found in the last episode, though only time will tell how far that takes us.
There was a sad moment early in the episode where Luke casually talks about how unhappy Bruce was in Gotham. It’ll be interesting to see where that goes, and how Kate avoids the same miserable fate.
I do have a major criticism for Kate Kane: learn to lie better, friend. Cover stories are part of the superhero life. She is cringingly bad at making things up on the spot. It’s like watching a toddler try to lie, no kidding. From a creative perspective, of course, lying would be one of the hardest things for Kate to learn, so I don’t expect that to change immediately.
After ‘Who Are You?’ I’m feeling optimistic about Batwoman in general. The pace issues are smoothing out, audiences are stabilizing, and the show’s been picked up for a full first season. This is shaping up to be a solid addition to the Arrowverse (and maybe we’ll see a certain Kryptonian pop up later on when his show starts?)
How are you liking Batwoman? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and game enthusiast. She can talk fandom in five languages, and her proudest nerd moment so far was presenting original research titled “Gender, Sex, and Werewolves” at an international anthropological conference. Her first game, None For Me, is due out from Calico Games early next year.
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