Batwoman is a sluggish, confused show. Every episode this season is packed with scenes and plot yet never manages to coalesce into anything resembling a satisfying whole. There’s no sense that the story is building towards anything. Everything feels unmoored, each scene and twist failing to land in a significant way. “A Mad Tea-Party” delivers much of the same, though with one devastating moment that at least feels a little bit earned. Could Batwoman use that to turn the corner as it creeps up on its fall finale and the massive CW crossover? Maybe! But I’m not holding my breath.
The thing is, the show is plagued with plot issues and spotty acting. There are some highs here and there, but they’re tough to come by. It’s like the show doesn’t know what it wants to be and there’s no long term plan, which means everything feels thrown together and often repetitive. Take this week’s opening scene for instance. Batwoman fights off a Rabbit and snags his phone, then brings it to Luke to track Alice. Maybe it’s a small thing, but this has happened numerous times. The number of times Kate has had to track Alice is baffling, and while it’s maybe not super important from one episode to the next, I think it’s revealing about how the show is handling its plot and character relationships.
What I mean is that everything between Kate and Alice is very played out. There’s no real rhyme or reason to Kate’s need to get her sister back, or Alice’s struggle with her “Beth” side. The show deploys the sisterly tension and emotion when it’s convenient, but it doesn’t add anything to the overall story or how we understand these characters. In fact, this whole episode is meant to deliver a crushing blow to Kate’s optimism about bringing Beth back, and while that blow is certainly dealt, it feels like Batwoman has no idea what that really means for anyone in the long run. So, when Kate finally decides that there’s no bringing Beth back, we don’t know how to feel. Are we supposed to be sad that she’s given up? Isn’t that the whole reason she was mad at her father? Why does Catherine’s death, rather than all the plots to kill innocent people, suddenly make a difference? The episode doesn’t do a good job of exploring why Kate finally snaps.
So yeah, Catherine is dead after Alice hijacks her speech at a humanitarian gala and then poisons both her and Mary. Alice, being the diabolical villain she is, does have one dose of the antidote though, forcing Mary and Catherine to decide who gets to live. Mary wants to share the antidote and hope that paramedics arrive to save them both, but Catherine refuses. She makes her daughter take the dose. Then, before she dies, she tells Mary that she knows about the clinic and that she’s proud of her. Mary’s anguish is incredibly effective, one of the few “emotional” moments on this show that hasn’t felt stilted. Rather, we understand how Mary feels betrayed by Kate and how she’s now all alone with the loss of her mother.
That anguish is what drives Kate to hate Alice and give up on Beth, but there’s still no real sense of how this all finally comes together in Kate’s head. It feels like a contrived way to finally cut the connection between Kate and Alice; Catherine was sacrificed for plot convenience. Anyways, the emotions are at least in the right place. Mary is angry at Kate for saving Beth over everyone else, and she’s absolutely right in her analysis. Kate is devastated that she’s lost yet another member of her family, and maybe even one more if you count a fraught relationship with Mary.
Where these emotions land, everything involving Sophie is a huge miss. It’s all so dull and predictable. Sophie and Tyler get ambushed by Mouse, who’s posing as Jacob, and are tied up in a room together while Alice unleashes her Mad Tea Party. That means they have plenty of time to discuss their feelings (or lack thereof) for each other. They also manage to get themselves free and then take a lot of time to talk about their feelings before, you know, going and stopping Alice. In any case, it falls flat. There’s so little chemistry between Sophie and Kate and Sophie and Tyler that it’s difficult to get on the wavelength of this supposed love triangle.
If one’s looking for optimism though, it’s that Catherine’s death and Sophie’s admission of uncertainty about her feelings for Tyler are moments that should necessitate change. That should force the show to explore these character dynamics with more nuance. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope for the best as the show heads into “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”