NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Batwoman” are present in this review
Batwoman seemed like it was starting to finally excel a few episodes ago, not even letting the unscheduled COVID-19 pandemic shutdown disturb its growing storytelling momentum. Last week however, that momentum appeared to stall a bit, and this week, the series once again appears to officially be in the rough. “A Secret Kept From All the Rest” has now been made into the season’s penultimate episode, after Batwoman’s Season One order had two episodes chopped out of it due to the ongoing pandemic, and that’s frustrating, since it’s clearly meant to be a bridging episode for a larger, multi-episode conflict that’s now not being properly realized. Worse than that however is that this episode pushes the series back into old habits, namely focusing too much on tired relationship melodrama, when it should be focusing on its villains.
One of the biggest draws behind this episode is that it features the first criminal rampage for the freshly-born Hush, a major Batman villain, who serves as probably Batwoman’s most dangerous threat so far, if we’re going by his DC Comics history. The Arrowverse’s portrayal of Hush is a little more manic and over-the-top than I would have liked, personally, but at least Tommy Elliot now has some more much-needed personality and flair. Some of Hush’s cool factor is disturbed by the fact that he’s currently merely serving as a lackey for Alice and Mouse though, who have both promised him a new face, but only if he finds a code breaker that can successfully crack the cipher in Lucius Fox’s stolen journal.
The idea of an increasingly unhinged Alice electrocuting would-be code breakers to death out of frustration at Arkham is pretty cool though, while actually presenting a building threat that feels like it’s worthy of a season climax. That’s why it’s frustrating that the logical plan of Alice kidnapping Luke to break the code is needlessly put off, only being put into motion later because Kate and Luke have an argument over Reagan stealing Lucius’ journal, and Julia supposedly holding Reagan at knifepoint to get the journal back for herself. This rift over Julia could have been interesting, but the childish row that Kate and Luke have over the issue simply stinks of bad writing. What the hell gives Kate the impression that she can be Batwoman without Luke? She’s clearly extremely dependent on Luke’s tech skills and overwatch abilities!
Fortunately, Parker Torres, the tech-savvy teen that formerly deduced Batwoman’s identity, gets brought onto Team Batwoman temporarily, after Kate rescues her from Hush during a kidnapping attempt. Parker is actually put to much better use in this episode than she was before, but Sophie’s budding romantic relationship with Julia intruding on this storyline is incredibly unwelcome. Mary constantly bitching about people learning Kate’s secret identity before she did is annoying enough, but when Kate grills Sophie about Julia after she and Luke go missing, in Kate’s latest display of inexplicably juvenile priorities, Mary and Parker gushing about it from Kate’s lair feels especially annoying. Once again, I’m aware that this is The CW, but when female characters keep obsessing over romance above all else, especially during a pressing crisis, it makes it extremely difficult to take these female-driven superhero dramas seriously!
Fortunately, once Luke and Julia are actually held hostage at Arkham, the writing does improve a bit. Alice torturing Julia, someone very important to Luke, in order to force him to crack a cipher that a whole team of code breakers couldn’t crack in weeks, if not months, makes for a pretty solid ticking clock. It also provides a good opportunity for Luke to show off his skills without directly assisting Kate, which he does after determining that the code sequence is related to his social security number. In the end, Kate happens to stumble upon some convenient bullshit glasses that automatically render the journal’s code in English anyway though (it’s the Arrowverse, just go with it), successfully trading them for Luke and Julia, even knowing that she’s handing Alice, Mouse and Hush the secret to penetrating her Bat Suit and killing her. This was also a great moment, but I really wish it didn’t come off the back of such an idiotic fight between Kate and Luke beforehand.
Speaking of great moments that are ruined by bad writing, there’s yet another one off the back of Hush’s big revelation to the Crows as well. While trying to round up Hush and track down Alice, Kate resorts to increasingly violent, dangerous methods as Batwoman… Or so it’s supposed to appear. In reality, Kate initially provokes Jacob by driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and leaving a bunch of Batarangs lying around (seriously?), only to later knock out some innocent Arkham guards without explaining herself, which at least makes a bit more sense in terms of pissing off Crows management. Kate becoming more unpredictable and violent in an effort to round up Hush and stop Alice is a sound idea in concept, but the animosity between Batwoman and Jacob just explodes far too quickly here. This could be a byproduct of Batwoman suddenly having to rush towards a premature season finale next week, but the brewing war between Batwoman and Jacob/the Crows would have felt more dramatic if it was built up across a few episodes, not just one.
Mercifully though, we do still get a fantastic tease for Season Two of Batwoman once Kate is able to squeeze the truth out of Julia, namely that Julia was looking for Lucius’ journal on behalf of Safiyah Sohail. Safiyah is from Coryana, the same place that Mary’s poison antidote came from, and eventually comes to lead the Many Arms of Death, an enemy faction of Batwoman’s from DC Comics lore, whom this show has been teasing for a while now. That’s something exciting to look forward to, but Safiyah Sohail being name-dropped by Julia would have felt a lot more exciting in a better Batwoman episode. As it stands, “A Secret Kept From All the Rest” feels disappointingly contrived and frustrating, especially as the season’s now-penultimate episode. There’s some good ideas between Luke, Jacob, Alice and Hush here, but way too much time is spent on the same tired love triangle between Kate, Sophie and Julia, when this episode should be focusing on developing Hush’s first impression, which it only seems to do effectively in the first half. Worse still is that the temporary rift between Kate and Luke is very forced, further ruining this episode’s more tedious second half.
So, I guess the Crows are ultimately going to be the biggest threat to Batwoman for next week’s season finale, which, needless to say, is pretty anti-climactic. I doubt that Alice and Mouse could put together a deadly enough threat in one episode after being driven into the sewers, and I imagine that Alice willfully torching Mouse’s, “Wonderland” probably won’t have any real consequences until next season. Some of these issues aren’t Batwoman’s fault, since a global pandemic ended up compromising its original plans for the Season One finale, but even then, there’s no defending the show’s writing becoming this sloppy once again. Hopefully next week can at least end Batwoman’s slightly shortened debut season on a decent note, even if the titular heroine definitely deserves some better antagonists to be going up against for the season’s big climax.
Despite a fittingly violent debut for Hush, Batwoman continues to regress this week, once again pushing tired relationship melodrama over developing worthy threats to Kate.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Some really cool moments with Hush
Alice and Kate reflecting each other's growing, violent desperation
Julia being an agent of Safiyah Sohail
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Kate stupidly alienating Luke for no reason
More juvenile relationship drama between Kate and Sophie
Jacob declaring war on Batwoman is too abrupt and contrived