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Batwoman - Mine Is A Long and Sad Tale - Review Roundtable: Sister vs. Brother

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This review was written by Aimee Hicks, Donna Cromeans (DJRiter), and Ellys Cartin.

After a mediocre episode last week, Batwoman delivered a better episode in Mine Is A Long and Sad Tale, an emotionally intense hour. Continue reading below to find out all of our thoughts on the episode. After reading, please leave your own thoughts in the comments.

We finally learned the dark and twisted story of what happened to Beth. We also learned several surprising things chief amongst them is the fact that she factually knew Kate and their father did come looking for her. Despite that, she is still out to get them, specifically her father. She seems angry that they didn’t come back for her and that Kate didn’t “feel” her, except Kate did. Beth’s perspective on everything seems to have become twisted. At this point, what will it take for Kate and Jacob to reach the essence of Beth suppressed deeply inside of Alice? Or do you think Beth is beyond their reach?

Aimee: I don’t think Beth is beyond reach. We have seen tiny glimpses of her throughout the series. She is inside of Alice, but she has been pushed extremely far down. As for what it’ll take to reach her that is harder to guess. Both Kate and Jacob have reached her very briefly in short snippets, but I think when the time comes for Alice’s big epiphany it will come at the hands of Kate. The twin connection is very likely what will ultimately pull Beth to the surface. When the moment comes it’ll be huge for the series and a major turning point. I suspect that the series is playing the long game with Alice and given how much fun Rachel Skarsten is having playing her I suspect it’ll be way in the future before we see that moment. I expect it to play out one of two ways, a big confrontation where Kate is about to kill Alice, but just can’t do it and in that moment something snaps inside Alice that allows Beth out. Either that or Kate is critically injured, not at Alice’s hands, and that brings Beth out. Alice has proven that she is more than okay kicking her sister around, but woe unto them if someone else hurts her. I can see that being a big moment for Alice. It could really go so many ways, but I look forward to the moment when it finally comes, because I do believe one day Alice will be started down a path towards redemption.

Donna: Not sure how to answer this. As much as she yearns for Kate and her father’s love and attention, part of me thinks she loves tormenting them more. Keeping them just beyond each other’s reach does stretch out the story and we get more great scenes between Ruby Rose and Skarsten. The weak link to all this is Dougray Scott as Jacob Kane. The writers don’t seem to be sure how to write this character as I’ve not seen real concern from him for either daughter. The character seems stiff and intractable, part of it is the writing and, for me, part is from Scott’s almost wooden like performances. As far as Beth being beyond their reach, I can see them drawing this story out to keep her around for the rest of the season. The final battle between Alice and Beth needs to be when Kate is involved. Beyond that I couldn’t say.

Ellys: I long to take a cue from the Alice in Wonderland sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and seize the tablecloth that this show rests on and snatch it off the table so that all the “dishes, guests, and candles [come] crashing down together in a heap on the floor.” I would then pick up all the solid pieces and put them back on the table into something neater and more functional. The excerpts of Beth’s ordeal revealed were, like those deer bones, fragments almost too tiny to be of importance. Just as Catherine duped Jacob, the show wants us to accept that those fragments represent far greater, heavier things. Jacob had more reason to trust Catherine. Beth being abducted by a disturbed individual to be a playmate for his tragically disfigured offspring can’t help but be a little interesting. However, after Jacob and Kate come to the very farmhouse she’s being held captive in and give up far too easily on searching for her, I found myself annoyed. It came across to me as such a weak contrivance. And again, by rushing the Alice reveal, there was little emotional impact from the scene where she manipulates Jacob into lowering his defenses. I fear this episode does something else awful. It makes Alice almost boring. Her vague whispers of getting up to no good are clearly because the writers don’t have any real plan for where the story or Alice’s development is going. She might hate rich people…well, at least Dodgson does. This is a familiar Gotham story, but there’s little basis for us to be invested in it. We’ve seen some tents on the streets, and we’ve heard Reagan talk about bad real estate developers. What we haven’t seen is the Crows negatively impacting the city in any way. If Alice’s big plans revolve around taking down rich people, that is more than a little boring.

The Arkham breakout from Elseworlds was brought up in this episode having only taken place a few weeks prior. It is revealed that Mouse was there and escaped, so we can only imagine he did some pretty horrible things to end up there. He clearly has a troubled mind, but has sucked Alice in so deep that she now sees him as her “brother”. It almost seems, to a degree, like a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome. Do you think Mouse or his father are more responsible for Beth turning into Alice? We still haven’t really seen the “birth” of Alice yet in terms of flashbacks. What do you think was the final straw that caused Beth to be replaced by Alice?

AH: I believe the father and Mouse share the responsibility for Beth becoming Alice. They both played a part in her confinement which likely led to the deterioration of her own mental health. I actually think Mouse is a smidge more responsible than his father. He had multiple chances to free Beth and didn’t take them. I think when we see the breaking point for Beth it’ll come in the dark confines of the room she was locked in. The book Mouse gave her is clearly the catalyst for her Alice persona. I’m wondering if perhaps to escape, Mouse and Beth had to kill his father. Beth has proven time and time again to be a protector. She stayed in the car to try to help her mom and she’s gentle and kind to Mouse. Beth clearly had a good heart, so if Mouse was perhaps in danger I could see Beth having to kill the father and in order to do so she adopted the Alice persona to separate herself from the reality of her actions. I think something like that that would be a really rich moment of storytelling when the show finally shows the moment when Alice was truly “born”. On that note, Ava Sleeth who plays young Beth is every bit as gifted as her older counterpart, Skarsten. Sleeth has done a great job embodying the humanity in Beth that Skarsten has to suppress in Alice. They are playing the same character, but two extremely different sides of her and it’s fascinating to see the small flashes of what could be in Beth and the flashes of what was in Alice. No matter if Sleeth or Skarsten gets to play the inevitable “birth” scene it’ll be in incredible hands. They both know how to make this character pop off the screen.

DC: Oh 100% Mouse’s father is more responsible for the creation of Alice than Mouse. Mouse may have brought her the Alice in Wonderland book, but his father is responsible for the sociopathic tendencies of both. To me, Mouse is as much of a victim of his father as Beth. He may, in fact, have been his twisted father’s first victim. He and Beth were tormented and tortured by him and they eventually easily took on his sadistic qualities. The father was a master manipulator in getting both children, (shout out to Sleeth for a strong performance here), to become dependent on him. He knew just how to torment and make the children do what he wanted, by using fear and in Beth’s case, threaten to hurt those she loved. When Beth heard her father and then got upset because Kate didn’t “feel” her, that was her first step to becoming Alice. She learned how to use those tactics the longer she was there and began to use it. I think she and Mouse killed the father and he was Alice’s first kill.

EC: Mouse was as much a prisoner of his father as Beth was, so he was both a victim and an accomplice. Odds are good that whatever happened to his face was courtesy of his father indirectly or directly. It is also likely that Mouse ultimately killed his father, setting him and Beth free. Where things went wrong from there is being saved for a future episode when someone writing the show decides it's time to make that part up. For now, the show is suggesting that Johnny and Beth survived their trauma by taking on new identities as Mouse and Alice. It would appear to a very simple and straightforward explanation for their current bond. It doesn’t explain in the slightest why post-captivity they got into the underworld-fight-the-power business, but again that’s something for a future episode. For now, neither is menacing or compelling enough. I did find myself nodding knowingly when she went all Skin Pirate and borrowed from the dead booties. Buttocks tissue is one of the best tissues for skin grafts. Shouldn’t Mouse’s dad have known that though and not been stealing whole faces? Details details.

This episode finally allowed Luke and Mary to interact. It was a much-needed meeting between the two. They clearly had a connection and despite her annoying him, he did seem to be coming around to her by the end of their time together. He even sort of let her help him with some research. What do you think is in store for this super smart duo? What was your favorite part of their interactions?

AH: I think it was about time that Luke got someone else other than Kate to interact with. As expected Mary and Luke were quite the pair and were not only great comedic relief, but they actually clicked. They made for a great duo, and should Kate ever finally decide to let Mary in on the truth then I think she and Luke could be a powerhouse duo supporting Kate behind the scenes. I like all of their interactions together, but one of my favorite parts was when they parted paths. He sent Mary on her way and she snatched the pizza box and strutted off. Meanwhile, Luke was left watching her clearly torn between annoyance and awe. This was one of the best episodes for Camrus Johnson and he has really great chemistry with series standout, Nicole Kang, so this could be the start of a great new partnership.

DC: I called this pairing in last week’s roundtable and was not disappointed. The chemistry between Johnson and Kang was as expected and I look for more great things from their team-up once Mary is fully brought on-board Team Batwoman. Mary’s lament that she was a good sister because she hadn’t killed anyone was a standout moment and Kang nailed it. I want to see much more of this off-beat team-up.

EC: We should be talking about that random security guy who escorted Mary into the office. There ARE other employees in the Wayne Building. Who knew? Kang is a delight. She’s a whole box of pizza and a Friday night of cocktails tied up with a periodic table and walking on air. Basically, she’s all the good things. Luke and Mary certainly needed to meet, because the characters on this show don’t have much to do but meet each other.

Jacob finally accepted that Alice is Beth and got rewarded by a knife to the gut. But for the briefest of moments he did seem to get through to Beth. It was fleeting, but for a brief moment Alice’s eyes softened when Jacob called her Beth. Now that he saw that and has accepted the truth do you think he will change how he deals with Alice going forward? What do you think Jacob’s next move is going to be?

AH: Jacob saw what Kate has seen several times now, Beth. He saw the lights switch-on in Alice’s eyes for a brief moment when he called her Beth. Even though she stabbed him I think he saw enough to change his perspective on everything. I don’t think he’ll be giving any more orders to kill Alice. I can see him going out of his way to protect her while trying to capture her to get her help. After seeing him in that flashback, I can actually see him going rogue to try to protect his daughter even if it is at the determent to the city. Perhaps even his insistence to protect her could go a long way to helping Beth come back to them in some capacity. Jacob finally accepting the truth opened up a lot of potential doors for the writers to take him. It was easily the most significant character moment of the series for Jacob.

DC: I’m not sure because I think Jacob is one of the weakest written characters on the show. I haven’t connected to the character nor moved by any form of emotion he’s tried and failed to show, in my opinion.

EC: The show’s first and second episodes showed that Alice still had a strong connection to Kate, but the succeeding episodes keep walking this back to the point that Alice is somehow losing interest in her sister. It reads more as inconsistent writing than anything else. We’re in danger of the whole Alice angle becoming dull now. Everyone knows who she is. Nearly all secrets that matter are out in the open. We might as well just tell Sophie’s husband she’s in love with Kate, because this show is in a hurry to get to something. Jacob doesn’t have many options except to try to catch Alice and lock her up in a mental hospital. It’s not very interesting.

Despite a name change, Mouse is almost certainly a strong contender to be Two-Face from the comics. Do you want him to be developed into Two-Face? Do you think such a well-known Batman villain should have such a prominent place in this show?

AH: The real Two-Face is named Harvey Dent, so I’m not sure what exactly they are going for here, but he is a real strong contender. I’m sort of conflicted on how I will feel if he turns out to be Two-Face. I think it would be interesting to have such a big Batman villain in this series, but at the same time I think it’s a bit early to bring in someone like Two-Face. With that said, should Alice ever be sent down the path of redemption his connections to her could make for some really interesting push and pull stories in the future. It would be a great story point to see Alice torn between her blood sister in Kate and her pseudo-brother in Mouse. So, I see potential, but I sort of hope they make him a little more original than Two-Face and make him an original character, but I really feel like they are pushing hard into the Two-Face story.

DC: No, I do not want him to be Two-Face. While not as die-hard a Batman fan as others, one thing I do know is that Harvey Dent is Two-Face and this is NOT his story. I don’t believe this is where they are going with this, at least I hope not. The formula they’ve started with, of Alice as the main villain, and iconic Batman villains showing up as a villain of the week, has worked most weeks and been terribly off the mark in others.

EC: Batman? Who’s that? In fact, who’s Batwoman? I am this close to forgetting this show is supposed to be about Batwoman or having anything to do with crime-fighting. Gotham doesn’t matter. Batwoman is barely on screen. The Alice story is consuming everything and everyone, but that story has been drained because the writers showed all the cards too soon. There are no stakes. Mouse isn’t Two-Face. And this isn’t a Batwoman show. It’s a weak version of ABC’s The Family, a drama about a family dealing with an abducted child who resurfaces unexpectedly years later only as a more disturbed version of themselves. It’s nowhere near that show in quality though (and that show was only medium), because the characters on Batwoman are paper-thin, and the lack of chemistry among most of the core players just seems to grow each week. No one has interesting secrets either.

Which performer do you think delivered the most memorable performance in the episode? Why did their performance standout for you? What were their best scenes?

AH: This is one of the first episodes where I was impressed by multiple performers. Skarsten, Sleeth, Rose and Kang all had some terrific moments in this episode. But I have to stick with Skarsten. She just dominated this episode and I loved how she showed the two conflicted sides between Alice and Beth. The scene between Alice and Beth was one of my favorites because it was one of the most clearly defined moments where we got to see Beth emerge from the depths of Alice. That whole confrontation from the first moment they met in the hall to the moment she leaves with Mouse was a great scene for Skarsten. She nailed all the complex layers to Alice in that moment.

DC: I was particularly impressed with Sleeth as young Beth, her anguish fighting her urge to call out to Kate when she knew her sister was there, on the other side of a wall from her was heart-wrenching. As usual Skarsten and Kang had great moments. Skarsten was so good with Rose in their heart-to-heart at the diner and Kang as drunk Mary still matching wits with Luke was golden.

EC: Kang got some great one-liners. Skarsten continues to carve away at her character, and her performance carries an insane depth that is now dragging the show down as it just magnifies the flaws in the storytelling.

Reader Question: Submitted by Ivan. Do you want Alice to stick around after being Season 1's Big Bad or do you want her to leave after so as to not become a crutch or repetitive like Arrow and The Flash with Malcolm Merlyn and Reverse Flash had and have become respectively?

AH: Not only do I want her to stick around, but I believe she will. Alice is more than a big bad villain, yes, she does horrendous things, but I don’t think she’s beyond salvation. As I’ve already noted, we have seen that Beth was a good person and that goodness, while deeply suppressed, still lives inside Alice and all it’ll take is the right catalyst to change Alice’s trajectory. Unlike Malcolm or Reverse Flash the writers have a lot more room to evolve Alice. If the writers play things smartly Alice should never become stale especially in the very gifted hands of Skarsten.

DC: I would love for Alice to stay around. Right now, the Alice/Kate interactions are the only thing keeping the show interesting and the sad truth is they aren’t going to be able to extend their cat and mouse game beyond one season. And, as interesting as their story is, it has very little to do with Kate Kane’s journey as Batwoman, which after all is the name of the show.

EC: Alice isn’t a Big Bad. She’s barely a villain. She’s barely a character. Because there’s barely a story in this show!

What are your final thoughts regarding this episode?

AH: Here is the thing about this episode, I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. The whole thing felt disjointed and a bit all over the place. I perhaps came in with my hopes for it too high and it didn’t live up to my expectations. It was so much better than last week’s episode, but it still failed to reach the level of the second and third episodes. Skarsten, Rose, Sleeth, and Kang all delivered strong performances, but for the second week in a row the writing sort of failed them. I don’t know what was going on in the writer’s room during the writing of the second and third episodes, but they need to start replicating that and get that magic back. I liked what they tried to do with the backstory, but the way it was structured it just made for a very choppy story. This week I actually started to like Jacob, but I’m still not at all sold on Sophie. I still can’t figure out what is going on with that character, I keep trying to blame Meagan Tandy, but I’m not sure it’s a hundred percent her. I feel like the writers share some blame as they don’t seem quite sure what to do with her just yet. The promos for the next episode look promising to finally get some quality Sophie content for Tandy to dive into, so hopefully next week I’ll finally be sold on Sophie. The more they try to throw her in these situations where she and Kate are supposed to have chemistry the more frustrated I get with the character. I got my hopes high for this episode and was let down, so I’m not going to get too excited for next week, but I would be thrilled if Tandy and the writers finally gave me a reason to like Sophie and root for her, because right now she’s just hurting the flow of the story by the writers just throwing her in for the sake of involving her in things. All around, this was an okay episode with some really strong performances, but disjointed writing.

DC: This episode suffered from weak writing and choppy editing. Again, I think the scenes with Jacob and Sophie were the dullest part of the episode and just served to disrupt the flow of the action. There were some very big plot holes that bothered me, one of the biggest is why would Jacob bring a young Kate with him after getting a call from Beth for help. He put not one but both of his daughters in danger. And I’m sorry, Sophie is just not convincing as a badass, she’s barely convincing as a character at all.

EC: I don’t understand why they are writing Batwoman to be a tween show, one with barely any Batwoman at that. The show can reset. Other shows have come back from lows. It’s astounding how much this one is racing through and discarding compelling material. Kate’s complicated feelings about Batman and Bruce and being a vigilante...well, she’s over all that. The whole potential of an Alice vs. Batwoman conflict being suspenseful with them not knowing each other’s identities or at least one of them not knowing ...gone. Any new show will face an uphill battle in finding its voice but Batwoman just keeps napping and rolling back to where it started.

Each week we will select one question from all of you to include in our roundtable. Please submit your questions in the comments section below.

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