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Performer Of The Month - Readers' and Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of January - Rachel Skarsten

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The article was written by Aimee Hicks, Donna Cromeans, Ellys Cartin, Klutzy_Girl, Marko Pekic, and Zandarl. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

It is a rare occurrence for the Staff and Readers to agree on the same winner for Performer of the Month. When it does happen it usually occurs for a performer who delivered a truly powerful performance. Rachel Skarsten is no exception to this, her performance in An Un-Birthday Present (1x11) helped make the episode one of the best episodes of this first season of CW's Batwoman. Her performance was powerful, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and heroic. Shows, in general, try to avoid sticking a performer with more than one character to portray, but when it does happen it is a true testament indicating that the creative team felt that performer was capable of taking on the enormous task of giving life to multiple characters. Since the moment the series premiered, Skarsten has essentially been playing a character within a character and she did it flawlessly. Then the writers added in Beth and Skarsten took this immense opportunity and turned in a tour-de-force performance. For all these reasons and all that will be discussed below, Rachel Skarsten is SpoilerTV's Staff and Readers' Choice Performer of the Month for January for her dual performances in An Un-Birthday Present as Alice and Beth.

Continue reading below to find out our thoughts on the episode. After reading, please leave your own thoughts in the comments.

What was it about her performance in this episode that led you to choose Rachel Skarsten as Performer of the Month? Overall performance? Particular movement, moment, scene or gesture? What really stood out in her performance?

Aimee: From the very beginning of the series Skarsten was a standout and she has continued to be ever since. In this particular episode, it was every single aspect of her performance that made me vote for her. Two moments really stood out the most. The first was at the junkyard when Skarsten was playing Beth playing Alice. The beauty of that scene was that the audience could see that it was Beth pretending to be Alice and that's not an easy thing to do when a performer is so used to portraying a character a certain way. The other moment, and this was probably my favorite, was when Beth was locked in the trunk of the burning car and for a moment it didn't look like Kate would get her out. Beth was overcome and couldn't talk by that point. Skarsten put her arms through the bar and grabbed Ruby Rose's face. As their characters and as performers that was a profoundly powerful moment. That look that Skarsten had on her face as she was portraying Beth essentially giving Kate permission to leave her and save herself was haunting. There was so much said with not a single word spoken. For me, it was the most powerful and moving moment of the series up to that point and solidified my vote for her because no other performance in January was going to be able to top the powerful emotion she showed at that moment and throughout the episode.

Donna: Skarsten quickly became a fan favorite with her take on the twisted Alice. She has been masterful in getting viewers to sympathize with and care for this complex character. Getting viewers to care for what should be an unsympathetic character is a unique gift that Skarsten expertly uses. She then takes that skill and amplifies it by added essentially a third character to her repertoire. Her first appearance as new Beth was shocking and through the use of body language, inflections in her voice and general demeanor she easily makes one believe it is a different actress playing the part. Two unique moments stand out for me in this episode and prompted my nominating her for Performer of the Month. When Kate finds and apologizes to a scared Beth at the swings, she is exceptional at conveying the character's fear and confusion about this new world she has been thrust into. Capitalizing on the intense chemistry she shares with Rose; she leans into the performance and the result is a touching reunion at the end. The second moment comes during the dramatic climax of a desperate Kate trying to once again rescue her sister who is trapped in the burning car. By reaching her hands through the bars to grasp Rose's face, Skarsten has Beth speak volumes without uttering a single word to her sister that is was ok to let her go again, that she knew her sister had done all she could to save her.

Ellys: After all this time playing Earth-Prime's Beth trapped within Alice, Skarsten takes another Beth through the looking glass into our Alice's world. It's disorientating for both Beth and Alice, but it's a tea party for us. The highlight of the first season of Batwoman has been every second of Skarsten's menacing, pleading Wonderland Gang mastermind. Desperate to give and receive forgiveness, yet incapable of both actions. Skarsten wears the persona of Alice as a tourniquet that keeps Beth from completely losing her mind while also preventing her full recovery. In every scene, Skarsten shows Beth and Alice coexisting, one still that young girl dreaming for a rescue that will never come, the other a cunning, twisted adult determined to exact revenge. This is a performance impossible to look away from, which makes it the ultimate mind trip when we see the mirror reflection of these two characters in the other Beth when she impersonates Alice.

Klutzy_Girl: Skarsten is a fantastic actress, and the shifting between Alice and Beth was seamless. Both characters are obviously very different, and it showed. I didn't doubt at all about who was who.

Marko: Skarsten did some extra hours during this outing. The way she succeeded to interpret two such distinct characters and bring to life a pre-kidnapping adult Beth was just masterclass work. She didn't miss a beat during the outing, and she deserves all-around standing ovations for her work.

Zandarl: I always think it's never easy playing a mirror of yourself, or multiple versions of the same character but keeping them distinctively apart. Skarsten pulled this off brilliantly in this episode and that is why she got my vote.

Skarsten shines as two distinct characters in this episode. Which would you like to see more of? Why? Do you see any similarities in the two characters?

Aimee: As we sadly now know, Beth did not survive the episode that followed this one that Skarsten won for. But had she, I would have liked to see a lot more of Beth. I loved that bond that we got to see Kate have with Beth. With that said, I still have hope that one day we will start to see a version of Beth emerge from Alice. So, while I'm glad Alice survived so that we can keep getting to see her evolve, I am sad to see Beth go. There was so much potential left in that character that the show really could have capitalized on because of how immensely talented Skarsten is. A great example of that talent is in the fact that Beth and Alice felt like two very different characters. She made each of them their very own unique individuals from the way they moved to even the way she had each of them speak.

Donna: If I am honest here, I believe I would choose Beth. We've seen and gotten to know so much about Alice, it would have been nice to see the life Beth could have carved with her sister. She was obviously an extremely intelligent and capable woman, so seeing her fit into this world and back into her family would have been a wonderful journey to witness.

Ellys: The genius of letting Skarsten portray another universe's Beth is that it magnifies every little detail with which Skarsten crafts her performances. We learn that much more about Alice. As Beth in ordinary settings, Skarsten walks freely, unhindered, just moving from one position to the next. Alice's steps, by comparison, are always more deliberate. She's more likely to meander as if her mind is wandering or she wants whoever is watching to be unable to predict her direction. Another detail that stood out to me was how Beth grabbed Kate's face at the end of the episode. It brought to mind the times we've seen Alice touch Kate's face, always either over-aggressive or hesitant. She's a stranger to Kate. A world where she and her twin are close is abnormal to her, no matter how much she has wanted it otherwise. For the Beth from another Earth, there is nothing more natural than being close with her sister. Skarsten working in these details shows us that Alice's primary motivation is a quest to be whole, a state of being that she only remembers from her past with Kate. Affection doesn't fuel her as much as that need to find equilibrium.

Klutzy_Girl: I'm really upset they already killed Beth off because I would have loved to see Skarsten continue to play both roles or have Beth stay. Killing Alice would have been brave and a surprise. There are certain similarities between the two characters – they obviously both care about Kate, even though it's expressed differently. One singular event diverged their paths – Alice wasn't saved and instead suffered years of trauma at the hands of her kidnapper and abuser while Kate did save her Beth, and they went on to live a happier life.

Marko: If CW would do a spin-off with these two characters, I would eat it up. But Alice is still my girl. While I enjoyed "normal" Beth and her reaction to her doppelganger reveal, in general, she is quite bland in comparison to Alice. We need to see more of Alice's evolution, what happened to August and how she came to her masterplan.

Zandarl: Alice is a riot and literally a killer who was made not born but with Beth, we see what if she has a warmth Alice is lacking and I would like her to stick around for Kate's sake but feel this happiness won't last.

She shares impactful scenes with several key characters/actors. Which do you think she has the most chemistry with? Which scene impressed you the most and why?

Aimee: She has chemistry with every single person she shares the screen with. I am a big fan of it anytime Skarsten gets to share the screen with Nicole Kang (Mary). Those two are the highlights of the show, so to have them share a scene is just a joy. It was also interesting to see how both actresses handled the different dynamics between when they are Alice and Mary versus Beth and Mary. But for this episode for which Skarsten is being recognized, I have to say that my favorite scene partner for her was Rose. There was just such great energy and emotion between them that really brought a whole new complex layer to the show because of how much heart and soul both actresses put into this new dynamic. My favorite scene is still the one I mentioned above when Beth was locked in the burning car. That scene will stick with me for a very long time. That was a powerful moment.

Donna: Skarsten is one of those rare, talented performers who generate chemistry with whomever she is sharing a scene. The antagonism and sparring that went on between Skarsten's Alice and Meagan Tandy's Sophie in the interrogation room crackled with energy. Yet for sheer emotional punch in this episode, it was the scenes she shared with Rose that often radiated with emotionality both as Beth and as Alice. The scenes of Beth and Kate trying to reconnect as sisters were heart-warming, while the electricity of her sparring and Alice's desperate attempts to connect with Kate were tense and impassioned.

Ellys: After this episode, I want more of Tandy and Skarsten working together. Their scenes here were fascinating. Skarsten doesn't let up on the playful side of Alice that shows she's manipulating Sophie, but the sincerity she imbues her line delivery with adds an intriguing layer to the scene. Alice wants to tell her story, wants someone to treat her with compassion, wants the person hearing her to practice that reflective listening. Her conversation with Sophie is one of her most honest yet because both parties are aware duplicity is taking place while the truths are being told. Skarsten shows in her facial expressions of gratitude that Alice is touched by Sophie's validation of the trauma Alice's younger self went through. She feels seen. Sophie's interaction with her isn't marred by expectations or hopes or history. Alice can be both sides of herself freely.

Klutzy_Girl: Skarsten has great chemistry with Rose, and all her scenes with Kate were so impactful and moving, especially with Beth. I loved seeing these two sisters get to interact without any trauma or murders tearing them apart. I'm so glad Beth and Kate got to celebrate their birthday together, even though it ended up being ruined.

Marko: The scenes between Sophie and Alice really got to me. The glitches between Alice's sides and how Sophie worked herself through her was quite beautiful. Skarsten as Alice knew just how much of herself to give to Sophie but keep the important stuff to her, make Sophie think she understood her but still be the mastermind and let her know just enough.

Zandarl: There is no doubt she has unique chemistry with Kate, she is a twin sister even if she is from another earth the scene in the car that eerily echoes the previous life or death scene. No words were needed the look between them said it all.

Skarsten is so versatile if you could have her play any other character on the show who would it be? Why?

Aimee: She has proven throughout her career that there aren't very many characters she can't brilliantly bring to life. She has a very broad and well-developed range that allows her to bring so much to any character. I honestly think she could do justice by any of the characters, but I also would never want to see a single performer in the show replaced. But in an alternate universe, I could have seen her make a brilliant Kate Kane. I think she has the screen presence and skills to have done justice by Kate. But I honestly think she is perfectly cast as Beth/Alice. This character requires so much and I just can't see any other performer be able to bring to Beth/Alice what Skarsten has.

Donna: Wow, talk about a difficult choice. With her versatility, she could play literally play any other female character on the show and would even come close to pulling off a great Jacob (Dougray Scott) or Mouse (Sam Littlefield). If I must choose just one, I would like to see her take a crack at a Reagan, the bartender or some other love interest of Kate so the writers can take advantage of the intense chemistry between the two actresses.

Ellys: Commander Kane. If anyone could put on the boss role of staring deeply into people's eyes and telling them to pull themselves together, it would be Skarsten. The power suits she would rock! The intense wars of words with the city's dull mayor and other public officials. In this alternate universe, I am also getting more of Skarsten and Tandy, so it's a win-win for me.

Klutzy_Girl: I'd love to see her play another superhero role after her stint on Birds of Prey all those years ago so maybe Kate/Batwoman. It certainly sounds like it'd be fun!

Marko: This is a really good question. At this point, I couldn't see her play any other character. She would be a great Catherine as she always brings great complexity to a character.

Zandarl: I have been a fan of her hers since Birds of Prey and watch her grow in Lost Girl. Alice though has blown me away. I love a good villain but despite how evil she is you can't help feeling empath for her. Because of this, I can envision her playing another character, but I have to say Beth without the psycho personality was amazing too.

What are your final thoughts on her winning this recognition? What do you expect from her the rest of this season and into Season 2 of Batwoman?

Aimee: I am beyond thrilled that she won this recognition. Her performance has been deserving of it all season long. I had hoped she would win at least one side, but the fact she pulled off the hard to accomplish double win is just a huge testament to the power of her performance in this episode and throughout the season. I expect we'll continue to see high-level powerful performances from her throughout this season and into next season. I hope that we'll get to see her play a bit more of Beth within Alice because I think Skarsten could deliver some truly amazing stuff in showing Alice struggling with that side of herself. No matter what comes next we can all be guaranteed that in Skarsten's hands it will be brilliant.

Donna: It was my hope when I nominated her on the staff side that she would be chosen, however, I was not expecting a double win by being selected Reader's Choice. I shouldn't have been surprised though, as her brilliance in playing these parts resonates so well with so many people. As far was for the rest of the season, I would like to see them move along with Alice's story and decide which direction they want to go, whether it's to send her further down the rabbit hole of insanity or try to redeem the character and reunite her with her family. Either way, in Skarsten's skillful hands either journey is going to immensely watchable.

Ellys: The entire success of Batwoman's first season hangs on how the writers resolve Alice's inner turmoil. Whatever they choose to do, there is no doubt that Skarsten will stick the landing, hook and line and sinker. The rest of the show strives to be more grounded, but Alice stands apart as if lifted straight from the pages of a graphic novel. Skarsten is only ever Alice or Beth; there's no trace of the actress behind these characters. Disappearing this completely within a role is a magic trick only the most experienced and gifted can pull off.

Klutzy_Girl: Now that Beth is unfortunately gone and hasn't merged with Alice (which would have been a fascinating journey), I expect Alice to continue to fall further down the rabbit hole. I don't think she's going to get redeemed, and I'm worried Skarsten won't be a regular come next season. But I expect her to continue to be one of the best parts of this show, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the second half of the season is like.

Marko: Her winning is truly well deserved. She elevates the show with her performance and I couldn`t see anyone else deliver such a compelling performance as Alice. I don't see Alice as someone who could be completely redeemed and walk through Gotham like nothing happened. I could see them ending season 1 in jail/Arkham and jump-start another villain story from there. Alice seems like a character that could be the Malcolm of the series, recur with different plans and mischiefs. Cause at one point having her as the primary villain would become tedious despite Skarsten's magnificent work.

Zandarl: I loved Beth being pretty hopeless at playing Alice it did make me smile but my favorite scene was when the car was on fire Beth wanted Kate to leave her not die and Kate was not going to leave her again now she knows in another earth she did save her.

Rachel Skarsten delivered an impactful performance that will remain with us all for a long time. There are sure to be many incredible performances from her in the coming weeks, months, and years. She is the sort of performer that just when you think they can't possibly be any more amazing in their performance they manage to surprise and awe you. So we all look forward to watching her continue to grow and evolve Alice and continue to deliver awe-inspiring performances.

Please use the comments to discuss all your favorite parts of Rachel Skarsten's performance in An Un-Birthday Present.

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