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Batwoman - Off With Her Head - Review Roundtable: Family Matters



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

Batwoman delivered a very powerful episode in Off with Her Head. Continue reading below to find out our thoughts on the episode. After reading, please leave your own thoughts in the comments.


Alice (Rachel Skarsten) was put through hell this week and as a result, we got to see another era of her time with August Cartwright (John Emmet Tracy) and Mouse (Sam Littlefield). The show introduced Cartwright’s equally sadistic mother, Mabel (Debra Mooney). Seeing that glimpse into the past led to some really dark scenes. It proved to be quite dark and intense with content not normally aired in the 8 o’clock time slot. What are your thoughts regarding the events of the flashbacks? Do you think the show went too dark given its time slot? What are your thoughts about what happened to Alice at Mabel’s hands and how that shaped her? Who do you think she fears more, August or Mabel?

Aimee: I think the episode was dark, but I’ve also long thought that we take the 8 o’clock time period too seriously. But I do see where some viewers might have been shocked by just how dark it went given its time slot. I didn’t see any major issues with it airing when it did. But, with that said, I would not be surprised to see the show move to the later time slot next season. As for the flashbacks, I was surprised that I actually felt a bit bad for August having been raised by Mabel who seems like she has always been a sadistic woman. He got caught up in a dark cycle and passed it to his son and unfortunately to Alice as well. The fear drug induced memories of Mabel, so I’d say she fears that psycho far more than she does August, which is saying something since both aren’t good people. At least both are no longer alive to torment her, but their demises can't take away the memories of that they did. But I do think we got a whole lot better idea of how Beth really became the dark Alice we have gotten to know throughout the season.

Donna: Going dark is something the show has been flirting with since its premiere. What I did not expect what just how dark they went in this episode. Some of the very disturbing scenes and elements included in this story were far too intense for the early timeslot. If the show is going to go and remain on this very dark path for the remainder of the season, then the producers need to seriously consider moving it to a later time slot. I’m beginning to believe that the level of Beth’s brutal abuse at Mabel’s hands had far more to do with turning her into Alice than almost anything August did. Clearly, Alice fears Mabel more than August.

Ellys: This episode could have used a trigger warning, considering it contained abuse and near-suicide. We knew there was another layer of brutality that pushed Alice over the edge, and what a horrific layer it was. Director Holly Dale really brought the torment into the viewer experience as well, with all those dreadful, claustrophobic shots that trapped young Alice and Mabel in the same frame. Perhaps the most interesting part of the flashbacks was that Beth killed Mabel, not Alice. The Alice that we saw was submissive and meek and withdrawn. It was only when Alice saw the earrings that Beth’s memories of her mother were reawakened. Beth was the one who fought back, the one who tried to escape, and ultimately the one who set Mabel on fire. Alice is a mask, a performance, but killing Mabel was personal, and the personal things always come from Beth.


Jacob (Dougray Scott) has been talking about killing Alice for many episodes. Then when faced with a sobering reality he seemed to change his approach. Despite everything that has happened between them, Jacob still ran to Alice’s aid in her greatest hour of need. He saved his daughter’s life and in the process showed that despite everything, she does still have a family that will fight for her. How will this impact the Kane family dynamics? We’ve seen some moments between Jacob and Alice before and they never last long, but this seemed different. Is this a turning point for the Kane family where they will start the process of trying to bring Alice back into the fold? Or is another shoe waiting to drop that will divide them again?

Aimee: I think what will be covered in the next question is more of a game-changer for the overall family dynamic, but this was a big moment for Jacob and Alice. I think for a brief moment they both found the humanity within the other and they connected on a primal father-daughter level. I do think this is a turning point for Alice. Her father came and saved her like she had longed for as a child and even Kate fought for her. I think for Alice that will be huge. She’s still far from redemption or fully integrating back into the family, but I think this is the start of the family slowly coming back together. Of course, Alice will screw up and do horrible things because that’s how the Cartwright family twisted her brain to think and operate. I think now that both Kate and Jacob know a small taste of the horror Alice went through that they may grant her a small bit more sympathy. But there is a lot of bad history between them now, so anything is possible. Another shoe could drop at any moment sending them spiraling apart again, but I do hope that this is the start of the family intermingling more. I will say that I really liked this episode for Jacob. The writers struggle with that character and I think the best thing they can do now is reset things a bit and start to show him in a more fatherly role more often because that is where the character excels.

Donna: One instance of Jacob finally doing the right thing and being there for both daughters is not enough to reunite this fractured family. His character has been so all over the place I’m not sure if he’s in any position to be the head of this family. The other shoe has already dropped or will drop when Mr. By-the-Book; Law & Order: Head of the Crows Jacob will help his daughters hide a dead body. Will he try to be more of the father he should have been all along? Maybe, and just consider the irony that it might take this family’s duplicity in a crime to finally unite them.

Ellys: Jacob always seems to be one punch away from taking a very long nap. Scott’s delivery of “Rise and shine, you son of bitch” was the most alive Jacob has ever been on this show. We haven’t seen him truly fight for anything, so I was surprised to find myself moved by him rushing to save Alice. Seeing Beth dead on a table may have been the last straw. At the end of the episode, Jacob seemed upset but also resigned to the fact that Kate killed Cartwright. I’m just curious if the writers will have him take ownership of helping his family heal or if they’ll send him back to work to sulk aimlessly. I very much wish that is not the case.


Kate crossed a line she can never take back when she killed August. In a way, she was avenging her family, but that didn’t seem to give any solace to Kate who was visibly distraught after she came to her senses. How do you think this will impact Kate going forward? Do you think this event along with everything she learned about Alice’s time with the Cartwright’s will start to bring the sisters closer together?

Aimee: This is going to have a massive impact on Kate. She can’t take back what she did and she knows that. She saw what killing did to Bruce in the Crisis crossover, so it’ll be interesting to see how Kate handles this and if she spirals or tries to find a way to deal with her actions. I do think that the overall events of this episode will draw Kate and Alice closer together, at least in the short term. Alice will finally feel like they have something in common and that mixed with the fact Kate and Jacob fought for her might make Alice cut them both a bit more slack. It will be very interesting to see how the sisterly and overall Kane family dynamics change after everything. I’d also like to see Kate perhaps lean on Alice a bit as she tries to deal with her grief. She started to reach out to Sophie via text message but instead found herself sharing a drink with Alice. I do believe what happened is going to have a major effect on Kate and how she handles it will be very interesting to watch play out.

Donna: This is going to shake Kate to her core. She was just at a point of knowing who and what she was in terms of Batwoman and now she’s been forced to do the one thing she’d vowed not to do, take a life. I’m torn as to whether I like this turn, especially after going to such lengths as they did to show her the bitter, angry man her cousin Bruce had become and his indifference to life in Crisis. I have reservations as well as to how it occurred, alone without witnesses. I wonder if she would be in a better position to perhaps justify her actions, had she been forced to kill Cartwright to save her father or Beth. This is going to shake her confidence the next time she battles a foe, and she could hesitate and that could prove to be disastrous for either her or someone she cares about. There is a twisted irony to the fact that the one person who is in the best position to help Kate come to grips with what she did is her psychopathic sister. Such a warped definition of a sisterly bond.

Ellys: The execution (literally) of this plot development was the only part of the episode that struck me as particularly clumsy. First, Kate putting that glass near Cartwright was a rookie move that I can’t see her making, even under stressful circumstances. Secondly, it didn’t work for me that she lashed out at him for taking everything away from her before she attacked him. Kate isn’t self-centered like that, at this point in her story. The words were wrong. She would have been saying something about Beth or Alice when she went for him. And I take issue with the “I killed a person. Will I ever come back from it?” story. There’s no life in such a story, not on a TV show, not in a work of fiction where real-world rules don’t exist. Especially not in a show about a superhero. Especially not when the life taken was that of an absolute monster.


Mary (Nicole Kang) and Luke (Camrus Johnson) got to spend some time together this week. They are progressively growing closer over Beth’s murder. What do you think comes next for these two? Are they being setup as a new couple? Or will everything change once Mary is eventually brought into the fold officially? Do you think that Mary believes Luke knows the truth about Kate?

Aimee: I think it is obvious that Mary and Luke are being groomed as a new couple. I would not object to it either as I think Kang and Johnson have good chemistry together. They are fun to watch when they get to do these side adventures together and I’m onboard for more of this. Plus, being around Mary actually gives Luke something to do besides being stuck in the Batcave, so I hope they develop a much stronger friendship that can perhaps morph into a romance. They’d be a cute couple. As for if Mary believes Luke knows who Batwoman is, on that one I’m torn. Sometimes I think she does, but then when Batwoman called she played it off like it was none of his business. She could have just been screwing with him, or she could have very well genuinely thought she was protecting Kate’s identity. I’m not really sure where things fall in that department, but I do look forward to them spending more time hanging out and working together, so I hope this group stops keeping secrets from each other sooner than later so they can really dive into these dynamics.

Donna: Mary totally knows Luke is Batwoman’s technical sidekick. Watching her investigate with Luke while acting like the last kid on the playground to be chosen and subtly begging to be picked for the team was a highlight of this episode. Two great instances of Kang’s brilliance and mastery of this character was her phone-call with Batwoman to which she declared to Luke was Doctor/Vigilante confidentiality, and her trying almost every book on the shelf looking for the lever to the Batcave and coming oh so close. I don’t see them as being set up as a couple, I see her teaming up and working with Luke in a capacity like Cisco and Caitlyn on The Flash. They match each other intellectually and I think she would be the great out-of-the-box thinker of the team.

Ellys: I adore Mary, and she 100% knows that Luke is working with Kate. On one hand she wants to wait for Kate to confess, but she can’t suppress her natural curiosity. I enjoyed watching her and Luke sleuth it up. I am reminded again that we know so very little about Luke, even though he assuredly has a complicated, intriguing history. How did he end up working with Batman? Why doesn’t he have a social life or friends? There could be romance in his and Mary’s future. She’s very similar to Other Beth with whom Luke had a lot of sparks.


With this horrible CoVid-19 pandemic sweeping the globe and so many shows suspending or ending production for the season, what do you think the impact will be on Batwoman?

Aimee: I think Batwoman is going to be heavily impacted by this horrible event transpiring across the globe. I don’t foresee things subsiding quickly enough for them to be able to resume filming. For scheduling and financial reasons, it’s just not practical. I’m really bummed because there were a lot of indications that Julia (Christina Wolfe) was about to make an extended return to the show. She is in the trailer for the next episode and Wolfe’s IMDB page would indicate that there was a chance Julia was going to hang around for most of the remainder of the season. I feel like we’re going to get cut short on her return and that’s frustrating because she’s a character I really like. I just hope they snag Wolfe as a major recurring performer next season or even better, as a series regular. While losing out on Julia’s full arc in the last half of the season is a bummer so is the fact that none of the characters will get to play out their full arc for the season. I’m very curious where the season will end now and how production will go about meshing how this season was supposed to end with how they imagined next season beginning. This vicious and horrid virus is messing up so many things, but shutting down productions like Batwoman and her fellow CW shows was absolutely the right move. Protecting lives is far more important than any form of entertainment is or ever will be.

Donna: I think the sudden suspension of filming will result in a lot of unanswered questions in the terms of storytelling should the show’s season end on the last full episode completed. We already know from the promos and hints in the media they were just beginning setting up their season finale. As my colleagues and I have discussed what is happening now is uncharted territory and is sure resulting in some creative decision making from the network and producers. At least with the writer’s strike there was some advance warning and shows were prepared, yet with this terrible situation shows halted production almost mid-scene for some shows. In the long run, as disrupting as it is to the season, the decision to halt production was the right decision to make in order to protect the health and well-being of the casts and crew.

Ellys: 19 episodes were completed, with three left to shoot. Historically, CW shows, especially in their first seasons, throw their absolute best stuff into their last three-to-four episodes. We also know, thanks to next week’s promo and her IMDB page, that Christina Wolfe was returning as Julia Pennyworth, most likely for multiple episodes. Batwoman doesn’t have that many variables in play. There’s a very limited set of things that could happen at the end of the season, and most of them involve series regulars that will be back next season regardless. I expect the ending of Season One to feel incomplete and unpolished, but that’s true of most episodes of the show anyways.


Reader Question: Submitted by Ivan: We're nearing the end of the season, so what do you want the Season Finale to end on? Alice's true road to redemption, first sign of Luke's transformation into Batwing, etc.?

Aimee: As the prior question covered, the season finale that was planned is not what it will be now. But in an ideal world where CoVid-19 doesn’t exist, I’d have liked to have seen a big final push to see a drastic change in Alice. A good ramp up for what could be a very strong redemption arc next season. I’d love to see more Julia, way more Julia, and ideally a Julia and Kate romance. I have come around to like Sophie (Meagan Tandy), but my favorite pairing for Kate will still be with Julia. I know Sophie is Kate’s endgame, I get that, but for at least a little bit I’d really like to see the writers give Julia and Kate a real go at a relationship. We need to see Kate in a long stable relationship with someone other than Sophie. I’d have also really have liked for Mary to finally be fully in the loop by the end of the season finale and I can only hope that will happen in some capacity before the season abruptly ends. I don’t think anything major will happen with Luke yet as I see that as more of a Season 2 arc for him. There was so much great potential for the season finale that we may never get know or at the very least wait many months to find out in the Fall, or whenever new shows can finally be released depending on how long this real-life crisis drags on for.

Donna: What I would really like for the show to end the season on is to remember it’s a superhero show about a character named Batwoman. Right now, I feel this is more a Kane family story and you could almost take the character of Batwoman out of it. I want the show to do two things, one I want it to remember the show is called Batwoman so let me see more of Batwoman, and two, decide if they are going to be a full-on superhero show like others on the network or do they want to continue down a far darker path a la shows like Gotham.

Ellys: Since I already know the show is giving me my greatest wish, the return of Julia, I am at a loss for what I want, because this show isn’t particularly good with giving me what I want or need. The show is also left without an antagonist, because there’s no way Beth can go back to being the antagonist. The biggest challenge for Jacob and Kate now is to convince Beth that she can be saved. We know that the death of Luke’s father is going to be explored, but I can’t imagine the entire show revolving around that mystery and Beth’s rescue and Kate guilt-drinking. Someone needs to be introduced to tie all our protagonists together.


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?

Aimee: Rachel Skarsten hands down. Ruby Rose and Nicole Kang were exceptional as usual, but this was a big episode for Alice and Skarsten really dug into the material and delivered an incredible performance. You could feel Alice’s fear and angst around Mabel and her terror when she found her mother’s head in the cooler. Then when Jacob saved Alice and she sobbed while calling him “daddy” was heartbreaking. There was so much emotion in that moment it was palpable. The moment that Skarsten shared with Rose in the alley was nice. We got to see a small bit of sisterly bonding, even if it was over such a morbid shared circumstance. Scenes between Skarsten and Rose are always great to watch. All around a standout episode for Skarsten.

Donna: There were great moments from the usual Skarsten, portraying the younger version of Beth being tormented by Cartwright’s mother; Rose with Kate’s reaction to having broken her code and killing a man; and Kang with her spot on subtle comedic touches to Mary’s quest to become part of the team. However, for me, this episode the performance that delivered the most impact was that of guest star Debra Mooney as the coldly evil Mabel Cartwright. She may have looked like someone’s matronly grandmother, but her ability to drop the act and strike like a snake was masterful and jarring. It was the kind of performance that would give someone nightmares.

Ellys: Eternally, Rachel Skarsten. The immediate transition from Alice to Beth in the flashback scene when she sees the earrings. The nightmares. The moment Alice loses hope. The flash of genuine longing when she realizes Jacob has saved her. The last words to Cartwright. Sauntering up to Kate at the end of the episode. There’s nothing she doesn’t make absolute perfection.


What are your final thoughts regarding this episode?

Aimee: I really liked this episode. I expected to enjoy it because I really like the way they are starting to evolve Alice and Skarsten is doing some of the best of her work as this character so this episode definitely did not disappoint me. It lived up to my expectations and more. I think it set up a lot of great things to come and I’m just sad that all these plot points are likely to not get properly concluded this season. At least we’ll have some great stuff to look forward to next season.

Donna: This was an unsettling episode that stayed with me long after airing, and not always in a good way. It was an intense hour of television and while it took some intriguing twists, particularly involving a pair of ruby earrings, I do have to question some of their storytelling choices. I’m not completely sold on having Kate kill. I do want to make a distinction here that it was Kate that killed, not Batwoman and perhaps that is why I’m torn about this episode. I have said it before in these roundtables and I will say it again, I want more Batwoman in Batwoman.

Ellys: Although the ending left me conflicted, this was easily another excellent Batwoman episode, ultimately hopeful despite the very bleak content.


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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