Alice gets to tell the haunting story of how Beth slowly faded away

By Kyle Fowle
November 03, 2019 at 09:00 PM EST
S1 E5
  • TV Show

I feel like Batwoman is getting better every week, but “getting better” is a relative term. The show is improving at a rate that could be best described as a snail’s pace. Every new episode makes a slight tweak, resulting in a moment or a few scenes that show some promise for what the show could become. But then there’s everything else around those scenes: the truly clunky dialogue, the lack of narrative momentum, the pacing issues, and way too many characters and performances that feel wooden.

It’s been a rough go for the show so far, despite recently getting a full-season order, but “Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale” has some moments that finally put character motivations into focus. The storytelling is still sloppy, but for the most part, this episode does a good job of recounting how Beth became Alice, and how that story might influence the other characters.

It all begins when Alice is caught on camera stealing hunks of flesh from morgues around Gotham. Kate, despite the ample evidence that Alice is a twisted villain, can’t believe that the sister she once knew is capable of this kind of thing. She’s disturbed and distraught, and she wants to stop it from happening again. Thankfully, she placed a tracker in Dodgson’s neck when she held him captive, and that allows Kate to find Alice. Batwoman fends off the Wonderland crew, and then handcuffs Alice and takes her away for questioning.

Batwoman -- Image Number: BWN105a_0155.jpg -- "Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale" -- Pictured (L-R): Ruby Rose as Kate Kane and Rachel Skarsten as Alice -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Robert Falconer/The CW

Kate asks about “Mouse” and what their plan is, but Alice isn’t saying anything. She mentions that it was Mouse who found her after the accident, but that she has to “show” Kate what happened rather than tell her. Kate calls her father and tells him that she has Alice, knowing that he’ll trace the call and come looking for them. That gives Kate some leverage: Alice better tell her story before Jacob can show up and haul her off to Arkham.

Thus, we get a road trip with the Kane sisters. “It all started 14 months before Catherine faked my death.” That’s news to Kate, who’s just learning about what her stepmother did to help her and her father “move on.” Beth wakes up, confused and disoriented after the accident. A father and his son, who’s about Beth’s age, are watching over her. They say they found her while they were out fishing, and that they’ll help her get better and call the police to get her back home. Of course, the serious Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibes let us know that everything isn’t as it seems.

Alice gets Kate to take her to a specific diner so that she can tell the rest of her story. She details how the kid, Johnny (a.k.a. Mouse), was disfigured and constantly hiding his face, but they became friends. Then, when she saw an item on the news about the cops searching for her, she figures out what’s happening. The dad never reported finding her. He locks her up in the basement, and that’s where she finds the face in the sink; the dad has been trying to create a face for his son. Yikes.

Just as the story’s getting good, Kate passes out. Alice had this planned all along: the morgue robberies to get Kate’s attention, the diner so that she could spike her drink. She takes Kate to the home where she was held captive, and Jacob tracks them there, eventually showing up with Sophie. That’s where the family truly has a reckoning. All those years ago, Beth managed to escape from the room and call her father, asking for help. Jacob and Kate drove to the house, frantically searching for Beth, but Johnny’s father convinced them that the call was a prank from his son. Jacob and Kate were in the house where Beth was being held, and Kate was literally on the other side of the door. But Beth never called out, scared that the man would kill her family.

The reckoning is emotional, and the best part of the episode. Watching Alice describe her trauma is heartbreaking. Those years molded her, and there’s seemingly no going back. When Jacob shows up and tries to talk her down, she stabs him, and a grown-up Mouse attacks Sophie. Eventually though, there’s a standoff, and Alice and Mouse escape. She has a gift for him, for her “dear brother” — more skin. The rest of the episode, with Mary and Catherine having a melodramatic confrontation, to Mary’s drunken ramblings with Luke, is a mess, but at least this week we get a solid origin story for Alice.

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