By Sydney Bucksbaum
November 17, 2019 at 09:00 PM EST
Michael Courtney/The CW
S1 E7
C
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It’s been a few weeks since I last filled in for EW’s regular Batwoman recapper, but unlike Bruce Wayne, I’m back! At that point, I was still wary of the newest Arrowverse series. Now that we’re seven episodes in, unfortunately, my snap judgments have proven to be correct.

Think of where we were seven episodes in to Arrow — a comparison that will prove to be more relevant than I thought throughout this week’s Batwoman. The CW’s first Arrowverse series knew what it was as soon as in the first episode. It had a clear plan for not only the first season but also the first few years of the show. Batwoman, on the other hand, seems to be trying too much while simultaneously not enough in each hour, making for a season that’s so far been all over the place. I don’t really know what the ultimate goal of this story is yet, and we’re a third of the way done with the first season. That’s not a great sign!

And while this week’s episode, “Tell Me the Truth,” has some promising moments peppered in here and there, it’s a mess overall. There’s no clear narrative structure — it’s just a bunch of scenes crammed together that don’t flow (which can also be a fitting description of the season so far). Maybe I’m being too harsh for a show that’s still trying to figure out what it is and its place in this shared universe, but the bar has been set so high by all the other Arrowverse series that have come before. Hopefully, the upcoming crossover influences Batwoman in a way that addresses these concerns. Maybe this is the same problem Agents of SHIELD faced before Captain America: The Winter Soldier changed everything — in a shared universe, sometimes a show has to tread water until a major movie event finally allows it to become what it was always meant to be?

But I digress! Let’s get into the actual action of this week’s outing. The hour kicks off with Batwoman stopping an assassination by the Rifle, with the Crows not far behind, and Sophie confronts Batwoman with an ultimatum: If Kate doesn’t reveal her identity to her father Jacob, then Sophie will. Harsh. Luke thinks Kate should be real with Sophie about her work as Batwoman and somehow convince her not to tell her secret. And seeing as how Sophie is still lying about her connection to Batwoman/Kate to her husband Tyler, there’s definitely a chance that could work. It’s not as if the Kane household can take any more family drama — Jacob and Catherine have officially filed for divorce.

As Batwoman attempts to thwart the Rifle again, she ends up in a fight with a mysterious female fighter who turns out to be… Julia Pennyworth, who is also hunting the Rifle. The women focusing on fighting each other instead of the Rifle allows him to get away. But that’s okay because it means we get to learn that the infamous Alfred’s daughter has an exciting (read: romantic) connection to Kate. And she wants to team up with Kate (and Luke, who’s excited to see her in the Batcave, which might be the most surprising thing of all). The backstory: Julia was sent by Bruce to check up on Kate after she was expelled from the military academy and dumped by Sophie. Julia had lied about being a krav maga teacher to get close to Kate, they had a fling, and when Kate found out the truth she got upset that Julia was lying about her intentions, thinking everything was fake. And in just one scene, Kate and Julia actually have more chemistry than Kate and Sophie have had all season. It’s the same issue that plagued season 1 of Arrow when Oliver and Laurel failed to capture that ineffable spark necessary for love interests to work. It can’t be faked or forced. Can we start a petition to get Julia on the show full-time?

Instead, we get more Kate/Sophie drama. Kate asks Sophie to meet up to try to convince her to keep her secret, but things go south before the conversation can even begin when the homophobic owner of the restaurant tries to kick them out after seeing them hold hands. Kate stands up for herself and understandably makes a scene while Sophie tries to downplay the entire situation. This might be the best moment of the whole episode because it’s real — the writing and acting don’t feel strained. This is where the Arrowverse always excels, when it tackles real-world issues within this fictionalized world. However, the next few scenes burn through the goodwill earned with that confrontation pretty quickly because none of it makes sense.

Sophie reveals to Kate that while she had planned to stick together with her and not sign the letter denouncing their relationship at the military academy back when they were caught together, it was Kate’s father who convinced Sophie that she’d be expelled if she didn’t. I could understand her wanting to protect her future — Kate was willing to risk it all, consequences be damned, but Sophie didn’t have any backup plans or nets to save her. What doesn’t make sense is why she wouldn’t at least warn Kate in advance that she changed her mind instead of lying and saying that she didn’t love Kate to make a clean break. A simple conversation would have been enough to potentially save their relationship despite their difference of opinions on how to handle the crisis. It’s played as a major emotional beat and it just doesn’t work. Plus, why wouldn’t Kate’s father want to stick up for his daughter and save her from heartbreak? That was pretty cruel to facilitate his own daughter’s dumping, all with a calm smile on his face.

And while Sophie and Kate never actually discuss the ultimatum, Sophie does finally reveal the truth to her husband — not about Kate being Batwoman but rather her romantic history/near-expulsion from the military academy instead. He’s understandably hurt because his wife kept the biggest relationship/part of herself secret from him, and rightfully storms off. But Sophie stays true to her ultimatum and tells Jacob that Kate is Batwoman.

As Kate comes up with a plan to make sure Sophie doesn’t tell Jacob about her Batwoman identity (too late!), Mary just walks right into Wayne Enterprises as Kate, Luke, and Julia are opening the secret bookcase door to the Batcave. I actually LOLed at this point, because the moment is so reminiscent of when Curtis Holt just waltzed his way into the Arrow cave on Arrow. It’s always the ones you underestimate that figure out the secret on their own! Unfortunately, Batwoman doesn’t actually follow through on the fun potential of this discovery and just has Mary forget/not care about seeing the secret door a minute later. That bummed me out.

And in another unintentional nod to/copy of Arrow, Kate’s plan to get Sophie off her trail as Batwoman is to have Julia put on her Batwoman suit so Sophie can see both women at the same time, giving Kate the perfect alibi. It works, but I can’t stop laughing at how Oliver had Diggle do this exact same thing in an early season 1 episode of Arrow. And we’re — checks notes — right about at the same place in season 1 of Batwoman. Hmm.

Meanwhile, there’s a subplot of Alice altering the Batwoman armor-piercing gun so it doesn’t actually kill whoever’s in the Batsuit, which is supposed to prove Alice’s love for Kate. But Kate just thinks that Alice stole the Batwoman-killing gun and tried to use it on her (when Julia was in the suit), so that also doesn’t make sense. But there is a mention of Safiyah, which is who the Rifle and Alice both work for. Comic book fans recognize that name as from a recent Batwoman run, so expect her to play a bigger role moving forward. As for how closely the writers are going to follow the comic source material (she’s actually an ex of Kate’s which could add a juicy layer to her employing Kate’s sister), that’s still unclear. But the Rifle takes off with the Batwoman-maiming (not -killing) gun, and Julia leaves hot on his trail. So I guess that means she won’t be sticking around as much as I had hoped? I’m bummed again!

And in what should be an epically heartbreaking romantic moment between Kate and Sophie — where they decide to keep their distance knowing how they both are still in love with each other — it all just falls flat. Even when Kate breaks down crying as Sophie leaves, the emotions don’t feel authentic. What happens the next moment is far more exciting: Kate decides to buy the building across from the homophobic restaurant owner and turn it into a gay bar. She hangs a huge rainbow flag in the window. I am so here for that kind of act of rebellion, because you can feel the difference from when Ruby Rose is forcing the acting vs. when it comes naturally, and these kinds of scenes are the latter. Rose hasn’t been able to carry the heavy emotional work so far, and the writing doubly hasn’t been playing to her strengths. But in moments like this, she truly shines, and I can’t wait to see more of this strong, proud, defiant Kate.

Another moment that doesn’t work? The final reveal. We’re supposed to be shocked that Mouse has been disguised as Jacob this whole time, but nothing that Jacob has done all episode long has been shocking or out of character (aside from that flashback when it actually was Jacob giving Sophie the advice that led to her dumping Kate). There weren’t any clues hidden in the episode that foreshadow or pay off this “twist,” and it results in an anticlimactic ending. If that’s all Alice has up her sleeve, the rest of this season is in major trouble.

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