For a show that takes place in Gotham, one of the darkest settings in the DC universe, Batwoman Season 1 Episode 15 manages to plumb new depths of the horrific with the introduction of Alice's own Red Queen, Mabel Cartwright.
Maybe there had been some strange wrong-headed belief that August's captivity and psychologically abusive treatment was all it took to turn young Beth Kane into the mentally unstable Alice.
Witnessing Mabel's routine and sadistic physical abuse of Beth/Alice, whose personality had already dissociated in order to accept that she would never be able to escape the Cartwright Farm, was a new degree of evil in our experience with the Arrowverse.
The warning signs were there in how August greeted his mother, but honestly, August has been so incredibly awful that I was rather pleased to see him cowed by someone, for once.
Your dear mother is carting an oxygen tank and you greet her with an open flame? I can take a hint.Mabel Cartwright
Perhaps I should've been expecting the violence from Alice's reaction to knowing she was in Mabel's house.
Or the fact the Fear Toxin immediately triggered Mabel's faceless presence.
Or the slow, laborious, gravel-crunching, oxygen-tank-bumping, tension-building camera work on Mabel's walk from the car to the farmhouse.
They weren't subtle about how nasty Mabel was going to be, and yet, I was still taken aback by the deliberate scalding of Beth/Alice's hands.
What was brilliant about the past and the present stories that played out was how it took the combination of both to lead Kate down Alice's path to taking a life.
Kate foreshadows it when she basically brags to August that she is everything Beth could have been if she had never met August.
(Alarm bells always ring for me when Kate makes speeches that aren't letters to Bruce. It's so out of keeping with her typical way of talking.)
It's clear that killing him was an act of uncontrollable rage (just like Alice's cold yet fiery in killing Mabel), considering how much effort (and ridiculous, fantastical, miraculous, "medical" luck) it took to STAPLE-GUN his neck wound closed.
Mary: Is the blood flow pulsing? Rhythmic?
Mary: Okay, then it's not the carotid artery but you still need to close the wound. Do you have a needle and thread?
Kate: I have a staple gun.
Mary: Wouldn't be my first choice.
There's a strong parent-child dynamic theme throughout the main plotline.
Between August and Mabel, the victor was obviously Mabel. The only thing August ever denies his mother is Gabby Kane's face.
Mouse's relationship with his father has always been problematic. With the exposure to the Fear Toxin, August appears to have won that battle.
For the first time, we get to see Gabby Kane with her daughters before the accident and the origin of the twins' necklaces.
The scenes after the bat mitzvah also explain why Jacob wasn't in the car when the accident happened. The guilt of that absence probably contributes mightily to his reactions to both his daughters.
So, in saving Alice with the adrenaline shot, does anyone else feel that there's been an emotional backslide into thinking Alice is redeemable?
Congratulations, Daddy. Now, both your daughters are killers.Alice
To be fair, part of Jacob's motivation to getting the adrenaline shot into Alice was the thought that the Fear Toxin madness would drive her to even more terrible deeds before she imploded.
However, when he found her locked in that cellar, she was very close to taking her own life. Methinks the primary impulse was preserving her life. That will most probably lead to her killing someone else in the near future, so what then, Jacob?
And yes, the whole "Mommy Dearest" narrative goes a long way to creating sympathy for Beth/Alice, but I really thought that everyone was on the same page about today's Alice being irreparably damaged.
She's demonstrated that she's an unrepentant, even nonchalant killer. Repeatedly.
She's ordered a hit on Mary (still an unforgiveable move in my mind).
She's endangered a multitude of Gotham-ites.
She's murdered Katherine, poisoned Mary (see above), and framed Jacob for the death.
Like the Sophie/Kate romance, the redemption of Alice is difficult to buy.
Funny thing though, now that Kate's killed someone, it seems like Alice is a bit calmer.
It might be a temporary lull in the crazy, but it might be that she feels like she's finally made her point that Kate's just like her.
Last time I checked, bodies don't bury themselves.Alice
Meanwhile, Mary and Luke teamed up again, and there is no other groove-some twosome I'd rather watch solve mysteries.
Of course, Mary spent a large part of it fishing for Batwoman ins. Watching her pull every book off the shelf in Bruce Wayne/Kate's office was super adorbs.
And her on-the-fly consultation on closing August's neck wound while Luke's going nuts in the background was priceless.
Luke: What is happening?
Mary: Sorry. Doctor-vigilante confidentiality.
As light-hearted as their adventure felt (and boy, did we need that reprieve from what was going on everywhere else), there's a set-up in play for some prime conflict for Kate when faced with suiting up again.
Will she feel unworthy of the cowl now that she's killed someone?
Will she worry that she'll take the same dark route as Earth-99 Batman?
Will she be able to admit to Luke what happened to August?
Also, how is Luke going to react when he finds out that Jacob (via Sophie) is considering helping the man who was convicted of killing Lucius Fox to get out of prison?
As you watch Batwoman online, riddle me this: With August (and Mabel) dead, and Alice allied with Kate (for the moment), does that leave Mouse, now scurrying around Gotham with a head full of Fear Toxin, as our Big Bad?
How does Team Batwoman operate when Batwoman doesn't want to "Bat" anymore?
Where is this show going? Where are the team lines drawn?
Spill your thoughts in the comments!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.