Batwoman 1×06: “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury” and Supergirl 5×06: “Confidence Women” reviews
Arrow and The Flash were off this week, but we still have new episodes of Batwoman and Supergirl to discuss. Yep, my mind is totally on those episodes, and not on the bevy of new Crisis on Infinite Earths trailers that came out. Nope, not distracted by those at all.
Batwoman 1×06: “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury” review
This is not a particularly special episode of Batwoman.
Since it’s a new series, most episodes till now have marked a major point in the show’s development. The pilot, obviously, was the pilot. “The Rabbit Hole” was where the show established the twisted sister/sister dynamic between Kate and Alice. “Down, Down, Down” was where Kate first truly became Batwoman, rather than borrowing Batman’s outfit for some odd jobs. “Who Are You?” showed Kate going through the growing pains of becoming a professional superhero. And last week’s “Mine Is a Long and Sad Tale” was, of course, Alice’s origin story.
But this week, Batwoman has finally reached a point where episodes don’t automatically cover new ground or establish important parts of the show’s identity. “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury” has our heroes fight a villain of the week and defeat him, while also advancing their soap operatic plotlines, and has our main villains furthering their evil plans in the C-plot. Nothing much to mark it as special or important; I’d call it a very typical episode of Batwoman, except the show hasn’t been on long enough for episodes like this to become typical.
Being typical’s not the same thing as being bad, though. While it’s unlikely to make anyone’s “Top 10 Most Essential Episodes of Batwoman” list, “I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury” is a solid and entertaining outing that, if it doesn’t break any new ground, shows itself able to trod familiar ground with surefooted grace.
A big part of this episode’s success is that it creates a truly interesting one-off villain, something the Arrowverse has often struggled with. Even The Flash, despite having one of the more fleshed out Rogues Galleries in comics to draw from, tends to reduce its villains-of-the-week down to a generically villainous motivation and a set of powers that need to be worked around. The Executioner, simply by virtue of his cool looking costume and the elaborate nature of his death traps, would already be more memorable than most. That he’s also given such a compelling and original motivation, one that makes his death at the end somewhat tragic, elevates him to a level that few one-shot villains in this collection of shows have managed.
Also buoying this episode is how the “stop the villain” plot and the “let’s discuss our feelings” plots complement each other. It’s an old formula for action/adventure TV shows, using the high stakes storyline to force the heroes to confront their personal issues. But it’s such a well-worn standby because it works. Just as Kate and her father were on opposite sides of how to handle Beth, they’re now on opposite sides of how to handle the Executioner, forcing their conflict to come to a head.
They’re also forced to confront the seductive nature of blame. The cabal that the Executioner targets? They condemned innocent people, because when a horrible crime happens, the public wants someone to blame, wants to see someone punished. We see with Luke how reluctant people can be to let go of such a tidy solution, of the knowledge that this person is to blame and we don’t have to think about it anymore, even when it’s shown to be a lie. From this, both Kate and Jacob come to see how they’ve been blaming others to an irrational degree, because they feel the need to blame someone for what happened to Beth. And if they can’t blame a convenient scapegoat, all that pain and anger will be turned in on themselves.
It’s not that deep of a revelation, and is rather baldly stated at points, but it gives the episode the emotional resonance it needs. And after six episodes of Kate and her father being some degree of hostile to each other, having them get to a point where they can embrace each other while crying makes for a moving finish.
This likely won’t become a well-remembered episode that people go out of their way to re-watch, but it’s a very well put together hour of television, and shows that Batwoman can be an entertaining watch even when it’s not throwing major revelations or status quo shakeups at us.
- Did Kate really need to take Chris the Fist away from the Crows? Once it becomes clear that someone else is the Executioner, he’d be released anyway, right?
- This episode, we got references to a Mayor Cobblepot (presumably Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. the Penguin) and the Joker having the real name “Jack Napier”. Seems like someone on the staff is a fan of the Tim Burton Batman
- Great bit of humor that the bad guy’s super-weapon is just sitting on his coffee table, with no guards or booby traps, and the “Bat protocol” is completely unprepared to deal with this situation.
- Igniting the hydrogen in the poison gas to get rid of it . . . I mean, it sounds like a clever solution, but it seems like if there was enough of the gas in the room to kill them, then igniting it should have either burned them to death, or at the very least burned off all the oxygen in the room, leaving them to suffocate. But I’m no chemist.
- A lot of people dislike Sophie, but I’m taking more of a wait-and-see approach to her. What makes her so frustrating is that the show has, so far, kept her real feelings and motivations opaque; we don’t know how she really feels about Kate or why she treats her the way she does. But they’ve kept her feelings so opaque, I’m thinking that might be because there’s some surprise revelation planned for the character, and they don’t want to give anything away.
Supergirl 5×06: “Confidence Women” review
I want to be clear: I love that these flashback episodes are becoming a regular thing on Supergirl.
Season 3’s “Midvale” was obviously done to give Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh some time off while they filmed the “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover, but exploring an adventure from their childhood made for a charming and refreshingly original episode. Season 4 then gave us “Man of Steel” and “The House of L”, each of which went into the past to fully flesh out a villain’s origins, and in doing so gave us probably the two best episodes that Supergirl has ever done.
So when I saw that “Confidence Women” was going to be this season’s flashback episode, delving into Lena and Andrea’s past together, I was excited. It seemed like the perfect thing to get this season out of the doldrums it’s been in.
Yeah . . . that didn’t pan out.
“Confidence Women” is trying to do what “Man of Steel” and “The House of L” did: take two of the show’s current villains, and show how they developed over the course of several years to become the way they are now. But where Ben Lockwood and Red Daughter had compelling and tragic character arcs, taking them from a place of innocence to cold ruthlessness and brutality, Lena and Andrea have . . . pretty much nothing.
Andrea theoretically goes through a major change, from a good friend and a good daughter to a superpowered assassin for a shadowy cabal. But that change isn’t rooted in any sort of character growth. Anytime she does something drastic, it’s because Leviathan has just threatened the lives of people she loves, so she’ll agree to whatever they want to avert that. She remains a passive character throughout, and there’s no indication that Andrea at the end of the story is any different from how she was at the beginning.
As for Lena, this flashback story seems intended to explain her extreme reaction to Kara’s deception. It shows us that Lena has been betrayed by her best friend before, and retreated into her work before. It was Kara who finally got her to open up again, which makes Kara betraying her feel like a horrible pattern repeating itself. In theory, this story isn’t a bad idea. But in practice, it’s taking the story we’ve already been watching Lena go through, repeating it with a different character in the best friend role, and compressing the whole thing down into half an episode. It may show that Lena has a history of reacting this way to betrayal, but it doesn’t actually show us anything from Lena that we haven’t seen before.
It doesn’t help that the source of the Lena/Andrea split is not exactly easy to relate to. Lena’s mother used to be obsessed with an old fairy tale about “the Medallion of Acrata”, Lena finds out that the Medallion might actually exist and (somehow, improbably) be able to thwart her brother, but when she and Andrea go to find it, Andrea takes it for herself. Like, intellectually, you get why Lena would be so upset by this, but it’s such a bizarre situation, it’s difficult to make the emotional connection. It’s hard to wring genuine pathos out of, “No fair! I had dibs on the mystical artifact! Dibs!”
(And it gets worse when you recall that Lex’s “seed the atmosphere with kryptonite” plan, which Lena wanted the Medallion to prevent? It ended up causing no harm, aside from one episode where Melissa Benoist was replaced by a stunt double. Plus, since the same technology was used to drive off the Daxamites in Season 2, it’s probably a good thing Lena wasn’t able to stop its development.)
Really, I think this episode’s failure was in trying to replicate “Man of Steel” or “The House of L”, instead of looking to “Midvale” for inspiration. The early parts of the flashbacks, showing Lena and Andrea’s blossoming friendship, and then them later in life, going on a jungle adventure together? Those were a lot of fun. Had the episode focused simply on this chapter from their pasts, fleshing out the backstory of two characters who have a history together, much like “Midvale” did for Alex and Kara, it could have been terrific. But when the episode starts fastforwarding through the years, trying to hit all these supposedly big moments in the characters’ lives before catching up with the present day? It underwhelms, because of how little real growth happens during that time.
I do hope we get more flashback episodes in the future; I just hope they’re better conceived than this one was.
- During the present day parts of the episode, Kara uses her superspeed quite a few times, so it’s kinda frustrating when she forgets about it at the end, allowing Andrea and Rip Roar to escape.
- Has the DEO’s interrogation room always had windows to the outside that you could see a thunderstorm through? That . . . doesn’t really seem secure.
- I liked seeing Lena’s old boyfriend in the flashbacks, both for the Season 2 callback and because it’s always nice to see Rahul Kohli. But including him here makes it kinda hilarious how both Lena and Andrea had British boyfriends who got turned into cybernetic killers against their will and then died.
- When Andrea tells her about the Medallion’s curse, Lena retorts, “Our friendship was the curse.” I would love this episode so much more if she’d instead phrased that as: “The real curse was the friends we made along the way.”
MVP of the Week: Mary Hamilton
She didn’t do too much this week, but she’s been such a consistently awesome new character, I wanted to make sure she got this award at least once.
Question of the Week: What’s your favorite flashback storyline in the Arrowverse?