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Spoilers below for the Batwoman series premiere, so be sure to watch before reading on!
Arrow-verse viewers are certainly accustomed to jaw-dropping plot twists going down on a weekly basis, and newest entry Batwoman ended its very first episode with a shocker straight from the comics. The series follows the still-recovering Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, a cousin of Bruce Wayne's who happens to hate Batman for the role he played, or didn't play, in her twin sister Beth's presumed death. In due time, Rachel Skarsten's fairy-tale-esque Alice arrives to immediately cement herself as Batwoman's nemesis. (But don't call her a Joker wannabe.)
At first, one might have thought that Alice's focus on Batwoman also came from a distinct dislike of Batman, but it was a lot more personal than that. By the end of the episode, it was revealed that "Alice" was just a persona being draped across the character's true identity, that of Beth Kane, who hadn't actually died like Kate thought.
Star Rachel Skarsten spoke with CinemaBlend at the Television Critics Association's 2019 summer press tour, and when I expressed my shock that Batwoman dropped such a large bomb in its premiere episode, here's what she told me:
I think a lot of people were surprised that that dropped in the first episode. But I really liked it, because I thought it kind of ups the stakes of their relationship and them being sort of a nemesis to one another. Because the depth of that relationship, the history of that relationship, goes so far beyond just, 'I want to do good,' and 'I'm going to do evil,' you know? It puts them in this position where [they have to ask themselves], 'Can I hurt you? Can I kill you even if I need to? Because even though you're so against what I'm doing, you are my sibling. You're my sister.' And so I think that makes it quite interesting, to kind of take it to the edge every time, but then you can't cross the line.
Kate and Alice's upcoming relationship doesn't sound like a sibling rivalry so much as Alice being the kind of person that just likes to torture other brothers and sisters in the worst ways, and without the most concrete motivations. But while Alice proved in Batwoman's series premiere that she has little trouble murdering people, she might not be angling so hard to stop the blood coursing through Kate's veins, considering they share DNA.
Hypothetically, the opposite holds true for Kate Kane's Batwoman, although even beyond the sisterly element, it's likely because she generally doesn't want to build up a large body count. The Bat-family isn't very big on solving problems by making corpses, related or unrelated.
As Rachel Skarsten put it, dropping the sister twist so early in the season, rather than building it up for a while, allows the show to quickly ramp up the stakes while still setting up the storytelling. No one should expect Batwoman to put on the brakes anytime soon. Here's what the actress teased about what's coming up from showrunner Caroline Dries:
Yeah, reading the second episode, I was like, 'Wow, they are not holding back.' It's coming in hot and heavy and hard, which is great. Because often you present people with the pilot, and you have so much more resources and money and time, and you make this amazing pilot. And then you kind of settle into what 'network television' is, you know? Caroline was just like, 'No-o-ope,' and our second episode was like as big as our first episode. Absolutely there will be villains that kind of come in for this episode, but then they'll come back seven episodes later. I really think she's trying to make a world in which all of those people don't just disappear. They're still there, we check in on them from time to time, and they interconnect with other characters. I'm more on my own, just like being evil and talking to myself, but I love in the show how all the other characters, they have these intertwined allegiances and you know, agendas and that kind of thing.
Batwoman fans knew that Alice and her Wonderland gang wouldn't be the only key villains in Season 1. It was only recently when the CW drama revealed the first look at Gabriel Mann's Tommy Elliot, who will go on to become the iconic Batman foe Hush. (Though Tommy Elliot did appear in Gotham, Batwoman will specifically mark Hush's first live-action appearance.) As well, the quirky thief Magpie, to be played by Rachel Matthews, was also revealed.
For Rachel Skarsten, this side of the storytelling is something that she truly loves about Batwoman's comic book source material. She appreciates that Batman villains are more than just one-dimensional threats, saying this:
I think one of the beautiful things about the DC universe – in my mind anyway – is all of the creative minds that have come together to make every incarnation of all the comics. They managed to create so many individual villains that all have their own backstory and motivations to the things that they do, and weird isms and quirks about them, you know? And so while we are all evil, we're all very different. And Alice, I think it's really cool that she's a woman. Because a lot of the villains – not all of them, but definitely the majority of the ones I grew up with – were like Penguin and Joker, and Riddler and things like that. But she also has a very unique relationship to other characters on the other side of the good, that I think makes it particularly interesting. Of course, some of that I can't get into, but . . . I do think that makes her quite different.
If The Joker got the wacky reveal one day that he was actually Bruce Wayne's twin brother this entire time, that would completely shake up their relationship in unimaginable ways, so it will be very interesting to see how Alice attempts to break Kate apart during the rest of the season, and possibly beyond. Never underestimate the power of a pissed-off sister.
Batwoman airs every Sunday night on The CW at 8:00 p.m. ET, followed by all new episodes of Supergirl Season 5. Even though it already started, Batwoman will take part in her second crossover episode for the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover.