In the latest episode of Batwoman, Gotham is menaced by a villain born from the city’s corruption.
Gotham City has a number of well-known villains, but it turns out the city’s corruption may be the worst one of all.
Sounds like typical Gotham fare, but Batwoman includes a twist that changes viewers’ understanding of the villain and the city.
We breakdown that unexpected twist and what it means for the citizens of Batwoman’s Gotham. Spoilers ahead!
We all know Batman’s tragic backstory—that his wealthy parents were gunned down by a poverty-stricken denizen of Gotham, resulting in Batman’s birth and his war on crime.
In Batwoman, we learn that his cousin, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), also had a tragic backstory—her mother and sister were killed in a car accident.
It is revealed in Batwoman: I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury, that that accident was actually the result of Joker’s actions.
This ties into our recent examination into why Gotham needs Batwoman, not Batman. Someone needs to ensure that Gotham’s big bads stay locked away. For good.
But it turns out that the well-off citizens of Gotham aren’t the only ones struck by tragedy. White-collar workers like Lucius Fox who come into the orbit of the Waynes and Kanes also meet tragic ends.
Following the Executioner’s murder of celebrated advocate Angu Stanton (Mark Gibbon), Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) takes a personal interest in the case. For a reason.
Luke’s father, Lucius, was murdered in an armed robbery, on the day of Luke’s graduation. The family were celebrating his acceptance into MIT—a dream he was never able to fulfil because of his father’s untimely death.
Stanton worked day and night to bring justice to Luke’s family, and countless others. His death is a personal tragedy for Luke, and he is determined to find the Executioner with Batwoman’s help.
While the deaths of the Waynes and Kate’ mother are tragedies in their own right, it is important to remember the little guy, who doesn’t get to go home to a mansion and a butler even after losing their entire family.
Luke’s life was irrevocably changed by one senseless act of violence—one of many that taints the city of Gotham.
It was good to see Batwoman: I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury give Luke some backstory for what drives him to fight crime in Gotham.
Getting a glimpse as to how his life was impacted—his inability to attend MIT—made his loss that much more real and relatable.
Gotham’s villains tend to be straight-up bad guys—they kill, maim, and torture because they like to. There isn’t much reasoning behind it.
And while this philosophy has worked for decades, modern audiences do need some motivation for the murderous actions of a show’s villains.
Batwoman has clearly made this a priority—not only has the show given Alice a great deal of motivation, but it has made her a sympathetic character that we can’t help but root for.
The show even gave one of its villains of the week, Thomas Elliott, motivation and reasoning for his murderous attempts.
It wasn’t surprising when Batwoman: I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury gave viewers a multi-dimensional Executioner.
Partway through the episode, Kate and Luke are presented with a video from the Executioner himself, Bertrand Eldon (Jim Pirri), a former executioner at Black Gate with 20 years’ of service behind him.
But as the years racked up, so did the bodies that Eldon executed—and they were all beginning to look disturbingly similar. All the death row inmates were poor people of colour, “not a single white man”.
Eldon did his own digging and found that the same policeman, prosecutor, and judge were in charge of all these cases. They were coercing confessions and putting these people to death in a ring of corruption that had lasted for years, leaving countless families devastated, and murdering innocents.
It’s hard to disagree with the Executioner’s belief that these men needed to be held accountable—his method, however, was a bit extreme.
Having said that, had it not been for the Executioner, none of these people would have been caught and the many innocents put to death would never have had a chance at redemption.
Considering the high rates of incarceration for people of colour, in comparison to their white counterparts, as well as the fact that many privately-owned prison systems profit off of more, and younger, inmates being sent in, the events of Batwoman: I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury are painfully realistic.
The Politics of the Arrowverse
And this is really what the superhero genre needs to be used for—to highlight the injustices in the real world and maybe even offer some hope to the marginalised communities that engage with these stories.
It’s good to see Batwoman following in the footsteps of Supergirl and making bold statements about the wrongs in the real world.
Is it enough? No, but it is important to see this kind of messaging in this medium of storytelling.
However, it is disconcerting that Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, and Batwoman are the ones leading the way in this kind of storytelling, instead of Arrow and The Flash, both of which have exclusively steered clear of politics.
Why should the Arrowverse shows that are focused on characters from marginalised communities have to do the heavy lifting of dealing with real world politics? The audience they are catering to are already aware of the dynamics of the world.
Unfortunately, this situation is unlikely to be rectified, as Arrow is now in its last season and The Flash is in its sixth season with nary a political viewpoint in the vicinity despite the work that star Candice Patton does off-screen to highlight the importance of representation.
What Now for Gotham?
With the revelations from the Executioner, all the cases the three corrupt officials worked on have to be reopened.
This means that not only were innocent people imprisoned—and will hopefully be exonerated—but numerous criminals still walk the streets of Gotham despite committing heinous crimes.
Among the cases to be reopened is Lucius Fox’s. This is devastating for Luke, whose much-needed closure has turned out to be a lie.
He now needs to go through the same process of waiting for the real killer to be caught, because the well-deserved justice he needed has been taken away.
Gotham is in for a painful political reckoning—the villains they had to fear weren’t just the over-the-top baddies with killer penguins and vats of acid, but the people supposedly protecting them.
This is a hard truth to bear but one that people have to face on a near-constant basis in the real world.
Batwoman: I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury was gripping and hard-hitting, using Gotham’s ills to shine a harsh spotlight on the wrongs of the real world.
I hope that the show will continue to be this political and powerful—that is what the superhero genre is meant for.