Batwoman has established a unique and incredibly character-driven take on Gotham City over its first fifteen episodes, and it's safe to say that a good chunk of that is courtesy of Elizabeth Kane/Alice (Rachel Skarsten). The twin sister of Kate Kane/Batwoman (Ruby Rose), Alice was kidnapped and abused by the August Cartwright (John Emmet Tracy) and his family, after the tragic car accident that occurred when she and Kate were children. Tonight's episode, "Off With Her Head", added even more layers to that traumatic situation -- and arguably completely changed Alice and those in her orbit in the process. Obviously, spoilers for tonight's episode below! Only look if you want to know!
The episode saw Alice being unwillingly hooked up to a tank of Scarecrow's fear toxin, causing her to revisit her most traumatic memories in the Cartwright household. In particular, Alice spent years being abused by August's elderly mother, who coveted Alice's beauty and her mother's face (which, unbeknownst to Alice, was resting in August's freezer, in the event of a potential face transplant). This caused Alice to get revenge on August's mom, lighting her oxygen tank on fire and burning her alive with it.
In the present day, Alice was ultimately reunited with Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) and Kate, who had spent their time torturing and (in Kate's case) accidentally killing Cartwright in the process. Alice ended the episode knowing that she was finally free of Cartwright -- and that Kate had finally proven that she's morally capable of killing.
We got to chat with Skarsten about tonight's episode, the challenges of filming on fear toxin, and what the future holds for Alice.
ComicBook.com: You are absolutely incredible in this week's episode. I was wondering if you could speak about how it impacts Alice, because it feels like after confronting her trauma and seeing her abusers dead, she's definitely in a different headspace than she was before.
Rachel Skarsten: Yeah, this episode changes... Well, it does and it doesn't, because when we meet Alice in the pilot all of these things have happened to her before. We're just seeing them now. They're just being revealed to us as an audience.
Even what happens with Kate [killing August], Alice has believed all along that, had Kate been put it in the same position, she would have done the exact same thing that Alice would've done. So there's this vindication for her, but it very much goes in line with what she's believed this whole time.
One thing I really liked about this episode was her moments with Jacob, because that has been a really complicated relationship for them. I think that relationship has changed a little bit by this episode going forward. Inevitably, her relationship with Kate has also changed. I do think this is a turning point for Alice and for all the characters, because going forward from this, which the audience will see, their trajectories, their goals, and all of those things shift.
What was it like with this episode filming the fear toxin scenes? Because that looked very, very intense.
It was. When you see the episode, it's 38 minutes of me onscreen, but in reality, that's eight or nine days of living in that headspace. [Our showrunner, Caroline Dries] gave me the heads up about it, which I appreciated. It was definitely the most challenging episode that I've done on this show yet, because I really, really wanted to play it authentically. So you have to sit in that space for a long time.
It's also oddly cathartic spending your whole day crying. You come home and you're like, "Okay, I got that all out." I said to the writer, Natalie [Abrams], that I prefer not to have that every episode, but I really did feel quite proud of what we did. It was very satisfying in that way. But, yes, when I was writhing on the floor and trying to kill myself, it was probably not the best day I've ever had. But it was wonderful from an acting perspective.
What was the fear toxin actually made out of?
That was just straight-up pretend. Sam Littlefield, who plays Mouse, and I were joking that we wish it was pure oxygen or something so we could get some health benefits. But there was nothing there. Actually, it was easier for me, I think, because he had film scenes with it before. We both got to establish what it looks like to be on the fear toxin that was actually just nothing. It's one of the many perks of being an actor.
You really have to pretend that something is happening when actually, in reality, nothing is happening. However, we were really tied to the chair and that thing was really strapped to our face. So there's a degree of discomfort that exists just based on that. You think you don't have itches on your face until you're strapped to a chair and you realize that your entire face is itchy all the time. But it was just nothing. The cord was attached to absolutely nothing.
In the past, you've spoken about how you don't want Alice to necessarily be redeemed right away, but it definitely feels like that is something we could inevitably go towards, especially with the two-Beths storyline earlier this season. Is there anything you can tease about her possible path to redemption going forward?
I think, like with most things in life, it will get darker before the audience sees any light. I definitely still believe that she is on a path towards redemption, or that that is a possibility for her. It's a very important part of her as a character, for me, because I think it's what makes her interesting and human. But I think we're going to see the darker side of Alice, if it's at all possible to see an even darker side of her. I think we're going to see a de-evolution before we see an evolution to redemption.
What has it been like to see the audience respond to Alice this season? Your character, and the way that you play her, has resonated with so many people already.
It's an ever-renewing thrill to have people love a character that you play. Because you inevitably put so much of yourself into a character, whether it be their actual characteristics or just your heart and your soul into trying to create something. I think that probably goes across the board for any artist. You want people to respond to what you do. So having people love Alice, I really wasn't sure, because she's so off the wall and there's such a fine line of playing too crazy. I was nervous about that or people's reception to her. I didn't want her to be too much. I wanted to try to be just deliciously enough.
I also know that I come in this long line of Arrowverse villains, beloved villains, and actors who played them so brilliantly. Then, on top of that, Alice is a pre-existing comic book character. People have read her and formulated her in their own minds. It was definitely a mountain that I saw in front of me that I was like, "I'm going to try and climb this, but I don't know if I'll reach the top." I still don't feel like I've reached the top, but it's been really, really nice. I can't stress that enough. It's been so nice, humbling and beautiful to have people like her as much as I do.
What can you tease about what the rest of the season and beyond holds for Alice?
Alice finds herself in a very different environment going forward. She finds herself some new enemies and some new allies. I had a particularly fun time filming her interactions with some new characters in this new environment. You see this more playful side of Alice, outside of her interactions with her family only. That was really fun for me to do.
Then, from there, we're going to see Alice start to get really dark. That's just about all I can tease, but hopefully, that's enough.0comments
Batwoman airs Sundays at 8/7c on The CW.