Warning: Batwoman spoilers are ahead.
The first episode of the CW's new series Batwoman sets up a juicy conflict between the titular Batwoman (Ruby Rose), a woman hesitantly becoming Gotham City's new protector, and Alice (Rachel Skarsten), a woman who is seemingly mad as, well, a hatter. But there's a big twist offered up at the episode's end and it's actually straight out of the comics. That might lead you to leap down a somewhat predictable rabbit hole: What does Alice do in the Batwoman comics?
In a twist that comics readers saw coming a mile away, the villain — who styles herself after the title character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland — is revealed to be Batwoman a.k.a. Kate Kane's presumed-dead sister, Beth. On the show, Kate, Beth, and their mother were involved in a car accident where they crashed through a guardrail on a high bridge. Kate was able to escape the car with Batman's help, but the car plunged into the water before Beth or their mother could escape as well. But in the comics, things are even dicier for the budding superhero and her sis.
On the page, Elizabeth "Beth" Kane is Kate's twin sister. She was first introduced in the Detective Comics arc in 2009 as a supervillain known as Alice. The plot here is a bit different from the car accident on the show: The three Kane women are kidnapped by terrorists and only Kate escapes. She is led to believe that her mother and sister are dead, but her father, Jacob (played on the show by Dougray Scott), knows Beth survived and was always looking for her. He just never found her.
When Beth makes her debut as Alice in the books, she has gone insane from being raised by the deceitful secret organization, Religion of Crime. She dresses like the character of Alice and speaks in quotations from the Lewis Carroll novels. She intends to destroy Gotham with chemical weapons, but Batwoman thwarts her plan and pushes her off a plane into Gotham Bay, believing her to be dead.
Alice's body is recovered by the Religion of Crime and they bring her back to life in a sarcophagus, but being kept in a sarcophagus for so long leaves her even more mentally unstable than before. She is held hostage for a while by an agent at the Department of Extranormal Operations who believes himself to be Jacob Kane's illegitimate son, but eventually, Batwoman and her family are able to save Beth and she is later taken to a private island for psychiatric treatment.
When she returns to the comics, she has undergone some major recovery and wants to make things up to Kate. She begins fighting crime alongside Batwoman as an anti-hero known as Red Alice, and she also manages to break Kate out of the spell that witch Morgaine le Fey has her under. Years later, the original Alice persona does make an appearance, but Batwoman and Julia Pennyworth (Alfred’s daughter) manage to save Beth — Batman thinks she should be destroyed. Beth eventually recovers and lives in an apartment with her sister and Julia.
It remains to be seen what, if any, storylines the new TV series is going to lift from the comics when it comes to Beth/Alice. So far they have the basics, but with the twin departure already shaking things up, anything could happen.
Perhaps the show will want to reunite Beth and Kate as sisters far sooner than the comic books do. The TV series has also left open the possibility that if Beth survived the crash, so did Kate’s mother. And since Jacob Kane has remarried on the show, that would create quite the dramatic situation as well.