I promised myself I wasn’t going to start reviewing another Arrowverse show, but I figured I might as well keep up with Batwoman up to the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. My cousin tends to describe OK-ish shows and movies as not that bad and that description applies for Batwoman’s pilot. Not bad, not great or especially memorable, but decent enough to stick with it for awhile.
As far as series premieres go, Batwoman checked off a lot of the Arrowverse boxes. They’re almost like IKEA furniture in the sense you don’t need a lot of words to cover the basics. Strained/challenging family relationship? Check. Overdrawn origin story? Yep. An onslaught of supporting characters likely at some point to also suit up? You betcha.
We’d already seen a fully suited up Batwoman “hosting” Green Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl during the Elseworlds crossover so retracing her origin was an odd start. The Arrowverse badly needs a dramatic shake up to the formula and skipping past the obligatory extended origin would have been a nice change of pace.
Batman’s been gone for three years and Gotham needs a hero. That’s not quite the role filled by Col. Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott, Mission: Impossible II) as he leads a private security force comprised of ex-military called the Crows. When one of his top operatives, Sophie (Meagan Tandy) is captured, her ex-Kate Kane (Ruby Rose, John Wick Chapter Two), gets the heads up. Kate and Sophie had a thing in the military academy, but their relationship was…frowned upon. Kate was willing to ditch the military while Sophie wanted to pursue her career and ended their relationship.
Returning to Gotham, Kate gets nowhere getting her father to help — Jacob’s leery of putting her in harm’s way after The Joker killed her mother and sister — and stumbles unto her cousin’s greatest secret. Turns out Bruce Wayne was Batman. Wayne exec Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) does a piss poor job of keeping Kate away from the Batcave and Batsuit.
I hard cringed when Kate said the suit will be perfect when it’s made for a woman. Just saying it would be perfect when it fits me would have been so much better especially since nowhere else over the course of the episode does Kate come off like this huge feminist fighting for women’s rights.
Rose is OK as the lead, but it’s easy to see her as the least interesting performer. Kate’s half-sister Mary (Nicole Kang) is a social influencer/secret doctor for Gotham’s outcast by night and her mother, Catherine (Elizabeth Anweis) seems full of secrets and motives. And Alice (Rachel Skarsten, who played Dinah Lance in the WB’s Birds of Prey series) already seems like the most magnetic character without coming across like a Joker knock-off.
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In converting Batwoman to fit into the Arrowverse framework, the show really is missing out on one of the more unique aspects of Batwoman as her father was her Q/Alfred in her battle against crime. It’s made for a great dynamic and ultimately one that could have evolved into what transpired in James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics run. Going the standard father/father figure vs. new vigilante is something we’ve already seen play out in the first three seasons of Arrow.
Batwoman’s biggest challenge is going to be saying and doing something different than Arrow. Fortunately for the CW, Arrow’s shortened season means viewers won’t have long to compare the similarities of the series, but it’s unavoidable. Both are street level vigilantes in a city that rarely sees daylight. Batwoman’s set design of Gotham felt uninspired and lacks the unique presence we’ve seen in Tim Burton’s Batman films or the Gotham TV series. This is just standard cityscape and could just as easily be Central City or Star City.
The action scenes were well staged — it helps Batwoman tremendously that the fights don’t require a ton of wire work, which tends to affect the quality of some Supergirl battles. Rose handled the physicality well and looked the part of a trained fighter.
Naturally, Sophie is now married to a dude. It’s amazing how rare it is on the Arrowverse for black women to be with black dudes and vice versa. Interracial relationships are more the norm with The Flash’s Joe and Cecile being the rarest exception. Clearly, Sophie’s husband is going to eventually get kicked to the curb, but this at least puts a different obstacle for Sophie and Kate making kissy faces through the season.
In a smart move, the episode ends with Kate realizing that Alice is her presumed dead sister. That wasn’t a reveal dragged out until episode 12, which makes the Alice/Batwoman clashes more personal without the twist spelled out much later in the season.
In the long run, I’m concerned Batwoman won’t have enough unique elements to make for compelling TV week in and week out, but this was a decent start. If the series can shake more Arrowverse trappings the CW could have a viable contender to usher in the new DC TV universe.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Photo Credit: The CW