Batwoman has finally arrived on The CW… but is she friend or foe? Sorry, I’ve always wanted to do that. If you weren’t clear, she is definitely a friend. A friend that kicks a somewhat impressive amount of ass in this pilot episode. Yes, there are a lot of positives to take away from the pilot, but there are even more questions.
Batwoman made her big splashy debut in last year’s Elseworlds crossover event featuring the 50-11 different DC Comic based shows on The CW. They didn’t spend much time fleshing out her back story but they did enough to get people excited about the potential of having a Batwoman led show on the network. With the announcement that season eight of Arrow would be it’s last, The CW had big shoes to fill. What would the network be without a vigilante with no powers but a ton of tech and a boatload of daddy issues? Whelp, enter Batwoman.
The pilot looks to fill in some of the blanks leading up to the fully formed Batwoman we were treated to during the Elseworlds crossover. Kate Kane (John Wick 2 and Orange Is The New Black’s Ruby Rose) is traveling the world studying with the best martial artist, escape artist, etc the world has to offer. Kate has been on this a quest to become the best version of herself in the hopes of joining her father, Jacob Kane (Mission Impossible’s Dougray Scott) private army The Crows. The Crows provide security for Gotham City… for some reason. Kate is called back to the City when her former lover and pseudo surrogate daughter to Jacob, Sophie (Survivor’s Remorse’s Meagan Tandy) is kidnapped by Gotham City’s latest scourge, Alice (Reign’s Rachel Skarsten) and her Alice in Wonderland themed gang. Kate returns home but is quickly dismissed by her father because he wants her nowhere near the danger associated with his job. Kate eventually seeks out her cousin Bruce Wayne and finds an entrance to the Batcave and the means she needs to save Sophie and Gotham City itself.
The origin story told here isn’t exactly revolutionary. On the surface, it is very paint-by-the-numbers. The thing that will make eventually make Batwoman stand out is the uncommon elements of her family struggles and her sexuality. Much like Black Lighting, Batwoman is and should lean heavily on what separates it from the rest of the Arrowverse pack. Black Lightning is less about superheroes and more about the struggles of being black in America while trying to be a superhero. It would behoove the Batwoman showrunners to follow suit. Having a lesbian superhero featured on network TV will tap into a largely ignored market. I realize how that sounds, but it not only makes sense business-wise but representation is also important. Regardless of how many network execs get rich off of feeding on this untapped market, if that is the consequence we have to face to have more LGBTQ representation on network TV, why not?
Within the first few minutes of the episode, they made an attempt to explain why Kate is a natural at all things Batman (she spent the past few years in “training”). As a fan of pro wrestling, I am pretty adept at suspending disbelief but even for me, Kate’s mastery of gliding with a cape after jumping off of a building is a bit much. Who the hell did she train with the past few years that would have taught Kate that? I can explain away why she is such a good hand-to-hand fighter. She probably learned the Wu-Tang sword style from RZA when she trained in Staten Island AKA Shaolin. See, I can justify almost anything. But the ability to fly is just too much for my brain to bear.
In this episode, Meagan Tandy’s Sophie stood out among a somewhat crowded field of supporting characters. Tandy was given the most to work within this episode, seeing as how she is not only the driving force behind Kate’s return to Gotham but also the unrequited love that is going to motivate Kate to want to save the city (not to discount Kate’s need to prove to her worth to her overprotective father but let’s be real. It’s ALWAYS about a girl). At the end of the episode, there is a reveal regarding Sophie that puts a huge monkey wrench in Kate’s plan to win Sophie back. As complicated as all of Kate’s relationships are, the dynamic between Tandy and Rose is going to drive most of the season’s drama and it should.
Nichole Kang‘s Mary Hamilton (Kate’s step-sister) and Camrus Johnson‘s Luke Fox both provided much needed comic relief in this episode. Based on episode one, it seems both Kang and Johnson will serve the same purpose: comic foil for Kate when she is Kate and when she is Batwoman, respectively. Having Luke Fox serve as Kate’s gadget guy opens up the potential to have him eventually take up the mantel of Batwing as he did in the Batman animated feature Bad Blood and the Batwing comic. Though the idea of Kate getting superfriends is enticing, I would caution everyone involved to not fall into the pitfalls of most of the Arrowverse shows: the crutch of giving everyone powers. It’s ok for the main character to have to save her friends. Everyone doesn’t need to be special in some way. *slowly turns and looks at Supergirl*
It would be easy to read too much into the pilot but there are two potential issues that can’t be ignored. This isn’t our first time seeing Rose as Batwoman, it is our first extended look at seeing Rose as Kate Kane. Rose had heavy material to deliver in this episode but much of it fell flat. It remains to be seen if that was just by virtue of there being a lot to get across in this episode or if Rose hasn’t had enough reps to juggle all of the different plates needed to pull off a character with dual identities. Rose’s work while in the bat suit was much tighter, but Rose has been in a number of action movies at this point so it stands to reason why she would be a natural at putting on a proper fight scene.
The other side of the potential issues coin is Skarsten’s portrayal of Alice. I will not fix my face to tell any of you I know anything about Skarsten’s comic book counterpart or what her personality profile is supposed to be. My assumption is that Alice is supposed to be completely insane but Skarsten doesn’t come off as remotely insane or even maniacal in any way. Alice seems too laid back. Disinterested even. Considering Alice’s reasons for terrorizing Gotham, you would think at some point she would dial up the crazy. So far we haven’t gotten any of that. I am going to reserve judgment when it comes to Alice. I had the same criticisms for Marvin “Krondon” Jones III‘s Tobias Whale on Black Lighting, but Krondon proved me wrong halfway through the first season. Tobias has morphed into the most compelling and interesting villain in all of The CW’s DC properties. Maybe Alice will hit her stride… hopefully soon.
This wasn’t a bad show by any stretch of the imagination but it’s obvious they are just scratching the surface of what Batwoman can become. Lopsided performances by the lead Ruby Rose and the main antagonist Rachel Skarsten left a bit to be desired but given the fact that this is only the first episode they can easily right the ship. This show should tentatively remain on your watch list if anything just to see how it ties into the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths story arch alone.