Batwoman Series Premiere Review: A promising, but problematic start
The CW has done what Warner Bros. and DC failed to do on the big screen for years – create a thorough comic book universe filled with fun crossovers, storylines and characters lifted straight from the comics at times, and shows that found their own identities and fanbases that have kept them around for years. With shows like Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightening, and Supergirl, the CW has created a comic book universe, usually referred to as the “Arrowverse,” that viewers can experience in the comfort of their own home. All of this is what made the announcement of Batwoman joining the Arrowverse that much more special.
Although the CW has taken fans through iconic DC locations, like Starling City and Central City, it was only a matter of time before it made a stop into Gotham City. However, unlike most times, there’s no Batman or Bruce Wayne here to save the residents of Gotham, so it is up to a new hero to take the reigns and forge a new path for the city – and that hero is Kate Kane (Ruby Rose). Being a cousin of the iconic playboy millionaire, Kate shares the same kind of rebellious nature and love of women. However, what sets her apart from just being a female version of Wayne is how prominent these aspects are and how Rose makes them come out. Bruce’s more rebellious nature is always undercut by his brooding personality and, thankfully, that’s not the case here.
Kate’s more openly rebellious nature makes you connect with her a little more and Rose’s portrayal of that makes her a fitting choice for the character. It’s also great to see that Kate’s sexuality didn’t get lost in the shuffle as it’s something that hasn’t been seen before. It’s a great moment of diverse representation that stems directly from the comic and the issues shown in the show of Kate’s relationship with Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) with its connections to their military background are actually pretty interesting. It’s also nice to see Kate to be driven through her passion for justice and always wanting to be on the front lines for a fight. Although she has friends in high places, she never fully needs them to be a great fighter or find strength – these aspects are already within her. Not to mention, while she has donned the red hair and has no red bat symbol yet, I’ve seen the suit and it looks incredible. It’s probably the best suit I’ve seen adapted.
The series antagonist, Alice (Rachel Starsken), also is able to not just be a female reskin of the Batman villain, the Mad Hatter, by being more than just an Alice in Wonderland crazed psychopath. The Mad Hatter is definitely one of the more fun villains in Batman’s rouge’s gallery, but other than wanting the caped crusader to join his Wonderland Gang, he’s not much of a planner. So, for this version of Alice to still have the fun of the Hatter with her own agenda to turn Gotham on its head while Batman is away, it makes her stand on her own and be a solid season villain for the series to start on. Not to mention, with the connection to Kate’s past that’s teased at the end of the episode, there’s clearly something more between Alice and Kate that will be explored more.
Unfortunately, though, these solid aspects of Batwoman are completely undercut by terrible storytelling, an annoying score, and an inability to fully stand on its own. The use of voiceover in this episode is incredibly lazy and makes Kate’s story come off very generic. All this voiceover services to do is just stitch together each scene when it could actually be more utilized to do something that the show doesn’t – establish what a Gotham without Batman looks like. While I like the dilemma of turning the Bat signal off for good, we never get a sense of what Gotham is really like without Batman. Are most of the iconic villains gone for good at this point? Have the mindsets of the people reverted to what it was like before Batman? Have any of the other heroes, like The Flash or Supergirl, had to come in and take care of things while Gotham has had no hero? There’s even very little explanation or depth given to what this Crow security team is, which is strange considering that they seem like they are playing a major role in the series as well as Kate’s life.
Batwoman offers little depth to its iconic location and sets off a weak jumping off point for its titular hero to leave her own mark. I understand that this first season and first couple of episodes are just Kate getting used to donning the costume and making her own mark, but I just wish the series had its own voice and distinct feel to it right out of the gate. When the episode ended, I didn’t feel as if I was embarking on Batwoman adventure, but more of a Batman spin-off. Surely, with more time, the series can find its own identity and hopefully find its way out of Batman’s shadow.
Hopefully, the series can also find a better score or just scrap it entirely because I found it incredibly on the nose and annoying. It’s so intrusive at times that it really takes away from the more dramatic elements the show is trying to implement and make them come off more like a soap opera instead of a serious drama. Thankfully, though, the score doesn’t hinder the fight scenes – which were quite impressive. There’re a lot of fun to watch and show that Rose can definitely hold her own with the more physical elements of the character. I also found the episode to rely a little too heavily on flashbacks that had some choppy framerate, which was very distracting, and while I realize that a lot of the CW shows started this way, but I was just Batwoman wouldn’t fall into the same trappings.
Batwoman definitely shows some promise in its ability to stand on its own and get out of the Dark Knight’s shadow, but for now, it’s unfortunately stuck right in it. Most of the complaints I have with the premiere are generally “premiere issues” so there’s no doubt in my mind that the series will be able to find its own footing. There’s just a part of me, though, that wishes we were already there.