This week is a major one for Bat-fans with the arrival of the Oscar-buzzy Joker flick starring Joaquin Phoenix, followed by a Sunday premiere of The CW’s heavily hyped new series Batwoman starring Ruby Rose (John Wick: Chapter 2). We’ve taken an early look at CW’s latest Arrowverse series, and the pilot survives the talent and name recognition of his star, while predictably reaching all the regular first episode checkmarks that have become the staples of the network’s popular DC Universe show.
Bruce Wayne (and presumably Batman) had been absent from Gotham City for three years, when the billionaire’s cousin Kate Kane returned to the troubled city. A dishonorable discharge from military school and her own self-imposed dream quest for mental and physical education bring her back with a chip on her shoulder and the ability to back it up. When the person she loves is in trouble and the city needs the hero the most, Kate stumbles upon Bruce’s deception and determines that she is the one supposed to take the Bat-mantle in her cousin’s absence.
The first thing people need to learn about this series is that it doesn’t take place on the same Earth as Arrow, Flash, Legends or even Supergirl as the Elseworlds crossover shows of recent years. A separate Earth allows them to play within the universe of Bruce Wayne without contradicting anything going on in the other series— although this Fall Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover that change the status quo of which, if any, Earths still exist.
Confusing universal comic book calamity aside, the first season of Batwoman blasts through Kate’s origin story and still feels like it takes too long to get to the good stuff. Kate’s jump into feeling deserving of the suit seems exceedingly fast and inexperienced in the first episode, while subsequent episodes will most likely show more of her past experience, much like the early seasons of Arrow. The episode almost feels like a half of a two-part opener, with Kate not even in her black and red dress at the end.
Rose’s interpretation and unique social problems Kate Kane encounters are really what set Batwoman apart from most other vigilant series of this kind. Kate’s affair with ex-girlfriend Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) is both an instigator of her return to Gotham and a source of struggle in her early adult life. Batwoman addresses these sensitive social issues of prejudice and hatred respectfully and with respect, never making it feel like her sexual inclinations are being manipulated for the sake of the series.
The actress has recently opened up a brush with paralysis because of her penchant for doing her own stunts, and the action in Batwoman doesn’t make it safe. Rose is at work, and she contributes to the realism of the episode, as she walks the walk that her character lives by on the show with intensity and confidence.
As with any CW superhero series, the main character must have sexy, spunky young sidekicks and talented team members to surround him and a strong adult, parental presence from a seasoned actor. Batwoman doesn’t break the pattern, with Dougray Scott (Hitman) filling the latter position as Kate’s dad Jacob Kane, the head of Crows Private Security, who guarded the streets with an abundance of firepower and energy. Scott is strict, but still hot to his family and gives Kate’s rough but sweet father figure.
Jittery Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), the son of a legendary Batman tech guru, Lucius Fox, is helping Kate sort through Bruce’s legacy while humorously supplying the equipment and attention she needs. Kate’s bubbly stepster Mary also gives her med school education to be Kate’s friend and nurse after her extracurricular injuries, but doesn’t get a lot of substance to do in the pilot until her empathy and expertise are briefly demonstrated towards the end of the episode.
The Bat-story is just as strong as its villain, and the Batwoman’s is… pretty okay? The pilot introduces audiences to the Big Bad show in the insane Alice (Rachel Skarsten) and her Wonderland Gang, using the tried and true Batman villain premise with an apparent nod to the literary character. Skarsten is funny enough in the role and looks like the part of the Bat-villain, but seems to be holding back instead of completely digging into the mad role. Let’s hope she grows with the character going forward as her back story starts to unfold.
The show’s look and production designs are also well done and sets like the Batcave look stunningly sleek for a TV show budget, but the show boils down to whether or not audiences find Kate Kane interesting— otherwise, Batwoman is a super-powerless watch series trapped in the shadow of Batman. The good news is that I genuinely found it interesting to make the show worth a look at, and that’s thanks in large part to the dedicated quality of its star, Ruby Rose.