Happy New Year! I wanted to kick off 2021 with a review of the Batwoman television series. I was initially reluctant to jump into the show, mostly because I had Arrowverse fatigue, and I saw the initial reviews of Batwoman weren’t great. However, when I finally started watching the show, I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would, and while I agree with some of the criticisms leveled at Batwoman, I don’t think it’s as bad as people say. In fact, it’s pretty great, and I highly recommend giving the show a try. I’m currently halfway through the first season, so I wanted to share my initial thoughts. I’ll also post a review of the second half of the season, so stay tuned. Before we go any further, I will be discussing some spoilers from the show, so be warned!
Batman’s shadow certainly hangs over the freshman season of the CW’s Batwoman, but Kate Kane proves quickly that she plays the game by her own rules. While Batwoman contains some of the staples of a CW superhero show–voice-over, daddy issues, parental demise, a cast of good-looking adults, a secret sibling reveal–it forgoes some of the familiar tropes associated with shows like Arrow and The Flash, and I found myself appreciating Batwoman even more.
This isn’t to say that I don’t have gripes with the show. Sometimes the dialog can be cringey, and the fight scenes, which could benefit from better lighting, don’t seem nearly as impressive as those in previous Arrowverse shows. While Kate wants to forge her own path and mostly succeeds in doing this, each episode opens and ends with her voice-over journal to Bruce, and after a while, these feel tacked on to each episode and make it seem that the show doesn’t know how to handle his disappearance.
Still, Ruby Rose shines as Kate Kane, who’s returned to Gotham City three years following the disappearance of Bruce Wayne (and Batman) after Alice and the Wonderland Gang kidnap her ex-girlfriend. Playful, resourceful, witty, and charming, Rose’s take on Bruce’s cousin coming into her own and assuming the mantle of Batwoman is a refreshing one. This is a hero who’s unashamed of her civilian life, who’s out and proud and comfortable in her own skin, and who must adjust to her identity as a vigilante. She also must deal with the trauma of losing her mother and twin sister, Beth, in a car accident Batman couldn’t save them from. I like the show’s idea focusing on the collateral damage of Batman’s crusade, and it’s a plot point that’s not stretched out too long as Kate confronts her anger over Batman’s failure.
The supporting cast compliments Rose well. Her father, Jacob (the brother of Martha Wayne), leads a private security force known as the Crows. Things are tense between father and daughter, with Kate vying for her father’s approval and Jacob afraid to lose his daughter like he’s lost almost his entire family. Kate’s ex, Sophie, works closely under Jacob and struggles to come to terms with her sexual identity since her relationship with Kate at a military academy they attended almost destroyed her entire career. Everyone in the LGBTQ+ community knows what it’s like to sacrifice your identity and happiness to survive and appease the heterosexual community that wields way too much power over our lives, and boil our identities down to “politics.” It’s something that Kate and Sophie have to deal with throughout the series, and I think the show does an excellent job of capturing the loneliness and sacrifices many queer people must make.
Other characters include Luke Fox, the son of Batman associate Lucius Fox, who guides Kate in her missions and develops the new Batsuit and weapons that better fit her physique. I like the playful bond between the two characters, though I’d like to see Luke get some decent storylines and emerge from the shadow of Felicity Smoak, who he seems very reminiscent of. There’s also Kate’s stepmother, the troubled and secretive Catherine Hamilton-Kane, and her daughter, Mary, an underground doctor, socialite, and influencer who wants a closer relationship with Kate. I think the show could benefit from more flashbacks of Kate and Mary’s childhood because there isn’t much weight to their relationship initially, and Mary spends plenty of time trying to get into Kate’s good graces. It feels like there’s something missing in their relationship, but I have no doubt Mary will prove to be a valuable asset to Batwoman moving forward.
Of course, no hero is without their villain, and Batwoman has hers in Alice, the crazed leader of the Wonderland Gang. I’ve seen criticisms that Alice is a Harley Quinn knockoff. While she certainly emotes manic energy, she feels like her own character—and let’s not forget that many of Batman’s villains are cut and paste from each other, like Joker and the Riddler. Despite her wickedness and lust for blood, Alice is also sympathetic, a lost soul who’s captivity as a girl and traumatic life helped forge her into an insane killer. She’s scary and funny, and I liked that she wasn’t motivated merely to be evil. Hers is a quest for vengeance, a lashing out against the family who seemingly abandoned her and gave up hope. It helps that the family in question is none other than the Kanes–that’s right, Alice is Kate’s sister Beth who survived the family car plummeting from a bridge into the waters below.
It’s a reveal that happens within the pilot episode’s closing minutes, and I was happy that it’s not something that was teased or stretched out for the entire season. In fact, it doesn’t take long for Kate to convince the rest of the characters of Alice’s identity, and it adds a greater sense of depth to the to the two women. They both long for a relationship, but they’re on opposite sides of the coin, with neither side willing to budge in their convictions. Their complex relationship is one of the high points of the series, and Alice quickly became a favorite character of mine. What can I say? I always love the villains.
I’m looking forward to finishing the season, and despite a few minor issues, I was mostly entertained for the first ten episodes. Although I’d love to see a few more memorable villains for the Batwoman to face off against, the cast is primarily strong, and Ruby Rose is excellent as the cool and collected Kate Kane. I do hope the fight scenes improve, but I love the shots of Gotham City, and the most of the show looks sleek and refreshing.
Have you seen Batwoman? Let me know in the comments, and check out my website for all things pop culture. Stay nerdy!