It is the start of a new Arrowverse series! It’s been a minute since we had one of these. With Arrow ending, not only are we going to need a new name for these shows, it seems The CW needed a new serious and brooding show to take its place.
That appears to be the role Batwoman is looking to fill. The nerdy optimism of The Flash or the goofy chaos of Legends of Tomorrow aren’t in this show. Instead, we have serious facial expressions, deep shadows, and a super dramatic narrator setting each scene.
The show feels like it has to explain who Kate Kane is, her relationship to Bruce Wayne, and the Batman-less state of Gotham in the first five minutes. Batman and Bruce Wayne have both mysteriously disappeared, and nobody thought that was suspicious at all. Kate Kane’s mom and sister died in a car crash when she was a little kid after Batman’s grappling hook failed to save them. Kate Kane went to a military academy and was kicked out for being gay. With all that, the show doesn’t quite have time to satisfyingly set up and tell its first story.
It eventually does get there, though. Once it finishes its exposition dump, it’s fun to watch Kate Kane play detective. That might be the most promising aspect of the show so far. It plays up the “World’s Greatest Detective” aspect of the Bat-family. With Bruce Wayne out of the picture, Kate Kane is already proving to be more than enough of a detective to take his place.
When she gets a call from her stepsister and learns that her former lover, Sophie Moore, has been taken by a mysterious Alice in Wonderland-themed villain (now WHO could that be?!), she abandons her… training. Which consists of being trapped underneath ice and made to escape or die. Eh, still better than whatever Ra’s Al Ghul was doing. She returns to Gotham and sets about trying to find her old flame.
Because it wouldn’t be a CW show without some daddy issues, she runs into some opposition from her father. In Batman’s absence, he set up what looks to be a militarized private police force, because those are always a good idea. Kate Kane wants to help find Sophie Moore, her dad wants to rely on The Crows.
Kate Kane takes matters into her own hands and breaks into Wayne Manor, where we meet Lucius— I mean Luke Fox. He’s taking on the role of neurotic tech geek/occasional comic relief. He does an admirable job in the role, even if the story feels a bit like it’s going through the motions of a superhero origin story. I don’t need every superhero pilot to be Black Lightning levels of originality, but I’m looking for some kind of original twist here, and so far, it’s hard to find.
That’s why the tearful father-daughter fight doesn’t really land. It’s delivered to us in the middle of yet another exposition dump. Kate Kane goes after Alice on her own and ends up getting kidnapped. She demands to be taken in place of Sophie Moore, but Alice taunts her, saying her dad prefers Sophie Moore. That’s why he sent Kate Kane away.
How Alice knows all this isn’t explained. We get the vaguest of motivations during her exposition dump, but the show never gives us anything concrete behind them. The result is a collection of scenes that feel like they should have much more weight than they actually do. When Kate Kane confronts her dad about sending her away, it feels hollow. The conflict, about whether or not Kate Kane’s dad would ever make her a Crow, isn’t set up at all. We need to know these characters better, and the pilot didn’t give itself nearly enough time to introduce them.
There are a lot of good moments here though. The pilot is just in slightly too much of a hurry to get to them. To the show’s credit, the eventual payoff is good, but that doesn’t entirely excuse the clumsy set-up. The scene where Kate Kane discovers the Batcave is fun. It’s a good looking set, and Kate Kane’s awe at her discovery of Batman’s identity is contagious. Sure, we know Bruce Wayne is Batman, but it’s always fun to watch someone new find out.
Batwoman has a ton of promise, and the pilot had some cool moments. Though its problems became less noticeable as the episode went on, they still persisted through the end. As exciting as the fight scene was, we never really felt the danger of the situation. We’re shown a couple things that could go wrong, the bomb, and the gas all over the floor, but disaster never comes close to striking.
In that way, Batwoman is almost too good. These aren’t major systemic issues though. It’s easy to see how these issues will be dealt with as the show gets more hours under its belt. And, once that happens, the good that’s in this show can really shine. Ruby Rose makes for a great superhero, and the mystery elements and more grounded combat can make for a fun gritty detective story. I just hope that with this uneven, overstuffed pilot, the show got its exposition out of the way. Next week, we can get to the fun stuff.
Batwoman airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on The CW.
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