The latest entry in the DC Arrowverse franchise was introduced last year with a backdoor pilot buried in the Elseworlds crossover. Now officially granted her own series, the big question is whether Batwoman can distinguish herself from her more famous cousin.
To be fair, Supergirl managed the feat well enough. However, it can be argued that Superman was not nearly as overexposed in recent years as Batman has been. Between Gotham and now Pennyworth on TV, the various Dark Knight and Justice League movies, and all the hoopla over the Joker origin film, do we really need another story from Gotham City? According to the CW network, apparently we do.
This iteration is set in Gotham three years after Batman seemingly abandoned the city. Funnily, that’s about the same time that billionaire Bruce Wayne left town, but nobody finds that timing suspicious. Without the Dark Knight to protect the populace, Bruce Wayne’s uncle Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) stepped up by forming a paramilitary security force called The Crows that has essentially kept the city on lockdown.
Kane’s daughter Kate (Ruby Rose) was very eager to join the Crows and become her father’s protégé, but washed out of the training program due to being gay. Determined to prove herself (and with the privilege that being wealthy affords), she traveled the world to train as a badass fighter and commando – under the tutelage of an old Eskimo, for some reason. However, she cuts her training short and returns to Gotham after receiving word that ex-girlfriend Sophie (Megan Tandy), a Crow working for her father, was kidnapped by a crazy blonde lady while providing security for a mayoral gala.
Kate’s dad says that he’s happy to see her, but dismisses her offers to help. Of course, that won’t stop Kate from investigating on her own. The first place she stops is an abandoned Wayne Enterprises building, which naturally isn’t so abandoned at all. Inside, she’s introduced to her cousin Bruce’s techie assistant Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson). Whether Luke is meant to be a young Lucius Fox in this telling, or perhaps Lucius’ grandson or something, isn’t clear to me. In any case, Kate easily overcomes his attempts to detain her and pushes her way into a command center office, then hacks the computers to find security camera footage of Sophie’s kidnapping.
Clues from the video lead to a defunct orphanage currently occupied by creeps wearing animal masks. She fights through a bunch, but gets knocked cold and wakes up to the blonde (Rachel Skarsten) gloating over her. The kooky woman introduces herself as Alice (as in Wonderland) and says that she grabbed Sophie as part of a vendetta against Jacob Kane. When Kate offers to exchange herself as hostage if Alice will let Sophie go, the villainess scoffs and informs her that her daddy loves Sophie way more than he’ll ever love her. She then knocks Kate out again and dumps her on the street.
Kate returns to Wayne Enterprises and bullies Luke some more. She discovers a secret elevator in Bruce’s office that leads to a mysterious cave beneath the building. The cave is home to a bunch of bats. You might call it a Batcave, even. Venturing further in, she finds a bunch of high-tech gadgets and a Batsuit on display. WTF?! Was Kate’s cousin Bruce actually Batman the whole time? Crazy!!
This revelation prompts a flashback in which we learn that Batman once rescued young Kate from a car accident, but couldn’t save her mother or younger sister, Beth. Luke tells her that this failure haunted Bruce for many years. Kate asks him to modify the Batsuit to fit a woman.
Luke must be a remarkably quick tailor, because it’s barely five minutes before we see Kate all batted-up. Realizing that Alice is planning to strike a public Movies in the Park event next, the not yet named bat
-girl-woman attacks Alice, rescues Sophie, and stops the plot to blow up the park. A little girl in the crowd looks up and sees a caped figure standing in a familiar pose on the edge of a building and declares that Batman is back.
News quickly spreads that the Dark Knight has returned, which bristles Kate a little. Her father (correctly) assumes that the caped crusader is just a copycat.
Kate tries to get a word with Sophie and learns that her ex is now married… to a man. Gross.
Jacob apologizes to Kate for being overprotective. He offers her a job with the Crows, but she’s a rebel (she rides a motorcycle and even wears a Ramones t-shirt to prove it!) and wants to play by her own rules, dammit. Instead, she goes back to Wayne Enterprises and starts writing a journal for her cousin. Until he returns, she will take up his mantle as the Batwoman!
A last-minute clue dropped that Beth’s body was never recovered leads to the totally obvious twist that Alice is in fact Kate’s presumed-dead little sister.
Episode Verdict / Grade: B
For the kickoff to the sixth installment in the Arrowverse (I’m counting Black Lightning, which won’t officially cross over with the other series for the first time until next year), the premiere episode of Batwoman is… well, it’s fine. I wasn’t bowled over by it, but nor was I disappointed. It does exactly what I expected it to, and is pretty much on par with the other shows in this franchise.
The clichéd aspects to her character notwithstanding, Ruby Rose is an appealing lead. The episode goes through all the familiar Bat-tropes about as well as it needs to, nothing more and nothing less.
If I’m going to continue watching all the other Arrowverse shows (except the original Arrow, which I never got on board with), I might as well watch this one too.