The CW is best known for producing one hit wonders. Not one hit in the sense that they release one season of a new show and it gets canceled before a season two ever gets green lit. But one hit because majority of its newer shows, especially those falling in the Arrowverse category, have awesome first seasons followed by boring and monotonous subsequent seasons.
Batwoman follows the one hit wonder formula, but in a twist of irony, not only was its first season good enough both critically (it has an 80% score on RT), and commercially to get renewed for both a 2nd and 3rd outing, but with a sad twist of fate, lead star Ruby Rose proceeded to leave the titular role by choice after season one’s completion, leaving a new actor (Javicia Leslie) to introduce herself as ex-convict Ryan Wilder AKA the new Batwoman in season 2.
Of course, what is above is old news. You may or may not know that Batwoman currently sits with a 3.4/10 IMDb score as of June 8, 2021. The lowest score for a The CW show ever. But I was more intrigued by the critics’ score. Granted I remember all seasons of Arrow having splendid scores on Rotten Tomatoes even the utterly bad ones, but I was still curious about the contradiction surrounding Batwoman’s RT critics’ score of 80% and the audience’s score of a meager 16%.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right into my review of Batwoman season one.
- The cast and the characters: Although, Ruby Rose wasn’t a fan favorite to be playing Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin, she really did well as the first live-action lesbian superhero leading a TV show. Along with that, the rest of the cast is superb. I haven’t read any comic featuring Batwoman so I don’t know how close the adaptation is to the source material, but I liked the easter eggs. Batwoman is Batman’s cousin similar to Supergirl and Superman being related. Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) is the son of Lucious Fox. Julia Pennyworth (Christina Wolfe) is the niece of Alfred Pennyworth. Alice (the best character on the show both design and portrayal wise, Rachel Skarsten shines), is a counterpart of the Joker. Commander Kane, father of Kate Kane and Alice, runs a law enforcement unit known as The Crows, and he is like a composite of James Gordon and J. Jonah Jameson, and actor Dougray Scott most well-known for his portrayals as the villain of high-profile movies like Mission Impossible II and Hitman, is a welcome addition to the cast, where the viewer and likely the character himself doesn’t know which side he is on as he considers Batwoman a disgrace as she is a vigilante.
- The plot: The story was what I was most concerned about, and unlike the main Arrowverse shows namely Arrow and The Flash, we have a continuous story of Batwoman vs. Alice – in the same vein as Batman and the Joker – but the twist here is that it is later revealed that Alice is actually Beth, Kate’s long-lost and presumed to be dead sister. So, there is no procedural element to the show, and most of the episodes connect to each other courtesy of good writing. And with Geoff Johns as a producer I’d expect nothing less though I wished he did a way better job in his co-written screenplay for Wonder Woman 1984.
- The representation: In most of the Arrowverse shows there is LGBT and BLM representation just for representation’s sake. Here, the agenda does not take over the primary storyline but complements it, and you can actually relate to what’s going on with the gay characters. We have Kate Kane who lost the love of her life Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) mainly because the latter chose to hide who she was due to being scared of what her family would think about her coming out. And when she does come out to her mother, it is a heartbreaking scene of a person not being accepted for who they are. So, unlike other Arrowverse shows where the main couple’s relationship is often hampered by the hero not coming out as a hero, here we have a deeper story that is above the cliched romantic set up of other superhero shows.
- The overall package: The fast-paced episodes, the top-notch direction, the great plot and character development, the awesome costume design (particularly of Batwoman and Alice), the dark and gritty cinematography reminiscent of the TV show Gotham, etc., all form a wonderful mise-en-scene.
- The expectations: What I see as the reason for non-critics to deem this show as poor is because they came with expectations of a Batman show, rather than a Batwoman series, and they are a tad right to be disappointed. This show doesn’t completely reinvent The CW’s penchant for same-old, same-old superhero shows. And maybe Batman’s appearance in more than one episode, even in Bruce Wayne form, would have helped the show find an anchor, much like Kate Kane needed one as evidenced by her voice-over notes to Bruce.
- The predictability: Although, each episode is entertaining in its own way, and filled with awesome fight choreography, the plot lines are very predictable. The first half of the show is at least semi-predictable due to the focus being more on Beth Kane’s transition to the psycho killer, Alice, who also happens to be Gotham’s number one villain after the Joker’s death. But the second half has episodes which share too many story elements with each other. The finale is excellent featuring an awesome villain and nice plot twists, and equally well-done is the last episode’s reveal of Tommy Elliot as a faux Bruce Wayne as seen in the comic Batman: Hush (though not loosely based on it here). The villain nicknamed The Titan is a really cool character to round off the season. And if I had read that Ruby Rose’s announcement to leave the show after having finished this season, I’d be ever more disappointed. But I will still give season 2 a try as I am a diehard DC Comics fan.
If you come with expectations along the lines of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where you thought Marvel’s most powerful superheroes played by world-renowned Hollywood stars would make long-term appearances in the show, then you will be equally disappointed with Batwoman having a lack of first-rate character appearances from the Arrowverse. This first season is also not as good as Gotham’s first season as the latter did have one thing going for it – you knew that it would be mainly about Jim Gordon’s rise to power, but here Batwoman confuses you about whether or not you should watch it. Although, you should still give it a try like I did.
Its initial 1-3 episodes might not glue you in but if you finish at least 10 of the 20-episode season you might just be witnessing another good addition to the Arrowverse line-up. You can consider Batwoman to be a spin-off of Batman in the same vein as The Originals and Legacies were of The Vampire Diaries, but unlike TVD’s spin-offs which can be divided into more adult-orientated (The Originals) and more teen-friendly (Legacies), Batwoman stands out on its own among the plethora of male-superhero dominated shows.