When Batwoman first appeared in “Elseworlds,” last year’s Arrowverse crossover, the expectation, of course, was that Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) would eventually get her own show. Admittedly, the prospect of a Batwoman series sounded exciting. However, after the first few trailers dropped online, it was hard to maintain the expectation that the show would be any good. Still, I wanted to be wrong. Marketed as a Batman show with a woman as the lead, it’s unfortunate to report that Batwoman is certainly one of the weakest pilots to air on The CW in a long time.
We meet Kate Kane in the midst of training for her future position with Crow Security. The security company, run by Kate’s father, Jacob (Dougray Scott), was created to protect the citizens of Gotham City in place of Batman, who’s been gone for three years. Kate’s training is cut short, however, after Alice (Rachel Skarsten) and her Wonderland gang kidnap Kate’s ex-girlfriend, Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy). To complicate matters, Sophie is the head security agent for Crow Security and someone Jacob cares deeply for. So, of course, it’s Jacob who is Alice’s real target, after all. After realizing Jacob doesn’t really want Kate (a lie told by Alice), she decides to become fear itself and takes up the mantle of Gotham’s new savior (after a suit adjustment by Luke Fox (Camrus Johnsohn), of course) to save Sophie and the city.
At one point, Kate’s father calls her the “female Bruce Wayne.” The only difference is that she has a future. This line of dialogue offers nothing but an eyeroll and is indicative of the show, which wants to follow in Batman’s footsteps without properly developing Kate as a standalone character. It’s therefore hard to fully grasp who Kate is as a person beyond the fact that she has a tragic past.
Every conversation is half-hearted and the dialogue often cringe-worthy. It’s often as though we’re being dropped into the middle of a larger narrative, but without context. The episode presents Kate’s relationship with her father as a complicated one. But, by the time Kate tells Jacob she’s through with wanting to please him and forges her own path, taking up the mantle of Gotham’s new hero, absolutely none of it is earned.
Batwoman doesn’t have a strong sense of purpose, either. Although the show tells us what Kate’s relationships are with everyone, there’s no time spent on exploring what those relationships look like. The show works overtime to tell us what the dynamics are without bothering to show us. Kate’s dropped back into Gotham like she’s a stranger in her own world and that’s exactly what’s so off-putting about the pilot. Kate’s life isn’t live in and, while her history is tragic, her backstory and characterization ring hollow. It doesn’t help that Ruby Rose’s portrayal is devoid of emotion.
The series introduces a plethora of supporting characters, who are meant to round out Kate’s circle and populate Gotham City. However, because the foundation is built upon the shaky legs of Kate (a one-dimensional character thus far), they make even less of an impression than the protagonist.
The pilot is also not edited very well. That’s made blatantly clear when the scenes set in the present are intercut with the egregiously bright flashbacks. In fact, flashbacks take up a lot of space in the episode, specifically revisiting two distinct points from Kate’s life: her relationship with Sophie while at West Point and the reason why they’re no longer together, and the car accident that killed her mother and sister. Not only are the flashbacks unnecessary, but they’re also entirely misplaced and jarring when compared to what’s happening in the present. The foundation could’ve been laid in a nicely done flashback scene at the beginning of the episode with having to go back and forth throughout.
Batwoman is ultimately painful to watch and a struggle to get through, lacking finesse, emotional depth, and a sense of direction. The writers make shortcuts throughout to get Kate to the point of becoming Gotham’s new hero, but her journey is both inauthentic and clunky. While the series has a chance to iron out its problems over the next few episodes, it’s off to an incredibly rocky start.
Batwoman airs Sundays at 8/7c on The CW.