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Batwoman's official entrance into the Arrowverse is full of grit and pacing issues

Ruby Rose stars in Batwoman
Photo: Kimberley French (The CW)
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Batwoman is the newest addition to The CW’s strong lineup of superhero content. The series, overseen by Caroline Dries, will introduce audiences to the network’s first lesbian-led superhero show (the honor of its first female-led superhero series goes to Supergirl). The show has big boots to fill with its place in the Arrowverse, just as Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) has a big cape and cowl to fill as Batwoman. The absence of the Caped Crusader plays a big role in Kate’s life when she returns to Gotham, and is the catalyst for her taking on the bat persona herself. As Kate explains in a voiceover, The Crows—a private security company—have had to fill in the void created by a missing Batman and an ineffectual Gotham police force. It feels like a story that’s been done before, because it is a story that’s been done before. Vigilantism is literally what Kate’s cousin Bruce Wayne did (though she doesn’t find out until halfway through the premiere); it’s the reason Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow exists, and can be loosely applied to any form of super-heroics. That doesn’t make the Batwoman pilot boring, but it does make it predictable.


Kate has a connection to her cousin Bruce’s alter ego: For a long time, she’s held a grudge against Batman for failing to save her mother and her twin sister Beth from a watery grave, but she gets a reality check in the first hour from Wayne Enterprises’ steward, Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson). With that emotional weight off of her and her perception of Batman altered, she’s free to take on his recently vacated role as protector, one she takes on quite well. When Kate makes her first appearance as Batwoman, she’s mistaken for Batman by the people of Gotham—who observe her actions from a safe distance—but as a copycat by her father. Even though she has this literal and metaphorical shadow over her, Kate Kane is not one to live in it. Rose’s Kate Kane is somber and determined, and knows her way around a utility belt already. The show is leaning into the dark, serious world commonly associated with Gotham, adding another super-powered layer to the Arrowverse.

As Kate, Rose gives a nuanced performance—she doesn’t stick to a sullen manner, though it could easily be justified by living with immense loss and rejection from her father. She shows off a dry humor and playfulness, especially when dealing with her step-sister over the phone, or pushing Luke’s buttons just enough not to give him a panic attack. Her most strained relationship is with her father, who sent her into a kind of exile, so a lot of her grief and hurt comes out when interacting with him, which is to be expected. With the bleak circumstances and even darker setting—a literal cave—it would be easy to play Batwoman as a gloomy hero, forever brooding. But Rose avoids that while still creating a character fit to fix the brutal landscape of Gotham.

Photo: Kimberley French (The CW)

A big part of Kate’s story and her identity is her queerness, which is an established part of her comics origin, along with her expulsion from West Point for having a relationship with another female student. The CW’s Arrowverse has a pretty good track record when it comes to their LGBTQ+ storylines, generally handling them with respect and thought. Supergirl introduced the first ever transgender superhero last year, and Arrow offers a nuanced depiction of bisexuality through Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), continued on in Legends Of Tomorrow. There are rocky waters ahead for Kate’s love life, but her sexuality isn’t her whole story, something that is true to life for any queer-identifying person.


Overall, Batwoman seems like it’s trying to fill the dark, gritty void that will soon be left by Arrow, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark yet. The show is still very much finding its footing in the pilot; the pacing is off, moving a little too fast at some points. The show seems to be banking on viewers’ prior knowledge of Gotham, and Kate Kane/Batwoman’s introduction into the Arrowverse via Elsewords. The limited exposition would be more welcome if the pilot didn’t leave so many questions unanswered. Right now, the biggest issue revolves around the villain, Alice. She turns out to be Kate’s sister, whose body was never found and was presumed dead, although you don’t learn that until the last few minutes. She’s meant to be a bit cheesy, it seems, with her Wonderland gang of masked henchmen and her ill-timed Alice In Wonderland puns—two thumbs up for sticking to a theme. But the pilot provides greater detail for Alice’s costuming and lair than it does her motives, let alone how she is so in tune with the relationship dynamics of several key figures in Gotham. Alice goes from threatening to blow up the city’s glitterati to kidnapping a single person—Sophie. She negotiates with Jacob, then Kate. “Oh dear, this is quite sad actually,” Alice says when Kate tries to barter for Sophie’s life. “I took Sophie because she’ll actually get your father’s attention. Your father doesn’t want you, Kate... I assumed you knew.” She finishes her blow by saying, “Sophie is the daughter your father always wanted.”

Photo: Kimberley French (The CW)

That someone like Alice would play mind games with her foes is par for the course; what’s confusing about the literal Sophie’s choice that Jacob has to make is the depth of his relationship with his employee. We’re given no real foundation for their bond before life-or-death stakes are raised. It’s another example of how the pilot, directed by The Vampire Diaries alum Marcos Siega, picks and chooses where to show depth.

With so many pre-existing shows already filling out Batwoman’s lore and universe, finding footing can be tough. Like so many other network offerings this season, the pilot isn’t the strongest start to a series, but there’s room for potential. What the premiere does establish is Kate Kane’s presence and desire to help others. Let the fight between good and evil commence.


Stray observations

  • So Bruce Wayne and Batman have been gone for the exact same amount of time, both without any clue to where they went or why, and no one has pieced that together yet? Yeah, it’s the same universe where Kara Danvers’ glasses and hair are what stop people from noticing her identity but damn. A whole town of Lena Luthors, I see.
  • Questions that left me scratching my head: Where was Kate training all that time, and with whom? How long has she been gone? Did her father really expect her to shut up and train for the rest of her life, without coming back? Why did Kate’s step-sister Mary’s (Nicole Kang) medical profession and makeshift clinic, feel so... random?
  • Wanting to destroy Jacob Kane and his company and take over Gotham is a weird position for Alice/Beth to take, considering all she did was survive a scary fall from a bridge. Did she and her father not have a great relationship? It just seems like a messy plan to take over Gotham. What a headache.
  • Just one observation I always have about Batman stories in general: why make a privatized police force when you, as a very wealthy person, can just donate to the city? You know—funding the education system, a better infrastructure, more ways to thwart villains that don’t involve a second S.W.A.T. team. Add some more lights so it’s not so gloomy while you’re at it, too.
  • Does this set up Batman returning to Gotham later in the season or series? As with so many other things about the show’s direction, it’s tough to say. Supergirl certainly found a way to involve Superman in a limited capacity, without him becoming the focus of the show.
  • In the second half of the pilot, Kate finds out that Sophie (Meagan Tandy) got married while Kate was away. Love triangles are standard stuff, even in the Arrowverse, but I hope we don’t just see Kate pining over Sophie all year.
  • Luke Fox is Lucius Fox’s son, so protecting Wayne Enterprises is in his blood. He’s trying to keep his job and not piss off Bruce Wayne, okay? That’s very relatable. Plus, Kate’s going to have such a fun time teasing him; their dynamic is definitely one to watch.

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About the author

Alani Vargas

Alani Vargas is an entertainment writer and A.V. Club contributor. Her work also appears on Showbiz Cheat Sheet, INSIDER, Bustle, Refinery29, and Elite Daily.