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BATWOMAN – Episode 1: Building a Mystery

BATWOMAN - Episode 1: Building a Mystery 1

There’s been a lot of hype and a lot of questions about what to expect from the CW’s newest entry into the Arrowverse. As television’s first superhero series with a queer headliner, Batwoman has a whole lot to carry in addition to being an engaging TV show. When the series was announced, I wrote a list of things I wanted to see in the show. After a brief, spoiler-filled recap of the episode, I’ll check the list against what we’ve seen so far!

Batwoman: Pilot Recap (Spoilers!)

The show opens with a visual burst of blue: Kate is plunging underwater, searching for something. She finds a key to the handcuffs she’s evidently wearing, but before she can resurface, someone has blocked the one opening in the frozen pond (?) she’s swimming in. It’s a training exercise and she succeeds.

We see that Kate is Tough and Funny when she bickers with the nameless indigenous man who is training her. Played gamely by Gray Horse Rider, the disappointment that it is 2019 and we are still portraying indigenous people as enigmatic wisemen who speak broken English is evident on both his face and mine.

Meanwhile, in Gotham City, a bunch of rich people are holding a gala to shut down the Bat-signal. Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott), Kate’s father, oversees security with his para-military force the Crows. His wife, Catherine Hamilton-Kane (Elizabeth Anweis), and her daughter, Mary Hamilton (Nicole Kang), callously take a selfie among protestors who anxiously await Batman’s return. Honestly, I can’t imagine a city in America right now that would protest in favor of law enforcement — especially a vigilante. But that’s just one of the many ways that Batwoman, like all the other CW shows, are just out of touch with urban life.

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Gotham is gritty! There’s a tent!

Unsurprisingly, shenanigans ensue, Alice (Rachel Skarsten) makes her Alice-in-Wonderland-spouting appearance, kills some cops, and kidnaps one of the Crows. She’s not just any Crow, though: she’s Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) — one of Kate’s exes.

The middle of the episode gets a bit muddy. Kate returns to Gotham after Mary calls her. Jacob won’t let her help in the search. We get more flashbacks of the death of Kate’s mom and her twin sister, Beth. Unlike the comics, in the TV show, Kate escapes from a car accident that we later learn was related to the Joker. Batman shows up and attempts to secure the car with two grappling hooks. Kate escapes the wreck, but the car teeters over the side of the bridge and into the gorge below before her mother and sister can. Batman vanishes to handle more mayhem.

We also learn more about Sophie and Kate’s relationship through a series of gold-hued flashbacks to Not!Westpoint, where Kate and Sophie get caught kissing behind a shed by a man tromping through the woods with the grace of a bull with his hoof caught in a bucket. What was he doing there???? Cruising?

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Kate and Sophie’s farewell

Kate cracks the case by breaking into Bruce Wayne’s office and meeting (and incapacitating) Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson.) Here’s where we learn that they’re cousins and Bruce is virtually her only living family member who’s ever been supportive of her. She uses security footage to get a bead on Alice’s henchmen and makes a dramatic exit. (It’s not clear why a large corporation has surveillance cameras all over the city.) She then meets with the Crows and notes that they’re carrying cricket paddles with the abandoned Burnside Orphanage’s motto printed on the side.

Kate battling these foot-soldiers is the only genuinely cool action sequence in this episode, and it works really well. It reminds me of a Quake playthrough and characterizes Kate as a tough and scrappy fighter. She’s not about calculating so much as running in there and using brute force. She gets knocked out and confronts Alice, who to knows an unsettling amount of details about Kate’s personal life and family dynamics.

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Big Bat meet Big Bad

Kate gets knocked out and released, only to be found by Mary who, it turns out, is not simply a silly socialite but is actually running an illegal free clinic. She patches Kate up and catches her up on what she’s missed.

One thing leads to another and she decides to break back into Wayne Tower. I watched this about 45 minutes ago and I already forget why. The pilot is a bit jam-packed, but that’s understandable. Anyway, the long and the short of it is she figures out how to get into the Batcave with Luke anxiously at her heels. She realizes just how haunted Bruce/Batman was by her mother and sister’s deaths. Using Bruce’s advice to find her own way, she turns her back on the Crows and decides to use his gadgets to go out and find Sophie. The Batcave has a fantastic aesthetic that takes notes of the art-deco from the cartoons, adds a little steampunk, a bit of iPhone design tips, and a pinch of goth to make one of the best sets on any of the Arrowverse show.

There’s a final confrontation with Alice. Kate saves Sophie. Kate finds out Sophie’s married. Kate realizes Alice is somehow connected to Beth. Jacob invites Kate to join the Crows after all, but she decides to go her own way. We get a voice-over by Rachel Maddow that curls my toes in delight. (If she used that bedroom voice on me I’d forget about all of my sticking points with her.)

Overall: this was a solid pilot! It was better than I thought it would be and makes me excited for the rest of the series! If it’s like any of the other Arrowverse shows, it’ll use this season to get its sea legs and really take off in season 2.

Bat-Thoughts:

  • If Gotham is so crime-ridden that they’re hosting their first public event in three years by the time of this show, how do the rich people in Gotham make their money? And why are they staying?
  • Gotham as a setting worked in the 70s – 90s because it illustrated the stark divide between the wealthy and “urban blight.” But that’s not what cities are like now — especially the glossy Chi-couver Gotham we see in the opening episode. I just don’t believe crime is rampant here simply because they showed one homeless person sleeping on a bridge. The CW had a chance to get political with Arrow and they completely blew it — I don’t think Kate is going to pick up that burden.
  • Mary and Alice are the best reasons to watch the show. Like the other Arrowverse shows, the ensemble will be doing the heavy lifting against the relatively bland main character.
  • I had hoped that the Batwoman TV series would be as visually experimental as the comics. This episode is about as visually interesting as other CW shows, though the filters on the flashbacks and underwater training scene do bring vivid relief to a palette best described as “black on black on black”
  • WHY IS KATE WRITING A JOURNAL FOR BRUCE??? THIS IS HOW PEOPLE GET CAUGHT. It also creates an entirely unnecessary narrative structure, though maybe they thought they needed to explain Kate’s thoughts because, frankly, Rose’s acting is still quite wooden. I hope they eventually drop it.

The Verdict

A solid start! 4/6 sodas!

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