Batwoman is a show I’ve been intrigued by since it was first announced. The show presents the prospect of finally being able to visit a CW version of Gotham City. This was briefly achieved with 2002’s Birds of Prey prior to last year’s Elseworlds crossover. In addition, I was really excited to see Ruby Rose inhabit a member of the Bat-family.
Batwoman begins with a narration from Rose’s Kate Kane, training underwater to join the Crows – a private security firm – at the behest of her mentor. This immediately evokes the spirit of the unaired Aquaman pilot, the opening of The Bourne Legacy, and, of course, just a sliver of Batman Begins. As she tries to get out of the water, we see flashes of the accident where she lost her mother. To my surprise, we also get a brief glimpse of Batman, who, at this point, has been missing from Gotham for three years.
Meanwhile, in Gotham City, everyone is getting ready to turn off the Bat-signal, which the crowd indicates is something of a divisive decision, to say the least. As they’re about to turn off the signal, Alice (played by Birds of Prey alum Rachael Skarsken), the latest villain to plague Gotham City, kidnaps Sophie, one of Kane’s favorite Crows. Sophie also happens to be Kate’s ex-girlfriend, who lied about her and Kate’s relationship to stay in the military academy. The mayor’s daughter Mary (aka Kate’s stepsister) calls her to let her know what’s going on, which brings our titular character back to Gotham. When her dad shuts her out, she heads to Wayne Tower, where she meets the head of security, Luke Fox, who tries to have her arrested. Kate’s not having it, however, and handcuffs him while she searches the Wayne security cameras for answers. She brings the info to her dad, only to accidentally walk into a surprise party where Mary explains how she figured out her relationship with Sophie. Kate finds her dad and then goes looking for the people who took Sophie, only to end up captured by Alice. Alice tells her she thought Kate was away. Kate asks how she knows her, but Alice only says how, unlike Kate, her taking Sophie will actually get her father’s attention, as she was the daughter he always wanted. She then tells Kate that she wants her to deliver a message to her dad: that he’s no white knight and that the Crows are just as bad. After Alice knocks her out again, Kate wakes up in Mary’s illegal secret clinic. She tells her dad that Alice’s issue is with him, and they have an argument about why she was sent away after being expelled. We cut to Wayne Tower, where Kate, who was initially trying to find Bruce and bring him home, notices Martha’s pearls are out of place. These are something that Bruce had told her not to touch when she was a kid. As she moves them back into place, the entrance to the Bat Cave opens, and she discovers how her cousin was spending his nights. Luke reveals to her that Bruce has spent years trying to figure out what went wrong the day her mother and sister died, with the Dark Knight unable to find the body of the latter. Kate finds weapons and the Bat-suit and asks Luke to redesign the suit, which he takes issue with, stating that the suit is perfection. Kate gets a call from Mary saying that she figured out where they took Sophie thanks to one of her patients.
As he watches over moviegoers during a screening of Zorro (which was a fantastic nod for longtime fans), Jake gets a call from Alice, who is working with one of the Crows. Jake demands that she tell him where she is and that he’s going to dump her in Arkham himself. She tells him he’ll have to choose between Gotham and Sophie. Just when things seem at their worst, Kate, now dressed in full Bat regalia, steps in, stopping her and saving Sophie. Gotham is abuzz about the “return of Batman,” from Rachel Maddow’s Vesper Fairchild to a kid at Mary’s clinic. However, the Crows still have worked to do, as Jake dismisses the new Bat as just another copycat. After Kate meets Sophie and her new husband, she talks to her Dad, who tells her that if she really wants in, she’s in. We then cut to Kate, writing something the narration reveals to be a note to Bruce, telling him to read her story when he comes home one day. She wonders why Bruce was never able to find her sister’s body, and they reveal that Alice is actually Beth.
In a lot of ways, I feel the Batwoman pilot lived up to the hype, from the performance of Ruby Rose to the action. It reminded me of early episodes of Arrow, especially with the narration, to say nothing of the nods to previous iterations of the Dark Knight. It particularly evoked aspects of the Nolan trilogy as well. I also really like the idea that someone was there to fill the void left by Batman without having to put on masks, at least until now. That being said, there are also a few things that don’t work here, particularly with the Alice reveal. I understand they don’t want to leave anything on the table. However, I felt like they should have waited a couple more episodes to build it up a bit. This is to say nothing of a fairly predictable twist with the Kate/Sophie relationship that I hope will be given better dimension as the show goes along. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t briefly mention the Bat-suit. I said it about the trailer, and it remains true here; that Bat-suit that our protagonist comes across midway through the pilot was simply awesome. While this may be a nitpick, I really wish Kate would’ve created her own suit instead of using Bruce’s.
That being said, writer Caroline Dries does a great job here in her debut as showrunner. I’ve been following her since Smallville and was really looking forward to what she would do in this new capacity. As such, I’m very happy to say she didn’t disappoint. Kate Kane is a well-drawn protagonist that will fit in seamlessly with the rest of the Arrowverse. Director Marcos Siega was the biggest surprise to me as, when I saw David Nutter in the credits, I naturally assumed he was at the helm. As it turns out, the show didn’t need him in that capacity. Siega ensured that the Batwoman pilot looked like a feature, much in the same way the Arrow pilot did. Cinematographer Robert MacLachlan facilitates a vibrant color palette that makes the audience sit up and pay attention to every frame.
The Batwoman pilot is a great start for this new series. Despite a few predictable moments, Dries, Siegas, and MacLachlan did a great job bringing the CW’s version of Gotham to life and can’t wait to see more in the weeks ahead.