Batwoman airs it’s first episode this Sunday and Rotten Tomatoes is preparing for the onslaught of hate-filled screeds and one line reviews in their user ratings section. Because of the way certain other properties have been treated by viewers and those claiming to be such, the online aggregate site no longer allows audience critiques until after a movie or TV show has been released. So as the troll armies of the white nationalist fringe and fragile males in comic fandom sharpen their knives in another futile attempt to take down a female character, reviews by people who have actually seen episodes of the show are rolling in and they’re largely positive for now. Here’s ours.
First off, Kudos to Caroline Dries. After cutting her teeth on Smallville, The Vampire Diaries, and other youth-driven shows, the writer has her finger on the pulse of the CW’s target audience and she delivers with a comic-book accurate version of one of the world’s first openly gay, and feminist, superheroes. It’s a combination that is quite triggering to some viewers used to male-driven superhero treatments where women are usually relegated to little more than damsels in distress.
The premise is a familiar one for those who’ve followed comic books and related movies and TV shows. Batman has been missing for three years (perhaps on an extended honeymoon with Catwoman?) and Gotham City has reverted to it’s pre-Dark Knight state. Criminals prowl the streets and citizens rarely venture out. With Batman gone and a militarized security force doing little to stop Gotham’s descent into utter bedlam, a new hero is need to inspire and deliver the city’s citizens from ruin and despair.
Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), Bruce Wayne’s cousin, steps in for Batman as the red haired lipstick lesbian Batwoman and, with access to all of Batman’s wonderful toys, begins a new quest to rid her city of it’s criminal elements.
True to one of the genre’s classic tropes, Kane has been away from Gotham for some time but returns when her ex-girlfriend Sophie is abducted by a Harley Quinn-esque criminal mastermind named Alice. Seriously, Rachel Skarsten would have been a perfect Harley Quinn, and her portrayal of the series’ main villainess is as thrilling and chaotic as you might imagine from a Batman universe baddie who’s shtick is speaking in phrases and quotes from the Lewis Carroll novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – and dressing like it, too.
Batwoman‘s tone is more Arrow than Flash, but it trades in Oliver Queen’s machismo for a gritty style of feminism. It’s very much an Arrowverse show, though, complete with a dorky tech genius – the venerable Lucius Fox – who works behind the scenes as Batwoman prowls the streets. The series (the two episodes I’ve seen) is exciting although predictable. Greg Berlanti, the mastermind behind both the CW’s and DC steaming’s DC properties, knows his audience well and has perfected a winning formula, though one that is suffering from the law of diminishing returns. If this show was about another male hero – perhaps Robin or Nightwing stepping in for Bats – it wouldn’t seem quite as fresh as it does. But because the main character is a lesbian on a network who’s primary audience is nearly universal in it’s acceptance of it, the storylines have potential to cross boundaries that might not have even been broached if Batwoman was on ABC, CBS, NBC or FOX..
The show still has a few issues — the special effects can be uneven and the flat voice overs borderline on annoying— but the first two episodes are about as badass as anything the CW has done on the superhero front even though the CW’s formula feels dated. Highlights include a warehouse fight between Batwoman and Alice’s henchmen shot in the same style that made Daredevil’s fight scenes on Netflix so awesome. For those who enjoy slow burn character development, pay close attention to Batwoman’s adversarial relationship with Alice unfolds. It’s pure joy.
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The dark, brooding Batwoman breathes new life into the CW’s date Superhero formula.