08th Oct2019

‘Batwoman 1×01: Pilot’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang—Mary Hamilton, Camrus Johnson, Elizabeth Anweis, Dougray Scott | Created by Caroline Dries

You may know me from my weekly review of Black Lightning (also on the CW network) but being an avid Batman fan, both comics and film, I was interested when a Batwoman television series was announced. I have no expectations for this series so let’s take it one week at a time because no one wants to read a review, much less watch the series, if this follows the downward spiral of the Arrow series.

batwoman-poster

What Happened This Week?

Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) is introduced to us as she is shackled and trapped in a pond that is iced over as she is desperately running out of air. Just before hope is gone, she unlocks the shackles from her foot and uses them as a tool to punch through the ice, allowing herself to reach the surface. Kate enters a hut and we learn escaping the frozen pond is nothing more than a training session set up by her mysterious, no-name mentor. The opening scene is very reminiscent of Bruce Wayne learning in Tibet with Ra’s al Ghul in the film and establishes the lengths Kate will go to train.

In a flashback, Kate, her sister and her mother are involved in a car accident with a school bus and the car is pushed to the edge of a bridge, trapping them inside. Batman shows up but can’t save them all as only Kate manages to escape before the car falls off the bridge with Kate’s mother and sister still inside. Later in the episode it is revealed Batman miscalculated the tension cables he attached to the car, resulting in the cables breaking and the car falling off the edge of the bridge. A fun twist is the Joker was responsible for the accident, so hopefully we’ll see if he’ll play a role in future episodes.

Gotham in the present time is in a state of influx as Batman has been missing for three years but no one knows if he retired, left town or died. In Batman’s absence, Kate’s father, Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott), created a private security firm, Crows Security, to provide safety to Gotham but mostly it’s security for the wealthy. Jacob runs the security firm with his new wife, Catherine Hamilton-Kane (Elizabeth Anweis), and we are introduced to them at a gala for Gotham’s elite as they are celebrating the turning off of the Bat-Signal.

Unfortunately, the gala, like most things in Gotham, does not go well as the leader of the Wonderland Gang, Alice (Rachel Skarsten), arrives and kills two Gotham police officers (seriously, how do they get police recruits?), threatens the city and kidnaps a Crows Security supervisor, Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy), who is also Kate’s ex-girlfriend.
The kidnapping of Sophie brings Kate back from her training exile and on a mission to find her former girlfriend. Flashbacks reveal it was a secretive relationship which, when outed, caused them to be reprimanded in the military and eventually resulted in them breaking up as Kate left the military and Sophie decided to stay.

The training in the beginning? It was Kate’s father’s idea as he didn’t feel Kate was ready to be in the field for his security firm and sent her away for more training. The other reason for the training? Her father tells Kate she won’t be able to assist Crows Security in searching for Sophie, as her father wants something more for Kate than “just working” as a field agent. Kate and her father’s relationship is a complicated one as her father pushes Kate away as any semblance of a prior life bubbles to the surface when Kate is around. Her father can’t process the death of his first wife and his daughter, which Kate obviously reacts to negatively. It’s a cliché’ that is familiar in superhero shows but hopefully they won’t dwell on this trope.

Kate, while searching for clues at Wayne Tower, is caught by Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), the head of security for Wayne Enterprises. In another twist, Kate reveals herself as Bruce Wayne’s cousin and Fox, who is the son of the former head of security for Wayne Enterprises, Lucius Fox. The scene is a little out of place as it is played light-hearted as Kate slips out of the restraints and actually places the handcuffs on Fox. Kate downloads the video of the kidnapping from Wayne Tower cameras, leaving Fox handcuffed to the wall as she goes off searching for more clues.

Kate brings the video of the kidnapping to her father and Crows Security and by zooming in on one of the weapons the kidnapper uses during the attack, they realize Alice and the Wonderland Gang are at a vacant orphanage. Kate arrives at the orphanage first as Crows Security cannot investigate the orphanage without assistance from the police and a search warrant. We are treated to montage of her beating nameless goons until Alice knocks Kate out from a blow to the head from a paddle. It’s a well shot scene as we learn how vicious Kate can be in her fighting style and shows how much Kate still has to learn by leaving her guard down when she becomes emotionally attached to an investigation.

Upon waking up, Alice monologues to Kate and introduces herself but much to Kate’s surprise, Alice actually knows who Kate is. Alice plays a few mind games stating Sophie is the daughter that Kate’s father always wanted, and Kate is nothing but a disappointment. Playing against common villain tropes, Alice actually doesn’t reveal who she really is or how she is related to Kate, leaving that mystery for the reveal at the end of the episode. Kate is knocked out again and left on the streets of Gotham only to be picked up by her step-sister Mary Hamilton (Nicole Kang). It seems Mary is in school to be a doctor and in her spare time, she steals medicine and runs an underground clinic for people without health insurance or means to pay for medical procedures. It’s a plot point that seems clunky but at least we know where Batwoman will be heading in future episodes when she gets hurt.

After being fixed up by Mary, Kate heads to Wayne Manor and confronts Fox, hoping he knows where Bruce Wayne is hiding. Fox states he doesn’t know where he is, but Kate knows he isn’t telling the whole truth. After rearranging a statue on a bookcase, in another clunky scene, Kate discovers the Batcave housing all of Bruce’s old toys. With Fox’s reluctant help, she is outfitted as the new Dark Knight of Gotham. Alice and her gang attempt an attack on Gotham at a “Movie in the Park” event, which in an homage to the original comic book Batman origin story, is showing The Mark of Zorro. Nicely done writers. Luckily for Gotham, Batwoman makes her inaugural appearance and after a brief tussle with Alice, in which Alice escapes, saves Sophie who was suspended from a building over the park. Batwoman stands over the crowd below and makes it known that a new hero is in town. The scene is quite underwhelming as the costume is just plain black (I know the appearance will change but the first look at it is not impressive), the fight between Alice and Batwoman lacks intensity and overall the scene does not come across as well as it should.

The episode wraps up with Kate and Sophie briefly catching up on their lives as Sophie has moved on as she is now married to another security agent, Tyler. Kate also smooths things over with her father but there are still some issues that need to be resolved between the two. The big reveal (SPOILERS) is that Kate’s sister didn’t die in the car accident and Kate realizes that Alice is actually her sister. It’s a bad reveal and one that didn’t need to be done but since this is the road they are taking, let’s hope it gets better from this point.

One Good Thing:

  • The new villain and future opportunity. Outside of the ridiculous reveal of who she is, Alice and the Wonderland Gang could be an interesting villain group moving forward. They have the potential to be very similar to Joker and his gang and possibly open up the door for Batman’s old villain, the Mad Hatter. The gang has a unique look by using animals’ masks related to the characters in the classic Alice in Wonderland story, which adds a little craziness to the typical and uninspired thugs found in most shows.

One Bad Thing:

  • I have issues with Luke Fox. Fox is the one character I have concern with as he comes off as weak and not someone who would be looking after Wayne Tower or Wayne Manor after Bruce is gone. There is potential for this character but as of now, he comes across as a weak imitation of Alfred.

This Episode’s Grade: C (Average)

I don’t have high hopes for a pilot episode of a series as the writers try to put as much exposition into the first episode as possible in order to “hook” the audience in hopes of bringing them back for a second episode. While this episode has some clunky parts and it was too much of “telling” rather than “showing” the Gotham that will be featured in the series, the pilot did enough to make me interested in this world.

Ruby Rose nails the role of Kate Kane/Batwoman and it’s the best casting of a television superhero since Stephen Amell was cast as Arrow. She presents a “don’t give a damn” type of character that also has a personal edict of values and morals similar to Batman. The character also has weaknesses as she is still “new” to the vigilante role and I hope to see her make mistakes because of this. The series will take a darker tone than the campy Fox series Gotham, and has the potential to be a “Batman” series that fans have been wanting to see for some time. Whether the potential is reached, we’ll have to wait to see.
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You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here
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