Review: BATWOMAN 1×01 – “PILOT”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Marcos Siega
Writers: Caroline Dries
Starring: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skaarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Dougray Scott, Greston Holt, Camrun Johnson, Brendon Zub, Gray Horse Rider, Rachel Maddow, Chris Shields, Gracyn Shinyei, Ava Sleeth
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
Batwoman 1×01: Kate Kane returns from survivalist training after a terrorist gang targets her father and her ex-girlfriend. Upon learning cousin Bruce Wayne’s secret, she forges a new path.
Let’s first focus on the writing. Elements of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy echo throughout the pilot. The notion of apathy returning to Gotham during Batman’s absence enhances this superficial sense of normalcy.
Themes of alienation, conformity, and oppression flow through the character of Kate Kane. 80% of the original comic book backstory is retained and woven into a Gotham without Batman. Demonstrating the military’s homophobic codes of conduct towards LGBT 15 years earlier, sadly, remains relevant today. Sexuality is not the focus, but rather remains an integral part of Kate’s outsider status. Adding the dimension of a tragic love story provides the necessary pull that brings Kate home. Batman Easter Eggs peppered throughout the pilot serve as fan service. From the pearls to his guilt over Kate’s family, Bruce Wayne’s legacy thrives from the shadows. The focus of the first installment of establishing who Kate Kane is drives the pilot and sets up where she’s going. The suit is secondary. The decision to delay the debut of the fully-imagined suit is a callback to Barry Allen’s first suit in The Flash.
Ruby Rose’s portrayal of Kate comes very natural to the audience. As an LGBT member and gender neutral, you feel her channel those life experiences through her dialogue. Her chemistry with Scott is very genuine and is felt the strongest in their argument. Thus, Jacob’s remorse over his mistakes with his only surviving child (?) feels believable. Throughout the episode, Rose keeps everything level and hits every mark. The creative decision to frame her narrative into a journal she’s writing to Bruce should be retained. It’s never melodramatic and her delivery is steady and without reluctance.
Rachel Skaarsten’s Alice, therefore, provides the counterpoint. She is Kate’s Joker, and, as of the epilogue, the past back to haunt her.
The fight choreography in lacks the energy as Stephen Amell’s first stint in the 2012 pilot of Arrow. While 80% of Kate’s character is translated from the comic. the use of lethal force is left on the cutting room floor. If Oliver Queen can snap someone’s neck, why can’t Kate Kane fire a few rounds? Therefore, it makes it obvious they’re trying too hard to make her a female Bruce Wayne. To add to the rush order, she gets her support team in 45 minutes; it echoes the Supergirl pilot too much. And finally, the revelation of Alice’s true ID could have been reserved for a midseason finale reveal.
In conclusion, I give the Batwoman pilot a 3.5/5. While much better than what the trailer previewed, it lacks depth in certain areas and doesn’t take the risks it should. Ruby Rose is a strong lead and delivers a balanced performance. The confrontation between Kate, Alice, and Jacob is expected to see sparks and it will be interesting to see the buildup to that moment. While the episode incorporates a good mix of what made previous Arrowverse pilots work, the pace at which it threw Kate, Luke, and Mary together does not work. Regardless, this series has potential and the ink isn’t dry yet on Kate Kane’s journal, so stay tuned. Same Bat-Time, same Bat-channel.