BATWOMAN S01E01 “Pilot” review

Batwoman (The CW)

Batwoman airs Sundays at 8/7c on The CW in North America which episodes available to stream the following day on The CW app. The series is yet to announce a premiere date in the UK.

Synopsis

Kate Kane returns to Gotham when a gang targets her father and her ex-girlfriend Sophie Moore.

Review

After months of buildup The CW has finally launched Batwoman to a wave of anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ criticism. But does the series hold up against the pantheon of Arrowverse shows.

In all honesty… not quite, but it’s well on its way to being a new and original entry to the universe.

Batwoman‘s pilot episode really suffers from setting up a fairly complex narrative. We’re introduced to Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), her family including Dougray Scott as her father Jacob; her stepmom, half-sister, ex-girlfriend and of the big bad of season 1, Alice (Rachel Skarsten).

The first act of the episode feels like it moves at breakneck speed. There’s flashbacks to the death of Kate’s mother and sister, Kate training under ice somewhere clearly not Gotham and the immediate emergence of Alice.

It’s not at all cohesive and had me very worried for the rest of the episode. It felt like a mix of Batman Begins the standard CW/DC fare. Plenty of drama but with a superhero twist. But what does work in its favour is some truly inspired cinematography.

The CW shows all have their establishing shots of their various cityscapes but at the end of the day all the shows shoot in Vancouver. Batwoman makes use of some establishing shots of Chicago as Gotham but also films its street level scenes uniquely and makes the show stand apart from its colleagues.

On first watch it was this unique version of Gotham which grabbed my attention. Early in the episode we establish The Crows, a private security agency run by Jacob Kane, which protects Gotham’s elite.

We see The Crows escorting Catherine Hamilton-Kane (Elizabeth Anweis) and Mary (Nicole Kang) to the ceremony switching off the Bat-signal. As the rich of Gotham exit the van they are surrounded by the protesting poor folk. It borders on the classist system seen in Joker and that really intrigued me.

How did Gotham get to this point? Is the disappearance of Batman and Bruce Wayne a contributing factor?

From the second act onward things begin to pickup. With Sophie (Meagan Tandy) kidnapped by Alice, Kate is compelled to return to the city and we begin the spiral of events which leads to Batwoman’s first appearance.

Though it’s a compelling story, watching Kate break in to Wayne Tower and being caught by Alice and her crew herself is laden with clichés of its own. For starters: Wayne Tower appears to be out of action yet Luke Fox remains there, seemingly be himself, was he just waiting for Kate to arrive?

Kate’s half-sister Mary also happens to run a free clinic looking after the have-nots of Gotham. She fills a Leslie Thompkins type role which also just happens to get Kate the information she needs just at the right time.

It’s clunky but entirely watchable.

Luckily the episode comes together well after Kate discovers the Batcave and faces of with Alice for the first time in costume. There’s some great fight choreography which feels in-line with what we see in Arrow. Kate has a street level brawler feel to the way she fights and it’s going to be cool seeing her go hand-to-hand with crooks when she’s fully suited up in the red and black costume.

Likewise the twist at the end of the episode felt – comic history aside – genuine and dramatic. Skarsten plays Alice with some crazy glee, she’s electrifying on screen and should provide some really great viewing over the coming weeks.

The episode is also littered with some great comic book references. There’s a Joker namecheck in a newspaper, Kate visits Burnside and Luke Fox mentions Batman’s “co-workers”.

Overall it’s an okay start but one which was not as impressive as I had originally hoped for. The dark aesthetic will absolutely be this show’s biggest selling point as it develops its story.

Verdict

Batwoman suffers from the usual pilot clichés but an interesting cast of characters and some inspired cinematography for a CW show make this perfectly watchable.

6/10

Batwoman stars Ruby Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman. The series co-stars Dougray Scott, Elizabeth Anweis, Meagan Tandy, Camrus Johnson, Nicole Kang and Rachel Skarsten.


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About Neil Vagg 3996 Articles
Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG