Batwoman spoilers follow.
Prepping Batwoman for the game-changing, celebrity-stacked Crisis on Infinite Earths means giving Kate Kane an arc, a purpose, and an importance first. A self-sufficient story that relies on the charisma of its characters and the resonance of its themes will always trump one that simply exists as a means to an end. In that regard, the CW’s latest super-show fails, but not for reasons you’d suspect. From Kate finding out her cousin Bruce is Batman to the big, somewhat predictable Alice reveal, Batwoman lacks the patience required to delay revelation. This is a shame, especially when considering the richness of the source material.
The pilot acquaints viewers with the compelling possibility that Batman abandoned Kate in a moment of crisis. As her mother’s car is teetering on the edge of a high bridge, Kate pleads with Batman, who appears to hear her and flee anyway (but not before sowing seeds of resentment). The car tips too far and Kate’s mother and sister, both trapped in their seats, plummet into the river below. Compound this with the fact that Kate Kane and Bruce Wayne are cousins and you’ve got some juicy family drama.
Letting children die isn’t included in Batman’s arsenal of bad habits, but the scene is strange and plausible enough to warrant exploration and justify anger towards Batman that we don’t (but should) see. If it were done well, this plot point could’ve been the show’s strongest asset. But rather than draw it out and flesh it out, the writers opted for a quick fix. Luke Fox should never have been the one to explain Batman’s actions. The exchange needed to be an arc-wrapping conversation that closed this door and opened a new one. The show is detached from and dismissive of itself, and it betrays that almost immediately.
The network has gone as far as it has with these shows because it has taken a character-first, plot-second approach. As soapy and sloppy as it was, Arrow took a deep-dive into Oliver Queen’s world and centered its plots around its characters. Its efforts weren’t always fruitful, but they were spirited and energetic. And Stephen Amell nails the role. The Flash perfected this model, becoming the best of the CW superhero shows and elevating live-action superhero TV as a sub-sub-medium. Legends of Tomorrow ran on shaky limbs for years before finally finding surer footing a year or so ago. Now, it’s one of the network’s best efforts. Supergirl originally aired on CBS before joining the CW family in its second season. Like its cousins, the Melissa Benoist-led drama boasts enough action, intrigue, and character work to keep fans interested, although it doesn’t quite succeed on every front. Stilted dialogue and sappy exchanges help characterize the CW’s efforts, and their superhero shows are no exception.
The show has a month to make her story and characterization work first before it throws her in with veteran players again. Before that happens, her story must take a more focused approach. She made her debut in the Elseworlds crossover last year, but she wasn’t nearly as interesting as she has the potential to become here.
But at its current PRR (Plot Resolution Rate), Batwoman will start running on fumes within a month or two. Fuck, it’s already starting to spit and sputter. Kate has already reconciled with Batman internally and Red Alice is almost certainly her “dead” sister. What the hell are they going to tackle now? Both of those conflicts were solid, and they kept us watching. Now that we’ve had these questions swiftly and poorly answered, we’re left with a show that has little to offer.
While Batwoman actually makes some impressive strides toward cohesion, it suffers from “too much, too easy, too soon” syndrome. It can’t prioritize its subplots because it can’t decide which one is most worth pursuing. Maybe it’s perfunctorily resolving its most interesting plots because it has bigger, better things planned. Hopefully, that’s the case.
VERDICT: Batwoman is a masterclass in missed opportunity, a misguided foray into a Gotham we haven’t seen yet. This opportunity-squandering first season is a disappointment in almost every conceivable way, and it’s unlikely to get better from here.