Batwoman (2019)

Richly-noir in Gotham City world-building with a badass lead casting in Ruby Rose (though ~rough around the edges acting-wise), vital legacy in the first LGBTQ superhero, & one of The Bat’s trippiest and most underused villains in Mad Hatter/Hush. 7.1/10.

Plot Synopsis: Three years after Batman mysteriously disappeared, Gotham is a city in despair, and it’s under the watch of Jacob Kane and his military-grade Crows Private Security, which now protects the city with omnipresent firepower and militia. When the Alice in Wonderland gang targets the firm, Kane’s daughter Kate returns home, deciding that if she wants to help her family and her city, she’ll have to become the one thing her father loathes — a dark knight vigilante. With the help of her stepsister Mary and the crafty Luke Fox, the son of Wayne Enterprises’ tech guru Lucius Fox, Kate Kane continues the legacy of her missing cousin, Bruce Wayne. Armed with a passion for social justice and a flair for speaking her mind, Kate soars through the shadowed streets of Gotham as Batwoman.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review: Batman. The Joker. Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Red Hood, Man-Bat, Mr. Freeze, The Court Of Owls, Bane, Deathstroke, Scarecrow, Ra’s al Ghul, Nightwing, Robin, Harley Quinn – there is little question why Batman is the most popular superhero in the world with an insane Rogue’s Gallery and 80-year comics’ library of characters like that (with infinitesimally-more). But two that have been curiously left out of the mix of live-action debuts are the two female subcharacters on the hero side: the purple-suited, anime/cyberpunkish Batgirl taking cues from the Girl of Steel she was designed to counterpart.. and Batwoman. The first LGBTQ superhero in comics with a striking black-and-red design amidst the same gadget-fueled badassery that saw her cousin Bruce Wayne’s fellow-Chiopteraic hero soar to new heights, she never got so much as even a cameo to strange logic being such a potential-bursting – important – character. The world’s finally-evolving current social consciousness-state (+ The CW’s inaversion to trollish fake-rage instead using the world’s biggest shared-TV-franchise empire they’ve built in The Arrowverse to spread diversity and go all-in on risky bets) is perhaps what finally blew open the lock keeping this she-bat under wraps – and the results couldn’t be grander. Despite a controversial trailer again casting poor atmosphere and media coverage on the product before release in Titans-all-over-again fashion (whoever cut both trailers should be fired *immediately* doing both fantastic shows such injustice), Batwoman is the introduction the barrier-shattering anti-discriminatory vigilante deserves: Richly-noir in Gotham City world-building with a badass lead casting in Ruby Rose (though ~rough around the edges acting-wise), vital legacy in the first LGBTQ superhero, & one of The Bat’s trippiest villains in Mad Hatter/Hush.

The Gotham City world-building in classically Bat-approved dark noiric auterism. From Batwoman’s stunning arctic-chilled vigilante-training opening steeped in classic Ra’s al Ghul feel, it’s clear this adaptation of Kate Kane’s origin story has one thing in top priority: visual stylism. The series’ vision of Gotham City is downright BREATHAKING: a classically-noir feeling, swanky jazz-’50’s score serenaded, dark-lens filtered masterful location setting that feels like Humphrey Bogart or Nolan’s Batman might stroll across the street in every frame (even looking like it’s reusing exact location sets from TDK trilogy at times you have to double-take in nostalgia). Down to even minute details like shot construction in Game of Thrones-veteran Robert Lachlan’s rich cinematography amongst the best of his career from the cityscapes as Kane looks out amongst the dazzling Batsignal-lit night views to underwater shots made possible by the Bat-breather to the biblical Batcave to vignetted snapshot-in-motion Kane backstory tragedy, the stunning visuals string through each frame to iconic proportions feeling wholly Batman through and through that feels more elegant and high-budget as a visual experience than most TV offerings currently airing. The score is absolutely SENSATIONAL as well being characteristic of Arrowverse maven Blake Neely’s work feeling wildly cinematic through triumphant, booming drums and arpeggiating violins in orchestral score juxtaposed against its smooth noir-ic jazzscapes in Gotham-nostalgia to even modern R&B in Billie Eilish’s ‘When The Party Ends’ for one of the most unique and impressive soundscapes in a comic book series to date.

Ruby Rose. The series’ lead casting of badass street fighter cyberpunk-chick Ruby Rose with a seasoned background from John Wick to xXx’s Xander Cage to Resident Evil is *perfect* for the role of Kate Kane. She exudes a power and commanding presence so screen-stealing it’s almost reminiscent of Gal Gadot’s WW yet darker and edgier in intimidation-steeped visceral demeanor. Sure her acting’s a bit rough-around-the-edges in parts (as I’ll discuss more in-depth later), but her sheer atmosphere is enough to overcome the flaws in what’s a fantastic lead you can build a 10-season arc around exploring all the millions of stories Bat-lore has to offer. If there’s one thing DCTV and The CW shows have surgically-deconstructed down to a science (other flaws withheld), it’s how to cast their series-defining man or woman – from Stephen Amell’s franchise-starting Green Arrow to Grant Gustin’s Flash to Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl to Tom Welling & Tyler Hoechlin’s Superm(e)n to Cress Williams’ Black Lightning to Caity Loitz’ White Canary & now Kate Kane to carry the show through hundreds of hours of entertainment in what keeps up the streak. The Batwoman-suit and character development also deserve praise. Absolute *PERFECTION* in suit-design invoking Nolan’s trilogy in remiscent nostalgic touches and feel while adding that red-vibrancy in symbol, cape, and wig to make it pop, DCTV-maven and Academy Award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood has once again delivered unbelievably-skilled work in what’s the ultimate TV batsuit. Kane’s backstory in as-dark-as-her-cousin’s losing both a parent and sibling in horrific accident in Batman/Joker crossfire she blames the hero for opens up possibilities for phenomenal character development and an instantly-gripping question-riddled draw-in of why Batman wouldn’t save or secure the car properly letting little girls and innocent bystanders die only to be explained thoroughly later.

Mad Hatter/Hush. What’s my favorite thing and most impressive/surprising about Batwoman is the villain choice – one of the ballsiest decisions I can remember in a superhero series to utilize one of Batman’s weirdest, trippiest, most non-household Rogues: Mad Hatter. A gender-flipped version of the not-so-Wonderland Alice brought to life by a stellar Rachel Skarsten performance riddled with the theatricality and hallucinogenic flamboyancy the character deserves both in Burton-filmesque design and demeanor, she is an absolutely brilliant turn of events bringing to light such a potential-riddled villain not often give due when the usual villains of The Bat are considered – only lightly even featured in the Batman: Arkham games as a side-character nonetheless as far as I can remeber – creating a contact-high drug-infusion of rabbit-masked dark-fantasy-meets-crime-gang vibe nicely playing off the intense realism the Bat-lore while highlighting how strong even side characters in the Dark Knight’s comics-mythology are for a unique mix that promises great things for the series. Also teased making the canvas even blurrier in reality of events/plot we’re witnessing is the decision to incorporate one of DC’s newest acclaimed comic arcs in Hush knowing all of Bat(wo)man’s secrets and elegantly sculpting an elaborate sadistic game about them to terrorize her mind for what’s overall a beautiful gallery of villains for S1.

Legacy. The first LGBTQ superhero finally getting her limelight in what will be a game-changing TV series branching out into the most previously-taboo, discriminated-against-in-media representative territory is something that is powerful to behold. The socially-commentative way the series brilliantly examines with a magnifying glass the bigotry and hate-steeped evil that gay, lesbian, bi, etc. people have faced all their lives – such as being coerced into signing false-documents swearing you’re not homosexual to be not expulsed from your lifelong dreams inn military/police academies as widely-accepted ‘codes of conduct’ – is heartbreaking, emotionally-thunderous, and vital in being shown to the world so most people (me included having no idea what people in these groups have to go through on a daily basis) can see this. The way its handled is surprisingly light and universally-palatable too – sure the bigots will get enraged/inflamed by anything not fitting their caveman Old Testament Adam & Eve narrative that’s thankfully becoming more and more marginalized in a flip of fortune by a sly-humored fate – not shoving it in anyone’s faces by any stretch of the imagination but airy, cool romantic teases weaved merely-temporarily throughout that read just like *any* superhero love plot in what is the perfect way to introduce this concept to mass media without making it forced or SJW-overloading in what can’t possibly turn off any sane, non-bigoted viewer.

Flaws in Batwoman largely center around two things: Rose’s inconsistency and a few controversial lines. The acting is admittedly a bit rough-around-the-edges in Rose’s performance. It’s bizarre: she is triumphantly-powerful in parts and any sort of action sequence reminding us how perfect she is for the role of Kate Kane when the bat-mantle is on, but in dialogue parts – she’s a bit shaky looking strangely uncomfortable for someone with her kind of filmography to this point. Worse is the teenage son of Lucius Fox you have to wonder if he’s even acted in anything before by how visibly-quivering and weak-at-the-knees he is in voice-unsteady amateurism I cannot understand who cast him when there are so many better options out there for such a huge role. While these are minor annoyances for sure, it must be said: THE SUPERHERO GENRE IS NOT KNOWN FOR OSCAR-LEVEL PERFORMANCES. Who has ever watched Ant-Man 2, GoTG, dabbing hipster Hulk, or Fat Thor and thought – this is the greatest cinematic performance I’ve ever seen *in my life*? You’re kidding yourself if you ever watched an MCU blockbuster or Fox X-Men film and thought – what a psychologically-complex, socially-commentative advanced masterclass of screenplaybetter than a Kurosawa or Scorsese flick. Despite the two DC outliers by-no-coincidence being the only two comic book films to *ever* be seriously-nominated & win Academy Awards or other prestigious filmfestivals: The Dark Knight & Joker, the genre is mostly meager popcorn entertainment – so I’m tired of the hypocrisy in selectively-deciding which entries (mostly DC ones way more complex than the Marvel ones but still superhero-genre) are judged on real cinema tenets 90% of the genre would fail on in objectivity lenses. Beyond a minor fallback in some mildly-poor acting that’s anything but show-breaking, it’s worth mentioning that some of the lines are problematic/controversial. For example, when Kane finds Bruce’s suit in the Batcave and decides to follow in his footsteps: “You need to fix his suit.” “The suit is literal perfection.” “It will be.. when it fits a woman” …. *TOO. Too, too, too. Why did the writer’s room have to stop the flow with lines like that insinuating the suit (and by extension gender wearing it) is imperfect when one simple added word could achieve the EQUALITY feminists say is the goal? The *minimal* feminist/SJW-pandering we all knew was coming with the territory is actually surprisingly-light and toned-down from what I expected overall being maybe one – if even – lines like that per hour-long episode, but when it does hit, it’s vexing.

Overall, Batwoman is a thrilling, dark, cinematic, socially-important series amongst the best new binges of the year. I’m honestly convinced convinced there’s a group of 40-year old, parents’ basement-dwelling, cheeto-fingered incels bot-sabotaging every new female-led film/TV release as this is getting ridiculous now – Batwoman is FANTASTIC and did not offend me in the slightest beyond one controversial line in the pilot as a man – so let’s grow up a little. Richly-noir in Gotham City world-building with a badass lead casting in Ruby Rose (though ~rough around the edges acting-wise with some light politicization in writing in parts that’s anything but deal-breaking in laughable hypocrisy selectively-judging some as below-Oscar calibur performances while claiming Fat Thor/GoTG dance-offs/Ant-Man are cinematic masterpieces), vital legacy in the first LGBTQ superhero, & one of The Bat’s trippiest villains in Mad Hatter/Hush, Batwoman is the introduction the barrier-shattering, anti-discriminatory vigilante deserves.

Official CLC Score: 7.1/10