‘Batwoman’ Season 1 Episode 1 Review: ‘Pilot’

Batwoman Pilot Courtesy of CWFans have been looking forward to Ruby Rose’s Batwoman since we saw her in last year’s “Elseworlds” event. There were a LOT of expectations for her solo show, especially with so many changes in store for the Arrowverse. Now that the Batwoman pilot has aired, does it live up to the hype? In my opinion… about 75%, with a promise for more. It was a lot of fun!

Note: This review will very likely contain spoilers for the Batwoman pilot.

First off, it’s important to note that pilots for superhero shows have a fairly impossible task. They have to satisfy existing fans while being accessible to new viewers. It’s a ridiculous balancing act. The Batwoman pilot handles the load better than a lot of shows. It does a credible job of showing us who Kate Kane is and why we should care about her. Having us invest in the lead is the main point of a pilot. And the Batwoman pilot delivers.

Batwoman Pilot
Kate Kane is a straight-up fighter. I love that the show stays true to her tough, muscled self. (Image courtesy of CW)

The show launches in a world where Batman has left Gotham entirely for unexplained reasons. It’s been three years, and Kate’s dad has founded a security firm to fill the Bat-shaped void. Predictably for Gotham, this does not sit well with the city’s trademark themed villains. Alice, a villain from the 2009 Detective Comics starring Kate Kane, shows up to stop his symbolic “shutting off the Batlight” ceremony. That sets off a series of events that call Kate back home to Gotham and her Caped Destiny.

In some ways, the Batwoman pilot feels a little contrived in places, but I’m not sure how avoidable that could have been. There has to be a certain amount of exposition at the beginning of a new show. For that reason, I’m not super annoyed by the occasional short monologue or “As you know…” speech. The showrunners manage to break up Kate’s background story into small enough bits that they didn’t detract from the main storyline of the episode. Overall, it was pretty successful.

Batwoman has made some excellent casting choices. Ruby Rose is about half the appeal for me right now. I love how much range she brings to Kate without feeling the need to dramatically overreact. One moment that stands out is when her stepsister calls her early in the episode and introduces herself. We see a lot of humor, fondness, and controlled impatience in her face instead of the tired “close-your-eyes-and-sigh-deeply” brand of acting. Her action scenes are awesome, just really good visceral brawls. Though there are only a few in the pilot, I’m now confident the show isn’t going to short us on fistfights.

I’m a fan of Nicole Kang in the role of Kate’s stepsister Mary. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d like her, but she has more depth to her than I expected from her introduction. That kind of dismissal is something Mary probably uses, too. She’s so bright even in the face of Gotham’s underbelly, I can’t help but like her.

I’m keeping my eye on Luke Fox, played by Camrus Johnson. The Batwoman pilot seems to be positioning him as Kate’s Alfred and Lucius Fox rolled into one. In the comics, he’s Lucius’s son and has his own role in the Bat-Family lore. We’ll have to see where the show takes that down the road. Johnson doesn’t get a lot of space to show how he’s handling Luke, but what I saw, I liked.

Alice, the villain of Batwoman
Alice is a very cool villain. I’d like to see Skarsten connect with her more so we can get a stronger performance.

Alice is the character I am least interested in, other than how she came to be. I think Rachel Skarsten was struggling to balance Alice’s character without looking like a Joker or Harley clone, but I didn’t really feel much for the character. She wound up glassy-eyed and a bit flat. I’m willing to give her some time on that since there were a few flashes of life peppered in here and there.

The Arrowverse, in general, gets high marks for diversity, and Batwoman promises us more on that level. Besides having the genderfluid Ruby Rose playing the lesbian tough lady Kate Kane, we get a good variety of POCs in both supporting and background roles. There’s also a bisexual character in the form of Kate’s old flame Sophie Moore, played by Meagan Tandy.

I did see some signs that Kate’s family doesn’t know she’s lesbian. Fingers crossed I misunderstood and we can avoid a full coming-out arc. It’s Gotham, which means it would likely be a troubling arc. I legit don’t have the patience for more tortured gay love stories. Let Kate run into romantic trouble without the trouble being her sexuality, please!

Greg Rucka’s influence on the opening story arc pops up as soon as we see Alice. He wrote that comic storyline we talked about earlier, “Elegy.” I’m not sure how much of his story will make it through to the show. Kate and Alice’s backstories are different just from what we’ve seen here. Hopefully, they preserve as much of “Elegy” as possible; it’s one of my favorites.

Quick critical note: the villain reveal will not surprise anyone who read the comics. It will also not surprise anyone who hasn’t read the comics. It will also also not surprise people who have only seen the trailer or are exceptionally bright puppies. That particular “twist” is telegraphed pretty hard. Then again, “Elegy” is a popular story. So, I don’t think it was meant to be a major reveal.

A few tiny things I’m puzzling over:

  • Did Gotham leave three Batsignals on for three straight years? Seriously? Who is paying their power bills?
  • Life in Gotham is very sad if they haven’t had a public event in three whole years.
  • Is Wayne Manor just unlocked? Does Kate have a key or is she picking her cousin’s front door every ten minutes? How does Wayne Manor have a pickable front door?
  • When is Kate going to decide she needs a wig on her cowl? I have a theory she’s going to do it to stand out in profile from Batman since the news keeps thinking she’s him.
  • Bruce Wayne left the Batcave entry mechanism highly conspicuous, at least for his cousin. Intentional? I guess we’ll see.
  • Luke Fox should try out for Project Runway because he’s awesome at detailed tailoring on a deadline.

This show is a lot of fun. It has a few pacing issues, but ultimately it does what it needed to do. I like Kate, I’m interested in the side characters, and the world is entertaining enough for me to be excited about the next episode. I’m not alone either! Approximately, 1.8 million viewers watched live, and (from what I can tell) a majority of them are planning to stick around. It has a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So, I think we can safely call the Batwoman pilot a success.

If you’re looking for a second opinion, here’s Farid’s take on the pilot:

Batwoman airs Sunday nights, but you can stream Mondays on the CW. Check out the pilot and let us know what you think!

Author: Khai

Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.

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