After getting her start as a writer on Smallville and producing some of The Vampire Diaries' best episodes under the tutelage of Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson, Caroline Dries brings her sharp creative vision to Batwoman, the CW's newest Arrowverse series set in the nightmarish streets of Gotham City.
It's been three years since Batman mysteriously disappeared, and in that time, the city has fallen into utter disarray, with criminals running amok while civilians hide in fear. With the Dark Knight out of the picture and a private security force called the Crows barely putting a dent in the rampant crime, the city is in desperate need of a new hero. Cue Batwoman.
Ruby Rose takes up the mantle of the red-maned lesbian heroine who, surprisingly, is missing her signature wig in the first few episodes that were provided to critics. Bruce Wayne's ultra-cool cousin — real name Kate Kane — is like Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), stoic and troubled by her past but with a much better starter costume. (No disrespect to Arrow's hooded vigilante who, in Season 1, hid his face by smearing black paint over his eyes in lieu of an actual mask.) To be fair, Kane has access to all of Batman's neat gadgets, including the Batsuit, the Batarang, and a sweet motorcycle. Unfortunately, there's been no sign of the Batmobile as of yet, but here's hoping that the show's budget permits at least one appearance of the iconic vehicle.
After some time away, Kane returns to Gotham when her ex-girlfriend Sophie (Meagan Tandy) is kidnapped by Alice, a deranged new criminal mastermind currently terrorizing the city. Rachel Skarsten's delectably demented villainess brings thrilling, chaotic energy to the series through twisted nursery rhymes, a menacing demeanor, and an unpredictable mind. Plus, her enviable Alice in Wonderland-inspired garbs will have you rushing to the nearest sewing machine to replicate her storybook-chic looks. Alice is essentially the Joker to Kane's Batwoman, but their murky connection is layered and interesting in ways that Batman's classic rivalry with his infamous painted foe could never be.
Batwoman's darker tone draws parallels to Arrow and just may fill the void that the departing series, which is coming to an end after Season 8, will soon leave behind. However, it's not an Arrow clone. Gritty and fiercely feminist, the series is very much an Arrowverse show — it even has a quippy, adorkable tech genius akin to The Flash's Cisco Ramon (Hey there, Luke Fox) — but also stands as its own thing. It's exciting and new and filled with intriguing characters and complex relationships that set up the series as a potentially worthwhile experience. And while deeply rooted in Batman lore, the show works just fine without him. Batman is missing, but his absence isn't suffocating. Kate Kane is good on her own.
Rose's Kane isn't the CW's first LGBTQ+ superhero — DC's Legends of Tomorrow features several bisexual leads including Constantine (Matt Ryan) and Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), the latter of which is in a relationship with Ava Sharp (Jes Macallan); The Flash's Citizen Cold (Wentworth Miller) declared his love for The Ray (Russell Tovey) in last year's Arrowverse crossover; and Supergirl broke ground in Season 4 when The Dreamer (Nicole Maines) came out as trans. But as an openly lesbian lead who's unafraid to check the men around her, she's the progressive hero we need right now.
The show still has a few things to work out — namely that oval-shaped cowl which gives Ruby's head a distracting Humpty Dumpty silhouette without the wig — but it's off to a great start. If you're into extremely good-looking vigilantes and loved Dougray Scott in Ever After, this should be right up your alley. No, Scott doesn't play a charming prince in Batwoman but it's always a pleasure just to see him on screen.
TV Guide Rating: 3.5/5
Batwoman premieres Sunday, Oct. 6 at 8/7c on the CW.
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