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Batwoman - Pilot - Review Roundtable: Introduction To The Bat

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This article was written by Aimee Hicks, Donna Cromeans (DJRiter), and Ellys Cartin.

Batwoman is CW's newest entry into their DC lineup of shows. Since Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) first appeared in the CW DC crossover event last season fans have been anxiously awaiting this new series. It premiered to strong ratings, but mixed reviews. Read on below to find out our thoughts on the episode.

How does this pilot compare and contrast to other CW DC pilots?

Aimee: In my opinion, this was one of the weakest premieres of any of the CW DC shows. It looked low budget, likely because it was, as most pilots are. It also seemed disjointed and not all the character relationships delivered the emotional impact the show was attempting, or striving to accomplish. With that said, all the CW DC shows tend to start strong then go downhill pretty fast. Hopefully with this one starting in the mediocre zone that gives it a lot of room to improve and grow. Having a mediocre start might help the show grow in quality to match what its peers were in their heyday and maintain it longer than they could.

Donna: It was not the worst of the CW pilots I have seen, but not the best either. My thoughts on this are my feelings about pilot episodes in general. I try very hard not to form a final opinion of a show based on a pilot. Pilots are often done with little or no money and everyone on the cast is trying to develop a firm grasp on their characters, some accomplish this faster than others. So, I usually don't decide if I'm going to continue watching a show until at least the second or third episode of a series. By that time the show would have been picked up and the production budgets for a series usually go up once a pilot is ordered to series. That is my hope for the production quality of Batwoman. What I did see is a show with tremendous potential once it finds its solid footing. In retrospect, all the CW DC pilots began this way, in my opinion, and needed time to define themselves. I would agree that the production values were not of high quality. I might even go so far to say as it was a mistake to go back to tell Batwoman's origin story. I was impressed by the Batwoman we met in the Elseworlds crossover – she was self-confident, forceful and Ruby Rose more than held her own with the CW's big three. In this pilot, she seemed a bit awkward as if she hadn't finished molding herself into the role, but I think it will come.

Ellys: As every Arrowverse show I've seen has done, Batwoman begins with the main character introducing themselves through narration and exploring their tragic backstory. Even Legends of Tomorrow, though more of an ensemble, began in this fashion. As with Arrow and The Flash, Batwoman also opens with a demonstration of its hero's strength. This inevitably brings us to the painfully cheap shot of her crawling out of the ice, with absolutely no effort made to make the scene look real. It's not the first time that the show will feel oddly small and underbaked in the pilot. The upside of this is that it allows us to focus more on the characters and performances, many of which are quite good.

What were some of your favorite scenes in the pilot?

AH: The big fight sequence between Batwoman and Alice (Rachel Skarsten) was a defining moment. When Kate figured out that Alice was her sister Beth. And Mary (Nicole Kang) reveals that she is running an underground clinic while not yet being a doctor. All those moments sewed the first seeds in what could be some dynamic character evolutions and story arcs.

DC: The scenes that stood out to me seem to be some of the moments when Ruby Rose felt the most connected to Kate. They include her confrontation with Alice; finding out her step-sister Mary was the "Meredith Grey of Sherwood Forest", Kate's final scene with her father where we can and needed to see the moment she decides to become the Bat, writing in her journal to cousin Bruce in the Batcave, her opening moments with the Native American Shaman like figure. The one real moment of honesty is when after she's caught Sophie (Meagan Tandy) while falling and they land in the room, she gets up and tries to make a mysterious exit and is thwarted by a locked door. It was an unexpected moment and added a nice touch of levity to the scene. There was just something about the way she tried to appear cool and nonchalant as she unlocked the door and then used the grappling hook in true Batman style to make her final exit once she'd left the room.

EC: That moment when Batwoman tries to open the door, finds it's locked, tosses the smirk over her shoulder, unlocks the door, and exits…that was so suave and sexy that I died. The fight between Alice and Batwoman right before that is probably the most thrilling scene. I rewatched it a couple of times without sound, and it's the most stylish scene of the pilot too. The clinic scene with Mary and Kate I also loved, as we get to see the relationship between the step-sisters evolve delightfully. I soaked up every little detail of that first scene with Alice and Kate. The gorgeous insanity of Alice's costume…those big buttons, the pale blue coat, the super lacy skirt, the definition of daydream dressed like a nightmare. The "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat" nod to the book (a clever reference to the actual book which contains that poem or a hint at Bat-verse villain Mad Hatter whose book counterpart recites that poem) was also a standout.

Which performers stood out for you? What were their most memorable standout performances in the pilot?

AH: Nicole Kang and Rachel Skarsten stood out worlds ahead of their co-stars. Skarsten is a well-established actress and anyone that has seen her prior work knew she was ideally suited for this role. There was never a doubt that she would be brilliant as Alice and she didn't disappoint. It's impossible to pick just one scene that was her best because every moment she was onscreen she was captivating, but her final confrontation with Batwoman was one of the most fun to watch. It was interesting to see how she was so vicious with Batwoman in contrast to how she was slightly less brutal with Kate. And only ever so very slightly less brutal, she wanted to hurt Kate, but she would kill Batwoman in a heartbeat. It'll be great to see her reaction when the day comes that she realizes they are one and the same. The biggest surprise of this entire premiere was Nicole Kang's Mary. Kang is relatively new to the industry, but if this pilot episode was any indication she is going to be a force to be reckoned with. She stole every scene she was in and elevated them to a level that made me perk up and want more. Her best scene, hands down was the underground clinic reveal as she fixed up Kate. That scene revealed how complex and layered Mary is and Kang nailed the scene.

DC: Two performers gave standout performances right off the bat, in my opinion. Rachel Skarsten seems to be relishing her role of the psychotic Alice, and was deliciously wicked throughout, her first face-to-face encounter with Kate was filled with so many nuances. Almost as equally intriguing was Nicole Kang as Mary Hamilton. At first she came across as a vapid, annoying socialite, but clearly showed a concern for others by initially calling Kate when Sophie was kidnapped because she knew of their relationship, then she proved to be one of the smartest people on the show but running an underground clinic and using her network to help her step-sister. I can't wait for her to discover that Kate is Batwoman. I love their sister dynamic and think Mary may be one of Kate's biggest allies in coming episodes. Another performer of note that I thought had great chemistry with Ruby Rose and made me want to know more about them was Gray Horse Rider who is credited simply as Kate Kane's Trainer. In those brief opening moments to me, he became the mentor Kate needs with her in Gotham as she begins her journey. I feel I must mention Ruby Rose, I'm not sure if it's the way the character was written or directed, but again must mention I cannot wait until we get to the point in the series where this awkward Kate of the pilot becomes the self-assured crime-fighter we met in the Elseworlds crossover, because THAT Kate/Batwoman, is a characterization that Rose nailed!

EC: Rachel Skarsten is as incredible as anticipated. The first scene Alice shares with Kate is the first time, as far as we know, that Beth is face-to-face with her sister since the accident. It's certainly the first time she's able to touch her. When Alice grabs Kate's face, Skarsten lets us see that the force of what is happening hits Alice. Her face softens, her eyes sting with grief and happiness for a moment, and she runs her hand lovingly over the side of her sister's face. The stakes are raised significantly by this tenderness, because, while Alice's affection for her sister is clear, that same affection doesn't translate to Batwoman. Kate will be aware going forward of their connection, but Alice will only see Batwoman as a huge obstacle to her plans to reunite with her sister and punish her father. I've got chills already.

Ruby Rose's best scenes are the ones where she's not having to dump exposition on us or spout teary dialogue that doesn't impact us because we don't know these characters well enough yet to be invested in their bonds. I loved her amused early conversations with Mary because Rose shows us that Kate can't help but be a little fond of her step-sister. Rose shines in many of the quieter reactions when Kate is processing difficult news. You feel Kate crumble when Sophie rejects her, and you feel her shake when she realizes that Alice might be Beth. She is unmistakably charming and, yes, handsome whenever Kate is asserting her independence and refusing to be set aside. When she puts on the suit, there's also a radical transformation in the way she carries herself, which shows us what Kate tells us in narration later…that taking on this new identity is giving Kate a power and freedom she hasn't known before.

Which character relationships do you want to see more of?

AH: Kate and Mary are a dynamic I want to see explored further. Mary started off seeming ditzy, but it becomes obvious quickly that there is so much more to her than first impressions led the audience to believe. She cares about her step-sister and now that Kate knows Mary's secret, it shouldn't be long before Mary finds out that Kate is the new Bat in town. Each woman having these big secrets sets up what could be a dynamic relationship. It's also a nice contrast to what is going on between Kate and Alice/Beth. I'm also excited to watch the adversarial dynamic between Alice and Kate and how that will develop. First and foremost they are sisters and that is an element that will surely challenge them both as they stand on different sides of the law…and sanity.

DC: There are several, Kate and Mary; Kate and Alice; but mostly I'd like to see more of the relationship between Kate and the shaman-like man from the opening, I think he would be interesting if they brought him to Gotham to be her Alfred, so to speak. I think he would be her anchor or calming force.

EC: Mary and Kate! Kang and Rose's energy was the best surprise of the pilot, as it wasn't something I thought about or expected to see beforehand. Mary's joyful sweetness plays so well off of Kate's dark swagger. It's too soon to evaluate other relationships.

What were your thoughts about all the various twists and turns throughout the pilot? What was your favorite twist?

AH: It was a typical pilot in that it was going for shock value to hook the audience. The twists and turns were good, but they might have overdone it a tad by throwing so many into a single episode. There were two great twists, but only one was a surprise. The first is the obvious one in that Alice is Kate's long thought dead sister Beth. Not only did that come from the comics, but it was also heavily talked about after Rachel Skarsten was cast. That didn't take away from the impact of the reveal at all, but it also wasn't shocking. The best reveal, in my opinion, was regarding Mary and her underground clinic. The writers did such a brilliant job setting her up to seem one way only to pull a very slick slide of hand and reveal this complex side to her. Given that this is a superhero show Kate will definitely need the services of her step-sister quite often. However, the production needs to do a lot better at actually showing Kate injured when she repeatedly gets whacked upside the head. After all, they need to support Mary's clinic story, so if they are going to have Kate take blows they need to show more than just the occasional laceration that needs stitching.

DC: I think the biggest plot twist that came as a surprise to me was Alice's true identity. While many of the comic book fans knew the story and were not surprised I, admittedly, have not read that many Batwoman comics and thought the twist was a wonderful way to kick off what is sure to be an intriguing and complex story. Another twist I enjoyed was Mary in her clinic, it immediately changed my opinion of the character from an irritation to an ally thanks to Kang's subtle performance.

EC: While I wasn't expecting Alice's identity to be unveiled so soon (and I think the show should have waited a few episodes before letting Kate figure it out so that the revelation had a more emotional impact), the episode did a decent job dropping breadcrumbs. The fact that Kate only knew to go to the orphanage because she and Beth used to sneak in there clues us in that Alice's secondary motives are to get Kate's attention. Characters coming back from the dead is nothing new, but it's rare for a show to start out exploring such a resurrection from the beginning. The most delightful twist was that Mary was running a clinic, which sparked a new connection and possibly friendship between her and Kate. I also found it very interesting that Alice had her goons drop Kate at Mary's clinic. One would expect that she wouldn't want to see Kate form a sisterly bond with someone else. The reveal that Sophie was married to a very-unconcerned-his-wife-had-been-kidnapped Tyler (Greyston Holt) was a groaner. Third wheel love interests almost always drag a story down.

Batwoman introduced its version of a tragic event in Kate Kane's backstory that differed from the comics. What did you think of the changes they made? What do you think the ramifications of those changes could be?

AH: The changes they made kept the essence of the original comic storyline while putting a fresh new twist on it that further played into the reasoning of Batman’s departure from Gotham. There aren't any negative ramifications as far as I can tell. The new story plays well into the mythology of the new series and helps add a new element to what drove Batman to leave. It also helped to humanize Bruce Wayne by showing how not being able to save someone else in his family impacted him. The loss of Beth and his Aunt hit him hard to the point that trying to get answers seemingly became an obsession of his. It added a new layer to the Batman mythology while perfectly setting up the beginning of Kate's journey to becoming Batwoman. That day was a turning point for them both and could be a fascinating character study to see how it drove Kate into crime-fighting and sent Bruce seemingly running from it.

DC: As admitted I have not read that many Batwoman comics and was not familiar with the backstory. That said, the way the series version was completed filled the show with so many storyline possibilities.

EC: I am conflicted. On one hand, making Beth's death connected to Batman is a smart way to complicate Kate's feelings about taking on the Bat-suit. The pilot, though, seems to throw all that out the window after Kate finds out Bruce was Batman and sees some sketches he made about the tragedy. Cool gadgets and lair aside, it doesn't track that this discovery would just roll off Kate's back. It's not that one couldn't eventually accept the truth, but she barely acknowledges it. It would have been far more interesting if this created more internal conflict for Kate. A change this significant to Kate's backstory should carry much more weight.

The show will have fans that are both familiar with the comic books and new to the franchise. They slipped in several Batman Easter eggs for comic fans. Do you think the show did a good job of setting up the universe for new fans while building on the universe for established fans? Which Easter eggs do you think could have the biggest impact on the overall story?

AH: The show smartly played to some established well-known mythology while infusing the story with new elements. The Easter eggs were nice homages to the comics to let those fans know that they weren't forgotten while not at all detracting from the overall story. Martha's pearls were a sweet Easter egg. Not only did it show how much she meant to Bruce, but it also showed how much she mattered to Kate because Kate remembered them and her Aunt vividly. The necklace was also the catalyst that led Kate to find the Batcave, so there is an argument to be made that this particular Easter Egg had the biggest overall impact since it led Kate to become Batwoman.

DC: I think the show, based on just the pilot has laid a solid foundation for building their world, however, there is considerable room for improvement. If the password to Bruce Wayne's computer is Alfred, I do hope this means that while Bruce Wayne may have disappeared perhaps there is an Alfred out there to lend a hand to Kate's cases or at least stop by with a very special message from Cousin Bruce. Batwoman needs someone with some age or wisdom and the gravitas that brings as a mentor on her journey, part of me would have even preferred Lucius Fox himself than his tech-savvy son Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson).

EC: Could there have been any more Batman references? I appreciated some of the deeper ones, such as the fact that the movie in the park (an incredibly small park and an incredibly small turnout for such a big city) was an ancient version of Zorro. Another fun Zorro reference was the secret opening behind the bookshelf. The pearls seemed a little cheesy. Who hides the switch to their Bat Elevator under something that stands out so much? All the vague-as-possible references to Bruce Wayne and Batman only made my mind wander to him far more than I wanted it to. What would take him away for three years? Was he Bat-napped? Did a Bat friend get run over by the Batmobile and Bruce took time off to help them with physical therapy? Or was he sucked into an alternate universe awaiting a stealth cameo in Crisis of the Infinite Superheroes? And why did the computers in the Batcave look so old?! I get hung up on the details.

Final overall thoughts on the premiere.

AH: Overall this was a mediocre premiere with a disjointed feeling. That's not to say it didn't have some strong points, because it certainly did. Every scene with Alice and Mary elevated the story and showed that these writers really can build complex characters with layers. Where the pilot was lacking a bit was in regards to Kate as well as Sophie. Ruby Rose was settling into her first series lead role and with that comes a bit of a learning curve, so I have faith that she will improve as the episodes go along. She seemed way more comfortable portraying the established Batwoman we saw in last year's crossover versus this pre-Batwoman Kate we met at the beginning of this series. Not sure what happened in that regard, but I hope she quickly gets that spark back because that Batwoman had a ton of potential to be an incredible character in Rose's hands. She nailed the fight sequences and brought a lot to Kate's physicality. Rose just lacked a bit in her emotional range which can certainly be improved as she evolves more into this character. That lack of range out of the gate could play a bit into why the Kate and Sophie dynamic fell a bit flat. Both Rose and Tandy were just settling into this new dynamic, so hopefully, with subsequent episodes, they'll be able to better lock into the chemistry. There was a glimmer of what could be when Batwoman saved Sophie and they crashed to the bed. Rose and Tandy connected in a profound way in that moment and if they can latch onto that then the underlying star-crossed lovers' story has real potential, but it's all riding on how fast Rose and Tandy were able to ramp up their onscreen chemistry. Only time will tell on that. And, with any level of hope, the show will rapidly abandon the husband storyline and not lean too heavily into a silly love triangle. Also, as was noted earlier, the episode seemed low budget and just wasn't as visually stunning as I had hoped for. With all that said, I do see the potential in this series and I hope I'm right and from here on out its only smooth sailing until the series earns its wings and soars over its sibling shows.

DC: Overall, I liked the premiere and will be watching future episodes to see where this intriguing story takes us as Kate Kane begins her journey. I am anxious to see further development from both Kate and Ruby as they march toward that Elseworld's Batwoman that we met. And it’s no secret I am a big fan of sisterhood in superhero shows, so the fact the show gives Kate not one, but two, complicated sisters to connect and interact with makes the show that much more appealing to me.

EC: This pilot left me very eager to see more of the cast in action. Some of the production values and writing choices made me scratch my head, but my biggest takeaway was a feeling this show is just getting started. I believe it could grow into something fantastic. It just has to fall off some buildings and unlock some doors to find its best self.

This is a special show that requires a special approach to reviewing it. Each week we will look back on that week's episode and review what we saw as the highlights. Please join us in the comments with your responses to the above questions. Let us know what you thought about the episode.

We would also like to invite all of you to leave questions in the comments that you would like to see us answer in future articles. Each week we will pick one of your questions to include in the article.

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