Written by Mikey Sutton
REVIEW: Gotham has a new face.
DC superproducer Greg Berlanti has had a crush on Batman since opening the doors to Arrow in 2012. Prevented from using the Dark Knight himself as he was saved for cinema, Berlanti attached as much of Batman’s baggage as he could — a secret, high-tech underground HQ, Oliver Queen’s Arrowcave to Bruce Wayne’s Batcave; billionaire playboy profile; Ra’s al Ghul. True, some of this he inherited from the character’s comics roots, but there’s no denying that the structural tone and creative look was heavily inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. And that’s perfectly fine. Arrow eventually grew into its own and spawned a live-action TV universe that, thus far, has eclipsed its hit-or-miss (mostly miss, sorry) cinematic counterpart.
Batwoman, however, is the real deal. Here Berlanti truly gets to play with Batman’s toys as Wayne’s cousin Kate Kane has access to his costume; his cave; his gadgets; and Luke Fox, the son of Lucius, Batman’s right-hand man. The Dark Knight is absent, having mysteriously left Gotham City three years ago. Gotham is left a mess, overrun by criminals and corruption. Its only protector is a private security agency led by Kane’s father (Dougray Scott), which makes sure the rich and famous are safe.
As played by Ruby Rose, Batwoman is cut from the same ’90s alt-rock cloth as Jessica Jones and Carol Danvers in the MCU. She is a punk superhero, unlike anyone else in the Arrowverse. She’s also an open lesbian, but the series doesn’t focus on LGBT issues. Kane has relationship problems like everyone else including unrequited love for an ex-girlfriend who now works for her dad.
Rose is excellent casting. She is both charming and tough, and there’s a lack of existential angst that removes her from simply being a distaff Dark Knight or Oliver Queen wanna-be. Trying to take her relative’s place while he’s AWOL is not smooth, either; in “Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale,” she is easily drugged, kidnapped, and tied up by [SPOILER ALERT] her evil sister Beth, who now sees herself as Alice in Wonderland. And “Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale” is where Batwoman hits its first home run of the season, far quicker than its DC predecessors on the CW. In this warped tale, Gotham has been struck by a series of bizarre skin thefts; somebody is tearing flesh off of fresh corpses. Kane discovers that it’s Beth’s doing, ripping them off dead bodies so that her childhood friend in captivity, Mouse, can use it to cover his horrifying facial scars.
Kane’s unyielding love for her sibling — coupled with relentless guilt for not finding her after she was taken after a car accident that killed her mother — is the broken heart at Batwoman‘s core. It adds emotional depth, an arch enemy who is also a loved one.
Admittedly, I only read a handful of Batwoman comics in the ’00s. I found them visually stunning but not quite substantial in story. This show is making me want to take a second look and dig deeper.