With the success of Gotham, not to mention the more recent Elseworlds, this latest addition to the DC family was up against it – and that’s without the added burden of one of the biggest and best-loved franchises in comic book history. So, how does Batwoman fare?
Unclear in terms of its direction, dynamics and overall place in the microcosm that is Gotham City, the verdict is as bleak as a chilly night at the summit of its tallest skyscraper.
Most of the cast put in decent enough performances. As Batwoman/Kate Kane, Ruby Rose grows into the role as the episodes tick by, but the star turn has to be Rachel Skarsten as chief villain Alice. She gets her teeth well and truly into the part and does a great job at switching from one extreme emotion to another, seemingly on a dime. Although she’s maybe a little too influenced by Batman alumni of the past, she does more than enough to make it her own and create a decent baddie to sit alongside Joker, Riddler, Penguin, et al. The most famous face is that of Dougray Scott, as Kate’s father Jacob Kane, yet his portrayal lacks a certain intensity, almost as if he doesn’t want to be there at times.
And to be honest, who could blame him? The writing promises much but never really delivers. There are some interesting ideas and clever spins on the whole Bat theme, but as audiences are so familiar with Gotham as a male-dominated society, trying to press home girl power proves a little tricky, so the show ends up having to try too hard to convince. A lot of the dialogue, especially Alice’s – which pains me to say, having just sung her praises – has a heard-it-all-before ring to it on a regular basis. The show’s creators have, as is customary with any self-respecting U.S. series these days, thrown in a token Brit. It doesn’t take long to work out that it definitely wasn’t someone from this side of the pond who wrote the lines, which are as laughable as they are irritating.
The direction also leaves more than a little to be desired, with a lot of the action sequences clumsily executed. There’s also far too many sudden leaps from one storyline or flashback to another, plus some of the more gory moments border on the gratuitous. The episodes are very much hit-and-miss, with only a couple doing enough to build some anticipation of the next. All of which means that Batwoman starts to lose steam barely a third of the way in.
The sets and shooting are slick enough, but every incarnation of our beloved Gotham has had the feel of an era gone by. Agreed, social media is an unavoidable aspect of modern life, but there’s just one tweet too many for my liking. And hip-hop on the soundtrack? Didn’t they learn anything from Batman and Robin? In trying to be too forward-thinking, Batwoman loses the very soul of its inspiration. Maybe that was the idea all along; if so, it was a spectacularly bad one.
On the subject of sets, those of you who’ve seen the likes of The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and even the sitcom Mike & Molly, may well recognise the sprawling metropolis of Chicago, where a sizeable chunk of filming took place. If you’re going to use a world-famous location and then pass it off as a fictional one, at least try and disguise it.
It’s difficult to say what you need to be a fan of to stick with this through all 20 episodes, but I’ve no idea what it is. Over to you, season two, and good luck.