The series will feel different this time around but still provides an enjoyable first episode
By Jonathan Pabico, Senior Columnist
The show still surpasses Batman spin-offs like Gotham and Pennyworth in exploring its flawed hero
Batwoman marks the first time DC Comics fans will have a gay superhero as a series lead. It returns to our television screens with a second season—and episodes air Sundays on Showcase. The first entry feels strange with original lead Ruby Rose’s sudden departure from the show and newcomer Javicia Leslie now playing the caped crusader. Despite this development, the show still surpasses Batman spin-offs like Gotham and Pennyworth in exploring its flawed hero.
The premiere opens with Leslie as homeless teenager Ryan Wilder sleeping in her van. Soon, she’s startled by a nearby plane crash. Who was on this plane, you might wonder? Why, the show’s first Batwoman, Kate Kane. With no signs of Kate at the crash site, her father and closest friends hope to find her. Meanwhile, Ryan finds and steals the batsuit from the wreckage for some good old vigilante antics.
Upon first viewing, some of its scenes hop between characters to adjust to (and be self-aware of) the storyline changes—and the fact that there’s a new Batwoman now. These abrupt shifts reflect the episode trying to reassure fans that everything will be okay. However, screenwriter Caroline Dries’ script has off-putting undertones in addressing these concerns.
Rose leaving the series still looms over the story like the bat signal over Gotham, but Leslie did an impressive job in the role. Leslie plays Batwoman with an unwieldy edge and street punk bravado. Her performance also conveys the depth of Ryan’s pain from personal loss. She humanizes Ryan by exploring the character’s struggles as a marginalized youth.
Other likeable aspects of the premiere are the action scenes enriched by an electronic soundtrack, dark humour, and Gotham City’s bleak locations. The episode also has a strong supporting cast whose dynamics have continually grown since season one.
Nonetheless, Ryan’s story arc switches gear abruptly due to her motives suddenly changing conveniently before the climax. The story could’ve stuck longer with her decision to become a bat vigilante for the wrong reasons rather than rushing character building.
Batwoman and the show’s main villain Alice (Rachel Skarsten) could’ve had more encounters in the premiere to set up a complex relationship for future conflicts. Granted, this dynamic will most likely be unpacked in subsequent episodes. Still, it would have been nice to see them cross paths more to better establish the stakes involved in Ryan’s choices.
Overall, the first episode of Batwoman season two promises a riveting superhero series for the new year. Javicia Leslie proves that she’s more than capable of playing her predecessor’s beloved hero. However, the Batman spin-off still has a long way to go to rebuild its compelling narrative and character relationships. Viewers can also watch the show on The CW.