A New Bat in the Belfry
Arrowverse 2021 Season: Week 1
And we're back, finally, with new episodes of the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. (or is that the "CWverse", and the network is trying, and failing, to re-brand it?), although it's really more accurate to say that we're back with an episode as only one show is here to launch this shorter, 2020/2021 season (so short, in fact, that it's just 2021). Batwoman is here, although it's a different Batwoman, and it's mostly just a table-setting episode as the show tries to establish its new status quo.
We'll get into this season premiere this week, introducing our new version of Batwoman, and then more of the 'verse will arrive... eventually.
Batwoman, Season 2, Episode 1: Whatever Happened to Kate Kane?
When Ruby Rose announced she was stepping away from Batwoman after only a single season (stress of the job, along with a back injury she sustained while filming being the primary reasons given), it left a hole in the series that fans of the 'verse weren't sure could be filled. So much of the plot of the show was based around Rose's Kate Kane -- cousin of Bruce Wayne / Batman; daughter of Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) who is the head of the Crows, the paramilitary force that protects Gotham; and sister of Alice (Rachel Skarsten), the crazy psychopath terrorizing the city, and who also wants Batwoman dead -- that the removal of Kate would seem to cause the entire show to fall apart.
The show's solution was to have the Batwoman suit fall into the lap of our new, prospective heroine, Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie), who quickly dons the suit so she can go and terrorize bad guys in hopes of finding her mom's killer. That killer, it should be noted, is Alice, and soon after Ryan puts on the suit, Kate's allies, Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) and Mary Hamilton (Nicole Kang), come looking for it. Oh, and one other person is on a quest for the suit: Tommy Elliot who, through machinations last season, is now wearing a pretty solid facsimile of Bruce Wayne's face (and, for now, played by Warren Christie). Ryan is going to have to step up if she wants to stay alive and keep the suit out of the hands of the bad guys.
As an introduction to Ryan, the episode works okay. It is a bit of an origin story, of course, since we have a new heroine to learn about and all her baggage that comes with (adopted child, saw her mom get killed in front of her, framed for drug possession by dirty Crows, and now living on the streets in her decently swank van). It's not a full "re-pilot" as the show isn't going through a complete reboot -- there's a lot of storyline from last season that the show clearly still wants to address -- but it also doesn't feel quite like the same show. If anything, due to the exit of Rose (her character seemingly dying at the start of the episode in a plane crash), the show has to tread water for a bit as it spends time on introductions instead of getting moving again.
The focus is squarely on Ryan this episode -- our new heroine, our new central character, and the one the conflict will build around this season -- and at least on that front the episode nails it. Javicia Leslie is a strong actress and she doesn't have the awkwardness of her performance Rose always seemed to have. She seems comfortable in and out of the suit, carrying herself like a heroine in the duds while being open and vulnerable out of it. There's little artifice to her performance, so if the show is able to carry on without an early cancellation I fully expect the acting all around Leslie to improve. She's the kind of actress that can lift up those around her.
That said, the ratings this episode were abysmal, not just low for Batwoman, but bad even for a season premiere. I dunno if the CW would straight up yank the show off the air mid-season (although the CW has done that before with other, non-Arrowverse shows), but if they did it wouldn't be a complete surprise. Maybe fans just can't accept someone else in the suit (which, is this like the suit in The Santa Clause?) or maybe its just that the low ratings of the previous season indicated that the downward spiral was permanent. I like Batwoman, and I don't hate this new heroine, but we'll have to see if the show can pull up before it crashes and burns like Kate Kane's plane.
Elsewhere in the 'Verse
- We'll be sticking with Batwoman for most of a month at this point as Superman and Lois doesn't debut until the middle of next month, and then the The Flash shows up the week after. Until then, as they used to say, we'll be here same Bat time, same Bat channel.