Batwoman Finale Brings A Close To Strong, Imperfect, and Abbreviated Season 1
Due to the production shutdown in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, many television series have shortened seasons. However, the last episode in season 1 of Batwoman actually works as a pretty good finale. It’s clear that the producers had a plan for a big final showdown between Batwoman, Alice, and their father. The cliffhanger the first season ends on may not be as big as they hoped, but it works.
We will get into spoilery territory below. However, if you skipped this series due to the early Batwoman backlash, now is the perfect time to make up for that mistake. While well-intentioned, the marketing for the show did not do it any favors. Detractors claimed the series would feature Ruby Rose as a “Mary Sue” version of Kate Kane. The perfect crimefighter and better vigilante than this version of Batman we’ve never seen. Fools.
The Kate Kane we meet throughout this series has moments of pure ass-kicking excellence. Yet, much of the season showcases her struggle to live up to the mantle of the bat. She’s constantly getting captured and outdone by two-bit thugs and what passes for police in this Gotham city. Her on-the-job growing pains are a consistent point of tension in the series.
Batman stories are all about the reaction to criminal trauma. Yet, for Batwoman, the trauma is ongoing. The authority figure in this story is her father, who runs a private police force. The villain is her twin sister, thought dead but raised in a hellscape at the hands of a twisted killer. Instead of constantly brooding over a past loss, Kate Kane continues to feel that loss throughout her time as a vigilante.
The Batwoman Finale Caps Off a Strong Season for a Show With Unlimited Potential
Image via CW
There is far more this series does well than it gets wrong. In fact, Batwoman can claim the strongest first season for an Arrowverse show, outside of The Flash. Since this is a cape drama, we’ll start with the action. The fight choreography, use of bat-gadgets, and chase sequences are all incredibly well done. My personal favorite moments in most episodes are the opening action scenes that typically find Batwoman nabbing some kind of criminal. It’s satisfying, because she usually spends the rest of the episode getting outsmarted, and her ass kicked. The storytellers do a great job showing her progression as hero, while still giving her the kind of learning curve that most CW heroes don’t get.
Like most Arrowverse heroes, Batwoman is only as effective as her team. Camrus Johnson’s Luke Fox is Batwoman’s right hand. A recent episode showed how useless Kate is without him. She can’t even operate the bat-computer! Nicole Kang’s Mary Hamilton is a more recent addition to the squad, but one that brings humanity and humor to the team dynamic. Also, Christina Wolfe’s Julia Pennyworth is an interesting addition, and hopefully she’s bumped up to series regular for season 2.
The cliffhanger ending for the Batwoman season 1 finale is rife with potential. Yet, I most want to see more villain-of-the-week episodes, which allow for character development and team-building. While they are a great team, Bruce Wayne would be very unhappy about their inefficiency. Still, it was a delightful season and an excellent addition to the Arrowverse. If you want to find out why, just know that there are spoilers ahead.
Where Batwoman Season 1 Missed the Mark
Image via CW
As much as I love these CW superhero shows, they are not perfect. As strong as this first outing for Batwoman was, there were some missteps. The main problem, in my opinion, is the changes made to Kate and Dougray Scott’s Jacob Kane’s backstory. Instead of making them a military family, Jacob Kane runs a private police force called the “Crows.” While there is plenty of dramatic potential here, the show doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. Fans can get whiplash from Jacob being an antagonist to a hero and back to an antagonist again. He respects the law, but issues kill orders like, well, CW orders new DC superhero shows. In trying to mine the drama here, it all just feels a bit too convoluted.
This also gets to the injustice done to Meagan Tandy’s Sophie Moore. She’s both a sometimes antagonist with the Crows and a reluctant love interest for Kate (and Batwoman). In fact, showrunner Caroline Dries calls Sophie and Kate the “endgame” romance, though that feels like it could change. Yet, mostly because of her involvement with the Crows, Sophie comes across as reactive and unlikeable. It’s not Tandy’s fault. Rather, it feels like the storytellers just don’t know what to do with her. She exists to be magnetically drawn to Kate, but TV romance conventions insist they remain apart.
In fact, according to Dries, the love triangle they have going was an organic development and not planned out in the beginning.
As she told Entertainment Weekly:
“We had sort of planned out all of these arcs from the beginning. The thing we weren’t planning was the Sophie-Julia-Kate love triangle, and I kind of love how that came about organically and added more layers to the Sophie-Kate endgame love story. That’s been really fun to write.”
Also, Rachel Skarsten is fantastic as Alice, a villainous role that is meatier than any Joker. No scene she’s in is ever boring. However, the show relied far too heavily on Alice for this first season. Again, just watch Skarsten perform, and you’ll understand why they want her in every episode. However, it does become too much of a good thing. It almost feels as if the storytellers risk burning themselves out when it comes to where to take her character. Add to that the constant escalation needed to make her continue to appear threatening, and they don’t have many place to go before she turns into a mass-murderer on the scale of the Joker(s) from the comics.
Again, this can be solved with more criminal-of-the-week stories. It provides room for underdeveloped characters, like Sophie, while still giving fans exciting Bat-adventures. Like the big bad villains from early seasons of Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl, Alice is best utilized in the shadows. That way, the direct confrontations between her and Kate will feel all the more epic and important.
Batwoman Season 1, Including the Finale, Got So Much More Right Than Wrong
Image via CW
Still, even these areas of critique are sources of great storytelling. The private nature of the Crows police service (they have “clients”) adds a necessary class element. The story of a billionaire crimefighter is a tough sell, especially when their money is their greatest superpower. Batwoman is loved by the people of Gotham because she doesn’t fight crime for profit. Also, it provides an excellent justification for Kate to keep her alter-ego secret from her father and Sophie. (Though, I’m pretty sure Sophie knows Batwoman is Kate, if only because she made out with them both.) The dynamic being set up for season 2 is also very interesting. Jacob wants to kill Batwoman. Sophie came out as a lesbian, and immediately started dating another of Kate’s exes. These shows won’t return until 2021, so it gives the storytellers plenty of time to course-correct.
The other great thing about Batwoman is Ruby Rose. She does a great job projecting menace, uncertainty, and (most importantly for a hero) compassion. The most controversial decision in the first season was Kate snapping and murdering the man who killed her mother and kidnapped her sister. Considering the first season of Arrow saw the hero kill dozens of people, Batwoman is allowed this one slip-up. It raises the stakes on the “no kill” rule for all bat-people. For Bruce Wayne, this is an ideal. For Kate, it’s a reality. She knows the cost of killing, and she actively rejects the short and easy path it presents.
Why We’re Excited for Batwoman Season 2
Image via CW
As mentioned above, the unplanned finale for Batwoman season 1 ended up being perfect. Team Batwoman feels safe from the threats that are out there. Alice killed Sam Littlefield’s Mouse, her adopted “brother” and partner-in-crime. Jacob is out for blood. And Gabriel Mann’s Tommy “Hush” Elliot now wears the face of his nemesis Bruce Wayne. Mann has been replaced in favor of Alphas vet Warren Christie. (Also, Bruce Wayne bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Dr. Carter Bowen, friend of Oliver Queen, also played by Christie.) We learned in the past few episodes that Bruce has been missing for five years because he killed the Joker. His return is a game-changer, especially because he’s not really Bruce.
Dries told EW that DC and Warner Bros. would only allow this if they made it clear to fans that Christie wasn’t the real Bruce Wayne. However, now that the role is cast, how long will it be until Christie shows up as the actual Bruce (probably in a wheelchair). During Supergirl’s first season Superman couldn’t be shown. Now, we’re getting a Superman-centric series. So, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we see Batman and Batwoman together in the show.
What did you think of the Batwoman season 1 finale? Did the show meet your expectations? What do you hope to see when it comes back? Share your thoughts and reviews in the comments below.
Featured image via CW
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.