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Batwoman CW TV Series (2019- ) - The Best Batman (without Batman) TV Show So Far?

Batwoman Season 2
On multiple occasions I've written about my desire for a live action Batman TV series including this post, The Bat Suit and CSI Batman, and this post, Batman Television Series Reboot - It's About Time. Unfortunately (and fortunately depending on my mood) Batman on the big screen has pretty much killed any chance of a Batman TV series for the time being.

That said, there have been a few shows in recent time circling around Batman such as, Gotham, Pennyworth, and Titans. I also hear director of The Batman, Matt Reeves, is doing one too.

Gotham started out promising in its first season but lost me due to awkward scheduling (I think when it started I was watching it week to week on free to air TV). Plus the focus on the bad guys didn't really do it for me. I like Batman's rogue gallery more when Batman is the one going after them.

Pennyworth I've yet to check out but the idea of a prequel for Bruce Wayne's Dad's butler doesn't sound appealing to me regardless of which version they choose. From what I've heard it's the ex military persona. Again I like Alfred because of his relationship to Batman. It's just kind of awkward without Bruce.

For me the best Batman without Batman show has been Titans, largely because it has at least three Robins, all cast and performed so exceptionally well, it makes you wonder why they find the character so problematic for the big screen. Add to that some other really interesting characters, Hawk, Dove, the Doom Patrol, Super Boy, Krypto, (I particularly liked Wonder Girl's episodes), and more of a continuing story arc through the seasons, less than 'freak of the week', I've been very engaged.

I'm also a big fan of their recently introduced Bruce Wayne, who many people have been completely bemused by. However, it's a clear homage to Adam West's Bruce Wayne only with much better fighting skills (if only in a dream sequence with Dick Grayson on season 2 of the show so far). It may not be for everyone but doing something interesting with Bruce Wayne that references the '66 version is cool to me.

Ruby Rose as Batwoman
Ruby Rose as Batwoman.
All this is a long preamble into the Batwoman TV series which has taken me quite a while to catch up with because it wasn't on any of the streaming services available to me until recently.

Initially, when Ruby Rose was announced for the title role, I was excited to see what she did with the role. Obviously, she's a fellow Aussie and, while I haven't seen a lot of her previous work, she has a reputation for being more than capable as an actor in dramatic roles. I thought she'd do well as Batwoman.

Then I started to hear all the feedback on the first season, and it wasn't favorable. While some of it could easily be attributed to the LGBTQ and SJW themes of the show that your average internet troll pounces on for no other reason than anything that can be labelled with either must be bad, after more than a year, general consensus seemed to be season one was bad and season two wasn't much better.

Undeterred, I decided to dive in anyway. I mean, it's the closest show to a Batman TV series yet. It has literally got everything Batman has, it just doesn't have Bruce Wayne/Batman himself.

The Batmobile - Batwoman season 2
I know it's basically a sports car but
it still makes more sense to me as
the Batmobile than those tanks.
I'm also going to say this... second best live action Batmobile of all time after the '66 Batmobile. I know it's basically just a beefed up sports car but, to me, that makes more sense than the tanks and long phalluses you see in the movies. Anyway... prefacing this with, I've never read a Batwoman comic in my life...

Batwoman Season 1 (Minor spoilers ahead)

Honestly, this was a tough watch for me. Unfortunately Ruby's Kate Kane and Batwoman just didn't get me excited for the series as it went on. It's not that Ruby wasn't trying. I read comments that her performance was wooden but I disagree (not least because that's a standard criticism I've seen given to actors just because people don't like them).

Ruby seemed to be playing Kate as broody, introspective, journal writing, and unassuming, which is all very appropriate when you consider Bruce Wayne is often depicted similarly. But the character was also supposed to be rebellious, and I think that aspect didn't quite come across in how the scripts were written.

Not helping was the overall story arc, with Alice and the Wonderland gang, following the tired trope of the villain being a consequence of the hero.

Which would have been fine, perhaps, if the show was a little more 'freak of the week'. It may have helped but, with Alice being a major character and story arc, across two seasons now, if that story line isn't for you there's very few breaks from it. 

For the record I didn't not like Alice and her gang as the key villains. The actor playing Alice, Rachel Skarsten, is extremely great in the role. It's a little bit female, Joker with shades of Harley Quinn, but more purposeful. Alice is definitely not about chaos, she has goals. I have come to enjoy the character.

I do struggle with Kate Kane's Dad, Jacob Kane, and his security firm 'The Crows', which seems more like a 'rent a cop' police force and it's unclear as to who actually hired them? Gotham PD still exists, yet The Crows aren't just security, they're also doing detective work? Not to mention Jacob is such a stereo typical hard ass it's hard to feel any sympathy for him, even when he finally sees he could be doing things with a little more empathy.

Number one irritation of the show is the TV News reporter voice overs. Sadly these continue into season two. I guess they're supposed to be a litmus test of community opinion over current events but they don't really add anything to the story. As a viewer I don't really care what the people of Gotham are thinking about Batwoman unless it is critical to the story.

Action on the show is fine. It's pretty much the same standard as most of the CW shows (and I've watched quite a few seasons of several at this point). You get these amazing sequences where Batwoman takes down a small army of goons single handed then, later, somehow gets bested by one person in similar hand to hand combat, where surprise was not an advantage. Happens all the time in CW shows. Goons for hire are kind of like Stormtroopers in the CW, no chance against anyone with a even a line of dialogue.

Batwoman Season 2 (a new Batwoman)

When Ruby Rose announced she wasn't returning I was kind of disappointed (though I still hadn't watched the show at that point). Having now seen her season, I still would've liked to see her continue but I do think having to recast the lead ultimately benefited the show. Particularly because they didn't just look for a new actor to play Kate Kane.

I feel like casting Javicia Leslie as Batwoman/Ryan Wilder forced a shake up among the writing team that fundamentally changed season two's story arcs. Unfortunately they did link Ryan's Story back to Alice (and Sophie, Kate's ex), which initially made me roll my eyes, but it kind of works for the relationship Alice has with Batwoman later on.

I do feel Javicia is enjoying the role a little more than Ruby but that may just be the difference in their characters. This new Batwoman doesn't have to contend with her Dad, her ex-girlfriend, and her murderous sister all coming after her, though all the same people are, she's just not related to them, so she doesn't quite have the entire weight of this world on her shoulders (and technically she's coming after Alice where it was the other way around in season one).

Again, I found season two a tough watch up until episode nine because it's essentially a continuation of season one, and it's trying to shoe horn a new Batwoman into the mix. It's all a bit clunky to me, and I'm not entirely sure where Ryan learned her fighting skills to the point she can take out a small army of goons and then, later, get bested by a single person in hand to hand combat where surprise is not an advantage?

However, if you've not yet watched Batwoman, and all the bad reviews have put you off but you're still thinking 'it can't be all bad, right?' I would recommend starting at season two, episode nine.

While there is still some carry over of storyline from season one I think you get enough in the exposition to know what those threads are about (basically everyone is either still looking for Kate Kane or believe her to be dead).

In episode nine we get a completely new main villain, Black Mask, and, for the first time, the show feels like the Batwoman show you were probably hoping to see. I even got two genuine laughs from the dialogue at different places.

While the Black Mask storyline isn't particularly original, with him being a drug kingpin and all, it's a welcome change from the Kane family saga that's been playing out, and continues to play out over two seasons.

Later episodes do, very clumsily, dive into 'black lives matter' territory, which will no doubt fuel the SJW haters. I think it's a valid storyline to follow given both Batwoman and her Tech guy, Luke Fox, are black, but it was done so badly. It should've been an ongoing issue that could've been telegraphed more in earlier episodes before dealing with it head on.

That aside season two, episode nine onward has shown promise for me. I'm really hoping the whole Kate Kane/Alice story arc can come to a close before season three. While I fully expect Alice is probably never going to go away, she's almost an anti-hero at this point, it would be great to get away from villains that have any immediate relationship to the heroes.

Final Thoughts...

Some people, I feel, are just hating on the show because they think it's being too 'woke' and pandering to left wing ideas, or maybe they don't like lesbians (probably, I don't know). Either way, I found the first season and a half difficult to get through, and I'm pretty easy to please (as one of the few that likes the movie Batman and Robin). The bad reviews are definitely warranted.

To me, if they could do more episodes like season two, episode nine, it could be the best Batman (without Batman) TV series we've had so far. I mean, Titans is pretty great but Batwoman has all Batman's toys.

Batwoman Season 2
In this kind of shot is it 'Wigwoman' or
'Batwoman'?
If there's one minor thing I would change, it's the Bat wigs... or maybe the length of the ears on the cowl? either way the wigs hide the profile of the iconic Bat Ears. It's not 'Wig Woman' it's 'Batwoman'. I'm not saying the wigs aren't cool, I'd just like to be able to see the Bat ears in the silhouette. 


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