I’ve been watching Batwoman pretty consistently for the last year and a half. When I wrote the recap at the end of season 1, I was unaware that Ruby Rose had decided to leave the show, and I speculated how the show could improve in season 2 under the assumption she would be returning. Things obviously haven’t gone the way I hoped, but has it been all bad?
We’re currently three episodes in, and while the first two, I think were making some good steps towards digging the show out of the hole they were in, the third feels like a step backward. You see, I love Alice (played by Rachel Skarsten), and Mary Hamilton (played by Nicole Kang), and they’re back, and doing well still. I also, really enjoy Javicia Leslie, as Ryan Wilder the new Batwoman. She’s more charismatic, her character is good, and while it’s probably coming together a bit quickly, there are the growing pains that would come with becoming Batwoman.
Is Kate Kane Dead?
The first problem that arises in the third episode, is that of Kate being still alive. The character of Safiyah (whom I assume will be the season’s big bad) has promised to help Alice find the living Kate in exchange for erasing all evidence of “The Desert Rose.” This seems to be the writer’s having written themselves into this corner, in which the only likely ways it will be fixed are that it’s all a lie, in which case it feels lazy, or that Kate is alive, but her face was mangled, and now after reconstructive surgery she looks like a different person. Both of these possibilities are crappy as far as I’m concerned.
The only other option that I see, one which I will be writing a retraction to this very article if it happens, is that Ruby Rose leaving the show was a fake out, and that the whole plan was to do this the entire time, and have her come back at the end of the season. I don’t know that I would love that result, but if the writing is well done, I would respect the hell out of how fucking bonkers it would be, and how well kept that secret would have been for over a year. I think there is a better chance we’ll see George Clooney come into the show as Bruce Wayne, than that happening.
I really enjoy the Arrowverse, but one of my big complaints has been that there was too much repetition in the formula. Every show becomes a ‘team-up’ with a tech person, a black sidekick of equal ability, etc. They started to break from it, Legends of Tomorrow has been a genuine team show, and doesn’t fall nearly as much into this formula. But I’m afraid there’s been a lot of other ways in which the shows have been repetitive, “oh another speedster/archer big bad” being one problem that comes to mind.
In episode 3 of this season, it appears we’re beginning to follow the formula of Arrow in story beats. The big bad from season 1 is actually a lackey to a new big bad who is hidden away from society, with a magical source of healing pretty much everything, and is surrounded by the most highly trained assassins in the world.
Is that what’s going on here? Because episode 3 certainly makes it seem that way.
I don’t want to be dealing with rehashing, and repetition. You can have a bad guy come back in new creative ways, but what I don’t want to see is the female Ra’s Al Ghul. Alice has hints of the Joker, but she’s not a Joker knock-off, and she was my favorite part of season 1. It’s ok to have overlap, but not carbon-copy.
The Other Big Shared Universe
It is not really helping Batwoman, that it’s airing episodes at the same time WandaVision is airing episodes. Both are newer additions into large and successful shared universes, but WandaVision is doing something that I think shines a bit of a light on how Batwoman is failing in that area.
WandaVision, which I think has some issues—mostly in roll out schedule, is another great example of a Marvel property in which we understand that it’s the same continuity with all of the other MCU that has come before, but it seems so fresh and new. It’s something that Marvel has been great about, not falling into a formula, not getting to repetitive; Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy, had so little in common with what came before but fit so perfectly, and WandaVision does that too.
Batwoman, like I said above, is repeating a lot of the same things from the Arrowverse, and if I’m being honest about what’s “new or different” it’s hard to come up with much. Even the female empowerment, and LGBTQ inclusion aren’t new (not complaining about either of these, but with Supergirl we get both). There just isn’t much that’s new, and it kind of makes it feel like this is our new Arrow, and it doesn’t hold up to that standard.
Prove Me Wrong, Please
Now, we’re three episodes into the season, and I am open to being wrong. I am hoping I am. I’m watching WandaVision excited to see the next week’s episode every week with no idea what I’m going to get and loving it, and I’m watching Batwoman every week hoping that I’ll get the spark, the thing that’s gonna make me go “ok, this fucking crazy, and this is what makes this show stand out.”
I know nothing about Batwoman and the mythology beyond this show, so as far as I’m concerned that leaves things wide open. Find something to shove us into new exciting territory.