SDCC Batwoman Pilot Review: Exciting Moments and Raw Potential Shine Through the Mess

With Arrow ending its run on The CW this fall, the ever-evolving Arrowverse is looking for a new face in the stern yet troubled vigilante role, and it seems as though those shoes are Batwoman's to fill. After being introduced in last year's Crisis crossover, Ruby Rose's Kate Kane is going solo to lead her own series, set in the dark streets of Gotham City. The first episode of the highly-anticipated DC project debuted at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 on Wednesday, and it's filled with both exciting surprises and massive disappointments.

There are a lot of lofty expectations facing the arrival of Batwoman. Ruby Rose is a high profile performer, her character's entrance into the franchise was instantly adored by fans, and she represents the first LGBTQ superhero to have their own series. At times during the pilot, Batwoman reaches these heights and then some. There's a lot to be excited about with this series. However, the pilot as a whole is messy, bland, and a bit of a drag.

For starters, taking steps backward is never ever a good thing. When introduced during Crisis last year, Kate Kane was already a fully developed Batwoman, fighting crime in Gotham City and striking fear into the hearts of criminals. She was established. The pilot of the solo series abandons all of that and tells her origin from the jump, and it's a boring, tired origin story at that. It's hard to go back through an entire episode devoted to Kate Kane becoming the hero we've already seen, especially when the hero that we've already seen is so damn fantastic. It's like the series moved in the opposite direction and chose to backtrack rather than evolve and grow. Not only that, but the origin of a prodigal child with a troubled past returning to their home to fix problems and maybe save a lost love is literally the basis for 92% of all on-screen superheroes.

It's a little rough, made rougher by the flashbacks to Kate's childhood. These moments are necessary in setting up a couple of major plot points and a pretty huge reveal at the end of the episode (which is wonderful), but they just look ugly. There's no style or quality to these flashbacks at all and they don't do anything but make you cringe.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the entire pilot is the blatant reliance on Arrowverse stereotypes. Just about every supporting character in this show is a carbon copy of other archetypes in the franchise. There's the quippy nerd/tech wizard, the hard-nosed, estranged father, the socialite sibling with a heart of gold—the list goes on. So much of this pilot feels wholly unoriginal.

I've discussed a lot of real issues with this pilot and I stand completely each and every one of them, but despite all of that, I'm truly excited for the rest of this show. Yes, the pilot has a lot of issues and most of the characters are dull, but there are a few key things that shine brightly through the mess. Everything involving Rachel Skarsten's villainous Alice is spellbinding. Her quirky madness and off-kilter demeanor make her an instant scene-stealer and already one of my favorite villains in the Arrowverse. When she's on-screen, Batwoman is captivating, and those scenes get even better when Kate is involved. This rivalry has great chemistry, an engaging story, and literally endless potential.

Speaking of Kate Kane, Ruby Rose is unsurprisingly another highlight in the pilot. She's honestly a little shaky in her performance for the first 15 minutes or so, but as soon as she finds her footing Rose is off to the races and delivering the superhero portrayal we were all hoping for. Her fight scenes are also expertly choreographed and the gritty vibe of Gotham City helps set a tone much different than the previous Arrowverse projects.

Thanks to a poorly conceived supporting cast and a serious lack of identity, the Batwoman pilot isn't all that great, especially if you're not a mega fan of the already existing Arrowverse franchise. Let's be honest, all of these shows had growing pains when they first started, so die hard CW supporters will have a little more patience. But by the end of the episode, it's very clear where this show is going and you'll likely want to go on the journey. There's a lot to love about Batwoman, it's just going to take a little time before those benefits can be seen.

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Batwoman is set to premiere on October 6th on The CW.