Now that Preacher gave its last sermon, it’s time for the return of shows that admit to being based on DC Comics! I chose writing about these over watching Joker! Will no one think of the Joker? (Thanks to The Wages Of Cinema for taking that cinematic bullet for me.) SPOILERS for the newest season premieres of Batwoman, Supergirl, Black Lightning, & The Flash below! They’re all different numbers, but at least they coordinated them for the same week this year unlike the Emerald Archer & the Temporal Justice League! (I finally read The Collector so I can join the Time Bureau book club.) There’s a lot of Batwoman to cover since it’s the rookie. Apparently nothing noteworthy happened at NYCC, but I’ll pepper in some tidbits about Crisis On Infinite Earths!
Batwoman is the new CW series starring Kate Kane, not to be confused with The CW’s new comic book adaption Katy Keene. She’s an update of the original Batwoman, Kathy Kane, who is officially a separate character. Kate Kane should also not be confused with Cass Cain a.k.a. Batgirl, who’ll be debuting in Birds of Prey & Harley Quinn’s Extended Title. (That movie is probably keeping Renee Montoya embargoed.) Kate is the only member of the Bat-family to have had a bat mitzvah.
Polarizing Ruby Rose has a good perspective on haters. Although the pilot doesn’t get her far enough out of her cousin’s shadow, Rose imbues Batwoman with a playfulness uncommon among powerless vigilantes. Not using Rose’s Aussie accent makes sense, but it almost make Kate sound flat. (Dougray Scott’s growly American disguise voice has more personality.) Hopefully the voice over to explain things that viewers can tell by themselves won’t be a regular element.
Batwoman’s series premiere is set prior to the Elseworlds crossover to show her origin. Like the ill-fated Birds of Prey TV series, its premise requires Batman to be absent for Gotham City for years for female vigilantes to pick up his slack. Kate Kane makes her own Batwoman suit in the comics, whereas here she just has Luke Fox modify Batman’s. This removes some of Kate’s agency & makes her feel more derivative.
The forehead crease across Batwoman’s mask is distracting. Nobody’s going to be fooled that the section above the line is bare forehead flesh since it’s still black rubber. Despite being Batman’s cowl, it appears like it was designed to look incomplete without a wig attached.
Rachel Skarsten of BOP & Lost Girl is the charismatic cuckoo Alice. Changing her from Kate’s identical twin was probably a good move logistically to not tax Rose even further. Since she’s leading the Wonderland Gang instead of the Religion of Crime, does she have a direct connection to Mad Hatter? I’m ambivalent about this possibility. Lewis Carroll’s works are popular enough that they could inspire multiple supervillains, but it seems they should have a link if they’re spawned exclusively in Gotham City. With fans already being upset Kate ripped off her famous cousin’s shtick, it’d feel doubly reductive to reveal Alice owes her crimester career to Jervis Tetch. The Wonderland Gang had better include Batman’s greatest foe, The Carpenter!
Kate’s dad runs a private security firm, Crows. I’ve often wondered why people who could afford to leave the crime-ridden hellhole that is Gotham City don’t, so this could fill in some plot holes. Jacob Kane helpfully explains “the Crows represent order,” which is surefire foreshadowing he’s the big bad regardless of whether you’re familiar with the comics or CW tropes. If only there was someone who represented a compromise between order & anarchy!
Like the comics, Kate was expelled from West Point for violating its code against homosexuality. Her disappointed father wanted her to get a cushy officer posting to keep her out of combat. He exiles her to learn paramilitary skills around the world as training for a Crows position he doesn’t intend to give her. (In the comics he was her supportive Alfred equivalent.) He does hire her ex-girlfriend, Sophie Moore. Alice claims Sophie is the daughter he wanted instead of Kate, yet he’s fine with Sophie being in the thick of danger? That is some baroque family drama even without his presumed dead daughter resurfacing as a supervillainess! Sophie is now married to some dude for the obligatory love triangle I’m disinterested in.
As is required of all Greg Berlanti produced superhero shows, Kate has been given a new step-sister, Mary. At first she appears to be a vapid Instagram socialite, but she’s secretly running a clinic like Dr. Leslie Thompkins. This is revealed jarringly. She seems to be a version of Bette Kane, who was the original Bat-Girl then later Flamebird & Hawkfire.
Batwoman’s tech support is Luke Fox, son of Lucius “Foxy” Fox & the second Batwing in the comics. He’s a flustered flibbertigibbet in the vein of Felicity Smoak, Cisco Ramon, Winn Schott, Curtis Holt, & Querl Dox. They do realize they can stir up the formula, right?
The world’s greatest martial art is throwing tiny metal boomerangs at your opponents’ heads. The action is quite good, especially the underwater ice escape that begins it. Instead of the now standard hallway fight, Kate pummels the Wonderland Gang through multiple levels of the Burnside Orphanage. Ruby Rose recorded her own emergency spinal surgery after a stunt nearly paralyzed her. Now I am very concerned about The CW’s safety levels! Please hire more stunt people to prevent her from killing herself for this.
Our introduction to Earth-1’s Batman is him failing to save Kate’s sister & mother after their car is run off a bridge. I’m in favor of not portraying Batman as infallible, but it’s a really weird foot to start off on. She gives up her grudge against Batman as soon as it’s explained the tragedy was an accident. As if to appease viewers wary of a relatively new character, Kate’s dad literally calls her a “female Bruce Wayne.” If you’re a rabid Batman fan, this pilot is sure to upset.
Gotham City is oddly underpopulated for a bustling metropolis. They were very stingy on extras! Wayne Tower & a wing of Gotham Medical University are practically vacant? It also raises the question of what happened to Batman’s famous supporting cast of Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Jim Gordon, Lucius Fox, Doc Thompkins, & assorted sidekicks. Rachel Maddow’s voice will recur as radio personality Vesper Fairchild.
Why throw a party for shutting off the Bat Signal? Playing a Zorro movie in the park is an insidious way to groom the next generation of Batpeople. Of course Alice’s mole in Crows shares a name with Charles Dodgson. Why does nobody notice that Batman vanished at the same time as Bruce Wayne?
J. H. Williams III’s art was a huge selling point for the comics, so it’s disappointing (yet expected) this doesn’t have equally exquisite cinematography. (Co-creator Greg Rucka also has his Stumptown adapted to TV now.) It’s partially filmed in Chicago, so at least its Gotham City won’t be indistinguishable from Star & Central Cities. Gotham’s producers wouldn’t loan them its Bat-free Signal. Sadly its production & costume design fall short of it.
Showrunner Caroline Dries said the villains won’t have real costumes. That makes me mad. Gotham often had its supervillains in civvies, but it had a more imaginative & better funded wardrobe department so they always looked uniquely fashionable. Alice’s costume is chic yet could be more froufrou. Give me Killer Moth in all his day glo finery or GTFO!
I will also push for Gotham alumni. (Hush & Magpie have been cast with different actors so odds aren’t great.) Get Andrew Sellon to reprise his Scarface & Ventriloquist performance! I’d go hog wild if they got Michael Cerveris back
bacon as Professor Pyg! Since WB liked Peyton List as Poison Ivy enough to have her voice her in Batman: Hush, maybe they’ll make her Pamela Isley here too? (The Flash doesn’t seem to be in a rush to have Golden Glider return.) Twitter now has an emoji for #Gotham. The CW is doing a better job accidentally marketing the show via Batwoman than Fox did.
Batwoman’s pilot wasn’t as terrible as its detractors were saying before it aired (they sure say “cringe” a lot), but it wasn’t a smash either. (Supergirl’s pilot was worse.) There’s so much Batman saturation in addition to Berlanti DC shows, especially Arrow, that it doesn’t stand out much. This reminds me of the Bionic Woman remake where its star, Michelle Ryan, had to use a dull disguise voice while upstaged by her co-star, Katee Sakhoff, who got to be unhinged. There’s plenty of time for it to spread its wings. It already has the most dynamic title card.
Supergirl, which surprisingly had the best season of all the DC CW shows last year, got moved back an hour. I would’ve expected it to be a lead-in to the darker Batwoman. Its fifth season premiere got a boost from some superlative SuperCorp scenes.
Supergirl is diving headfirst into the topical conflict of news being a public necessity while struggling to maintain funding & treat reporters ethically. (BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, & Gannett axed scads of journalists! Mandatory fired freelancers for asking to be paid their pitiful wages promptly! TVOvermind is a den of plagarism! Splinter got shuttered!) It’s also warning of the dangers of technology addiction via VR contact lenses like an old man yelling at a cloud. Both themes are instigated by Andrea Rojas, Obsidian North’s CEO. (Julie Gonzalo shares a birthday with Denise Quiñones who played Rojas on Smallville.) So far the new owner of CatCo has zilch in common with the magical vigilante Acrata. She somehow unilaterally gave CatCo’s staff new contracts. Last season’s absence of subtlety managed to work in its favor, so maybe these will work out too despite its previous dodgy depictions of journalism?
T-Rex Malefic shreds Kara’s cape! Brainy gives Kara a device that activates her updated suit whenever she takes off her spectacles, yet it doesn’t activate the first time she does? I appreciate that her new costume doesn’t come from a ring like the Flash’s. Now she won’t lose any more buttons! If she had Barbara Kean’s hair instead of bangs & more muscle mass, this would be nigh-perfect translation of her Elseworld’s Finest look.
Lena Luthor bitterly plots to dox Supergirl just as Kara receives her Pulitzer Prize in revenge for years of deception. Just before she does, Kara finally gives her the confession & apology she deserves. Melissa Benoist goes Emmy-worthy that scene! Despite running dozens of simulations, even Lena is so gobsmacked that she ditches that plan in favor of a longer-term scheme. Lena & Kara are so obsessed with the strain on their relationship that the sapphism is barely subtext. Is this just because I never had a platonic friendship this passionate? My emotional life is barren.
Playing Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole” when the Super Friends vanquished perfunctory foe Midnight was the most interesting thing about her. Kara rescuing J’onn from an event horizon & nixing the black hole was super easy, barely an inconvenience! The mastermind was J’onn’s brother Malefic (Phil LaMarr, who also voices Rag Doll), who he doesn’t even remember. (Meanwhile Harry Lennix’s General Swanwick was supposed to be revealed as Martian Manhunter in Justice League. I blame David Goyer for that being nixed.)
Brainy & Nia remain adorkable. Brainiac-5’s intimacy issues stem from his fear he’ll betray Dreamer again. He makes a compelling argument for Miranda Priestly being the best villain. She convinces him to kiss her.
Eve Tessmacher pops in the final scene just to get kidnapped, probably by Levithan. Is it supposed to synergize with the newish villain from Event Leviathan? (Bendis couldn’t just call it Leviathan Event.) The character already appeared on Arrow, but they’ll probably give Leviathan a different alter ego here. Leviathan could also turn out to be Talia al Ghul’s spy ring.
DuckTales’ Kate Micucci appears without bringing Kimiko Glenn for double Lenas. Mitch Pileggi will play Rama Khan, an obscure character who you can tell wasn’t meant to be white just by his name. I’d like to see Supergirl battle Solaris the Tyrant Sun this season.
Season three of Black Lightning has improved visual flourishes. (Despite this, The CW released only a handful of dull promo images for this & The F-Lash.) The title cards are animated. Jefferson Pierce can even see through floors now! He’ll be getting a sleeker costume to match his expanded powers.
Agent Odell’s untimely dinner interruption was a pretext for renditioning Jefferson & Lynn. He uses Markovians as boogeymen, but a deteriorating Tobias Whale confirms the ASA is just as nefarious. (Odell kills Issa again for learning this, which seems like a waste of his “truth serum” powers.) Their fellow inmates don’t appear to have comic book ties. In addition to putting meta-kids in cages, the ASA placed Freeland under martial law complete with a forcefield.
The Cyclotronic Man makes an impressive debut only to be unceremoniously killed by power-copying Commander Carson Williams. This show has a habit of dispatching canon foes too soon. Running gag LaLa, however, is undead again & in possession of the MacGuffin briefcase I thought was finished.
Anissa has put aside her Thunder persona to undermine the ASA as Blackbird. (Why doesn’t Odell realize she’s both?) Her vigilante gear is upgraded with a Mortal Kombat mask but takes a step back for continued lack of goggles. The level of sci-fi gizmos Peter “exposition” Gambi has equipped her family with continues its tonal disconnect with the show’s grounded aspects. Her new hook-up, Jamillah Olsen, could be a Rule 63 Jimmy Olsen. Her runaway shapeshifter ex-girlfriend, Grace Choi, is now eating soldiers as a leopard because … citation needed.
The universe seems intent on destroying all traces of XS. Barry & Iris are having trouble grieving over Nora knowing that they could eventually produce another version of her. They’re going to be each others’ personal support group since they don’t know anyone else with this sci-fi problem. Killer Frost also asks Caitlin for more control over their body, which wouldn’t be necessary if they were fully integrated like season three promised. Cisco is slowly realizing how inconvenient forsaking one of the best powersets is. Despite gallivanting across the globe for months, Ralph hasn’t located Sue Dearborn as she’s not been cast yet.
Mysterious black holes are caused by a slimmed down Chester P. Runk. I was wondering when Chunk would show up! (He doesn’t eat any diamonds … yet.) Flash saves the city by jumping into an event horizon (without Firestorm’s help this time) & rescuing Chester’s consciousness. It’s about time they played Queen’s Flash Gordon themesong! That perfect needledrop completely validates the scene’s ludicrous physics! It’s more apt than when “Dragula” scored the Flash’s & Elongated Man’s most dangerous laser tag game. I’ll give it the edge over Supergirl’s black hole climax (Did they coordinate this?) because it was actually woven into the plot. Barry also saves Iris’s jacket that will become Nora’s. Cecile was able to deadlift Chester into STAR Labs in the most unexpected plot hole plug.
Sendhil Ramamurthy is the villain Bloodwork. Hopefully he doesn’t Mo-hinder the pacing like on Heroes. I’m most intrigued by the impostor Godspeeds only speaking in modem noises. Barry wrecked a ridiculous amount of windows just to deafeat one! New showrunner Eric Wallace hints they’re adapting the story revealing Iris was born in the future?
The chinguard is back for the Flash’s season six suit! At first I thought it’d stolen silver lightning from Wally West’s Rebirth costume to go with the personality Barry previously poached, but it was just a lighting trick. Killer Frost’s new costume was supposed to premiere in season five. It’s a huge improvement over not having any costume last season, particularly since it looks schway.
Although his series won’t be part of the crossover itself, Black Lightning will appear in Crisis On Infinite Earths! Tom Welling will reprise Clark Kent for COIE alongside Brandon Routh & Tyler Hochlein, but I’d be more excited for Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor or the Flash. Alas, he turned them down because they pitched it poorly. Ditto BOP’s Huntress appearing but not Dina Myer’s perfect Oracle. Who will be representing Powerless?
One of Arrow’s longest running Easter eggs will finally hatch as a version of Lyla wears a toned down Harbinger costume. This year’s Wells will be Pariah. Can they use this event to keep Earth-X’s Snart & The Ray around? It feels like Jesse Quick should return to rep Earth-2. (Taylor Swift sounds like one of her aliases.)
LOT’s fifth season doesn’t return until next year, but it ought to have Cleopatra Coleman guest star as Queen Cleopatra. Brandon Routh & Courtney Ford will be departing as regulars this season, so that’s bumming me out. (Norah Darhk looks best adorned with headgear.) Without Ray Palmer, they’ll be even less canon DC Comics characters in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. They’ll keep an Atom aboard The Waverider, however, by introducing Osric Chau as Ryan Choi! He’s been campaigning for the role for years! His precognitive powers are even more precise than Simu Liu’s.
This was later than expected because my cable & Internet was out for thirty-six hours. It’s really long so I’m cutting myself off before Riverdale & the new Nancy Drew. Who knows if I’ll review them next week when they’re old hat? Does Thea Queen returning means I have to watch the whole last season of Arrow? You be sure to demand a third season of Lodge 49 regardless!