It's a Gotham unlike we've ever seen as Batwoman Season 1 Episode 1 arrives in a city going on three years without its best-known defender.
And yet there are a lot of familiar touchstones embedded in the premiere's exposition for fans of the Dark Knight who may be new to Kate Kane's narrative.
Arkham. Joker. Even punny names like "Chuck Dodgson."
Trust me, this isn't the story I expected to be telling. But you know as well as I do that stories, like the people who tell them, aren't always what they seem.Kate Kane
This premiere ticks all the boxes of a good intro episode with clear "Who"s, "What"s, and "Why"s laid out for even the most casual viewer while setting up some good long-arc momentum.
Let's take a good look at our hero and how she ticks.
Kate Kane might come at the cowl from a very different direction than her famous cousin, but it doesn't take Luke Fox pointing it out to see how she and Bruce Wayne come to the same conclusion about how to fix their city.
Forget the law and make up some new rules. Vigilante-ism must run in the family.
Although her connection to Bruce Wayne already implies a wealthy background, Kate's live of privilege is made more obvious by how she and Sophie part ways at the military college.
Kate's quite comfortable with telling the homophobic school administration to kiss her butt.
Sophie, though, signs the statement demanded in exchange for her continued enrollment, officially denying her sexuality, and thereby her relationship with Kate.
Sophie: I need this school, okay? I want to be here.
Kate: But they don't want you.
Sophie: Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of being offended by that.
That sense of love lost sets up Kate's return to Gotham nicely. Although, she may have been looking to taking a break from the survivalist training that appeared to taunt Death regularly.
CW's superhero shows have historically risen and fallen on the strength of their ensembles, and the main players here are refreshing and somewhat surprising.
I think my favorite Scooby Gang member so far is step-sister, Mary Hamilton, whom Kate's Native American mentor refers to as "Girl-Who-Talks-Too-Much."
She initially appears to be a lightweight socialite cowed by her mother's authority.
Between her selfies and her stream-of-consciousness monologues, it would appear that oversharing is her personal superpower.
But when Kate's left unconscious on the doorstep of an underground clinic, Sister Mary turns out to be the resident medic.
So I swear this began with me offering water and Band-aids and the next thing you know I'm the Meredith Grey of Sherwood Forest.Mary
Mary's already been pivotal as she's the one who calls Kate to tell her about Sophie's abduction.
Mind you, if she was all that concerned about Kate's feelings for Sophie, you'd think she'd clue her in on Sophie's HUSBAND, don't you think?
Look, I don't know your drama but we've all got a box of pictures somewhere.Mary
Any superhero with a "Bat" prefix wouldn't be complete with a Fox at their back.
Kate stumbles upon Luke Fox (actually, I guess it's the other way around) when she breaks into Cousin Bruce's office.
Don't go looking at comic canon for insight into this version of Luke Fox.
My sense is that he's probably still Lucius' son but that he's been rebooted for this series.
That being said, Camrus Johnson is quite endearing to watch as the flummoxed Fox as Kate runs circles around him at their first meeting and then easily convinces him to assist her in her new role.
Kate: I need you to fix his suit.
Luke: The suit is literal perfection.
Kate: It will be. When it fits a woman.
And the dude has skills. He refits the Batsuit to Kate in a matter of DAYS. That's more than just plugging specs into a 3-D printer, y'know.
He's also the closest connection we have to Bruce Wayne, having worked for and guarded the man's secrets for so long.
He's there to explain to Kate that Batman never meant to abandon her mother and sister.
He's also there to be the caution in Kate's full-throttle wind while he seems to rise to Kate's techy challenges in the interests of getting to DO something.
And then there's our villain -- Alice -- as in "Alice in Wonderland," which naturally leads to the parallelism of Gotham and Wonderland, aka the O.G. "The Upside Down."
It's a great metaphor.
Crazy seems the norm in Gotham. Crazy and macabre.
After all, the simple act of turning off a light (albeit, it was the Bat-Signal) results in two bloody deaths, an abduction, and mass panic.
We're all mad here, Commander. I'm mad. You're mad. Sanity is so... pedestrian.Alice
Not only is there some parallelism with the writing here but Alice and Kate as nemeses is an elegant use of mirror-imaging.
Although they telegraphed the reveal of Alice being Kate's long-thought-dead twin sister, Beth, it was still satisfying to see realization dawn on Kate's face.
And did you notice that the episode ends with Alice's voiceover just as it began with Kate's?
In the grey zone of characters sits Kate's father, Jacob Kane, grieving widower and father and man with a plan.
Alice's rants seem to indicate he is more than he seems.
Hello, said Alice. Shall we believe the Crows will protect us? Well, I believe six impossible things before breakfast. Do you feel safe behind these security gates? Because one of you won't be going home tonight. The Crows are NOT the hero of this story, Gotham. Batman couldn't save you and neither will they.Alice
He wouldn't be the first man to be pushed to extremism by personal tragedy. *cough*BATMAN*cough*
It makes me a bit sad for Kate though if the father she's always wanted to work beside turns out to be a baddie.
They seem to have a genuinely loving relationship if marred by trauma.
Kate: I wish you called.
Jacob: We're gonna find her.
Kate: Then let me help. And don't say it's too emotionally complicated because we both know that is a load of...
Jacob: Neck tattoo! That's new!
As for Jacob's alleged corruption, it's pretty easy to spot that slippery slope.
Being the head of the quasi-military policing organization gives him a lot of leeway and power.
Being married to a city official helps too, I'm sure.
And, speaking of that, I suspect Catherine Hamilton-Kane may be hiding some darker motivations as well.
She and Mary seem ready to be pitted against each other.
Catherine: Welcome home, Katey. I hope you don't mind my making you the center of attention tonight.
Kate: No place I'd rather be.
Catherine: Then let's make sure we're posting happy photos to our social media accounts...
Mary: Because why wouldn't this party have an agenda?
But wouldn't that be such a tired trope? The evil stepmother? Still, I could see that showdown/reveal being pretty spectacular.
The quibbles I have with this premiere are minor:
How did Kate get her bike back after being knocked out (twice) and then dumped on Mary's examination table?
Why is Gotham's park so small (and in the middle of a construction zone)?
- Why would they show such a ridiculous movie?
New shows always deserve the three-episode chance and Batwoman is off to a good start.
So be sure to watch Batwoman online and let me know in the comments if this Bat has wings for you or not.
Are you buying the chemistry between Kate and Sophie or are you hoping a new love interest appears?
How are Luke and Mary going to get along?
How far can they push the Alice in Wonderland Theme? Will we see a Red Queen? Maybe a cat named Dinah? Or a CANARY?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.