NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Batwoman” are present in this review
Batwoman is officially in trouble. I don’t mean like she’s being targeted by some especially nefarious Batman foe, despite the attempts to create that scenario in this latest episode. I mean that Batwoman, the show is in a deep narrative mess at this point, going from presenting a boilerplate origin for Kate Kane’s superhero alter-ego, to a downright messy and embarrassing one. “Down Down Down” feels disappointingly aptly named, because that’s exactly the direction it takes The CW’s struggling new DC series. Despite an initially promising idea with the show’s newest threat, Batwoman’s origin officially goes off a cliff here. Batwoman is thus in serious need of some writing revision at this point, if it hopes to get up to the requisite standard of even the Arrowverse’s regular DC television offerings.
First, the one bright spot in this episode for Batman fans especially is the introduction of Tommy Elliot. Tommy Elliot is better known by his villainous alter-ego, Hush in DC Comics lore, being something of a dark reflection of Bruce Wayne that lost his fortune, yet used his brilliant surgeon’s mind to craft himself into a deadly manipulator and master of disguise. The character is a more recent addition to Batman’s Rogues Gallery, having debuted in 2003’s Batman: Hush comic book storyline, and considering that Tommy’s only previous live-action appearance to date was as a mere troublemaking teenager on FOX’s recently-wrapped Gotham, Batwoman was primed to deliver a true representation of Hush for the live-action small screen.
Frustratingly though, the show squanders an otherwise promising hook for Tommy, turning him into a two-bit 1% thug who seems to have an unhealthy rivalry with Bruce Wayne. Oh, and Tommy knows that Bruce is Batman, because he paid the Riddler to tell him. Yes, seriously. That’s Batwoman’s lazy, watered-down explanation for how Bruce would come into conflict with his former childhood friend in this universe. Exactly how many of Batman’s foes know that he’s Bruce Wayne in the Arrowverse?! Well, whatever the case, there’s at least kind of an interesting idea here, wherein Tommy steals a miniature rail gun that serves as the only means of hurting Batman through his highly-armoured Bat Suit, a failsafe that Bruce himself came up with, in case his Bat Suit was ever stolen and misused. After Kate tricks Tommy into thinking that the gun has a GPS tracker built into it (which Tommy stupidly believes, because he’s a pale imitation of the cunning mastermind that the DC Comics Universe’s Hush is), Kate confronts him, and Tommy takes several elevators hostage, which conveniently hold several lead characters in them.
Oh, but before we can even get to that, we get more material with Alice, who decides to appropriate the Bat Signal in order to summon Kate to a rooftop. Because I guess Alice can just do that, despite the ridiculous amount of security that’s supposed to be surrounding the Bat Signal. Whatever. In any case, Kate tries to appeal to Alice’s inner Beth Kane by challenging her not to kill for twenty-four hours, which is a cheesy, thoroughly ridiculous hook that basically serves as a stupid excuse to bench Alice, while Kate deals with Tommy. It doesn’t even really stick anyway, since Alice kills a Crow that’s guarding Catherine’s bedroom, well before the time limit is up, and simply decides to leave a message in playing cards for Catherine. Oh, and Alice also bails Kate out when Tommy nearly kills her, knocking Tommy out while Kate hangs in an elevator. How did Alice get to the Elliot Tower rooftop? Why? I don’t care, and the episode doesn’t seem to either.
Compounding this frustration is that Kate finally pioneers her actual Batwoman identity in this episode, and doesn’t just serve as a ‘fake Batman’ anymore. The explanation for how she does this, along with the motivation to do it, is laughably, infuriatingly lame though. After Tommy calls Batman to a roof, following a party trying to celebrate his opening of Elliot Tower (which is just a bit taller than Wayne Tower, go figure), Kate decides to embrace her own independent identity, using a red insignia and red wig to stand on her own, and differentiate herself from Batman. This should be a huge character moment for Kate, but instead, it just comes off as a cheap throwaway solution to solve a problem with Tommy. It only happened because the script demanded it, and that completely undermines Kate’s journey to step out from Batman’s shadow. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gotham City just immediately embraced Batwoman in the coming episodes too, and suddenly stopped caring that Batman is still gone.
The only other story element of note here is yet more frustration with the character writing, namely when Sophie starts seemingly regretting terminating her relationship with Kate so many years ago. This is a great opportunity to have the characters confront more of the emotional fallout from Sophie’s decision to deny her affair with Kate from their military days. Instead though, Mary (because of course it’s Mary), simply prods Sophie about how she still has a crush on Kate, like they’re high-schoolers, and not grown-ass women. Not only that, but when Kate finally takes Sophie’s advice and moves on, getting the number of an attractive bartender from Tommy’s party, Sophie clearly looks disappointed, pouting through her final moments in the episode, despite being married to a very faithful, loving and devout husband! It’s bad enough when Supergirl or The Flash forces this juvenile relationship drama where it doesn’t belong (and hell, even the normally great Legends of Tomorrow was guilty of that during its previous season), but it especially doesn’t fit in a show about a Batman Family character! Teen soap nonsense is the absolute last thing that a supposedly ‘darker’ show like Batwoman needs, especially when the series is already struggling to formulate its own unique appeal at this point.
“Down Down Down” pretty much seems to represent the current style of Batwoman storytelling at its worst, completely pissing away the big moment of Batwoman embracing her own unique identity, while also laying on the CW-approved romantic melodrama way too thick with Kate and Sophie! Alice and Tommy at least provided some better moments, since Alice is continuing to turn her old identity against the Kane family fairly effectively, while Tommy at least had a promising desire to draw out Batman as part of a twisted rich boy pissing contest, but Kate herself, along with the other protagonists, really had to struggle through a lot of bad storytelling here. My best hope now is, since Kate has finally announced herself as Batwoman, the show can move away from its titular heroine’s obligatory origin storytelling, and start carving out more distinct, memorable and appealing stories for Kate’s character. Even three episodes deep however, Batwoman is really struggling from a narrative standpoint, still failing to find its place in The CW’s crowded Arrowverse lineup, all of which is currently and easily outpacing it at this point.
- Tommy turning Batman's failsafe against his legacy
- Alice continuing to leverage her identity against the Kane family
- Kate's very underwhelming adoption of the Batwoman identity
- Tommy's machinations and plot are reckless and ill-planned
- Insufferably juvenile relationship drama between Kate, Mary and Sophie