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'Batwoman' review: There's a new, exciting crimefighter in Gotham

Ruby Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman  in The

Ruby Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman  in The CW's
"Batwoman." Credit: The CW/Kimberley French

SERIES "Batwoman"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on CW/11

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The powerful Alice in Wonderland gang has kidnapped Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy), who is the best officer Gotham's private security force, the Crows, has. But who to turn to now that Batman has been missing three years? Crows' chief Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) wants to send his force after Alice (Rachel Skarsten), but his daughter, Kate Kane (Ruby R ose, "Orange Is the New Black"). is one step ahead.  A cousin of Bruce Wayne, she and Sophie were once lovers, but she knows she's outmatched by Alice. When Kate forces Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) — son of Wayne Enterprises tech guru Lucius Fox —t o show her the secret Bat Cave, she has an idea. Soon the odds will be evened.  


MY SAY There's a long, ludicrous history behind the question "Is Batman Gay?," going back to at least the 1950s, when the Red Scare begot the "lavender scare," along with a concern that if homosexuals were hidden in the government, then what if the Caped Crusader himself was hiding in the closet? After all, that cape, those tights, Robin? In fact, Batman was androgynous of necessity. Gotham City was his first and last love. No time for romance when the Batmobile needed a tuneup.

Enter Batwoman, reintroduced by DC in 2006 which left no wiggle room for ambiguity. Yup, she's a lesbian. Deal with it. 

Now enter Rose's Batwoman, who leaves none either. In the opening scenes, her love interest is established, her orientation emphatically as well. That's hardly a shock because she was introduced in CW's Arrowverse last season and is a well-known figure in the DC canon. But here, her orientation just is: No statement, no politics, no declaration and certainly no big deal. It unfolds as naturally as the breath she takes, or the bad guys she drops. Like Batman (and Bruce Wayne) she must deal with a broken heart, the loss of family, and personal tragedy. What she doesn't have to deal with is some homophobic idiot dissing her because she's gay. For all its other faults, Gotham is now a progressive, tolerant place. 

As foreshadowed in the pilot, Gothamites might need to adjust attitudes when they learn the new caped crusader is a "she" because the old one was a "he" for so long. The once-and-future Batwoman makes clear she'll help them along. In the keeper scene Sunday, she tells Luke to "fix the [Bat] suit" to fit her, and when he reasonably points out that "the suit is literal perfection," Kate says, "it will be when it fits a woman." And that, Batboys and Batgirls, is your statement and declaration.

The best part of the new series is that unfussy, effortless way of getting Kate's sexual orientation out of the way, and also Kate herself. She's a bantamweight crusader with lightning moves as opposed to devastating ones. She's got no chip on her shoulder, nothing to prove. At first she sees herself as a placeholder until the day Batman returns, but it's clear she likes the place she's holding, notably the Bat Cave.

 What's less-best is the usual reliance on the sort of story that Gotham has undergone countless times before. There are no surprises left here, not even a decent dopey headline in the still-dopey, ever-credulous Gotham newspapers (which still don't have websites).

At least there's that new crime-fighter in town. Many years ago, Batman said "A reporter's lot is not easy, making exciting stories out of plain, average, ordinary people like Robin and me." Reporters shouldn't have that problem with Kate.

 BOTTOM LINE Exciting newbie (but poor Gotham is still beset in less-than-new ways). 

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