If comic book superheroes don’t ring your bell – and they generally leave mine undisturbed – the chances are you’re unfamiliar with the so-called “Arrowverse”, a franchise wherein live the heroes of half-a-dozen or so DC Comics television series, including Arrow (based on Green Arrow), The Flash, Supergirl and Black Lightning.
Overseen by producer Greg Berlanti, whose own superpower seems to be limitless energy, they go out in the US on Warner Brothers’ youth-skewered network The CW and – except for Black Lightning, which is on Netflix – on Sky 1 in this part of the world.
Like any other franchise, from McDonald’s restaurants to Travelodge hotels, they all have the same look, texture and flavour: slick and breezy, with predominantly young casts, reasonable special effects (easier to do on TV now that the technology has become relatively cheap), and a roughly 50-50 split between action and slightly soapy personal drama.
This makes it easy for their makers to capitalise on a gimmick that’s been around almost as long as American comics themselves, the crossover episode, featuring a team-up of two or more heroes.
It was in one of these, apparently, that Batwoman first flapped into view in 2018, before getting her own series last year. It finally landed here on Sunday. Just to confuse things further, it’s on E4 rather than Sky 1.
Batwoman sticks to the established DC small-screen formula. It slots in neatly alongside the related series and is no better or worse than any of them. What sets it apart, however, is that none of the others – not even Supergirl – has been subjected to such a tide of misogynistic hostility by toxic fanboys. Sadly, it’s not difficult to figure out why.
Batwoman is not your average superhero. She’s an openly lesbian character (her sexuality is key to her origin story), played by an openly lesbian actress, Orange Is the New Black’s Ruby Rose.
Homophobic, bedroom-dwelling incels have been bombing Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB and similar websites with one-star “reviews” designed to artificially push down the series’ rating.
These pathetic losers used the same strategy with the female-led Captain Marvel and the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters. For this reason alone, I hope Batwoman is a huge success.
As it stands, it’s diverting rather than essential. After a long spell away learning to become proficient in martial arts and general ass-kickery, Kate Kane, younger cousin of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, returns to Gotham City, which the Caped Crusader suddenly deserted three years earlier.
Gotham, which must surely have the most useless police force, is being terrorised by supervillain Alice (Rachel Skarsten, having a ball), who’s fond of quoting from Lewis Carroll.
With no Batman around, Kate’s dad Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) created his own private security force, the Crows, to protect the citizens.
Like her big cuz, Kate has inner demons to conquer. As a child, a car carrying her, her twin sister Beth and her mother plunged into a river. Kate narrowly escaped but her mother and sister didn’t, although the latter’s body was never recovered. Batman was on the scene, yet did nothing to save them (or so she thinks).
Kate comes home to join the Crows, but her father refuses to let her. He’s trying to protect her; Kate takes it as rejection, believing he loved her departed twin more than her.
Before the episode is out, Kate has found a secret lair beneath the Wayne Enterprises building and realised that Bruce is Batman. She persuades his assistant Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) to modify the batsuit to fit her and, kitted out with the usual bat toys, is soon doing battle on the rooftops with Alice, who’s abducted Kate’s ex, Sophie (Meagan Tandy).
Batwoman is more a patchwork of influences than a series with its own identity, but a late twist suggests it might yet find its feet. It deserves to, without being sabotaged by morons.