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Batwoman: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)

With the CW’s flagship Arrowverse show, um, Arrow, having its final curtain call following the Infinite Crisis mini-series, a new vigilante show would arise to fill that void in its wake. Batwoman was the character to do so, filling the familiar streets of Gotham with a new angle with familiar vibes and new characters. One of the big attractions in the show’s launch was the high profile casting of Ruby Rose in the title role as Kate Kane. Unfortunately, that spark was short lived as she exited the show after two years in the role and only one (COVID shortened) season of the show (She debuted in the previous years’ crossover event). All eyes and interest will be on how the show’s second season handles this pivot, but you can return to that inaugural and unique season of Batwoman when it arrives on Bu-ray later this month (August 18). Pre-order links up are up now all around, but its always appreciated when you click on the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review.

Season

Kate Kane never planned to be Gotham’s new vigilante. After Batman disappeared, Gotham was in despair… until she returned. Armed with a passion for justice and a flair for speaking her mind, she soars through the shadowed streets of Gotham as Batwoman. But don’t call her a hero yet. In a city desperate for a savior, she must first overcome her own demons before becoming Gotham’s symbol of hope.

Batwoman stars Ruby Rose (Orange Is the New Black, John Wick: Chapter 2), Rachel Skarsten (Birds of Prey, Reign), Meagan Tandy (unREAL, Teen Wolf), Nicole Kang (You), Camrus Johnson (The Sun Is Also A Star), Elizabeth Anweis (NCIS: Los Angeles, 9-1-1), and Dougray Scott (Departure, Snatch). Based on the characters created for DC by Bob Kane with Bill Finger, Batwoman is produced by Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television with executive producers Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl), Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries, Smallville), Geoff Johns (Stargirl, The Flash, Titans) and Sarah Schechter (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl).

Any time there is a new Bat property, its going to garner a lot more attention than most of your average DC day players. Its just the nature of the beast. Despite there being a glutton of material already available, Gotham’s folklore will always be a popular well to mine (Despite the eye roll of the now “too cool for Batman” film twitter crowd). Batwoman helps soften that as she is a character firmly planted in that realm, but one that hasn’t been overdone and grants a window of opportunity to take a brand new angle on familiar territory, characters, costumes and stories.

Our first season starts out with a decently promising pilot episode, but then sort of wanders around in mediocrity. I appreciate that it takes its time to get her full outfit and learn the ropes, but after introducing Kate Kane to us in the Elseworlds crossover some of this is a little too much backstepping as we already know the prize.  It does provide an interesting ex-lovers tale and its appreciated it has something to say in a grander scheme of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in various factions of the government and professional world as well as familial relations.

Kate Kane’s Gotham City is one that comes with that expected doom and gloom look to it. Where it sits among contemporaries is that it feels like a much more restrained take on Gotham. Characters have a bit more dramatic chops and less overt camp to them and that also comes across in the costuming and heightened reality it wishes to portray. There are some neat sets here and there, but it does remain more grounded in trying ape a little bit of Christopher Nolan’s city in a way able for television.

There’s no real evidence of Batwoman not taking chances or running in place and waiting for Crisis On Infinite Earth‘s to happen, but once it does, the show shifts into another gear.  Pieces of the puzzle move into more interesting places and the character dramas really take a step forward and become more engaging. In fact, Batwoman showcases perhaps the most interesting subplot and exploration of the after effects of Crisis of all the shows. I won’t spoil it here, but once that element makes itself known is the key place where the show takes an immediate step up in both intrigue and quality.

Batwoman‘s first season featured plenty of potential that started to really find itself and become realized after the Crisis On Infinite Earths had passed. After that event, it actually became one of the best shows in the Arrowverse. Which is really a shame that the shake-up of Ruby Rose exiting happened as it will have to sort of start from square one again considering every lead character has deep ties to Kate Kane. I’m open and interested and hope the writing can continue to unfold the quality it was beginning to deliver.

Episodes

Pilot
The Rabbit Hole
Down, Down, Down
Who Are You?
Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale
I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury
Tell Me the Truth
A Mad Tea-Party
Crisis on Infinite Earths: Hour Two
How Queer Everything is Today!
An Un-Birthday Present
Take Your Choice
Drink Me
Grinning From Ear to Ear
Off With Her Head
Through the Looking Glass
A Narrow Escape
If You Believe In Me, I’ll Believe In You
A Secret Kept From All the Rest
O, Mouse!

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 1:78.1 (Crisis On Infinite Earths episodes only)

Clarity/Detail: In the Arrowverse, Batwoman shares its look most closely with that of Arrow, but it really has its own unique flavor. Unlike its brethren, Batwoman opts for a 1.85:1 presentation, trying to make it appears just ever so slightly more cinematic. That said, it looks, feels and plays just like the other members of the family. Details and texture are plenty strong in this more fun less dour comic booky grim looking aesthetic.

Depth:  Movements are free, spacey and cinematic in appearance. The dimensional aspects on display here are rock solid, with some good pushback on backgrounds in relation to the foreground characters and objects. Characters and camera movements swings around with good confidence and smoothness, never really suffering from any sort of motion distortions (Blur, jitter).

Black Levels: Blacks are very inky and the detail that resonates through them. Despite being one of the darker shows with the CW DC gang, detail is not hidden and no crushing was found. It has an ever so slightly lighter appearance, likely due to the digital natural of its production.

Color Reproduction: While this show is grimdark and loves blacks and grays, it does have some nice pop when flashier colors are delivered. Terrific contrast allows for colors to pop, like Kate’s red lipstick and fiery hair protruding out the back of her cowl. Neon lights, car lights, explosions and more really lift off when able as well. Saturation proves strong on fabrics, art, upholstery and more.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones appear natural and have a consistent look throughout each episode of the season.  Some episodes may vary on their given look or lighting angle they take for story purposes.  Detail is always high with freckles, wrinkles, blemishes, dried blood/dirt, scarring, make-up and stubble.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Batwoman is a program that offers plenty in the field of televised action entertainment. In addition to all the gloriously rendered kicking, punching and explosions, the show offers a wide variety of machinery and interesting ambient locales. Effects are heightened but they weave in perfectly with the tracks scoring and vocals. This balanced mix provides for a very theatrical and engaging 5.1 track.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Big engines, rev’ing a motorcycle, kicks and punches, gunshots, glass shattering, crashes, explosions and more really pump the boom of the subwoofer. The score also delivers a nice prrr to it in the baseline.

Surround Sound Presentation: From the rear comes mainly ambiance, but some battle scenes and environments provide some interesting action sounds and other kinds of noises to give a good sense of place. The front speakers wonderful connect the action, following it around and accurately depicting pitch and volume.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp, clear and at an ideal volume that places it ideally in the mix for every environment. No matter how big the action or quiet the segment, actors sound a part of it and are always plenty audible.

Extras

Batwoman: The Complete First Season is a 5-Disc set that comes with an episode guide insert sheet and a digital copy of every episode in the season.  Two features mentioned in the press release for this Blu-ray, “On Set” and “Gag Reel”, do not appear on anywhere across the discs. Disc 5, featuring all episodes of the Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover event, is only available on the Blu-ray edition and is a “limited edition” exclusive. Pretty much all the bonus features, or ones with any weight to them, are on the Crisis disc.

Disc 1

Deleted Scenes (HD, 2:08)

Disc 2

Deleted Scenes (HD, 2:14)

Disc 3

Deleted Scenes (HD, 3:20)

Disc 4

The Best of DC TV’s Comic-Con Panels San Diego 2019 (HD, 51:05) – This is a hodge podge of all the CW DC shows’ panels at San Diego Comic Con 2019. This allows them to use this 1 bonus feature across all releases.

Disc 5

Crisis On Infinite Earths (HD) – All 5 episodes of the major crossover event are here on the bonus disc.

Crisis On Infinite Earths: The Architects Return (HD, 11:55) – Various credible talking heads discuss the original ambitious comic book run that is the source for the crossover. They also go into how they crafted it to fit their universe while also keeping in line with what the comic was.

Crisis Management (HD, 13:08) – “It was not a burden, it was a gift.” The writers and showrunners discuss the collaboration of talents in front of and behind the camera to bring this to life. They talk about how they geeked out and would walk over to other shows’ sets just to enjoy the whole experience come to life.

Crisis Past and Present: Kevin Conroy Bat Legend (HD, 3:17) – This focuses on the decision to bring animated Batman icon Kevin Conroy to be the live action elder Bruce Wayne in Crisis. Conroy discusses how his voice is much more difficult to maintain for a 12 hour live action shoot than a 2 hour voice recording booth session.

Crisis Past and Present: Superman vs. Superman (HD, 4:37) – On this one we look at Brandon Routh’s continuation of his Superman Returns man of steel.

Characters in Crisis: Pariah (HD, 4:20) – This piece talks about Pariah in the comic book arc and how they utilized it in this televised version of the story.

Characters in Crisis: The Anti-Monitor (HD, 4:55) – Subject says it all, as the show story editors/producers talk about how the villain works in the Arrowverse.

Summary

Batwoman‘s inaugural season had a bit of an average start, but starting finding its footing and strengthening toward the end of the season before the pandemic cut it short. For different reasons, the second season will be of great interest in seeing how Ruby Rose’s exit will all be handled and where the show decides to head. This Blu-ray release has the pretty much the standard presentation one has come to expect from the CW shows as well as the soft extras they’ve been delivering in recent years. Its a nice touch that Crisis On Infinite Earth‘s is being included with this and the other programs as well (And its bonus features are solid). If you are collecting the Arrowverse shows, this is business as usual, for newbie Batwoman-only fans, this is a decent package considering how Warner Bros is treating the physical releases of the shows these day.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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