Monday, July 15, 2024

Adapting Batwoman For TV: A Primer

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[Generic CW Music Plays, I Guess?]
In a little less than a month, Batwoman’s second solo book will come to an end. It will, most likely, involve Renee and Kate giving their inevitable relationship another shot. Except this time one of them won’t be erased from existence because of a petty feud between writers, and the other won’t be given a retroactive character lobotomy. No, they’ll just be going back on the shelf for…a long time. Probably.

It’s not something I’m looking forward too, since I honestly don’t believe we’re ever going to get a better run with Kate like, ever again. The Bennett/Tynion era, though short, went so far above and beyond in pretty much every respect that their work, in my opinion, overshadows Elegy, especially since Rucka is being a huge jerk about it.

All that being said, while the Kate Kane (and also Renee Montoya) of the comics will be vanishing into the ether until someone picks her up out of the toy box once again, for better or worse, there’s another Kate Kane we have the, uh, “pleasure” of looking forward to: the one on the TV.

Frankly, I have a very bad feeling about this show. Aside from Black Lightning, I’ve felt like the CW hasn’t really had the best track record when it comes to anything that isn’t straight white people melodrama. And Black Lightning is very clearly its own thing separate from the rest of the Berlanti-verse. So, while the thought of a Batwoman TV series is, on a purely theoretical level, literally the perfect medium for her, putting it on the CW and not a network such as HBO or Netflix is just…not great. It’s really not about budgeting, either. The CW is typically lazy with its cinematography and shot composition, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Fact of the matter is, a network adaptation of Kate Kane has a higher likelihood of just flat out missing the point of her character than basically any other context. No matter what, I’ll still tune in every week, because this is Kate, but there are some factors that, in order to truly adapt Kate into the silver screen, the CW needs to actually nail. Some are, admittedly, more important than others. She’s already going to be an out lesbian, so that’s one thing they got, I guess. 


If you’ve read any of the pieces about Batwoman on this site, you probably could have guessed that this one would be at the top of the list. The CW has a really bad habit of just slapping this factor onto a character with zero thought and then never referencing it again. For example, Felicity Smoak’s dad, the supervillain known as the Calculator, is Jewish because that’s totally not a bad stereotype or anything. She basically mentions it once during a Christmas episode to point out that the “Christmas season” is exclusionary, and then never brings it up again because reason. For the writers of Arrow, that’s apparently all Jewishness amounts to: something you bring up when stuff is slightly different or like, when people expect you to do so.

That’s not going to fly with Kate, since her scripting is absurdly reliant on the intersection of queerness and Jewishness. It’s sort of like, her entire thing. It’s a little difficult to explain how this would look in a Batwoman TV series, but a good start would be to make sure she’s angry all of the time, and pretty much everything she does is more or less about her screaming for her right to literally exist. It all needs to be about survival in some way or another.

That’s a pretty easy meta-narrative to do, considering the existence of her TV show at all is kind of random, and nailing an honest representation of her queerness would also inherently lead any decent writer towards this line of thinking by default; like I said, this interplay is inescapable.


Quick example: Kate, Beth, and Gabi were kidnapped on Kate and Beth’s twelfth birthday. Jewish girls typically have their Bat Mitzvahs at age twelve, and most twins have a double ceremony of sorts. Basically, this means that Kate and Beth were already preparing for that, and Kate had to go through with it despite it being a constant reminder of who she lost. These things are not incidental.

The Tattoos

They’re important, and also double as tool for survival. (See: above)  Just do them. It’s like, really easy for the costume and makeup people to do that. Just—just fucking do it

She’s not special/DADT

I feel like this goes without saying, but keep her military background. And her family’s military history. That sense of duty and responsibility is kind of integral for any of this to click together

While we’re approaching the “realistic cut-off” for what year Kate could actually be born when she was dishonorably discharged at 20 from West Point under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, something important to remember is that DADT is not necessarily the only way to make this aspect of Kate’s history work. The usage of DADT was to highlight her queerness, yes, as well as her personal morals and beliefs, and it was excessively effective.

But at the end of the day the primary goal of her forcible outing wasn’t what literally happened: it was to show the audience that Kate isn’t special. There is nothing “extraordinary” about Kate in the same way that there is about Batman or most other comic book heroes. She was just another soldier who got tossed aside by arbitrary bigotry for being true to herself. The “mystery” of who outed Kate has never been relevant: it defeats the purpose of the act itself to put significance on that. The sequence of events that lead to Kate becoming Batwoman are not a multiversal constant like they are with Bruce and Batman. There are so, so, so many other paths she could have taken, but becoming Batwoman was her choice.

That’s pretty much the entire point of Bennett and Tynion’s two-year narrative with Kate. It’s an active decision, not an inevitably. And it can only truly be a result of Kate’s agency as an individual if she’s not special. Yes, she makes herself into something more, just like she wanted to with the military, but at the end of the day…she’s still a hot mess doing something crazy to feel fulfilled.


First of all, the dynamic between Kate and Jacob is pretty much the lynchpin of any Batwoman show. You need a whole lot of other parts to make it all work, but without this relationship being what it needs to be, it just won’t be an engaging narrative. Second, Jacob is not the villain. He’s not the antagonist against his own daughter; that has literally never been the case. I feel like that’s going to be something that the Batwoman writers are going to just not understand. He lied, yes, but Kate forgives him because, once she stopped burying her feelings and actually thought about what he did and why he said he did, she understood. It hurt, but in the end she agreed it was the right decision.

Even with the Colony she ended up agreeing; the only reason (and I think this is kind of a cop-out, but whatever) she’s not still part of it was because she didn’t want to end up mercy-killing Bruce in the future after he asked her to do so. Even though that future probably won’t come to pass because she’s aware of those events. But, whatever, I guess.

Regardless, Jacob needs to be supportive. They can butt heads, sure. They can argue, and be stubborn as hell towards each other, but never, never, can they be at one another’s throats. That’s just not something that either of them would do. Even when their relationship was at its most strained, which lead to Kate decking her dad in the face twice inside of like ten minutes, neither were in any real danger.

The Batman/That Night In The Alley

There needs to be one. Ideally, it’s just Bruce and that’s it. This one is pretty simple, but important. Kate does not become Batwoman without Batman existing to create that second flag for her to follow—that call to arms for her to heed. The symbol is what you make of it, and it’s not something Kate would ever have the idea to create in the first place. She needs to be a deviation, because vigilantism is so far outside of her realm of possibility that it literally needs somebody else to prove that such a thing is even feasible for her to consider it.

Additionally, as opposed to the embarrassing and tone-deaf adaptation of Kate’s drunken encounter with Batman as portrayed in Batman: Bad Blood, Kate really shouldn’t be rescued by Batman in any conventional manner when they meet. Other than that, it isn’t specifically important in how that first meeting plays out, though I can’t see a reason why they wouldn’t stick to the Elegy version, where she gets a helping hand out of the rain after drunkenly beating the piss out of a mugger and then looks to the sky to see the bat signal:

Renee Montoya

This show just isn’t going to work without Renee, and since the CW already half-assed it once with Floriana Lima’s “Maggie Sawyer”, then they can probably pull a decent Renee out of their butts. Since queer media without an explicit romance seems to be a tough sell to the wlw community (Black Lightning, the now-cancelled Batwoman Rebirth), Kate and Renee need to be some sort of thing for the show. At what stage in their relationship they are in isn’t really that relevant for the start of the series, but sticking with the on-again off-again dynamic for a while is inherently the most interesting and the one best suited for evolution of both characters.

Also, Renee isn’t a terribly difficult character to understand. She’s one of the few truly good cops in the GCPD, and she’s very smart. She’s a first-generation Dominican-American, and a Gotham native. Her parents are from the Dominican Republic and operate a grocery. She has an older brother. She had a Catholic upbringing. And she, like Kate, has to scream for her right to exist. Especially these days, which would really only make the whole damn show much stronger if they actually go where they should with that. Whether or not her parents are chill with her being gay is really up to the writers, but either version inevitably works. I think “lingering tension with acceptance” would probably be the most interesting place to go with that, though.

Honestly, Renee is like literally the easiest thing nail on this list. It was so easy that Christopher Nolan managed to do it in The Dark Knight with “Anna Ramirez”; they changed her name because Renee would never ever ever ever turn dirty regardless of what was at stake for her personally. 


I have so many ideas as to how they could pull this off as a surprise, some more clever than others, but ultimately removing Beth from the equation would be unwise. The connection she has with her sister, and the destruction of Beth’s agency paralleled with Kate’s refusal to have hers diminished is an important dynamic. Y’know, because, again, being the Batwoman is an active decision. Whether or not they just adapt Elegy faithfully and do the whole Religion of Crime thing is up in the air, but distinguishing Kate further from Batman is something that this show really needs to do. And Beth’s existence is not-being-dead is a strong step in that direction. Coupled with Kate’s relationship with Jacob, it really hammers home the importance of her literal family rather than Bruce’s typical emphasis of found family.


If we kept going into the way in which Kate is a hot mess and hilariously dramatic about her own bullshit, and yet also hyper genre-savvy, we’d be here literally all night, so this is as good a place as any to leave it. The thing is, while this list was fun to compile and exciting in its own way, I’m just not hopeful about the show. It has a chance of being decent. I get that things sometimes need to change with adaptation, but some things really just don’t work if you fuck with the foundation too much.

This list is the best foundation I can think of. Now we wait.

Images courtesy of DC

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