Camrus Johnson

Batwoman (2019) s01e08 – A Mad Tea-Party

This episode has Sam Littlefield’s character—just the character, not Littlefield himself, which is great because Littlefield’s awful—but Littlefield’s character is impersonating Dougray Scott, who’s also terrible. Only when Scott’s pretending to be Littlefield pretending to be Scott, Scott’s almost all right. Scott has some regular scenes too. Big weepy scenes where a better actor would be able to get a lot of mileage out of the emotion but Scott’s just terrible. Some of it’s the writing of course; Scott’s a brutal mercenary the show wants us to “like.” Similarly his wife Elizabeth Anweis is an arms manufacturer—one of the subplots involves Anweis making chemical weapons—so it’s difficult to find the characters sympathetic. Without realizing it (because the show, a true CW show, is all about gaping at ostentatious displays of wealth), the only humanizing thing in the show is Nicole Kang.

Kang’s great this episode, even though there’s plenty of nonsense for her to act through. While she’s got drama with “dad” Scott and mom Anweis, Ruby Rose is busying trying to contain psychotic villain and her twin sister Alice (Rachel Skarsten, who’s still good but not as good as usual). The way things shake out Rose doesn’t just play second or third fiddle, she ends up fifth—behind Kang, Skarsten, Meagan Tandy (who doesn’t do much this episode but is in it a lot because she and husband Greyston Holt need to fight about Tandy’s relationship with Rose), and then Rose’s fight double. There’s a great Batwoman action sequence where it’s very obviously not Rose. But great Batwoman action. Pretty much makes the episode.

Then there’s some tragedy and protracted final dramatics, along with a bad scene between Scott and Rose. Some of the writing—from Nancy Kiu—is really strong, but then most of it’s not. And the plotting is silly and manipulative, especially the cliffhanger. Of course, then there’s the added cliffhanger setting up Crisis, which takes over the show next episode at the worst time. This episode irrevocably changes the ground situation, next week’s a crossover, then it’s basically on hiatus for a month.

Also weird is how last episode established a new normal for Rose and the supporting players and this episode flips that switch in a third direction.

But, hey, the Batwoman action sequence was awesome.

Batwoman (2019) s01e07 – Tell Me the Truth

Oh, good, just what “Batwoman” needs, a whole episode dedicated to the acting stylings of Meagan Tandy.

Sadly, I’m being facetious.

This episode gets into Tandy’s knowledge of Batwoman’s identity and her not entirely forthcoming marriage to Greyston Holt (she neglected to every tell him she had a three year romantic relationship with a woman). As a sniper takes out the creators of a gun able to kill Batman (or Batwoman), Ruby Rose tries to deal with the Tandy knowing her secret identity thing while Tandy finally decides to tell Holt what’s up.

But there’s still one more secret from Tandy, whose relationship with Dougray Scott is a little more complicated than previously revealed. In fact, when away on a mission Scott leaves a message for his “kid,” you can’t believe he’s talking so warmly or openly to Rose. Though maybe it’s Nicole Kang. Even though Kang and Scott haven’t had many (any?) scenes together, she’s broken up about the impending family dissolution. Scott’s divorcing Kang’s mom, Elizabeth Anweis, because Anweis lied to him about his daughter being dead so he’d stop looking and marry her, something Rose and King never discuss in the episode because addressing big family problems isn’t “Batwoman”’s thing.

The sniper stuff gets resolved too quick—without any solid Batwoman action scenes either—but guest star Christina Wolfe brings some life to it as Alfred the butler’s secret agent daughter. She’s got a history with both Camrus Johnson (they’re pals) and Rose (back when Rose got drummed out of military school for coming out of the closet, Batman sent Wolfe to keep tabs on Rose; Wolfe ended up seducing her, then telling her she was a babysitter).

Rose’s getting better, but every time she’s got a scene with Tandy it throws the progress back. But at least the end of the episode implies they’ve got an idea of where to take Rose without that tedious subplot. Unless it’s yet another two episode arc for her, like the last girlfriend.

Rachel Skarsten has a few scenes and she’s good as always. Sam Littlefield shows up in at least one of them. He’s bad as always.

Seven episodes in and “Batwoman” still feels way too unsure.

Batwoman (2019) s01e06 – I’ll Be Judge, I’ll Be Jury

“Batwoman” has a Dougray Scott problem. The show keeps giving him material he can’t do or does poorly (versus Ruby Rose, who sometimes doesn’t even try when the material isn’t working with her). It’s getting particularly annoying as Rose is getting better and Scott’s going to screw up her character development.

Some of Rose’s improvement has to do with more Batwoman screen time. Rose’s better at Batwoman than Kate Kane because Kate Kane is still badly written. She just looks at evidence at her dad’s, goes off to cowl-up, bickers a little with Camrus Johnson who ends up with the incredibly odd optics of being the Black man defending white police and prosecutors who get busted falsifying evidence to falsely convict other Black men. She’s got no relationship with anyone besides Scott this episode, which doesn’t go well because Scott’s profoundly not good. He tries really hard and it’s such a fail. Rose doesn’t show any personality until she’s in the cowl, which is great because she’s got to show personality while costumed up, it’s more important to the show’s success given it’s a flipping superhero show. But making it about a mercenary finding his heart and then casting Scott in that role… big fail.

Other big fail this episode? Saddling Nicole Kang once again with Meagan Tandy; Tandy’s so bad she drags Kang down this episode. It’s a real bummer. Kang’s the highlight of “Batwoman,” Tandy’s one of its thorns. Though the script doesn’t help Tandy any. She’s just playing the thin catty villain part as written.

As for series villain Rachel Skarsten… she’s great. Unfortunately her newly revealed sidekick, Sam Littlefield, is not great. In fact, he’s fairly bad. It’s not an easy part, I get it; son of child-murdering and child-kidnapping evil plastic surgeon who revolts to save “sister” Skarsten—not easy stuff. But Skarsten manages to do it well and Littlefield doesn’t. “Batwoman”’s got a lot of casting issues. Yes, filming in Chicago means it looks like Dark Knight and not like Vancouver, but in Vancouver maybe you could’ve afforded better actors.

Or at least actors who patently cannot do the roles they’re in.

Batwoman (2019) s01e05 – Mine Is a Long and a Sad Tale

This episode has no awesome Batwoman action. The only Batwoman action scene is not very good, in fact. It’s all that stealthy Batman Begins type action as Batwoman breaks into estranged sister and supervillain Alice’s base and takes her prisoner, presumably leaving all the thugs unconscious… even though they then wake up and start attacking the dad.

While Ruby Rose doesn’t emote a lot, not even when she finds out she’s been duped or made a terrible decision or really not thought out her plans, which should be a bad thing but somehow isn’t. Like the aloof quality makes all Rose is processing—finding out long dead sister is alive and supervillain, becoming Batwoman, dating life, whatever—seem a lot more reasonable. Because the way the show is handling Rose and Rachel Skarsten (as the supervillain sister) is actually fairly impressive. It helps Skarsten’s good, but the plotting of the reveals and the character development is solid stuff. The show doesn’t shy away from the big twist, instead going further than just embracing it and making it the whole show. “Batwoman” is about Rose and Skarsten. The Bat-branding is adornment.

Also good this episode is step-sister Nicole Kang freaking out after she finds out her mom, shady defense contractor Elizabeth Anweis, did something really shady and hurtful. Kang ends up hanging out with Camrus Johnson (while looking for Rose) for much of the episode, annoying him in the most amusing ways. Kang’s the show’s best actor and Johnson’s good at the humor so it’s really fun to see them together. Especially since the other B plot is Meagan Tandy and Dougray Scott trying to find Rose and Skarsten.

Saying Tandy and Scott are utterly charmless is about the most complimentary observation one could make based on this episode. Mostly because they’re so terribly miscast.

But it’s a surprisingly solid episode. Like, impressively so. It proves it doesn’t need good Batwoman action scenes to succeed, not when it knows how to leverage Skarsten and Kang.

Batwoman (2019) s01e04 – Who Are You?

I didn’t pay enough attention during the opening so I didn’t realize Rachel Matthews’s Magpie was going to have the stupid neon wig. Magpie’s the villain from John Byrne’s Batman and Superman team-up issue of Man of Steel. “Batwoman” could score some major points if Magpie was awesome.

Magpie is not awesome. Magpie is incredibly not awesome. The wig, the whole thing (even though the original Magpie was ableist). Not a score for “Batwoman.”

Good thing the show’s got a newly discovered secret weapon—the Batwoman action, with Ruby Rose in the costume, is freaking awesome. Batwoman and Nicole Kang (who plays Rose’s currently estranged step-sister)? Awesome. Rose has got the “in the suit” stuff down. There are still some problems with that stupid narration, of course, but giving her a girlfriend—Brianne Howey from the unappreciated “The Passage”—and some romance and bad dating because superhero stuff? Especially shot on location exteriors in Chicago. Chicago’s a weird Gotham (it’s a Dark Knight thing, isn’t it?) but it works for Rose’s romantic drama.

The dating gives Rose some personality, which nothing else in the show has done yet far. Probably because original apple of her eye was inert Meagan Tandy. Plus Rose and flunky Camrus Johnson are finally getting the rapport down, as the episode involves the incredibly unlikely loaning of Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace—you know, from when she died—to a museum. The show’s Batman legend is either going to be incredibly interesting or incredibly dumb because Batman hunting down his dead mom’s pearl necklace to cherish then leaves it behind when he goes into self-exile. So weird. Though I guess if the show sets its Bruce Wayne up as The Dark Knight trilogy one… it could get away with it. Something. I don’t know.

It’s just silly and not in a good way. It ought to be more creative. Like the Batwoman action, which gives you that wonderful feeling of reading a good seventies Batman comic. Probably with a dumb villain but definitely with some great art. It earns “Batwoman” a special place, at least temporarily. There hasn’t been a good live-action Batman movie in a while. “Batwoman”’s not pushing that limited sub-genre envelope but its definitely considering it. The action sequences might even be cool.

Also… turns out the Dougray Scott part has potential. Not with Scott playing it, but if they’d gotten the right actor, it’d have been something.

Batwoman (2019) s01e03 – Down Down Down

Ruby Rose flirts with a bartender played by Brianne Howey from “The Passage,” which basically makes the episode. It's in the middle of Rose investigating Tommy Elliot (Gabriel Mann in a part he really ought to appreciate more), billionaire pal to Bruce Wayne who seems to know about Bruce’s other life. Rose has time for the investigation because Rachel Skarsten is taking it somewhat easy this episode.

Howey’s the first modern working actor to show up. Recognizable to me anyway. She adds a lot of class to the product. They didn't cast down acting-wise for a Rose love interest, they casted up.

The stuff with Mann gets a little too long in the tooth and must be even less interesting to people who don't know he's going to be coming back as villain Hush. The show’s doing long-term planning by episode three… which is confident, perhaps overly so.

The best parts of the episode, other than involve Rose’s step-sister Nicole Kang. She's stuck at Mann’s party, which ends up being an attempt to draw out the not available Batman (the city thinks Rose’s Batwoman is the original male model), and in danger, with only Meagan Tandy (Rose’s ex) and her dimwit husband Greyston Holt to protect her. Holt doesn't know Tandy used to be with Rose (or is bi) and Kang has a lot of fun teasing the situation. Even though Rose and Kang are on the outs from last episode, Kang’s still getting a lot, which is good. Kang’s the best regular cast member… Skarsten might usurp that title but not yet.

Speaking of Skarsten, she gets the C plot this episode. The plotting details on whether Skarsten is Rose’s long lost twin sister aren't amazing—they're trying not to be too confusing—but the pacing of the plot is good. Even in this episode, which gets a little long.

Of course, if it didn't have Rose’s terrible letters to Cousin Bruce as narration, it might not seem so long. They're really, really bad. They seem bad at the beginning of the episode, then they get worse. The last one implies the first three episodes are the real pilot too—Rose gets her full Batwoman outfit for the last fight, along with portentous “I will not fail my city” narration nonsense.

So a significant dip down from last episode, but not necessarily in as bad of shape as after the actual pilot.

Batwoman (2019) s01e02 – The Rabbit Hole

It’s a much better episode. While it’s not great, it’s at least enjoyable this time. The direction’s a lot better than the pilot; there’s not a lot of Batwoman action, but there’s a lot of action. Including civilian Nicole Kang having to defend herself from a bad guy because the show’s all in on the Batwoman (Ruby Rose) and Alice (Rachel Skarsten) are sisters and step-sister Kong is making Skarsten jealous by the end. It’s impressive, how immediately and seriously the show takes the whole sisters arc. Rose isn’t… great but she’s not bad and she’s definitely getting better. The show’s got a weird narrative distance with her, a lot more comfortable with Skarsten’s villain or even dad Dougray Scott’s private military force thing. The show’s desperate to namedrop Batman and Bruce Wayne, all of it entirely on Rose, and it’s all pointless.

There’s some really bad narration—Rose’s emails to Bruce or something—and it stalls the show’s momentum. But it doesn’t kill it, because this episode’s pretty good.

The weakest link—other than Scott, whose not Dennis Quaid enough for this part—is ex-girlfriend Meagan Tandy. She and Rose get thrown together, but they don’t have much energy and even less chemistry. The stuff with Rose and Skarsten—and there’s a ton of it; like I said, show’s going all in on it—that stuff’s good. It makes the episode and seems like it’ll help make the show.

And Kang’s really good. Yes, she’s got an interesting character built-in—ostensibly stupid famous social media influencer is actually a genius medical student who runs an underground clinic but Kang brings the right personality to the part. “Batwoman”’s got a tenuous grasp of its own reality and Kang’s a great grounding force. She makes Rose and Scott and all their nonsense seem a little less unreal, whereas Tandy just brings out the absurdity.

As the seemingly duplicitous mom to Kang, step-mom to Rose, Elizabeth Anweis is way too low energy. Though it could also be the thin part.

But, big improvement. Enjoyable episode. What more do you want.

Batwoman (2019) s01e01 – Pilot

“Batwoman,” at least for the pilot, gets a “Sure, you can maybe get away with this.” It’d be nicer if someone was excited about it. No one on “Batwoman” seems very excited. Except Rachel Skarsten as the villain, Alice (like in Wonderland). Skarsten’s awesome. So good you don’t even understand how it’s happening because there’s nothing to suggest anyone was actually going to be really good in the show. The fight choreography is promising, but the direction this episode—by Marcos Siega—is terrible. And they don’t have the effects shots down. Like the matte shots. What ought to be really simple stuff.

Because right now “Batwoman” feels like the most expensive shot in Canada nineties action show ever. Somehow they’re filming some exteriors in Chicago, but it only makes the show feel more Canadian. In that nineties period. It’s not a great vibe. And it’s a really peculiar one, given its supposed to be the new flagship CW Arrowverse show. And it feels like… first season “Arrow.” Only mixed with trailer moments from Nicholas Sparks adaptations when it comes to lead Ruby Rose’s flashbacks. She’s got all sorts of heartache—in childhood, her mom and sister died after Batman didn’t hang around to make sure his batarangs held, then in military academy she got busted out because she’s gay. Worse thing—because she’s also really rich so getting busted out doesn’t matter, but it’s really bad because girlfriend Meagan Tandy stayed (renouncing or denouncing the behavior). In the show’s timeline it’d be Gulf War II era, which it never feels like. The flashbacks just have a lot of filtered lighting, no real personality.

It’s kind of a big miss. Like, they didn’t take this seriously enough and then hired someone really good to cut Rachel Maddow doing a radio talk show host talking about Batman’s return over footage of the city inhabitants rejoicing. It’s a lot better done than anything else in the pilot, which fails Rose, mostly because it sets her up for all sorts of dramatic developments and instead just reveals she never knows what’s really going on and she’s (so far) always wrong about it.

Weird place to put the hero. Only, given the way the show’s structured and the importance of dad and man who forever won’t be James Howlett Dougray Scott, Rose doesn’t feel like the protagonist. And why’s she training to be an elite private army stormtrooper up in the Arctic with what seems to be a old Native American wise man stereotype from the 1940s. It’s really weird. And starts the show on an odd foot.

And the pilot doesn’t set up the show. It’s a bad pilot.

Nicole Kang is really good as Rose’s stepsister. Elizabeth Anweis is not really good as Rose’s stepmom. She’s kind of bad. But Kang’s good.

The show’s taking itself too seriously and, rather annoyingly, never in the right places. It’s that lack of enthusiasm. It all feels perfunctory, not creative. Not even in a craven way.

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