REVIEW: Batwoman’s “Mad as a Hatter” Chooses Found-Family Over Blood

Camrus Johnson as Batwing and Javicia Leslie as Batwoman.

Gotham City is in danger once again, and it’s up to Team-Batwoman to protect the people. But in the Batwoman Season 3 premiere, Batwoman and her fellow heroes are going to have to make some uneasy alliances if they hope to save the day.

Batwoman Season 3 Premiere
“Mad as a Hatter”

Holly Dale (director), Caroline Dries (writer)
Javicia Leslie, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, Victoria Cartagena (cast)
October 13, 2021

In the Batwoman Season 3 premiere, Ryan Wilder/Batwoman (Javicia Leslie) and Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) are on the hunt for Batman’s Rogues Gallery’s missing weapons. These dangerous trinkets were strewn all over Gotham harbour at the end of Season 2, and the duo needs to find them before these weapons fall into the wrong hands. But as we find out, it’s already too late. The Mad Hatter’s hat has made its way to Liam Crandle (Amitai Marmorstein), and he plans on using it to free his hero — Gotham’s most prolific criminal, Alice (Rachel Skarsten). This all comes to a head at Mary Hamilton-Kane’s (Nicole Kang) graduation day at Gotham University.

Following the excitement of a brand new Batwoman being cast for Season 2, this season opener felt a bit tepid. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Batwoman is the first superhero show with a queer Black woman as the lead, and I love that that it has been normalized to the point where her identity doesn’t need to be remarked upon, yet again, in the opener.

Javicia Leslie’s Ryan Wilder has well and truly made the role of Batwoman her own. Leslie has had a whole season to iron out Ryan’s relationship with the rest of Team Batwoman, which includes Luke Fox and Mary Hamilton-Kane. The three of them are pretty much a family throughout the Batwoman Season 3 premiere. As is Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy), the former second-in-command of the Crows, who left the organization due to rampant corruption and racism. Despite the initial animosity between Sophie and Ryan, we see they’ve put their differences aside and Sophie’s become a bonafide member of the Bat-family.

Javicia Leslie as Batwoman and Rachel Skarsten as Alice.
Katie Yu/The CW

As you can probably tell, family is at the heart of this episode. And what could be more queer than the concept of found-family winning over blood relatives? This idea is examined repeatedly in the Batwoman Season 3 premiere, primarily through Ryan. At the close of Season 2, Gotham villain Alice had dropped a bombshell on Ryan — that Ryan’s birth mother was not dead, but very much alive.

Alice holds this information over Ryan throughout the opening episode, even as she bides her time in Arkham Asylum. And it looks like Alice is going to be sticking around for a while. Even away from prying eyes, Alice continues to infect Gotham with her villainous ways.

The Batwoman Season 3 premiere also introduces us to a character I’m particularly excited to see — Victoria Cartagena’s Renee Montoya. This is the second time Cartagena is playing Renee — she portrayed the character in Gotham, but her role was severely curtailed by poor storytelling. This version of Renee is vastly different— for example, she doesn’t even work for the GCPD in Batwoman—but she’s just as determined to save her city as any superhero. We’ve already got a glimpse at how far Renee will go in this episode, and I cannot wait to see what she does for the remainder of the season.

A small personal highlight that I loved in this season opener was seeing Sophie Moore live her best queer life. Sophie spent the majority of the first season in the closet. When she finally came out to her mother, the reaction was…not great, and in the second season, Sophie was grieving Kate Kane’s death. Despite the fact that Kate was found alive eventually, Kate has since left both Gotham City and Sophie behind. But Sophie’s not letting that stop her from enjoying the gay scene, and I love that for her!

I’m intrigued to see how Luke Fox is going to develop over succeeding episodes. He’s gone from resident nerd in Season 1 to a superhero in a suit in the second. In the Batwoman Season 3 premiere, Luke discovers more about the suit his father left for him. I’m not sure what it means yet, but it seems like an important plot development for Luke. I do hope the season examines the aftermath of Luke’s near-death experience from last season a little more. Putting on a supersuit and punching bad guys can’t be the only healthy coping mechanism Luke has access to.

It’s interesting to see that the Batwoman Season 3 premiere isn’t afraid to lean into the gorier elements of Gotham. The Batman lore often reads like something out of a horror movie, and it looks like Batwoman is happy to explore those aspects. Season 2 had its bloody moments, but this premiere? Just don’t watch it during dinner like I did!

But gore aside, this episode had a little bit of everything that makes me love Batwoman. The characters, now a settled little family unit of their own, feel comfortable. Even Alice, who, as always, turns out to be as untrustworthy as everyone believes her to be, is comforting in her return to villainy.

The story had its twists and turns, though it wasn’t as impactful as last season’s premiere. The pacing was slower than I expected, but despite that, the Batwoman Season 3 premiere managed to make some very strong points about the medical industry in the United States. Mad Hatter may have been the villain of this episode, but he shared some harsh truths around issues that many have been discussing throughout the pandemic. But the question is, will the show continue to address these systemic issues like it did in Season 2?

Batwoman has never been afraid to take up a cause. In the first season, it was about queer rights; the second focused on racial and class inequalities. Could this season turn the spotlight on mental health issues? With Gotham City as a setting, I can’t see why not. DC Comics has a litany of villains with mental health concerns, but they’re mostly dehumanized or villainized. I feel the discussions over the last two years will help change that. I certainly hope that this season leans into getting the people of Gotham, even the villains, the right kind of help, instead of just criminalizing them.

I may not have been blown away by the Batwoman Season 3 premiere, but I don’t think that’s what the episode aims to do. The creative team behind Batwoman are asking some difficult questions through these well-known characters. They don’t always get it right, but they’re getting close. For me, this episode was comforting — despite the gore — and it emphasized the importance of found-family in a very organic way. The villains, the intrigue, the twists and turns, all that becomes secondary to what matters most—being with people (or characters) you actually love.

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books, or video games. E always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media. Louis' podcast, Stereo Geeks, is available on all major platforms. Pronouns: E/ Er/ Eir

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