Batwoman Is the Gayest Non-The L Word Thing on TV so Far This Year

I’m going to describe some storylines from one teevee show that has aired thus far in 2020 and you tell me what teevee show I’m talking about, okay?

A lesbian protagonist returns to her hometown because her ex-girlfriend who shattered her heart into a badrillion pieces is in trouble. Once the ex is out of trouble, she reveals she still has feelings for the lesbian protagonist — and also is married. The lesbian protagonist tries to move on with a cool girl she met at a party, while her ex looks on jealously, but she just can’t commit. Meanwhile, the lesbian protagonist’s rebound from the time her heart was in a badrillion pieces shows up, flirts with the lesbian protagonist, bounces, shows back up and rolls around on the floor with the heartbreaking ex-girlfriend, and then makes out with the lesbian protagonist. The heartbreaking ex-girlfriend, while still in love with the lesbian protagonist, is also making a habit of smooching the lesbian protagonist’s alter-ego on rooftops in the moonlight. A significant amount of this action takes place in a gay bar owned by the lesbian protagonist. The lesbian protagonist’s solo brooding usually happens in front of a Pride flag. Also, there is an angsty lesbian teen and a bisexual vampire.

You think I’m talking about The L Word, don’t you? Well, I am not! I am talking about Batwoman, which has, in 16 episodes on the CW, displayed more gayness than any show besides The L Word this year. I don’t just mean the quantity of characters, though that’s part of it. There’s Kate Kane/Batwoman (played by queer nonbinary heartthrob Ruby Rose). Overachieving badass Sophie Moore. Reagan the cool gay bartender. Julia Pennyworth, Alfred’s daughter and MI6 agent and Kate’s less dwelled upon ex. Nocturna, the now Arkham-ed vampire. But also a litany of gay storylines! Obviously there’s romance, and a whole lot of it! But there are also comings out (three different ones in three different ways, so far)! And queer friendships! And, most impressively, there’s just a queer sensibility to the entire series, which makes sense because Caroline Dries, Batwoman‘s showrunner, is gay and so are many of the writers and directors of season one.

Never was that sensibility more obvious than in “Through The Looking Glass,” the last episode that aired before Batwoman went on its spring hiatus. With a hit out on Sophie, Julia shows back up in Gotham and saves her life, topping her — er, tackling her to the floor as a bullet whizzes through a window. They investigate the source of the hit, traipsing around Gotham and staring at each other intensely in the eyes, and confirming to Mary that they both know they’re Kate’s exes. They even hit up a safe house together, and take turns individually checking in on Kate — who is having a day after accidentally-on-purpose killing the guy who kidnapped and tortured her twin sister and burying him under a bridge — without the other one knowing. But just when it seems like maybe Sophie and Julia are going to close the gap on Gotham’s hook-up chart, Julia hops up and out and finds Kate sitting on a literal ledge, and smooches her instead. A tangled web of exes who still love you and have chemistry with each other is just the gayest possible thing.

When I first started watching this series, I approached it the way I do all TV in this, the 11th year of being a full-time lesbian TV critic: with extreme trepidation and a hope that the writers would just avoid the most obvious pitfalls. It became immediately obvious that Batwoman’s team was going to hurdle the tropes most shows — and many creatives who have taken Batwoman out for a spin in the comic books — trip over with ease, and in doing so make this series their own.

Batwoman is, by far, most famous lesbian superhero, and this is her gayest incarnation yet.

If you haven’t started Batwoman, now’s the perfect time to get caught up, before the show returns on April 26th for the last episodes of season one.

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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 978 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. Glad to see it’s coming back this year. And conveniently on my Birthday! I hope your recovery continues well Heather. Your first-person article was hard to read and I bet even harder to write, but it was exactly what I needed to hear after finding out my sister got COVID-19. Thank you for everything you do for Autostraddle and this community. Stay healthy!

  2. Yeah, I have to say that Batwoman has gotten better and better with each episode, and I don’t just mean in terms of gay rep, but also just in terms of quality. As to the gay rep, they’ve walked a fine line between queer nods to us gays in the audience, but also not alienating straight audiences who may not pick up on the stuff that screams to us :)

    And yeah, I think with a bunch of the tropes you mention Heather that they could have tripped over, they’re playing with them and subverting them rather than trying to avoid them (and hence replicating them).

    It’s a gay old time … and while I so so love Mary (Nicole Kang) – she must be protected AT ALL COSTS (plus, come on Mary, let Kate know you know) – god my crush on Sophie (Meagan Tandy) no know bounds WHATSOEVER *swoon*

  3. I love this show SO MUCH. I miss Reagan—I keep hoping she and Kate will work together at some point and get back together. But Julia is even more fantastic, and I hope she and Kate are a thing for awhile. I like Sophie, but she has too much to work on herself before I can ship them.

    Mary is my fave, though, and I can’t wait for Kate to find out she knows.

  4. I’m so glad Sophie got a coming out episode; it was definitely needed for her character to turn the character from someone so many fans disliked. There was some shaky writing for Sophie from the jump, and her coming out to her mom felt sort of trope-y for a black queer character – but I’m excited about this new plot line around corruption in the CROWS (DUH) and the new possibilities with her fully out!

    This show is SO GOOD and I feel so blessed, though this past episode hurt my feelings in *multiple* ways.

  5. I like to give shows, especially CW shows, a pass on their first season, because they’re usually still finding their footing with the writing, and finding out who these characters really are and how they interact with each other. If this is just where we’re starting off, I’m anticipating Batwoman becoming my favorite CW show maybe ever!

  6. I love this review! Highlighting how gay it is is perfect! It feels like so long since we’ve had an episode with all that’s going on so I’m so glad we have a date for more! Sending you love in your recovery Heather!

  7. Ah finally. This so is so queer from the creators to the freaking costume designer (who is just really really cool). The first few eps were so SO bad and then…they weren’t. They started getting better DESPITE the writing, I feel that actors started to grow into their characters.

    I feel like the show still does one insanely bad thing an episode and can’t quite comment to relationship angst that it needs, but it’s getting there. It really is.

    I wonder if anyone is doing recaps.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this article! I’m living in South Korea right now as an ESL teacher so anything having to do with the LGBT community is nonexistent and unavailable for the most part. I’m (hopefully) returning to the States in September so I’ll have this show to look forward to watching when I get back and your article has reminded me of that! It’s going to feel incredible to come back and have access to ALL THINGS GAY again :)

  9. I usually know what to expect when I sign-up for a CW show, but I thought Batwoman met/exceeded expectations. I think the casting in the show is really great (especially Alice!), and I am honestly looking forward to Season 2! I managed to power through the entire season in two days…so…there’s that.

  10. Excellent article, Heather. It’s simply fantastic to have this show being so gay! And ah yes, all the gorgeous women in it are … what makes it almost perfect. (yeah the writing was a bit lame in the beginning, but it has improved much. Looking forward to more….

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