Warning! SPOILERS for the Batwoman series premiere ahead!
Batwoman's series premiere establishes the character's origin in the Arrowverse, and there are some notable differences to how Kate Kane becomes Batwoman in the pages of DC Comics. Batwoman is the latest CW series to join the Arrowverse, but Kate Kane and her alter ego were first introduced in the crossover event, Elseworlds. Now, in Batwoman's pilot episode, audiences will learn how Kate came to become Gotham's newest protector.
This year will be an exciting one for Arrowverse fans thanks to the upcoming crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Based on an iconic and groundbreaking DC Comics event of the same name, Crisis on Infinite Earths is expected to dramatically alter the landscape of the many CW superhero series. The series that started it all, Arrow, will end this year, and other, previously non-Arrowverse DC characters like Black Lightning and even Smallville's Superman are becoming Arrowverse canon. Before any this happens, however, the Arrowverse's newest hero, Batwoman needs to be properly introduced.
The Batwoman pilot delivers a lot of information in a short amount of time, explaining who Kate Kane is and why she's taken on this new mission. It also introduces Batwoman's arch enemy, Alice - a dangerous and demented woman whose connection to Kate is much deeper than it at first appears. There are significant changes between the Alice in the comics and the one in the CW pilot, and similarly, there are differences in Batwoman's origin. Here are all the differences between Batwoman's comic book origin and the one seen in the Arrowverse:
Mother & Sister Killed by Terrorists, Not a Car Crash
Like another Gotham caped crusader, Kate's origin as Batwoman stems from tragedy - the deaths of her mother and sister. But where The CW series shows us Kate's mother and sister dying when their car falls from a bridge, in the comics they are kidnapped and murdered by a terrorist organization. The incident happens when the Kane family is living in Brussels, Belgium. Both Kate's father, Jacob and his first wife, Gabrielle worked for the U.S. military as intelligence officers, so the family moved frequently.
While out one day, Gabrielle, Kate, and Beth are kidnapped by terrorists, and by the time Jacob and the military locate them, Gabrielle and Beth have already been executed, leaving Kate the sole survivor of the attack. It's gruesome ordeal, and in the aftermath, Kate's relationship with her father is strained by their shared trauma, but it also leads to Kate wanting to emulate her father and pursue a career in the military.
Batman Wasn't There To Help Kate Kane
Besides the means by which Kate's mother and sister die, the other major difference is the presence of Batman. In the Batwoman pilot episode, the Kane's car is hit by a hijacked school bus that Batman is pursuing. When he arrives at the scene, the car is teetering over the edge of the bridge and he shoots two grapple lines to secure the vehicle before leaving. Kate crawls from the wreckage but before either her sister or mother can escape, the lines give way and the car plummets, killing them in the crash.
Ever since, Kate blames Batman for her mother and sister's deaths, believing that him more interested in catching the bad guys than helping people. In the comics, however, Batman is not present during the terrible events that kill Kate's mother and sister in the comics, but he does still come to inspire something else in Kate - purpose.
Kate Kane & Bruce Wayne Aren't Close as Children
It's no secret to fans of both DC Comics and The CW's lineup of Arrowverse shows that Kate Kane is the cousin of Bruce Wayne, but prior to becoming vigilantes, they are not at all close in comics the way the Batwoman pilot depicts them. The episode makes a point of Bruce being there for Kate following the deaths of her mother and sister, acting like her big brother - something he probably felt he must do considering his guilt over being unable to save his own aunt and cousin.
In the comics, though, their families weren't known to have interacted much when Kate and Bruce were children. As adults, Kate and Bruce know each other but they aren't especially close. That is, until Kate herself is attacked by a mugger one night in Gotham and fights back, but before she can seriously injure the man, Batman intercedes. The chance meeting with Batman leads Kate to realize that she too can use her skills to become a vigilante and protect Gotham, and in doing so, Kate and Bruce eventually uncover each other's secret identities and become closer as allies and as family.
Kate Wants To Be A Marine, Not a Crow
Another large part of Kate's origin as Batwoman in the comics stems from her being unable to pursue her dream of becoming a U.S. Marine because she's lesbian. The Batwoman CW series keeps this same core idea but alters it slightly, swapping out the dream of becoming a Marine with joining her father's security company, The Crows. (In the comics, The Crows are actually a name for a group of Jacob's old buddies from his days in the military. All former special ops soldiers, they help train Kate as Batwoman once her father learns of her intentions and agrees to help.)
In the comics, Kate attends not just any military academy, but the prestigious West Point, where she excels. While there, she begins a romantic relationship with another cadet, Sophie, similar to what we see happen in the CW pilot. However, instead of being caught, Kate is anonymously accused and when confronted by her superior officer, she refuses to deny her homosexuality and is discharged. After being kicked out of the military, Kate lives aimlessly, spending all her time drinking and partying, only cleaning up her act after her encounter with Batman.
For her Arrowverse origin, Kate is only attending the military academy as compromise with her father, who doesn't want her joining The Crows, but she's again discharged because her sexuality. Instead of becoming a party girl, though, the CW's Kate continues her training by traveling the world, and she only supplants her dream of joining The Crows with becoming Batwoman after discovering the truth about her cousin.
Kate Protects Sophie From Being Outed
When originally written, Kate's dismissal from West Point came under the era of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the U.S. military's policy that prohibited discrimination but still barred members from serving while being openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In which case, it's Kate's refusal to deny her homosexuality that gets her kicked out, not her being a lesbian, specifically. Not that the distinction matters much in the end, but this moment serves to establish Kate's strong sense of integrity - as does her refusal to involve Sophie, not wanting to also jeopardize her military career. When Kate runs into Sophie years later, she has in fact progressed far in the military, rising to rank of colonel and working as a teacher at a military college.
In the the Batwoman pilot, though, Sophie is found out just the same as Kate, but she chooses to deny her homosexuality and remain at the academy. This leads to Sophie joining the military proper and eventually The Crows as well, essentially stealing Kate's dream along with breaking her heart. Still, Sophie's actions aren't depicted as being malicious but rather necessary given the hostility that still exists within such organizations even after policies like Don't Ask, Don't Tell have been repealed. When Kate is later reunited with Sophie, she's married to a man, confirming that Sophie has been living her life as a closeted homosexual. However, Sophie reaction to being rescued by Batwoman implies that the CW's Batwoman will continue exploring Sophie's sexual orientation and identity, using both her and Kate's experiences to offer up new perspectives for the Arrowverse.
Batwoman season 1 airs Sundays on The CW.