Um… I wanna talk about this show. Nope, not for any particular reason other than I feel like it. Well, okay, so there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s why I’m here: to talk about it.
What is BIRDS OF PREY, you may ask. It’s based loosely on the series of DC comic books of the same name. In the comics, the basic premise is taking a trio or so of DC’s most bad-ass women, such as Oracle (Batgirl post-“Killing Joke,”), Huntress, and Black Canary, and a rotating roster mostly consisting of other female superheroes and the occasional male going around fighting crime and what have you. This TV show is similar, but strays heavily from its source material, as many adaptations used to do. Such as, no one in Gotham actually knew about metahumans? No one knew about Batman and his bat-family with some notable exceptions? Really? That’s… a special kind of “what?” I don’t think there’s a single published comic in the DC library that ever had it that the likes of Batman and Superman weren’t known to the general public. But fine, if that’s the premise you wanna go with, then I’ll have to accept… begrudgingly. Oh, and Catwoman was a metahuman. Yeah, really. As in, she had amazing cat-powers, I guess. I don’t know, man, you explain that one. This is only the tip of the iceberg too.
How, you may ask, did I get into this show in the first place? Well, unlike most, it wasn’t because I watched it in its initial airing. No, I didn’t even find out about this show until years later. But do you know what I was a huge fan of at the time? The 2003 surprise hit film, UNDERWORLD.
So one day, I’m walking through the aisles of my local Fry’s Electronics, because I hadn’t yet discovered Amazon at the time, I was browsing the DVD collections when something caught my eye. Why, what could it be, you may ask?
Oh, now wait just one cotton-pickin’ minute!
“I don’t know who you are, you UNDERWORLD rip-off, but you go straight back to Hell where you belong!” I said to myself. I was so flabbergasted by how similar this cover was to the UNDERWORLD poster that, no joke, I never even bothered to look at the title of whatever this Underworld rip-off was. Actually, some fun speculation, you could make the very real argument that Underworld ripped its poster off from Birds of Prey, as the show aired from late 2002, and ended in early 2003. While I’m sure UNDERWORLD was either just starting to film, or in the middle of it, the film wasn’t released until September of 2003. But then again… both stories are set at night… prowling rooftops… night time has a tendency to have full moons, which look prettier than crescent moons… maybe it’s less that the posters are rip-offs of each other and more that they’re uninspired. I don’t know, something to laugh and make fun of.
Anyway, I can’t be sure of the exact time frame, but the image haunted me for a long time and I wanted to know what exactly that Underworld rip-off was. In time, I think I went back to Fry’s and found the box cover again and finally read the title, “Birds of Prey.” And it was a TV show, no less. I don’t think I bought it then and there. Instead, I put the title to memory and watched the show on Youtube. I think I liked it enough, so I bought it on DVD. Still have it in my collection even to this day.
But enough jibber-jabber.
Here’s the core cast. Starring, we have Ashley Scott, Dina Meyer, Rachel Skarsten, Shemar Moore, Ian Abercrombie, and Mia Sara.
Anything beyond this point is closer to fun facts about who the cast and crew are and what they went on to do. It’s pretty extensive for my tastes, so if you’d rather skip it and go straight to the review, CTRL-F and type HPO-R.
Now, there’s a couple of names on this list that even the average person may recognize, or at least the faces of, and those would be Dina Meyer and Shemar Moore. Meyer is likely the most recognized for one reason only: STARSHIP TROOPERS (1996), as Dizzy Flores, arguably the most popular character in the entire franchise, who would eventually reprise her role in the CG animated sequel, STARSHIP TROOPERS: TRAITOR OF MARS (2017). But she’s been in numerous other mainstream projects as well, including the first four Saw movies, PIRANHA 3D (2010), STAR TREK: NEMESIS (2002), among countless other TV shows, including an episode of one my favorite shows ever, CASTLE (2009 – 2016), where she humorously plays a dominatrix. Essentially, she’s not only arguably the best actress on this show, but is my favorite.
Then there’s Shemar Moore, who has been a series staple of mega hit TV shows CRIMINAL MINDS (2005 – 2017) and THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS (1973 – ongoing), and has gone on to do the current TV show S.W.A.T. (2017 – ongoing). But more than that, since his days on BIRDS OF PREY, he didn’t end up straying too far from the DC universe, having consistently played Cyborg in the animated Justice League films, JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. TEEN TITANS (2016), THRONE OF ATLANTIS (2015), and WAR (2014). So even if you superhero junkies out there don’t watch his TV shows, you’ve likely seen his voice work.
The rest of the cast is mostly a bunch of names you might not recognize, but you would recognize their work. Abercrombie lent his voice to Darth Sidious in STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, both the 2008 film and the TV show the followed, until his tragic death in 2012. He was also in RANGO (2011), MOUSEHUNT (1997), and THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997), in which he also played a butler. Skarsten has briefly been in films MOLLY’S GAME (2017), FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015), THE VOW (2012), and had a pretty prominent appearance for awhile in the hit TV show REIGN (2013 – 2017). Sara’s most notable film credit is FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986) as Sloane Peterson, but is probably the least recognized name. Scott’s certainly had some noteworthy appearances, like in the cult TV show JERICHO (2006 – 2008), which I will also find time to talk about someday, but she’s also had roles in films THE KINGDOM (2007), WALKING TALL (2004), and S.W.A.T. (2003), and most recently lent her voice to mega hit video game, THE LAST OF US (2013).
Now for the crew.
The series creator, Laeta Kalogridis, made her debut here, but has since gone on to have a pretty small, but surprisingly checkered career, having written for films like the critically panned ALEXANDER (2004) and TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015), the critical darling, SHUTTER ISLAND (2010), and is slated for the upcoming ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (2019).
Notable directors include Shawn Levy and James Marshall. Levy would go on to do all of the Night at the Museum films, as well as DATE NIGHT (2010) and REAL STEEL (2011), and even four episodes of STRANGER THINGS (2016 – ongoing). And Marshall would go on to do a few episodes of TV shows SMALLVILLE (2001 – 2011) and THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES (2016 – ongoing).
Some noteworthy writing credits. Both writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis would eventually go on to write for a many episodes of mega hit TV show LOST (2004 – 2010), and ultimately create ONCE UPON A TIME (2011 – ongoing), David G. Goodman would go on to write a few episodes of FRINGE (2008 – 2013), as well as a few episodes for ONCE UPON A TIME as well. Melissa Rosenberg is the only one with notable film credits, including STEP UP (2006) and all of the Twilight films, which I would consider a blasphemy upon humanity had she not made up for it in spades by creating my favorite Netflix Marvel show JESSICA JONES (2015 – ongoing).
Series cinematographer, Christopher Faloona would go on to do TV shows FALLING SKIES (2011 – 2015), POWERS (2015 – 2016), and BANSHEE (2013 – 2016), and even did MORTAL KOMBAT: CONQUEST (1998 – 1999), another criminally short-lived TV show that I should consider writing about in the future.
Now, even though this show only lasted one season and there’s only thirteen episodes, believe me, I could talk and ramble on about each and every one of them. But then this review would be way too long. For condensing purposes, I’m going to do a simple countdown of my top five favorite or best episodes, and bottom five least favorite or worst episodes. Let’s waste no more time.
This is my honest opinion of: BIRDS OF PREY
Once, Gotham had a secret underground war between Batman and the insidious Joker that few ever knew existed. At some point, Batman and metahuman Selena Kyle, aka Catwoman, had a daughter named Helena (Ashley Scott), whom Batman never knew about. Seven years ago, Batman stopped the Joker from doing something terrible, but the Joker escaped police custody and exacted his revenge. First, he had Selena murdered, leaving Helena a teenage orphan. The next victim was Batman’s protege, Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl (Dina Meyer), and shoots her. But not killing her, leaving her a paraplegic. In Batman’s grief he disappeared from New Gotham, never to be seen since.
Set seven years later in the future of New Gotham, Helena has adopted the superhero name, Huntress, as Gotham’s new secret guardian hero. Alongside Barbara, now calling herself Oracle, they take in a teenage girl named Dinah (Rachel Skarsten), who recently came to New Gotham seeking out visions that she’s had since childhood of both Helena and Barbara. She is taken in and the three ladies become a trio of crime fighters, while dealing with her personal problems, as well as the growing threat of a new organized crime boss.
#5 Worst/Least Favorite
Episode 1: PREMIERE
Starting off my countdown rather fitting with the very first episode of the series.
In this episode, Dinah arrives at New Gotham, seeking the mysterious women of her telepathic visions since she was a child. She witnesses the death of a stranger who died from seeing the thing he feared most and running into oncoming traffic. Though reluctant to accept her help, Dinah eventually meets Huntress and Oracle and helps them solve the mystery.
I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this episode played a huge part in the show’s lack of success. First impressions are everything in a TV show, especially if the plan is to stick around for awhile. Well, the series pilot was anything but a good start on almost every front. Smaller problems include Huntress’ very first outfit, which was trying WAY too hard to be sexy and gothic. Scott’s tits were trying to burst out of that corset, her hair all messy, a bit too much make-up, the works. Hell, in a future episode, she remarks that she can’t be a vigilante crime fighter without looking like an overgrown trick-or-treater. Well, she looked even worse that the overgrown trick-or-treaters in this pilot.
Some of the more technical aspects were pretty bad too. When you shine a laser pointer, does it make a sound? No, it doesn’t. But this episode thinks it makes a whooshing sound. In fact, much of Oracle’s coolest technology never makes a reappearance, so it’s a wonder why it was introduced at all. Alfred has a narration in the opening of the episode that prattles on and on, and most of it is unnecessary as the visuals tell enough of the story without him. Even worse, most, if not all, of his narration is rendered useless later on when Barbara literally tells us the backstory of this world again. So what was the point at all? And if the worst part of Harley Quinn’s reveal was simply it being too soon, then this wouldn’t be worth noting. But the whole point of her character, especially later on, is that her cover as a therapist is supposed to be legitimate, but she really isn’t, telling Helena that people are inherently selfish… and none of her words really affect anything in the future. And Helena has no reaction to this obvious bad therapist crap.
This first episode was horrendously laced in problems, probably moreso than many on this list, so you’re probably wondering why this isn’t lower. Well, there’s actually a few reasons. For one thing, it introduces us to Barbara and Wade Brixton (Shawn Christian), who maintains a hold as the saving grace for many episodes, including the bad or bland ones. I legitimately think they’re a cute couple, and the origins of their budding relationship is a corny, but an adorable start. Second, to be fair, Huntress’ awful outfit is the last time we ever see of it. Afterward, it’s T-shirts, leather pants, and trench coats. Bland, but better than ghastly. Third, Aaron Paul. Yeah, no kidding, the very same Aaron Paul from the hugely popular and well-received TV show BREAKING BAD (2008 – 2013) made one of his very first TV appearances in this episode as a dude that Dinah meets on the bus to New Gotham, and ends up leading her to a dark and deserted neighborhood where likely plans to do unspeakable things to her, only to get his ass kicked by Huntress. We never see him again, but it’s such a funny sight.
And lastly, and this is the biggest kicker, Mark Hamill reprises his role as the voice of the Joker! It’s only in the opening, never revisited, oh so brief, and it’s not really him in the make-up, but it’s such a cool idea to know that this was the closest we ever got to a live-action performance with Hamill as the Joker. In my opinion, for as bad as this episode got, it’s lucky it had so much working for it that ultimately, it made up for many of its flaws with its positives, even if they weren’t aware of how cool they were going to be.
Episode 11: REUNION
In this episode, Helena is nearing her New Gotham High School’s five year anniversary and she is none too happy about it as all of her obnoxious former classmates make themselves known. But things get complicated when a metahuman with camouflaging abilities starts killing off her classmates one by one. Despite her reservations about attending the reunion, she has to in order to know who it is. Meanwhile, Detective Reese is getting dangerously close to discovering Huntress’ secret identity as he investigates the deaths.
Now, there are some problems to address. For one thing, this episode tries really hard to dive more into Helena’s problems with her father, but says nothing that we haven’t learned before, which all seem pretty unfair. Batman never learned that Helena was his daughter, so why does she hate him so much? Isn’t that more her mom’s decision that screwed her over in that regard?
Beyond that, there’s enough to enjoy and even learn. We learn that Helena and Gibson (Rob Benedict) are the same age because they went to high school together, same graduating class. There’s some funny reactions, the villain is beyond silly in the “so bad, it’s kind of amazing” way, and it’s pretty cute to see Helena be so blushed when faced with her high school crush, Jack Barrett (Christopher Wiehl).
Speaking of Jack/Christopher Wiehl, let’s talk about how amazingly funny this ends up being. Maybe not necessarily in terms of the show itself, but… let me set this up for you. At some point in the episode, Helena says to him, “Now’s just not a good time,” to which Jack responds with, “So you’re saying there… could be a good time?” To which I now respond with, “Yes, Jack. There will be a good time. Three years, to be precise.” What do I mean you may ask?
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! Jack and Helena get a happy ending! Eh, sort of. But Scott and Wiehl do play a married couple in the show, JERICHO. Wiehl’s role is brief, only in a few episodes himself, but it’s still incredibly funny to see these two reunite. I wonder what the story is here, if there even is one. Did the two just hit it off in real life and when looking to cast the role of her character’s husband, did Scott remember Wiehl and suggest him? Or was it basically stars freakin’ aligned, they just happened to get reunited like that?! Either way, this is absolutely too rich for me to ignore and I always look forward to this episode if only for the knowledge of where the actors’ careers would lead to. “Reunion” indeed. Ha!
#4 Worst/Least Favorite
Episode 6: PRIMAL SCREAM
In this episode, Huntress and Detective Jesse Reese (Shemar Moore) decide to work together to take down a group of masked thieves by sending her undercover as one of them and hopefully catch them in the act. But things are really rocky as the two have a hard time trusting each other and when new details emerge, they have different ideas on how to proceed, which costs both of them on personal levels.
On the one hand, this should be a better episode than it is. It’s Helena essentially learning what it was like for her mother to be a thief and in a bizarre way, to know more about her, as well as an episode that further explores Helena’s relationship with Reese.
Sadly, the episode is more annoying than you might think. For one thing, it just feels like there’s no real surprises. Take a character who already plays fast and loose with the law and put them in a situation that makes them go full criminal. Even if it’s just an act, it feels like everything happens a little too on the nose. Disagreements that tear them apart, doing the whole “third act moping and doping” thing that movies do, someone gets hurt causing an even bigger rift between the two, but knowing that they’ll get back on good terms by the end, as well as character choices that don’t really make the most sense, it’s a load of tired clichés.
The only real upside to the episode is the ending with Helena and Dinah as the two have a heart to heart talk about how similar they really are and their relationships with the sides of their mothers that they never really knew. It’s a well-done bonding scene that does save the episode to a very small degree. Beyond this, not a whole lot that’s worth it.
Episode 9: NATURE OF THE BEAST
In this episode, Al Hawke (Mitch Pileggi) has escaped prison and undergone some major facial surgery, becoming completely unrecognizable, but someone’s out to assassinate him and needs help to be protected, and Reese tries to enlist Huntress, despite Hawke’s past transgressions against the Birds.
The only real problem with this is the actor for Hawke. Oh, I don’t mean that Pileggi is a bad actor or anything, but just… when this episode says that the character Hawke got serious facial reconstruction, it’s so obvious that it’s just a different actor. Like, he’s younger, taller, chubbier, different bone structure, and not a single scar anywhere on his face, it’s laughable how much this episode expects us to buy into it.
Beyond this, this is definitely one of the better episodes of the show. It’s basically telling two stories. On the one hand, it further explores Helena and Reese’s relationship and how they learn more about each other, and we learn why Reese became a cop in the first place, a great acting job by Shemar Moore, and legitimately makes Reese a great character here. But an even brighter spotlight shines on Skarsten. Dinah really struggles with how the Birds are involved with Hawke’s protection and has only one thing in mind: revenge. Skarsten’s performance is the perfect blend of rage, and pain, making this arguably her best acting in the entire show. A real force to be reckoned with, both as an actress, and Dinah as an enemy to both her friends and her own enemies. The moralities are challenging, character choices are surprising and heartfelt, it’s an all around great episode.
#3 Worst/Least Favorite
Episode 10: GLADIATRIX
In this episode, Dinah’s training is finally paying off and is given the chance to join Helena on patrol and take down her first bad guy, who happens to a one eyed creeper named Malcolm (Donovan Leitch Jr.) who happens to be kidnapping women for his underground fight club where shady men bet on women who fight to the death using a special rage-inducing drug. In Helena’s pursuit of Malcolm, she inadvertently gets caught up into the fight club and becomes another unwilling participant and it’s up to Dinah to save her.
Similar to PRIMAL SCREAM, it’s just a dull episode. One would think that a fight club with metahumans fighting each other would lend itself to some entertaining possibilities, but none of that is realized. Perhaps it’s a little fun to see Helena and Dinah briefly duke it out, but again, it’s just not as interesting as it sounds, especially considering that it’s established that Dinah has telekinetic powers that she doesn’t use. And really, the biggest problem with the episode is just how annoying Malcolm is. Literally, all of what he’s doing is because he couldn’t get laid because of his scaring. That’s a special kind of boring right there.
The closest thing to a redeeming moment is when Oracle contacts Reese on a phone and tells him that she needs his help, he comments that she’s not one for small talk, and then she says something like, “Hey, detective, how are you, how’s the job? Great. Focus, please.” Barbara’s sarcasm is so rare in this show that this one hint of it makes me laugh with delight. Despite that, if your best moment in an episode is a line that takes a second to say, then it’s not a very good episode.
Episode 4: THREE BIRDS AND A BABY
In this episode, Huntress attempts to save a woman and her baby from a group of thugs. Though she fails to save the woman, Helena brings the baby back to the clocktower for protection. It isn’t long before they realize just how special this baby boy is, whom they name Guy. He’s genetically tailored to rapidly age and also learn that he’s also designed to be an assassin.
Let me just get this out of the way, yes, it’s beyond stupid that Helena didn’t leave the baby for the police to take care of. The episode could have still given Guy to CPS and gotten him later when they learn about his rapid aging. Having gotten that out of the way, let’s continue.
I love this episode for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s hilarious. It’s so easy to make the stereotype that women have this natural affinity to child-care. That as soon as you put a baby in their arms, they know exactly what to do and how to do it. This episode hilariously puts that myth to rest as these ladies struggle to take care of Guy. Dinah, Barbara, Helena, none of them know what to do. And even when they inquire why Alfred isn’t helping, we see him looking on at their struggles as he sips on some tea, and says, “Need I remind you that I am a butler, not a nanny,” and leaves the women, “To get a biscuit.” I was dying of laughter.
But on top of the wonderful humor, there’s a tremendous amount of heart as well, as any great comedy should have. While Helena is indifferent toward Guy at first, she quickly takes a liking to him and as Guy ages, the two develop a special connection. She has to teach his pre-teen self (Bobby Edner) how to be responsible for his strength and killing people is wrong, a lesson that she knows she struggles with every day, herself. But she wants Guy to be a good person and does everything in her power to influence him in that direction. And let’s just say the ending is about the most powerfully emotional that this show offers, thanks to a truly wonderful performance by Ashley Scott. She has it in her, people!
#2 Worst/Least Favorite
Episode 7: SPLIT
In this episode, a pair of visitors come to New Gotham. One of them being the Crawler (Brian Thompson), a serial killer of young women in relationships, and the other, Nightstrike (Kristoffer Polaha), a vigilante crime fighter hellbent on stopping him.
This should be a more memorable episode than it is. It’s got Brian Thompson in it, for crying out loud! He was Shao Khan from MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION (1997)! He was one of the three punks in THE TERMINATOR (1984) that got his ass handed to him by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the beginning. At least some over-the-top mugging for the camera would have been nice! But no, instead we get a little too much melodrama from the core characters. Helena’s complaining that her relationship with Reese isn’t easier, which is commented on by him that she makes it that way, which I agree with, and as soon as a good-looking metahuman crime fighter with almost the exact same powers as she has shows up, suddenly it’s all “contemplating if he’s the one she should romantically try for.” Ugh, blow me. And this isn’t reserved for Helena either. No, no, no, Reese has a one-time appearance ex show up to cause even more friction between him and Helena, so her jealousy is completely unfounded.
We eventually learn that the Crawler had originally killed Nightstrike’s fiance, and in a blind rage, he tracked him down and killed him. But in so doing, he became the Crawler. What does that mean, you may ask? I have no F@#$KING idea! Was the Crawler a parasitic metahuman who can shape-shift into himself if he latches onto a man who tries to kill him, controlling his body at random? Does Nightstrike, in addition to his enhanced strength, agility, and endurance, also have shape-shifting abilities and he takes on the form of the Crawler at random? Quite literally, none of this twist is explained and it’s infuriating.
And arguably just as bad as this lame-ass twist, when Huntress stops the Crawler and sends him to Arkham Asylum, Harley Quinn pays him a visit in the episode’s closing seconds, it’s hinted that the Crawler is about to reveal Huntress’ identity to Harley. But… this is never referenced again in the show. Harley doesn’t learn about Helena’s vigilantism until the end of part one of the series finale. So this final scene between the Crawler and Harley is completely useless!
Overall, an annoyingly melodramatic and ultimately pointless waste of an episode. But nothing compares to my number one pick.
Episode 5: SINS OF THE MOTHER
In this episode, the famed superhero and spy, Black Canary, aka Caroline Lance (Lori Loughlin), returns to New Gotham, and makes a shocking discovery: Dinah is her abandoned daughter. After learning about Dinah, Canary wants to take her away from her crime fighting path before it’s too late.
This is arguably the best episode in the entire series. Quite basically, I have almost no problems with this episode. It’s fantastic. Why? Did you read who plays Canary? Lori Loughlin! From FULL HOUSE (1987 – 1995)! Jessie’s wife Becky! Who is impossibly and still immortally gorgeous! And you know something, this is quite possibly her coolest role that she has under her belt. Not simply because she played the role of Black Canary, which scores her some serious nerd cred as is, and does it pretty well for the role that she plays in this episode. But also because she plays arguably the best live-action Black Canary to date. Yes, I watch ARROW (2012 – ongoing), and unlike the vast majority of ARROW viewers, I happen to really like Katie Cassidy as Black Canary. But honestly, there’s just something about this… more seasoned veteran that gives such a nuanced and heartbreaking performance that sticks with me far more than ARROW’s Canary. Or maybe I’m just a huge FULL HOUSE fan and I associate Loughlin with her role in the show. Either way.
As a result, Skarsten works really well off of her, giving an equally complex performance that’s only rivaled by her performance in NATURE OF THE BEAST. And everyone gets a complex relationship with her. A small rivalry between her and Helena, her and Barbara, everyone brings their A-game to this episode.
#1 Worst/Least Favorite
Series Finale, Part 1: FEAT OF CLAY
This review is going to get pretty spoiler-heavy, so don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
In general, I think the series finale is the heaviest in flaws on par with the series pilot. But the pilot has a surprising amount of positives to keep it from being the worst episode in my opinion. The finale doesn’t. But where I can watch part two, DEVIL’S EYE, and take a great deal of satisfaction in just how big it got in its climax, part one is just awful.
In this episode, the son of one of Batman’s most notorious villains, Clayface, has a son named Chris Cassius (Ian Reed Kesler) who is eager to take the powers of his father and take over New Gotham in the same fashion that Clayface never could. But in order to know how to beat Chris, they need the first hand knowledge from Clayface (Kirk Baltz) himself. But it isn’t long before Helena learns a terrible truth that may cause her to abandon her code of not killing.
This is the episode that truly tests Helena. This entire series is about Oracle’s teachings of why heroes don’t kill, and her teachings are going to clash with Helena’s rage because she finally comes face to face with the man who murdered her mother. But see, here’s the thing. This episode and what it’s trying to accomplish is rendered completely pointless. Why? Because Helena has killed on this show before! Once, debatably four times. She killed the hitman who walked through walls in NATURE OF THE BEAST, and no one said a damn thing! She didn’t save either Creepy McCamouflage in REUNION, or Morton in PREY FOR THE HUNTER, and she rendered a dude brain-dead in the pilot. Seriously, who was this episode trying to kid? Nothing comes as a surprise, and any surprises that do come are more annoying than engaging. And by God, this is about the worst acting job from Scott in the entire series. Whether because she just wasn’t up to the task to play rage, or her director was awful at bringing out the proper emotions in her, Scott’s acting is more awkward than anything the series has offered up to this point and it’s painful. Even some bizarre character choices are made, like bringing in Wade to reveal what Barbara does, this is so far away from what Alfred would do that it makes him look both unbelievably inconsiderate and considerably stupid, and that’s not who Alfred is!
In every one of the weakest episodes of this series, each of them has offered something of redeeming value. Be it a touching moment between characters, or even just a single solitary funny line, there was something that made the episode pay off well. But this first part to the end of the series was a sheer mess and offered nothing at all.
Episode 8: LADY SHIVA
In this episode, Barbara is faced with a ghost from her past. Back when she was Batgirl, she thought she had accidentally killed a notorious thief named Lady Shiva (Sung Hi Lee). But then a series of murders begins in the present day, caused by a unique throwing star, subtly calling out for a fight against Batgirl, who no longer exists.
To be honest, this may not be the best episode of the series, but it’s my favorite and for one reason only: Dina Meyer is the best live-action Batgirl that has ever existed. That may not be saying much, as her competition is Alicia Silverstone from BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997), who has almost nothing in common with her comic book counterpart. Blonde and no bat mask? Really? Piss off, man! But seriously, Meyer nails it almost pitch perfectly. She not only looks great in the costume, but she’s kind of intimidating. Is it redundant to say that this is also her best performance in the series? Because it really is. On the one hand, she’s trying to maintain composure as the team leader and teacher, but she’s faced with her own mistakes and just what her actions wrought. She’s plagued with guilt, but we do learn just how far she’s come from her days as a field crime fighter.
You know what, I’ll say it. I’ll definitely go somewhere and say something that might cause a fuss. I’m doin’ it. I’m gonna say it. Meyer as Batgirl is the best live-action bat-PERSON in any medium! I said it! That’s right! Come fight me!
Really open your minds to this idea though and compare this Batgirl to every incarnation of Batman, Robin, and… the ONE Batgirl that we have right now. What does every live-action Batman or member of the bat-family have in common? They wear armor, or rubber. Basically, a very constricting suit. But what does the Batman from the comics and animated series wear? Just… suits. What I’m driving at is that Batman is mobile, capable of doing flips, and perform acrobatics because, you know, trained ninja. Unlike his film counterparts, he doesn’t often need the armor unless he’s fighting someone that seriously outmatches him in brute strength (The Dark Knight Returns comic and the animated movie BATMAN/SUPERMAN: APOCALYPSE ). I’m sure there’s countless moments where he’s put on real armor and maybe even more than a few comics that put him in the armor that both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan made famous, but we’ve never seen a live-action Batman just wear the comic suit. Meyer’s Batgirl is the closest we ever really get. Okay, granted, it’s likely that the suit is made of material that isn’t much better in quality than the material that makes women’s leggings, and topped with a black corset. That’s definitely not Batgirl, but she’s still more mobile and athletic than any Batman we’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong, I love BATMAN (1989). I love THE DARK KNIGHT (2008). And for sheer entertainment purposes, I enjoy BATMAN AND ROBIN. But Meyer’s Batgirl is the closest we’ve ever gotten to a true Bat-person. All that’s left is to see how Joss Whedon’s Batgirl solo movie (which is now headed by someone else, if I’m not mistaken) turns out, but that’s if it even gets made at this point. As it is, if Meyer is our best Batgirl, I can rest easy knowing that.
Sure, I think it’s strange to know that Shiva was a notorious thief at the age of sixteen years old, and that she so happens to be an old friend of Helena’s from high school, that gets pretty coincidental. But it’s emotionally driven and ends on such a bittersweet, yet triumphant note, all culminating into an episode that has so many good things going for it that I can’t pretend is not my favorite.
This show… I can’t pretend it’s anything that special in general. It’s corny, and certainly doesn’t tread any new grounds. Especially considering that it came out around the dark ages of comic book movies. I can see people watching the first three episodes and completely give up on it on the spot. Hell, I can see people watching just the episodes that I think are the best and them telling me, “Dude, Daniel, I just can’t.” I honestly don’t know how much I’d be able to argue. Having said that… this is a show that I somehow keep revisiting every year. Somehow, I’m able to lose myself in these characters and get surprisingly invested in their stories. They’re not Shakespeare, obviously, but there’s a charm factor that I can’t resist, and my favorite episodes are always a treat when I get to those points. Will this show be for everyone? No. No it is not. But is there an audience for this? I think there could be. Keep the expectations low, and I think someone could do fine.
My honest rating for BIRDS OF PREY (2002 – 2003): a strong 3/5
(SPECULATION OF FUTURE)
Am I surprised this show didn’t last longer? Not really. But I do find myself lying here asking where I think this show could have gone if it had.
For one thing, the closing shot of the series shows Alfred saying, “Master Bruce, your daughter is doing well,” or something like that, indicating that Bruce Wayne does know about Helena being his daughter. This certainly raises some questions. When did Batman find out he had a daughter? Just recently? For some time now? The entire time? If so… why hasn’t he come forward? Obviously, a second season would have to show an older Bruce Wayne working on his relationship with Helena. Maybe Batman is out of commission for one reason or another, but it stands to reason they’d go there.
Dinah’s story certainly could have been continued. We only ever hear of her mother, Black Canary, but Canary does have a famous superhero lover that this show completely forgot about: Green Arrow, aka, Oliver Queen. Where’d he go? Why hasn’t he been in Dinah’s life? In retrospect, SPOILER ALERT, we never really do see Canary die. So it’s entirely possible that she survived the explosion that supposedly killed her. Remember, Canary came back to New Gotham, but we don’t really know why. Canary didn’t know that Dinah was in New Gotham and certainly didn’t know that she was living with Barbara. Canary’s plans clearly changed when the mother and daughter were reunited. So why was Canary in New Gotham and why did she need Oracle’s help? Maybe it had something to do with Oliver and maybe that’s how he’d make an appearance in a future episode and bring back Canary at the same time. Lord knows I would LOVE to see Lori Loughlin as Canary again. One episode just isn’t enough, man.
We clearly established that the Joker is still alive and well, locked up far away and definitely not in Arkham Asylum, as mentioned by Harley Quinn. Where else can this allude to? How about… Stryker’s Island? This could have opened up a great deal of possibilities too. For you non-comic book readers out there, Stryker’s Island is a Metropolis-based prison that houses some of the worst superhuman criminals that Superman has fought. Superman. Really think about the possibilities here. Sure, Joker’s not a metahuman (then again, neither was Catwoman, so I guess anything’s possible in this universe), but maybe Joker did something that caught Superman’s attention and that’s what got him locked up in Stryker’s. What other enemies could this imply? Parasite? Toy Man? Lex Luthor? Hey, I think anything could have been possible. And if Superman is established to exist in this universe, how many other far reaching possibilities could we have seen? Wonder Woman? Green Lantern? Supergirl? The Flash? The Justice League in general? Hell, and that’s reaching across the entirety of the DC universe as a whole. We still don’t even have everything made clear about the bat family. It’s been established that Dick Greyson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake exist via Barbara referencing them? Clearly, there’s a Nightwing in this universe. Possibly a Red Hood, or Red Robin. Where’d they all go? More answers that we will sadly never get and I doubt this series got continued in any other medium.
Overall, the possibilities were endless and I would have enjoyed watching this show further, but that’s neither here nor there. The show we got was a one off and as it is, it’s… serviceable. I’ve seen it quite a few times and it’s likely I’ll see it more in the coming years.
If you guys are interested in checking out the show for yourself, head on over to Amazon and check it out for yourself.