Birds of Prey Review

Birds of Prey is a 2002 superhero action drama television series developed by Laeta Kalogridis, Ashley Scott, Dina Meyer, Rachel Skarsten, Shemar Moore, Ian Abercrombie, and Mia Sara.  Loosely based on the DC Comics series of the same name, the series follows the Birds of Prey who protect New Gotham City from criminals and metahumans.


Positives:

  • Good performances
  • Some good special effects
  • Good characters
  • Great atmosphere
  • Good score
  • Good action
  • Interesting premise

Negatives:

  • Exceptional bad writing
  • Some poor special effects

Plot:  The plot takes place in New Gotham City where Batman has disappeared.  In his absence, Barbara Gordon/Oracle and Helena Kyle/Huntress have taken over his war on crime.  Along with Alfred Pennyworth, the group are joined by a telepath named Dinah Redmond. The Birds of Prey confront schemes masterminded by Dr. Harleen Quinzel.  Many of the episodes feel episodic and there aren’t really enough compelling storylines.  Sure, the group going out to fight crime is great but the story is really about the relationship that develops among the three women.  Loved Quinzel/Helena’s therapy sessions which help form the core of the series and it’s great seeing the development of Helena’s character.  There is this love interest between Helena and Detective Jesse Reese and honestly it really doesn’t help the series nor hurt it. The plot with Barbara working on a cybernetic implant for her spine feels like a waste of storyline. At this point, her strongest thing is her mind and the show should play on that.  Besides, if it were that easy to create the damn thing, she wouldn’t be a paraplegic in the first place or as long as she has.  There are some interesting bits in the series but nothing that’s really clever or memorable.  The finale is okay, but the execution could’ve been a helluva lot better.  Still, the series is entertaining enough to watch.  (3 out of 5)

Characters:  One of the things I hated was how poor a lot of the characters felt.  Aside from Helena, Barbara, Dinah, Harley, and Reese, the characters aren’t really memorable.  Helena (Ashley Scott) is the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.  She’s strong but does show a more sensitive side as the series progresses through her interactions with her friends and sessions with Harleen.  Barbara (Dina Meyer) is one of Batman’s apprentices and daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon.  She’s likable, the big sister of the group.  Dinah (Rachel Skarsten) is the daughter of Black Canary who becomes involved with the group due to unique abilities.  She’s also a likable character, young, trying to prove herself.  Don’t understand why writers thought it was a brilliant idea to give her telepathic abilities.  The group do have a strong relationship that grows over the course of the series and how each have a different effect on the others in different ways.

Alfred (Ian Abercrombie) is also in the series and honestly he didn’t really feel important.  Better had writers killed him off after the disappearance of Batman.  He just feels like fan service.  Another character that feels unnecessary is or at least a troupe is Jesse Reese (Shemar Moore).  He’s a police detective investigating strange crimes involving metahumans.  He does have an interesting background being the son of a powerful crime lord, which is cool but it’s his obsession with Huntress and the whole respect for the law that makes him a trope.  He and Helena have an attraction that develops into a relationship but honestly it feels forced and poorly executed.  However, the one character that stands out above them all is Harleen (Mia Sara).  She’s a psychiatrist who is seeing Helena but unbeknownst to Birds of Prey, is responsible for many of the schemes that they deal with.  Love how she presents herself as a professional but she shows that same insanity, surprising intelligence, and manipulative ability as the Joker.  She’s not just the comedy relief sidekick, she’s a credible threat.  Outside of the main cast, there aren’t really that many interesting or memorable characters.  Hate that there are almost none of the original cast and for those “honorable” mentions of the past they are poor carbon copies.  There’s one episode where the girls have to fight a metahuman that can manipulate people’s fears.  Why didn’t they just have Scarecrow appear?  Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Red Robin don’t make an appearance.  What the hell happened to all of Batman’s villains, hell even his allies. (3 out of 5)

Cast:   The casting is pretty good and the performances are admirable.  Dina Meyer (Oracle), Ashley Scott (Helena), and Rachel Skarsten (Dinah) are good and have great chemistry together. Ian Abercrombie is a good Alfred for what he’s given. Mia Sara’s vision of Harleen is a much welcome portrayal, very dark, very smart.  Shemar Moore (Reese) is probably the weakest of the cast and low points of the series.  The series also includes Shawn Christian (Wade Brixton), Robert Patrick Benedict (Gibson Kafka), and Brent Sexton (Detective McNally).  (3 out of 5)

Visuals: The special effects are decent.  Some of the special effects are just plain wrong.  Some of the costume designs are just comical.  Didn’t like the presentation of the Joker (who looks like an idiot), Batman (who looks out of shape), and Catwoman (who looks like a prostitute).  Use of the same footage every time Helena is running across the buildings.  The fight sequences are good and well choreographed.  New Gotham City has that dark atmosphere that gives the series a pretty serious tone.  Where is the technology that Batman uses. (3 out of 5)

Score: The music and sound is handled well and does make the series feel dark.  The opening song “Revolution” is a great intro though a little out of place considering the setting of New Gotham City. (3 out of 5)

Writing:  The writing is decent but there are a lot of instances where it could’ve been improved.  I get where Laeta Kalogridis was trying to take the series, with the whole female empowerment but ultimately it is one of the pitfalls of the series.  Even with focus of metahumans is a problem.  Hate how the villains are written to be superpowers villains rather the villains of Batman lore. You know, the highly intelligent people with psychological problems and impressive talents.  The whole thing where Helena has cat-like abilities is dumb as hell.  Catwoman was never a metahuman and like Batman a woman who accomplishes her feats as a normal human (which is a helluva lot more impressive).  Helena’s powers should’ve been written out of the show.  Hate Dinah’s abilities, too.  It feels like a cop out for actual writing.  Precognition? Telepathy? This isn’t Charmed. Think about shows like Arrow, Nikita, The Walking Dead, Daredevil, and Sense8.  Some of the dialogue is pretty cheesy.  I don’t argue my points because the series is different from the comics.  I’m all about diversity, but I’m just arguing the bad writing.  The show feels like it takes the best of Gotham, Arrow, Daredevil, the Flash, and Charlie’s Angels but just not written very well.  Some of the character incarnations just suck.  Black Canary is probably the worst.  Clayface is a joke.  Harley Quinn is probably one of the best in live action.  The writing should’ve been a little more grounded addressing actual crime fighting rather than the whole metahuman aspect.  Also, another thing that doesn’t make sense is that the citizens don’t know about metahumans when throughout time they should have.  What about all the villains Batman has fought?  What about members of the Justice League across the planet?  So the entire series Batman has only fought humans?  But they admitted that Catwoman and Clayface are metahumans and they have been on the scene for a while.  All-in-all, the writing definitely could’ve been better. (1 out of 5)


The Verdict: In the end, Birds of Prey is one of those shows that has so much potential but ultimately doesn’t deliver.  My biggest problem with the show is the writing and how little the writers gave a damn about the actual content.  Despite this, the premise is pretty interesting, action done well, good performances, likable characters, and a good score.  Birds of Prey gets 3 out of 5.

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