Why Birds of Prey Fell Out of the Sky

Birds of Prey was an hour-long CW drama in 2002, focusing on the Huntress, the meta-human daughter of Catwoman and Batman, joining with the paralyzed former Batgirl-cum-Oracle Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance, the precognitive and touch-telepathic daughter of the Black Canary. Together, the three formed the Birds of Prey, an answer to those seeking a more bat-heavy and femme fatale filled show as opposed to the CGI-heavy villain-of-the-week boiler plate that was Smallville, even though both were shows were made by the same production team and aired back to back on the same network.

Despite its stunt fighting teams and the absurd beauty of Ashley Scott as the Huntress, Birds of Prey barely lasted one season while Smallville lasted for ten. Why is this so? Was it pure happenstance and chance? Did someone at Warner Brothers flip a coin, spawning a parallel universe where we are currently on Birds of Prey season 12? Probably not, as despite the show’s strengths, there was also a whole lot of it that absolutely didn’t make any sense. So without further ado, here are five reasons why:

5. The Huntress’ Costume

Underworld/Birds of Prey

Now, with any live-action adaptation of a comic there are going to be some changes to the wardrobe. Whether it is the abandonment of blue-and-yellow spandex in X-Men or the inclusion of Bat-Nipples in Batman and Robin, changes to the established fashion are inevitable. The television incarnation of the Huntress abandons the midriff-flaunting purple and black costume of the comics — which as far as I can tell requires triple sided tape and a demonic blood-contract to actually work in real life — in favor of a black leather duster combo that looks nothing at all like Underworld’s Selene.

Uninspired promotional material aside, Huntress is the “alter ego” of one Helena Kyle, and I say “alter ego” as opposed to just alter ego because the two look exactly the same, barring a leather duster and some hair-curlers. Huntress is hounded by Oracle to not discuss crime-fighting hobbies out loud for fear of someone deducing that Helen’s secret identity is the Huntress, turning a blind eye to the fact that she never wears a mask. Seriously, when Huntress ends her bar tending shift in the first episode, she puts on a bird pendant choker to signify that she’s going on patrol. What, was she worried that someone would recognize the huntress bird pendant before recognizing her actual face? She’s fighting a predominately male group of henchpersons on nearly every patrol — not to be sexist, but it is naive to assume that the seedy underbelly of New Gotham are going to notice your kinky bird-themed belt and choker combo, and painstakingly curled locks before the beautiful face?  There’s not even a domino-mask to be seen as Helena — excuse me, Huntress — introduces herself to wanna-be sexual predator Jerry (played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) who despite one or two punches to the face and generally sketchy vibe, Huntress allows to run away, presumably to Albuquerque to get into the meth cooking game.

From a marketing standpoint it’s understandable why the Birds of Prey’s production team didn’t go for a mask — you don’t want to obscure your star’s visage from the screen, especially when that star is one so-hot-it’s-stupid Ashley Scott. However, for a team that allegedly is acting in place of Batman, it is baffling as to why not of one these women thought to at least repurpose a pair of panty hose for their war on crime.

It’s as if everyone is taking crazy pills — in flashback scenes of her days fighting alongside Batman as Batgirl, Barbara Gordon still manages to wear a mask — did breaking her spine also affect her long-term memory? When she manages to briefly heal her spine to go after a resurfaced villain named Lady Shiva, Barbara dons the Batgirl suit again — cowl and all.  Batgirl is promptly unmasked when her neural implant shorts out on her. In a later scene, while discussing with Huntress on how to track Lady Shiva down, Barbara says “Wait a minute, she saw my face, she could easily figure out I’m Barbara Gordon!” In the next scene, you guessed it, Lady Shiva manages to track down Dinah as a means of getting back at Barbara. Why this isn’t a weekly recurring problem for the Birds of Prey, I’ll never know.

About the author

Chris Davidson