As a fan of not just DC Comics but also the ARROWVERSE, the idea of bringing Batwoman into the fold seemed like a good one. And the tease we got of a Gotham City without a Batman during the ELSEWORLDS crossover showed a lot of promise to expand on that world.
For the most part, I enjoyed the first season of Batwoman. Ruby Rose did a great job building up the character of Kate Kane, even if I thought the show went overboard with the typical Bat-stoicism with the lead character, to the part where Kate seemed too wooden and emotionless in the face of some pretty rough situations. But when Rose left the series after the end of the first season, it was to me a clear warning sign that the show was in trouble. Instead of just recasting Kate Kane with a new actress, we instead got a completely new character taking over the Bat-suit.
Javicia Leslie’s Ryan Wilder has absolutely no connections to the DC Comics universe that spawned Kate Kane, Luke Fox and most of the show’s cast of characters. And that’s fine. If we’ve learned anything from fellow Arrowverse series LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, it’s that as long as the stories are good and the characters are well-developed, the show can still have a good run with original characters.
But the bigger problem with bringing in a new series lead on a show’s second season is that we just spent 20 episodes establishing a world and a main character. Now, we had to do it all over again.
Batwoman’s support team – all of whom had strong ties to Kate Kane – were all still around when Ryan Wilder came on to the scene. While the continuity kept the show from being a completely different animal from the first season, it still led to some narrative issues. The biggest problem was shoehorning Ryan Wilder into Kate Kane’s world, including Kane’s half-sister, father, ex-girlfriend and business associate, all of whom were still in shock over Kate’s apparent death in a plane crash. Wilder came into a group of people who had established interactions over the first season and who were understandably distrustful of this new person playing hero in Gotham. Every episode in the season’s first half seemed to feature Ryan and Luke butting heads and then coming to an understanding. But any in-roads made in their working relationship seemed to disappear when the next episode’s opening credits started. It got to be a little grating.
And then, just as the cast was starting to gel with its new lead, Kate Kane came back into the fold!
No, Ruby Rose didn’t return to the role she decided to abandon. The show instead cast Wallis Day as Kate Kane, explaining away the difference in faces by having her face burned in a fire and then replaced to look like and thing she was the daughter of season big bad Roman Sionis, the BLACK MASK. The re-emergence of Kate Kane, with her supporting cast knowing she was back, did nothing but undermine Ryan Wilder just as she was starting to comfortably take the lead as Batwoman.
Much like in the first season, the most compelling character on the show is Kate Kane’s twin sister, the twisted killer Alice. Rachel Skarsten gives the villain the kind of pathos and emotion that most of the other characters on the show just don’t have. While Alice spent most of season 1 trying to destroy her family and kill Kate, the second season was much more of a redemption story. Alice’s path led her to trying to find her lost twin and bring her back into the fold.
The second season also spent a lot of time on Alice’s backstory, continuing to fill in the gaps on how she went from Beth Kane to a psychotic killer. The episodes that focused mainly on Alice, time with the evil Safiyah and the budding romance with the mysterious Ocean were some of the best of the season because Skarsten was acting on another level from the other members of the cast.
Of all the characters in the second season, Alice had the closest thing to a Hero’s Journey, overcoming adversity and personal demons to achieve her goals. And she was successful in what she sought out to do: she got Safiyah off her back and she helped make her sister whole again. But the tragedy of Alice’s life struck again to end the season. Ocean was killed and her sister once again rejected her, sending her back to prison in the season’s final episode.
With Black Mask defeated, Safiyah gone back to her island and Alice in prison, the returned Kate Kane reunited with Luke and Mary before officially handing off the mantle of the Bat to Ryan. Kate announced she was off to National City to see a friend (her superhero BFF Supergirl) before heading off into the world to find her missing cousin, Bruce Wayne. Will we get the superhero crossover between Batwoman and Superman that we were promised this season, but was cut by the global coronavirus pandemic, in the next television season? Wallis Day isn’t set to return regularly as Kate Kane next year, but maybe she’ll make some special appearances on SUPERMAN & LOIS. The higher production values and general quality of Superman & Lois might make for a better “Search For Bruce Wayne” story arc than on one of the other CW Arrowverse shows.
And without the shadow of Kate Kane hanging over the new Bat-crew, Batwoman’s third season should hopefully find more cohesion in its storytelling. Ryan Wilder should be able to come into her own as Gotham’s new protector, alongside Luke Fox’s newly-debuted Batwing. I have high hopes for season 3, and I hope the series writers can establish a season-long story that works cohesively without the distractions experienced between the first and second seasons.