After the news broke last May of Ruby Rose’s sudden departure from The CW’s Batwoman after only a single season in the titular role, speculation was wild for how Batwoman Season 2 Episode 1 would explain Kate Kane’s absence or (potentially) physical transformation.
In July, it was announced that Javicia Leslie would be introduced as an altogether new character, Ryan Wilder, who would don the cowl of Gotham’s protector.
But how would it work? WOULD it work?
With all the other characters from Season 1 still in play, could it be as simple as slipping someone new into the costume?
Well, the short answer is “no” since, between the carryover of last season’s plot threads and the introduction of Ryan and her backstory, a LOT is going on.
In effect, this is a relaunch of the Batwoman brand, with Season 1 acting as a really, really detailed prologue.
I’m pretty impressed that, despite the shock of Kate’s plane exploding into pieces over Gotham in the opening scene, the focus was kept squarely on Ryan and how she factored into the events that unfolded in the aftermath.
Her character is also immensely engaging. In contrast to Kate’s privileged and legacied backstory, Ryan Wilder is the epitome of relatable.
Ryan: You make it sound like these are all my choices.
Stevens: They are your choices, Ryan. You have the power to turn this around.
Ryan: You want to know why I haven’t paid my fines? Because I can’t find a job. Because I don’t have a home. Because no landlord wants to rent to an ex-con who’s post-release. You see how this works? No one cares that the dope wasn’t mine or that the Crows were dirty or that I’m actually a decent human. I am a file in your cabinet. That is not having power. That is the very definition of powerless.
Despite Kate’s personal traumas, it has to be acknowledged that she still grew up with a father and all the status and access that the Wayne fortune (on her maternal side) grants.
Ryan grows up with no biological parents but an adoptive one who is her everything.
But, like seemingly everyone in Gotham, there is no way to opt into happily ever after. Or even happily ever normal/mundane.
Although Ryan’s lived a very different life in a very big city, her life’s been affected and connected to all three Kane sisters.
As Batwoman, Kate was a beacon of hope for the city but, through Ryan’s research, she realizes that she and Kate shared a lot of values and motivations.
Mary, through her research, finds a connection to Ryan in their shared loss of their mothers.
And, of course, Ryan wants to kill Alice for the Wonderland gang killing her mother because… Alice.
Oh, Alice. Many plans and plots and ploys utterly destroyed her sister and father, and now they’re all for naught.
Tommy/Bruce: Not to say “I told you so” to a … belligerent psychopath… you could’ve shot her months ago when she was out of the suit.
Alice: When did I say I was going to shoot her? I said I wanted her dead.
Still, it made for entertaining speculative exposition while she poked holes in Tommy’s fantasy existence (and girlfriends).
I was kind of with Tommy whether Alice’s mourning crazy was discernably different from her usual cray-cray.
Tommy/Bruce: Very soon, the world will call me Batman.
Alice: Oh, do you want a parade? Because I’m pretty sure my sister is in the large intestine of a great, white…
Tommy/Bruce: Oh, is that what this is? Are you in mourning? You wanted her dead.
Alice: I wanted to kill her myself.
But I guess the crux of it was that the crazy felt different to her. So, we’ll let her have her time, wallowing in self-medicating bottles and reaching out to maim anyone and everyone.
I’ll admit to being relieved that Tommy’s ruse as Bruce was short-lived.
However, Tommy knew things about the Batcave, despite never having been there before, so that even Luke was unaware of it is chilling.
Luke: It’s been four years, Bruce. Where have you been?
Bruce: If only the answer were as simple as the question, Mini Fox.
And yet, his insanely thorough obsession with everything Bruce Wayne somehow skips the chapter on Alfred. And not just the codename but his actual geographical location.
He got the family vibes down pretty pat. Jacob and Luke had no real suspicions about his identity, just his motivations.
Jacob: Ha, Bruce Wayne. I take it they’re out of cocaine in Belize.
Tommy/Bruce: Missed you too, Uncle Jake.
Maybe it’s one of those “rich people don’t notice servants” things?
Granted, the Mini-Fox thing was annoying. I can only hope that it was a term of endearment the real Bruce actually used because Luke didn’t seem to mind. Someone canon-check that for me, please.
In a lot of ways, Tommy’s joyride in Bruce’s face (and car) was a nice parallel to Ryan’s foray into the underworld in the found Batsuit, right down to their car chase showdown over the suit.
Luke: If he gets that suit, he becomes the most dangerous person in Gotham. You need to outrun him.
Ryan: Outrun him? Look at his car! I don’t even have hubcaps!
I giggle at the idea of her van managing to stay ahead of a pursuant Batmobile. Seriously.
At the climax of their battle, there’s nuance to the fact that Tommy, who resented his mother for living out her days, triggers Ryan, who would do anything to have her mother back, by smashing the plant she’s basically imbued with her mother’s spirit.
(Also, it’s interesting to note that she replaces the pot with an identical one.)
The Powers That Be have put a lot of thought into integrating Ryan into Team Batwoman while still carving out a unique niche for her.
While Kate often questioned whether she was up for the task of protecting Gotham, she never really questioned her right to don the suit.
That suit. It’s bigger than me. It’s one thing to put it on and it’s another thing to wear it.
Ryan comes to the suit with far less confidence and entitlement (although I think she might be picking up the skills quicker).
The archetypal Hero’s Journey usually involves a rejection of the Call to Adventure. Ryan fulfills that by returning the suit to Luke and Mary.
However, it’s obvious with the mark the kryptonite’s left on her that this adventure is not yet done with her.
My only gripe (and this won’t come as a surprise to those who followed my Batwoman Season 1 reviews) is Kate’s letter to Sophie.
Firstly, yeah, right. Of all the things to confess in an “I’m probably dead, so you should know this” letter, admitting to the lengths you went to confuse and hide the truth from the woman you love is not the memory you want to leave her with.
Secondly, poor Julia. I liked the relationship that was developing there. See? It’s not that I don’t like Sophie. I couldn’t stand the Sophie-and-Kate thing.
I also think it’s a little unfair that Kate would leave Sophie a letter and not Jacob.
So, be sure to watch Batwoman online with fresh eyes because this is a whole new story, although many of the elements remain the same.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot to discuss and speculate on:
How will they get Ryan back into the suit? Where will she live once she’s officially Batwoman? Does the Batcave have parking for her van, and how will the plant survive in a cave?
What is Alice’s new-found vendetta going to look like? Who else is excited about Safiya’s inevitable appearance? Did Safiya actually kill Kate or only blow up the plane? As always in superhero shows (and soaps), no body = infinite possibilities.
What are your biggest burning questions about the new Batwoman? Land them in the comments!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.