Javicia Leslie made her debut as the new lead of Batwoman in the show’s second season premiere, which aired Sunday night on the CW. Losing Ruby Rose as Kate Kane wasn’t the plan, but the writers quickly weave Leslie’s martial artist and ex-con Ryan Wilder into the show’s universe. There’s a lot of exposition in the episode, but that’s to be expected for a show that moves through storylines at a breakneck pace and suddenly loses its central star. The question is, will Ryan be a worthy successor to Kate Kane? The answer is most enthusiastically, yes.
Season 1 ended early due to the pandemic and left Kate in the middle of a consequential character arc when Rose dropped out from the role, and the show faced an uphill battle going into Season 2. Leslie’s energy fits nicely into the Arrowverse, and while Ryan has a lot to learn and hasn’t fully embraced the symbol of the Bat, her initial outing seems promising.
When the plane supposedly carrying Kate crashes, Ryan finds the suit in the craft’s rubble and quickly takes it to use in a quest for personal vengeance against Alice and the Wonderland Gang, who are responsible for the murder of her adoptive mother. Meanwhile, Luke (Camrus Johnson) and Mary (Nicole Kang) attempt to piece together what happened to Kate, getting more and more desperate and heartbroken as the truth dawns on them that Kate could very well be dead. It’s a truth that Jacob Kane, the commander of a private security force known as the Crows, and his second in command, Sophie, must confront despite their unresolved and conflicted relationships with Kate.
Is Kate dead? The answer is unclear, but her family prepares for the worst.
Sophie’s (Meagan Tandy) lost the woman she loves yet again, and this time it was entirely out of her control. Despite her best efforts to build a wall around her emotions and move on from her relationship with Kate, Sophie can’t deny the love, however complicated, that existed between the two women. Kate’s heartfelt and honest letter about her role as Batwoman and how hard it was to lie to the woman she loves leaves Sophie broken. She’s sacrificed so much just to survive, from her identity to her relationships with her mother and Kate; for Sophie, progress comes at a cost.
She lied about her relationship with Kate so she could stay in an elite military academy. She lost her homophobic mother when she bravely came out and accepted her identity in a world that, for all its progress, is still uncomfortable and intolerant of a gay woman, much less a Black gay woman. In Season 1, she attempts to move on from Kate only to find herself in a relationship with a wildcard of a woman with whom she wants things to work out with but also whom she doesn’t entirely trust. Sophie would’ve had to face some sort of reckoning with Kate when the latter discovered her and Julia Pennyworth kissing, but Kate vanishes before they can work things out.
Jacob says goodbye to another daughter.
Poor Jacob (Dougray Scott) can’t catch a break. In Season 1, the loss of his daughter and wife and the revelation that Beth survived the accident weighed heavily on him. Before he could seek closure in the matter, Beth (aka Alice) murdered Catherine, his second wife and instigator of the lie. He was forced to confront his (unknowing) role in shaping Alice’s madness by believing Catherine and abandoning the search for Beth. He was so blinded by his rage towards Batman that he rejected Kate over and over again, as Alice tells him when she reveals that Kate was Batwoman. Now Kate’s probably dead, and tragedy once again hangs over the Kane family.
Jacob never allowed himself to piece together the puzzle of Batwoman’s identity, and that comes back to haunt him when he desperately turns on the Bat-signal, hoping against hope that Kate will appear and take off her cowl. She never arrives, and Jacob is left crying in the rain.
Will Alice Leave Gotham?
What’s keeping Alice (Rachel Skarsten) in Gotham now that Kate is gone and Mouse is dead? As it turns out, revenge. Towards the end of the episode, Alice (who’s always a scene stealer) finds a newspaper article of Kate’s disappearance with a message on the back from the often mentioned but never seen Safiyah, hinting at the mysterious woman’s role in the plane crash. Alice, who planned to expose Kate as Batwoman before shooting her with a Kryptonite bullet, promises that war is coming to Gotham.
With the revelation that Alice’s gang murdered Ryan’s mother, Alice better watch her back because Ryan is determined to make her pay. Ryan’s going to have her work cut out for her. The coming conflict between Alice and Safiyah promises to have cataclysmic consequences for all of Gotham.
Ryan wears the suit but isn’t fully Batwoman—yet.
Ryan dons the suit almost immediately after acquiring it, as one most likely would do if one came across the Batsuit and all its glorious accessories. She’s ready to be powerful and bring justice to her mother’s killers, but she’s not ready to embrace the symbol as a hero for the city yet. She leaves the suit with Mary and Luke and returns to her van, more injured than she realized after her fight with Thomas Elliot. She feels in over her head yet also inspired by Kate Kane’s legacy, and while she may not seem like the hero she wants to be, that will change. She’s tasted her own power, and while untamed, she intends to cultivate it.
While Kate lived in luxury and privilege—-even if the circumstances were tragic—-Ryan’s a Black orphan trampled by the foster care system and convicted of a crime she didn’t commit. Kate and Bruce are wealthy and use their power to protect the impoverished, and Ryan’s one of those people. She’s a number in a file that people tend to forget about. She lives in a van and can’t get a job or pay for an education that would open professional doors for her. She’s stuck in the cycle of poverty, and the Batsuit is the beacon of hope made for people like her.
She desires to protect the innocent and avenge the wronged, as the show reveals by her desire to find her mother’s killers. While it’s early in her journey, Ryan will eventually make the suit her own and decide her path. This is life-changing for her. She’ll have to learn to work with Luke and Mary, who must adjust to a new face behind the cowl. In particular, Mary feels a connection with Ryan since both women held their dying mothers in their arms. It will be an emotional connection that will help them moving forward.
Batwoman brings a new beginning in the middle of a story, and while there’s some hiccups, things are off to the right track.
Javicia Leslie shines in the role of Ryan Wilder, and her initial outing, while full of exposition and numerous examples of “show, not tell,” is promising. The transition between two different series leads was never going to be easy, but the show does the best it can given the circumstances. Ryan’s enthusiasm and sense of humor are a highlight throughout the episode, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the character’s evolution and how she’ll develop relationships with the other characters.
I’m hoping that people will be patient with this show because there’s a lot of potential, and Ryan needs time to settle into the role. Season 1 left so many storylines unanswered due to the pandemic, and Batwoman has its work cut out for it. It took a few episodes for Season 1 to hit it’s stride, but I have no doubt Season 2 will find it’s footing soon.
What did you think about the Season 2 premiere? Let me know in the comments and check out my website for all things pop culture. Stay nerdy!