Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Batwoman’s season 2 premiere answers the question, “What Happened To Kate Kane?”

Javicia Leslie stars in Batwoman
Javicia Leslie stars in Batwoman
Photo: The CW

When Ruby Rose announced she was leaving Batwoman last May, one of the biggest concerns was whether her character’s departure would affect the momentum the show had built by the end of season one. The season-two premiere answers that question right off the bat. With Ryan Wilder on the case, Batwoman can absolutely go on.

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The premiere episode, “What Happened To Kate Kane?,” opens as Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) is jolted awake by a plane crash. Even before the news is made official, it’s not hard to guess who’s on that plane. But it doesn’t make it any less of a shock for Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) when he realizes that it’s Kate’s flight.

And it is a bit jarring. Batwoman was the first CW/DC show to have its lead actor leave so unceremoniously. But killing Kate off? Not that it’s entirely unfair or doesn’t work; on the contrary, as the episode goes on, it works fairly well. But it still feels unexpected—at least, I didn’t expect it. Not that the Arrowverse is opposed to killing off main characters or even leads, but it was still a little bit of a shock, and made all the more significant by the reactions of Kate’s loved ones.

Ryan has her own tragic background, including witnessing a vicious attack on her own mother (which is introduced in an abrupt manner, and shown a few times throughout the episode). While Ryan has a visceral reaction to the crash, she salvages the Batsuit from the wreckage. This tech will soon afford her a chance fight back in a way she couldn’t when her mother was attacked.

As the episode unfolds, it becomes clear that Ryan is about as different as could be from Kate Kane. She lost her biological parents, but even once her adoptive mother took her in and she started to flourish, things went poorly again. Ryan and her mother were brutally attacked on their first night in their apartment, with her mom dying in front of her eyes. As the flashbacks show, she’s not rich or from an influential family; she even has a record. Ryan knows struggle and pain in a way that Kate didn’t. But that’s what makes her wearing the cowl and cape even more interesting. Ryan tells Luke and Mary (Nicole Kang) that she’s not the symbol of hope and courage Batwoman has come to be. But she is a number, she says, as she recites all the ways she’s targeted by the system and society: how she’s been given little to no chance to succeed, and just wants this one shot to seek vengeance for her adoptive mother’s death. However, she doesn’t say actually tell them all of that; Mary finds that out while digging later.

Ryan is someone who suffered greatly at the hands of Alice’s gang, who knows first hand that the “Crows are dirty.” Ryan says she’s the “very definition of powerless.” In that sense, it’s almost more powerful to have her in the suit at the end of the day. But that’s getting ahead of the narrative, as she doesn’t actually take on the role—yet.

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Illustration for article titled Batwoman’s season 2 premiere answers the question, “What Happened To Kate Kane?”
Photo: The CW

For once, Alice (Rachel Skarsten) finds herself at a bit of a loss for how to move forward with her schemes. After all, Kate’s (presumed) death has put a big damper on her sadistic plans to have Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) kill Batwoman before ripping off the cowl to reveal she’s his daughter. Alice is pissed. She’s also grieving, but the rage is never far from the surface. The complicated Kane sister tension from season one lives on, even if Kate doesn’t. And it might be best for the show if Kate is gone for good.

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“What Happened To Kate Kane?” is fairly packed with revelations, including some incredibly obvious ones, like Jacob’s damning realization that Kate was Batwoman after she’s already gone. Same with Sophie. There’s also Luke finding out that he handed Kryptonite to the man who killed his father, even after Tommy/Bruce slipped up about Alice/Beth in Luke’s presence. These realizations are framed as bombshell revelations on screen—and maybe they were for some—but really the only one that was truly surprising was Jacob’s. Sophie’s and Luke’s epiphanies were just so glaring; we’d all been waiting for those particular shoes to drop.

Illustration for article titled Batwoman’s season 2 premiere answers the question, “What Happened To Kate Kane?”
Photo: The CW
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The highlight of the premiere is the arrival of Javicia Leslie. It takes a lot to join an established on a major network show in any instance—but to be the lead in a superhero show, donning the cape and suit on the first episode is a whole other task. Leslie is a lot of fun to watch, whether it was her joy as Ryan when she’s flinging Batarangs around for the first time, or her endearing nature while talking to the plant that she (maybe) associates with her dead mother. Besides the showmanship of being Batwoman, Ryan Wilder has a really good heart. It’s going to be really interesting and exciting to see how the show deals with a Batwoman that doesn’t come from a privileged Crow background.

By the end of the premiere, Ryan’s come to the realization of what a true hero is much quicker than Kate does—or rather, what a hero isn’t. She reads up on Kate’s past, finds out that she did stick up for those less fortunate, and shared common ground with Ryan: they’re both queer. Even before Ryan beats Tommy Elliot to a pulp, she thinks she’s unworthy. But afterward, she tells Mary and Luke that the suit and Batwoman are “bigger than me; it’s one thing to put it on, and it’s another thing to wear it.” Of course, she doesn’t know that Kate killed a man because of her own anger and desire for vengeance.

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Ryan seems to be the complete opposite of Kate. She’s full of life, she’s funny, and she willingly gives up the suit because she knows it was the right thing to do. However, just like Kate, she has a hero’s heart. And the show seems to be in good hands with Javicia Leslie.

Stray observations

  • Okay, well a lot has happened and changed since the last time I put in a review for Batwoman. But thank you for joining me again for season two! I’m very excited to explore this new season. Javicia Leslie showed that she can carry this show, and I am very excited to see what the writers do with Ryan’s character.
  • Alright, a new season of Batwoman means we have new reasons to love Mary. We all need a Mary when times get rough; look at how good she is at calming Luke and Jacob down! However, who is there for Mary when times get tough??? *insert crying face.*
  • Both Mary and Luke understand the pain of losing a parent to murder, so they understand Ryan’s grief when she takes the suit to go after Alice’s gang, probably better than anyone Ryan’s met since her mother died. That was an interesting dynamic to see, especially considering none of them have really healed from their trauma. Not to mention, Ryan decided to make the right decision on her own.
  • “There’d be no Batwoman without Luke Fox.” Again, Mary, bless you.
  • Did anyone else laugh when Alice said she was, “tethered to reason”? Or better yet, how about when she called Tommy “Bruce Lame?” Why have I never thought of that?
  • “A lesbian superhero who could have killed me a thousand times but didn’t? Gee, who could that be?” was hilarious and superb delivery, but it was hard to enjoy Alice’s line when Jacob looked so defeated.
  • At the end of the episode, Ryan is infected with kryptonite from the looks of it. In Smallville, humans were turned into metahumans when that happened, so is that’s what’s going on here? Something else? Much to think about.
  • The Safiyah plot thickens, and she’s supposedly the one who took Kate’s plane down, given her “Consider us even” newspaper message for Alice. But now Alice thinks Gotham is ready and waiting for a full-on war. Season two is shaping up to be big, with action galore. But fingers crossed for fewer dead Mouse hugs.
  • We’ll be dropping in on the show throughout the season, including coming back for the mid-season and finale episodes.
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Alani Vargas is an entertainment writer and A.V. Club contributor. Her work also appears on Showbiz Cheat Sheet, INSIDER, Bustle, Refinery29, and Elite Daily.