Two years into Ryan Wilder’s reign as Gotham City’s Scarlet Crusader and though the suit is fitting quite nicely the mantle of BATWOMAN weighs heavily on The CW series that promised its audience one thing but has served up something else entirely…
Let me begin by saying: I love the character of Ryan Wilder and I’m a huge fan of the actor, Javicia Leslie who so boldly embodies Batwoman one of the DC TV primetime universe’s most engaging and adventurous heroines. To say that Wilder, and by virtue Leslie, didn’t, in fact, rescue the hit series after suffering such a serious casualty in its first season of unceremoniously losing its original lead (Ruby Rose left the show in its first year after suffering a back injury), the scramble to fill the void and survive into its Season 2, was no small feat.
Ryan Wilder (Leslie) unsuspectingly (literally) stepped into it when she discovers the kevlar suit and paraphernalia of Gotham City’s most recently newly minted crime fighter. In a single year, Batwoman had emerged as a symbol to many of hope and courage in a city that had long given up on itself. Fending for herself, homeless and struggling to survive by any means, when Ryan stumbles upon the wreckage of a liner jet and inside finds the familiar red-hued wig, cape and cowl, she seizes on the moment as an opportunity to right some wrongs.
The fate of the distinct apparel’s previous owner, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) doesn’t register at that moment as anything of much importance to Wilder, who feels she’s been dealt the short end of the stick throughout her life, and now she may have the means of which to make some people pay. Thus she assumes the mantle of the Batwoman to strike fear into the underbelly of Gotham’s criminal element on her path to living up to the legacy of her predecessors, and along the way, Ryan begins to carve a place for herself among Gotham City’s legendary crusaders.
The decision may have at first seemed far-fetched, but clearly, BATWOMAN show runners may have been leaving themselves an opening by creating a new character rather than immediately recasting the role of Kate Kane. Lavicia Leslie who inhabits the titular role as the “new” lead Ryan Wilder, has so much appeal and charisma the actor fits the cape and cowl ever so readily.
In The Shadow
In the past two seasons of Batwoman Ryan Wilder has fought to protect the innocent as well as serve to insure the mission started by Kate Kane continues, especially in the absence of Bruce Wayne (in the scheme of the “Arrowverse” continuity, the billionaire industrialist has been missing in action for more than 5-years). It is in that vacuum that Kate Kane, Bruce’s first cousin, discovers his secret identity and along with Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), the son of Bat-ally Lucious Fox begins her crusade, especially when a psychopath calling herself Alice (Rachel Skarsten) emerges with a vendetta against Gotham!
Running near parallels to the emergence of Batwoman, Ryan Wilder is pulling her own life into focus. The orphaned Wilder had run into several hardships, though thanks to her adopted mother Cora Lewis, she has something to aspire to. Ryan finds them a new apartment, and within hours of checking into their new home, Alice and her Wonderland Gang attacked. The thugs murdered Cora and left Ryan for dead. Soon after that, Ryan finds herself in the middle of a drug deal gone wrong and is arrested by Sophie Moore and the CROWS and is convicted. Ryan served her time, only to end up homeless.
While living in the back of her van, Ryan is witness to the fateful plane crash that drops the Bat-suit into her life, but Kate Kane is nowhere to be found. In the season that follows, Ryan inhabits the world of Gotham’s Scarlet Crusader while helping to solve the mystery surrounding her disappearance. Ryan allies herself with Luke and Mary Hamilton (Nicole Kang), Kate’s step-sister just as the criminal underworld begins to spread its tentacles deep into the city, forcing Ryan to hone her skills as Batwoman, and in the process unearth clues that perhaps Kate survived the crash.
Ryan wastes no time settling into the cape and cowl, not the mention asserting herself into the seat of the Batmobile as well. Once both Luke and Mary agree to support her in her own crusade to uphold justice, the Bat Team goes to work to clean up Gotham while inching out every lead to the last days of Kate Kane’s whereabouts. Ryan even makes some modifications to her alter ego’s identity, refashioning the Bat-suit to fit her more modestly and swapping out the signature red wig for a more suitable flock of hair. This appropriation makes Wilder’s turn as Batwoman much more her own!
It’s always a daunting task for an actor to live up to that #1 on the call sheet, but proving a particularly inspiring team player allowed for Lavicia Leslie to let her character shine and also give the ensemble cast room to breathe as they settled into BATWOMAN for the Second Season.
2 Are Better Than 1, No?
In the episodes that follow, it is soon revealed that the crime lord Black Mask had abducted an amnesic Kate Kane and had her face cosmetically altered (along with her memories) to believe that she was in fact his daughter Circe Sionis. With the help of the psychopath Alice (who is also Kate Kane’s twin sister Beth Kane) Batwoman is able to confront Circe and eventually convinces her that she is in fact, Kate Kane (recast with Wallis Day from “Krypton” stepping into the role). It’s an inspired move and whole-heartedly regarded by fans as a very worthwhile reveal. It’s unfortunate, though that it ends there!
Now that Kate is back, looking a little different albeit, but otherwise possessed of all the swagger of the original (though maligned of a psychotic episode that she’ll definitely need some time to manage), instead of sticking things out and figuring how much has changed, Kate decides to hit the road! Not only does she palm off her Batwoman identity in the ultra-capable hands of Ryan (and her Bat Team associates) she also hands over (in the unlikeliest of plot devices) the keys to the entire kingdom, including positioning Ryan Wilder as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises.
Effectively, Kate Kane empowers a total stranger with one of the country’s most formidable and profitable corporations with little else but a whim, just so she can conveniently get out of town and “search” for the missing Bruce Wayne. In the meantime, Ryan who has little to no experience in business and has only just recently assumed a role as the city’s foremost vigilante has been uniquely elevated to the upper echelons of responsibility. An impressive feat indeed, after such a score it’s a wonder that Ryan inadvertently lets Batman’s prized collection of criminal contraband out of her sight!
Should Have Seen That Coming…
The Dark Knight’s arsenal of trophies collected from every one of his most nefarious adversaries ends up in the river, floating into unsuspecting the unsuspecting hands of just about anybody in the Gotham City limits — that’s just bad news. With this major faux pas in motion, it would have probably been a good idea for both Kate and Ryan to muster up a brave and bold team-up and clean up the mess. Instead, Kate decides that her destiny, now that she’s got some semblance of her life back is elsewhere; Kate says she’s to visit her father (in prison), say “hi” to a friend in National City, and search for Bruce.
It’s perhaps the show’s most unceremonious writing off of a character ever. In the DC Comics pantheon, the introduction of Kate Kane, a direct relation to Bruce Wayne who while chasing her own identity stumbles onto the legacy of The Bat! Having been dishonorably discharged from the service because of her sexuality, when Kate Kane arrives on the scene and evolves into Batwoman, she emerges a member of the Bat-Family that has a distinctly unique position among her peers. Although wary of her intersection at first, The Batman eventually comes to depend on Batwoman, especially in the field.
The narrative of a Kate Kane embracing that side of her personality and shepherding a whole crop of adventurers of her own to fight crime alongside her was always a compelling component of the Batwoman mythology that audiences were hoping to invest in. It’s unfortunate that for reasons as yet undefined…
• Could Wallis Day not be convinced to join the cast?
• Was there an ulterior ultimatum that made led to that inevitable impossibility?
Whatever the case, the viewer was somewhat cheated of following Kate Kane’s journey and ascension, and in her place emerged a new heroine!
A Wilder Ride
In the Season 2 finale “Power”, Ryan stands before a parole board and answers a very important question about whether or not she has “changed”. For the audience, it’s a wink and a nod to the reality that her life has inevitably been transformed, but she is clear: though her circumstances have changed, she is still the same person she always was — and not the one everyone else believed her to be. Ryan Wilder walks out a free citizen. The character comes full circle, and in a crucial moment, she and Kate have a heart to heart that clarifies their differences — and more importantly, their similarities.
Though a bit far-fetched at best, Kate’s reasoning that Ryan has earned the mantle of continuing to defend Gotham City as Batwoman, there is a truth in how she frames it: Ryan understands the hope that Batwoman represents to the people, and that is the fire that fuels her fight. It’s true that most of the components that make up the ultimate decision for a member of the Bat-Family to fight the fight are wrapped in a harrowing tragedy, although Ryan’s unfortunate heartache did not turn her into a creature of vengeance, it instead inspired her to find the light deep in the shadows.
There’s an alternate universe, or perhaps a storyline some seasons down the line, where Kate Kane returns to Gotham City looking to reclaim her legacy, but first, she wants to learn from every angle and vantage point that Ryan has claimed in her journey as the Crimson Crusader and maybe even provide some support from the cave or on the streets. And when the time is right, Ryan will return the cape and cowl to Kate Kane, but will inevitably continue as a member of the inner circle, if not as a “Batwoman” but as someone else, someone already as formidable — the Deadly Nightshade ;) !
In the meantime, Ryan Wilder may not be the Batwoman that some people were expecting, but it’s the Batwoman that we got. Perfectly imperfect, expertly acclimated to take charge of the situation and follow her heart — fighting for those that do not have the will to fight for themselves, inspiring in all of us that if we step up to whatever challenge life presents us and embrace all hope, in the darkness, you will find the way. Trust in Ryan Wilder to save the day…and knight.
BATWOMAN | starring Javicia Leslie, Rachel Skarsten, Nicole Kang, and Camrus Johnson is currently in its Third Season and airs Wednesday night at 9 pm on The CW.