The Arrowverse has run into problems lately. The ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic forced shows like Batwoman, The Flash and Supergirl to end their current seasons several episodes early, and now we know these shows will remain off the air until 2021. That was just the beginning of Batwoman’s troubles, however. Star Ruby Rose has made a sudden departure from the series, and in response The CW is reportedly replacing her character Kate Kane with a new character entirely rather than recasting the role.
It’s safe to say a lot will be different in Gotham City when Batwoman finally returns to the air next year. But not all change has to be bad, and there are certainly ways the series can play this unexpected shakeup to its advantage. Read on to find out how a new protagonist could be just what Batwoman needs to become even better in Season 2.
Warning: This article contains full spoilers for Batwoman: Season 1!
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Revamping the Arrowverse’s Batwoman
Reports indicate The CW isn’t looking to recast the role of Kate Kane in Season 2, but instead intends to introduce a new lead character named Ryan Wilder. A leaked casting callout reads, “She’s likeable, messy, a little goofy and untamed. She’s also nothing like Kate Kane, the woman who wore the batsuit before her.”
At this point it’s unclear if “Ryan Wilder” is truly the name of this new character or if The CW is relying on a placeholder name to disguise her true identity. It’s possible the series will actually be drawing on another preexisting DC heroine to replace Kate Kane, such as Harper Row, Stephanie Brown or Carrie Kelley. That said, the character description above doesn’t really correspond to an existing member of the Bat-family. Even if Ryan Wilder is a placeholder for a character like Harper or Stephanie, we imagine the series would diverge quite a bit from the source material. The closest comparison would probably be Arrow’s take on Black Canary. While there have been several different characters who use that name in the Arrowverse, none are a direct translation of the Dinah Lance from DC’s comics. The new Batwoman may be a similar case.
It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for Batwoman to embrace this change and craft a new version of the character unlike either Kate Kane or her predecessor Kathy Kane from the comics. As it is, the series has never been entirely successful in translating the comic book version of Kate. Rose’s version is very different in terms of her personality, her relationships with other costumed heroes and even her fashion sense. Introducing a completely different character would be a way of freeing the series from those expectations and giving writers more room to define the new Batwoman on her own terms with no preconceived expectations. Based on that character description, we might even see a goofier, more lighthearted Batwoman in line with fellow Arrowverse heroes like Flash and Supergirl. It would be a risky change in tone, but one that could pay off.
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Kate Kane’s Fate
Of course, this shift to a new protagonist raises questions about the fate of Rose’s character after Season 1. Why would she suddenly vanish from the scene so soon after deciding to take up her cousin’s mantle? Will Kate Kane be killed off, or is there a chance we might see Rose return to the Arrowverse in a more limited capacity?
The occasional Kate Kane appearance is certainly possible in future crossovers, but given the way Season 1 ended, we suspect the series may be preparing to kill off Kate instead. When Season 1 reached its premature end, Kate’s twin sister/nemesis Alice had just uncovered the secret to piercing Batwoman’s indestructible suit – a kryptonite bullet. Alice may use this knowledge to assassinate Batwoman and rob Gotham of its protector. We doubt this is the plot twist the writers had originally intended, but it’s certainly the simplest way of clearing the board for Season 2.
Killing off Kate now isn’t the ideal storytelling move. She hasn’t yet had the time to experience a complete, cohesive character arc, especially with Season 1 not reaching its intended conclusion. But given that Rose seems to have no desire to continue the role, it may be the best of a series of bad options.
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The assassination of Batwoman can serve as a dramatic plot catalyst for Season 2. It may spark a new crime wave in Gotham as criminals everywhere realize the city is now defenseless. It may turn the city’s residents even further against the Crows, who have seemed more interested in demonizing Batwoman in Season 1 than restoring law and order. And Kate’s death could be the spark that catalyzes Ryan’s transformation into a superhero. Just as Miles Morales is compelled to become Spider-Man after seeing Peter Parker fall in battle, Ryan may take up the Batwoman mantle in honor of Kate’s memory.
The Return of Bruce Wayne: Batwoman Beyond?
Undoubtedly the biggest ongoing mystery in Batwoman: Season 1 has been the whereabouts of Bruce Wayne. As the series opens, Batman has been MIA for three years, and even his protege Luke Fox seems to have no idea where Bruce is. In fact, the only time we’ve ever seen Bruce in the Arrowverse was during the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, as Kate traveled to Earth-96 and met an aging, morally bankrupt version of her cousin played by Kevin Conroy.
With the series losing Kate Kane, perhaps the time has come to finally address this ongoing mystery and reveal the whereabouts of Bruce Wayne. What better character to introduce in Season 2 as a way of rebuilding the series’ momentum and even drawing in viewers who weren’t watching before?
This isn’t to say we necessarily want to see Bruce resume his role as Batman. Just as Supergirl has needed to keep Superman at arm’s length so as not to overshadow the story of Kara Danvers, Batman would cast too heavy a shadow over the series. That’s to say nothing of the logistical hurdles involved. Just because Crisis was able to include a cameo of Ezra Miller’s Flash doesn’t mean Warner Bros. isn’t still limiting what characters the Arrowverse can and can’t use.
Bruce has more to offer the series as a mentor to the new Batwoman than as Batman. After all, someone is going to need to mold the reckless Ryan Wilder into a disciplined warrior, and we doubt Luke can do it alone. Kate’s death could spark a new wave of guilt in Bruce, compelling him to finally return home and honor his cousin by training her successor. The series could effectively become “Batwoman Beyond,” with an older Bruce Wayne guiding a new hero. Along the way, maybe we’ll even get the full story behind the reveal that Batman apparently killed the Joker.
It’s also worth remembering that Batwoman already effectively cast Bruce Wayne. The Season 1 finale showed Alice surgically altering Tommy Elliot’s face to look like Bruce Wayne, setting the stage for Tommy to impersonate Gotham’s favorite son in Season 2. If actor Warren Christie is already going to play a Bruce Wayne impersonator, why not have him play the real deal, too? This could add further tension to Bruce’s overdue return to Gotham, if he’s forced to remain in hiding so long as his former friend is wearing his face around town.
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The Supporting Cast
We have to assume Rose’s departure will have a ripple effect when it comes to the show’s ensemble cast. Will other characters be written out of the series? Does it make sense to keep focusing on characters like Kate’s father Jacob, stepsister Mary and former lover Sophie once Kate herself is gone? Won’t Ryan have friends, family and enemies of her own who need time in the spotlight?
The shift from Kate to Ryan could give the series a valuable opportunity to shift focus and recenter itself while trimming some of its more extraneous characters. In the comics, there’s an elegant simplicity to Kate Kane. She’s a soldier on a mission, and she only has room in her life for those who can help her further that mission (plus the occasional love interest). One of the great mistakes with Batwoman: Season 1 was moving away from that simplicity. The series doesn’t need the same large ensemble cast as seen on other Arrowverse shows like The Flash or Supergirl.
It probably makes sense to keep Dougray Scott’s Jacob Kane as a recurring character given his role as Gotham’s top cop. Assuming Kate is killed off, there’s surely a lot of family drama to explore there. But beyond Jacob and Camrus Johnson’s Luke Fox, the series might do well to consolidate its cast and strive for the simpler, more direct route taken by the Batwoman comics.
The New Batwoman’s Rogues Gallery
If the course of Batwoman: Season 1 showed us anything, it’s that the series is better served fleshing out its roster of villains than superfluous supporting characters. The latter half of Season 1 built up a formidable roster of enemies for Kate, not least of which being her sister Alice. Alice’s role in the series may only grow more compelling if Kate is killed off. The two sisters came close to reconciliation and understanding more than once in Season 1, but it wasn’t to be. If Alice is the architect of Kate’s death, will that act weigh on her? How will she react to seeing another woman take up Kate’s mantle?
Season 1 set other wheels in motion on the villain front. While both August Cartwright and his tortured son Johnny were killed off, it was heavily implied August’s mother Mabel is still out there (and possibly wearing the face of Kate and Alice’s dead mother, no less). Kate’s run-ins with Julia Pennyworth have hinted at criminal kingpin Safiyah Sohail becoming a major threat in Season 2. And again, there’s always the problem of Tommy Elliot cavorting about Gotham with Bruce Wayne’s face. None of these plot threads need to be axed just because Kate herself will no longer be in the picture. Ideally, Season 2 will find a way to balance these existing villains while also introducing other characters with more personal ties to Ryan.
With the Season 1 finale raising the possibility we might actually see the Arrowverse’s (modern day) Bruce Wayne after all these years, it’s tempting to wonder if the door is now open for more traditional Batman villains to put in appearances. To date, Batwoman has tended to reference the classic Batman rogues only in an offhand way, with characters like Luke Fox alluding to the fates of Joker or Penguin or relics like Bane’s mask being glimpsed in Arkham Asylum. Apart from Ra’s al Ghul and his daughters playing a major role in Arrow, the Batman rogues seem to be mostly off-limits in the Arrowverse.
We don’t necessarily see that changing anytime soon, especially with 2021’s The Batman featuring new versions of several iconic Bat-villains. But more importantly, we don’t necessarily see the need for the series to suddenly veer into more familiar territory. Again, the series isn’t hurting for solid villains right now, and with a new heroine should also come new enemies. Even if Season 2 does establish a Batman Beyond-esque dynamic between Ryan and Bruce, it’s not as if many Batman Beyond episodes revolve around the traditional rogues. That dynamic becomes all the more interesting if Bruce is forced to mentor his new partner while confronting an unfamiliar city full of villains he doesn’t recognize. A lot can change when you take a three-year sabbatical.
For more on all things Batwoman, check out our full Season 1 review and learn which other Arrowverse series will cross over with Batwoman in 2021.