Batwoman 2.01: What Happened to Kate Kane?
*warning: minor spoilers for the season 2 premiere of Batwoman can be found below as Rebecca O’Brien discusses the latest episode that just aired in the US...
Normally, the second season of a TV show is slightly less stressful, because the story has been established and the audience is coming back to a story they are already familiar with. However, Batwoman didn't get that luxury, as it essentially had to reinvent itself in the wake of Ruby Rose announcing that she wouldn't be returning to the show after the conclusion of season one. As a result, What Happened to Kate Kane? almost functions as a second pilot, since its primary role is to integrate the new main character Ryan Wilder (played brilliantly by Javicia Leslie) into the story of Batwoman.
Yet it must be admitted that the second pilot comparison doesn't quite fit, because while Ryan Wilder's plot line is brand new to the story, the rest of the episode is a direct continuation from the season one finale. Indeed, the episode picks up two days after the events of O, Mouse! and begins with a brief recap to remind us of what happened to get us to this point. This new episode is split into three interweaving plot threads: Ryan's introduction, the search for Kate's whereabouts, and Tommy Elliot making his way through Gotham as Bruce Wayne, while Alice watches from the shadows.
As a big fan of Ruby Rose's interpretation of Kate Kane and Batwoman, I was admittedly nervous to see how Ryan Wilder would be introduced to the story. Fortunately, the show writers don't waste any time in getting Ryan involved, as the episode starts with a bang. Ryan's backstory is slowly filled in as the episode continues, in the form of flashbacks and expository dialogue, that are informative but don't really slow the pace of the episode at all.
Like Kate, Ryan is revealed to be a character with hidden depths, but also deeply flawed. She's also struggles from her own defining trauma, in a similar way to how Kate suffered when she lost her twin Beth. In fact, the writers brilliantly created a trauma that keeps Alice relevant to the story, something I'd been worried about after Ruby Rose left. After all, the big connection between Batwoman and Alice was the fact that they're twins. The writers found the perfect way to make sure that Alice remains Batwoman's nemesis even though Batwoman will now be somebody else.
Ryan is also of a much different temperament than Kate. She's quirky, she talks to plants, and she is also not afraid to say exactly what she thinks of a given situation. This could lead to some interesting changes once Ryan assumes the mantle of Batwoman full-time, as we know she eventually will. I also really like how, during Ryan's first time with the Batsuit, it's made clear that Ryan has little to no idea what she's doing. She does have skills, but she hasn't quite figured out how to apply them, and it will be so much fun to watch her grow into her abilities as the new season goes on.
Speaking of Kate, I really liked how the show addressed her absence. While it looks like we're meant to assume Kate is gone for good, if you go back and analyze what we know (and don't know), the possibility is actually wide open for Kate to return in a guest role in the future.
There's also one development in tonight's episode that needs to be addressed because, it's somewhat unique. It's well known that season one of Batwoman was cut several episodes short due to the pandemic, and presumably the planned ending was never filmed. To my surprise, three-quarters of the way through this episode, the writers had Alice spell out exactly how the first season was originally going to end, before citing "mechanical failures" as the reason that plan never happened. It all felt very much like a tongue-in-cheek reference to both the pandemic disrupting filming and Ruby Rose's departure from the series, but I do appreciate that the writers gave fans of the show a hint at what would have likely happened, had season one not been cut short.
Now to my other favorite development in the season two premiere: watching Tommy Elliot finally have the chance to 'be' Bruce Wayne was an absolute delight. We know from last season, that Tommy has wanted to be his erstwhile best friend for a number of years, and it's scary to see just how good he is at it. Though there are several intentionally awkward moments where it's made plain that Tommy didn't quite think through his plan of becoming Bruce Wayne on a full-time basis. Warren Christie makes for an excellent Bruce Wayne and it would be nice to see him return if the real Bruce ever makes his way back to Gotham.
On one final note, I like that the show is still playing coy with showing us Safiyah, the big villain for this season. We've gotten hints, but we haven't properly met her yet. On that note, I suspect Julia knows more about that situation than what she's telling, but only time will tell how true that may be.
What Happened to Kate Kane? gets season two of Batwoman off to a roaring start. Any naysayers about Javicia Leslie's casting should have their doubts silenced by a powerful performance that had me in tears by the end. If this is how season two begins, it will be very exciting to see where the story goes from here.