What Happened to Kate Kane? attempts to keep the carcass of Batwoman fresh for another season despite enough signs this series probably should have been a one and down with the departure of lead Ruby Rose.
In fairness, if the show had to lose any cast member Rose wasn’t going to be the hardest to replace. Rose (John Wick: Chapter Two) frequently found herself upstaged in nearly every scene by her more relaxed, nuanced cast members. It’s telling then that none of Rose’s castmates departed the show in some sign of solidarity. Or maybe it’s just the lure of cracking the mythical 100 episodes streaming syndication bonus?
Enter Javicia Leslia, who joins the series as Ryan Wilder, a homeless ex-con imprisoned on trumped up drug charges. Batwoman pays homage to the time honored tradition of having a black character fill in the established role previously held by a white character. And in most cases, that black character has a rougher, decidedly harder life than their predecessor.
Ryan is living in her car when a jet crashes nearby. Team Batwoman is alerted to the crash, but Kate isn’t responding. Was Kate on the plane? That’s still in question. What isn’t is her Batwoman suit did make the trip. Seems like the easiest workaround is Kate hooked up with a stewardess and missed her flight then bumped her head and got amnesia. That’s all the rage with Batman family members these days.
Kate was en route to National City to get her close pal Kara Danvers aka Supergirl to destroy a piece of Kryptonite. I feel like no one really understands how that works. Supergirl is the last person Batwoman would need help from in destroying Kryptonite. And also, Kara isn’t the best at rescuing anyone from crashing planes that don’t involve family members.
That is another nod to how much of an investment The CW made into Rose, who was prominently featured on two of the Arrowverse’s major crossovers including Crisis on Infinite Earths. The plus side for Leslie is the former Arrowverse is in a major state of flux although COVID-19 squashed the opportunity for a likely ratings boost with a Superman & Lois crossover aborted.
Keeping the entire supporting cast was an odd move and attaching Ryan to Kate’s world comes off clunky specifically the weak link connecting Ryan and Kate’s psychotic sister Alice. By the end of last season, Alice felt like she’d overstayed her welcome and retaining one villain for the next season seems like a bad idea.
This won’t help Ryan emerge from Kate’s shadow and it’s not like Kate was some enduring, long lasting hero anyway to justify merely plopping Ryan into Kate’s slot on the series. Kate’s girlfriend Sophie (Meagan Tandy) and father, Col. Kane (Dougray Scott) feel especially superfluous now. Alice breaks the sibling code and outs Kate as Batwoman to Col. Kane, which is kind of a silly development that can’t be developed further.
This also means Ryan has to clean up Kate’s cliffhanger subplot of Tommy Elliot masquerading as Bruce Wayne. Despite immediately acting suspicious, Luke doesn’t catch on that Bruce isn’t Bruce…after escorting him to the Batcave. Julia (Christina Wolfe) is savvier and catches Tommy in several lies although Team Batwoman connects the dots far faster than seemed reasonable.
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Ryan tries out the suit after an on the nose conversation with her social worker where she helpfully tells viewers she’s tired of being powerless. This implies that there’s some power in copping another person’s suit, much like Kate did, and finding some new inner strength. Oh yeah, Ryan teaches karate so she’s well versed in street vigilantism.
After her first time in Batwoman’s costume, which in fairness, has a rough start, Ryan helpfully lets Luke and Mary know her identity. This seemed like a subplot that could have easily stretched out over the first quarter of this season.
There definitely felt like a rushed mandate to establish Ryan as Batwoman as quickly as possible in one episode. If nothing else, we could have been spared this monologue that felt like Ryan considered herself Amanda Gorman instead of Batwoman. Also, why was Ryan strolling through the sewers?
Switching leads hasn’t resulted in the show’s cheese factor dropping much. Whatever Happened to Kate Kane is the actual headline of the newspaper as if that would be the main news in Gotham and not the lead feature in the Society pages. Mary finds out all she can on Ryan while Ryan reads up on her predecessor.
Eventually, Ryan heads out as Batwoman one final time as Tommy tries to kill her using the Batmobile. Thankfully Luke channels his inner Felicity and hacks the Batmobile allowing Ryan enough time to beat Bruce’s face off Tommy. But not before he shot her with the Kryptonite bullet.
Safiyah sends Alice a message that she killed Kate…maybe. Great, now Alice has a new purpose this season. Ryan tends to her wounds, but notices some traces of radioactive green substance in her blood. Why is Batwoman making Kryptonite such a key subplot? Maybe this is one of those early sees that was going to be used to set up the crossover? Either way it doesn’t make a ton of sense.
With one episode down of this new era of Batwoman it doesn’t feel like keeping this show on life support around much longer seems like the best idea either. At least Leslie shows far more personality than Rose, but the hand-me down nature of this transition is making for an awkward new direction.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Photo Credit: The CW