'Batwoman' returns with a middling first episode, but Javicia Leslie has us excited for what's to come all the same.
🦇Ryan's journey to become Batwoman will be an uphill battle for her — which is interesting!
🦇Dougray Scott's performance as a devastated Jacob was one of the strongest emotional beats of the episode.
🦇Some of the drama felt forced (yes, even for a CW show).
🦇Hush's involvement added an unnecessary level of confusion.
This post contains spoilers for Batwoman.
It’s been a tumultuous year for all of the Arrowverse, but none had as many struggles as The CW’s Batwoman. In addition to not being able to film the finales that they had planned last year, the series also lost its lead actress. Ruby Rose doesn’t talk much about her decision, but hopefully it was the right one for her! With her departure, the series set out to find its newest leading lady. Enter Javicia Leslie, the ray of sunshine that will be taking on the role of Gotham’s dark knight.
Leslie plays Ryan Wilder. In interviews, Wilder’s character had been described as the antithesis to Kate Kane in many ways. Where Kate was typically cool and collected in battle, and prone to keep things close to the vest, Ryan has no problem telling you exactly what she’s doing and why — something that was aptly illustrated in this first episode. She’s emotional in a way that we’ve seen do well for members of the Bat Family in the comics, and will offer a new dynamic to the team that they haven’t experienced in the past.
Ryan Wilder isn’t chosen to become Batwoman. Instead, the suit nearly literally falls in her lap. Ryan is currently homeless after a stint in jail after she was charged with possession of drugs that weren’t hers. She can’t find a job, she can’t find a home, and her (white) parole officer wants her to make better choices. The thing is, Ryan Wilder hasn’t been given a lot of “choices” in life. So: Ryan sleeps in her van. Her van that was parked on the very shore that pieces of Kate Kane’s plane rained down on. After shakily saving a man’s life, Ryan takes the suit and hoofs it away from the scene.
Largely, that’s the gist of the episode. Ryan has the Batsuit, and has decided that she will bring her mother’s killers to justice. Meanwhile, Kate’s friends and family all reconcile with the fact that they’re never going to see her again. While Leslie explored her new role as Ryan Wilder, the rest of the cast responds on-screen to the loss of a loved one. The thing is — a lot of the drama here felt forced. Not, like, "CW forced." The majority of the actors cast in these roles are exceptional. But, for some reason what they were trying to sell in this premier was not working. The primary exception here is Dougray Scott’s Jacob Kane.
Director Kane has been through a lot. He thought he lost one of his daughters, and instead she lived to become Gotham’s #1 Super Villain™. Said villain then viciously killed his wife and tormented his daughter as punishment for him moving on. Now, Kate’s “dead” too. True to form, Alice decides to twist the knife by informing her father that Kate was Batwoman, and that his final moments with his daughter were spent hating her (and trying to kill her). The promo shot of Jacob lighting the bat signal that had all of us confused was actually a devastated father’s last hope at finding a daughter he knows to be gone. That is great.
“What Happened To Kate Kane” has one other key weak point outside of the questionable performances from otherwise solid actors: Hush (Gabriel Mann). At the end of last season, Alice gave him a new face — Bruce Wayne’s. I can see the desire to keep Tommy Elliot involved after that flex, but it pulls away from everything the episode’s trying to achieve. It’s certainly too soon for Ryan’s Batwoman to come face to face with Alice, but making her first battle with someone we know made the episode more about him than it should have been. It also weakened the scare factor of one of Batman’s greatest rivals. The disconcerting return of Fake Bruce should have been saved for episode 3 or so — it was just distracting here.
It was a shaky return for Batwoman. But it’s the kind of premier that gives you hope for what’s to come. Watching Ryan Wilder throw up after having a PTSD moment was a good introduction for the type of hero’s journey we’re about to witness. Her Number speech was impassioned, from the heart, and the type of truth we need to see on screen more often. Everything Javicia is doing as Ryan is working, and hopefully the rest of the cast just had a weird few days.
Batwoman airs Sunday nights on The CW.
Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.