Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: After underwhelming first season, Batwoman returns with new, and Blacker, protagonist

<p>Javicia Leslie poses in costume as Batwoman for a promotional still of the CW show. Leslie took over the role from actress Ruby Rose, who portrayed the character last season. </p>

Javicia Leslie poses in costume as Batwoman for a promotional still of the CW show. Leslie took over the role from actress Ruby Rose, who portrayed the character last season.

When the news broke last May that Ruby Rose would be departing CW’s “Batwoman” after its underwhelming first season, fans wondered what the series would look like without its titular star. These questions were answered Sunday in the season two premiere when Javicia Leslie suited up as Ryan Wilder, Gotham’s new Batwoman, for the first time. 

With an updated title sequence, a costume change and a new, original main character, the premiere of the new Batwoman took concrete steps to differentiate itself from its predecessor. 

"If we’re gonna have a Black Batwoman, she needs to be a sista when she becomes Batwoman," Leslie said during DCFandome, an online comic-con-style event created by DC. "So, it's important that the silhouette of her still looks like that. So more of like a natural textured hair and things like that.”

Related: [Read more film reviews here]

Leslie is joined this season by co-stars Camrus Johnson, playing Luke Fox, Meagan Tandy, playing Sophie Moore, and Nathan Owens, playing Ocean. With all these characters having substantial roles, Batwoman is the second DC-based CW show that stars more than one Black actor. 

Last season, audiences were introduced to Ruby Rose’s portrayal of Kate Kane. A member of the Wayne family, she had all the money and resources needed to continue the war on crime started by her cousin Bruce. As the season continued, however, it did not seem like Kate actually wanted to be Batwoman, but rather it was something she felt she was required to do. 

This is what makes this season’s installation of the Bat-family mythos so exciting — it departs from the standard “angry and wealthy white orphan with violent tendencies” trope of other Batman stories. Season two of Batwoman gives us a hero that 99% of people can relate to, rather than just the 1%.

Javicia Leslie’s interpretation of the character is much more infectious and energetic than Rose’s. She’s having the time of her life in the bat-suit, and audiences experience this joy early in the episode when she takes on her first henchmen.

When first introduced to Ryan, we see her as someone whom the system has let down. She’s an unhoused, falsely accused ex-con who can’t find steady work or a place to live. Her biological mother died during childbirth and her adoptive mother’s murder was never solved. Despite all of this, she still wants to help. 

Ryan may be powerless in a system set up for her failure, as explained in a meeting with her parole officer in which she cites the real-world issues ex-cons face on a daily basis, but the new Batwoman is far from helpless. 

Appropriately titled “What Happened to Kate Kane,” the first episode of the season begins with Kate’s plane crash landing onto a beach where Ryan is asleep in her van. Like any hero, she immediately rushed to the crash site looking for survivors and found a Black man experiencing homlessness buried in the rubble. The man dies due to his injuries as Ryan tearfully enacts CPR, reminding audiences that those with power often forget the consequences of their actions on others deemed less important.

Just like the real world, Ryan’s path to fully realizing her “Bat Girl Magic!” is blocked by a rich, self-serving white man by the name of Tommy Elliot, nicknamed Hush, played by Warren Christie. While badly impersonating Bruce Wayne, Tommy spends the entire opening episode attempting to acquire both the bat-suit and kryptonite, which is “the only thing that can penetrate the bat-suit” for whatever reason. Avoiding spoilers,  Ryan handles the situation in a similar manner to which many Black mothers have threatened their misbehaving children.

My verdict? The first episode of Batwoman season two fully and believably incorporates its new curly-haired leading lady. The show feels more like a spin-off, rather than a continuation, and similar to the Parkers, it may prove more popular than its predecessor. 

Batwoman season two appears to be some of the best, and most authentic Black-focused superhero television to date. Ryan may not be a Wayne, and she may not be rich, but Batwoman is back and Blacker than ever. 

Stray Observations

A few random thoughts I had while watching the episode. 

  • The Batmobile is worse than literally anything else. There is NO way Ryan out-drives it in the old minivan she had been living in. 

  • I can NOT believe that Luke thought that was really Bruce Wayne, after all the time he spent with the man. 

  • I didn’t realize how much I needed to see a Bat-character who actually enjoys fighting crime until today. Ryan’s fighting debut has multiple one-liners and a unique choreography that drastically differentiates Ryan’s vigilante persona from the Wayne cousins

  • Just so we’re clear, the bat-suit is an incredible piece of body armor. However, that does NOT mean it has the same integrity as Superman's skin. 

  •  It really angered my soul to see Tommy tell Ryan she’s not Batwoman like he wasn’t wearing Batman’s STOLEN FACE.

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