REVIEW: Batwoman’s “Whatever Happened to Kate Kane” is an Epic Season Premiere

Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder/Batwoman

Batwoman is back, but not as we remember her. With Kate Kane missing, Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) must don the Bat-suit and protect Gotham City against the many villains who are determined to destroy it. It’s just one episode, but I already love this new hero and the trajectory for the second season.

Batwoman (Season 2)
“Whatever Happened to Kate Kane”

Holly Dale (director), Caroline Dries (writer)
Javicia Leslie, Rachel Skarsten, Dougray Scott, Camrus Johnson, Nicole Kang (cast)
January 17, 2021

I enjoyed the first season of Batwoman—barring the Julia Pennyworth casting—and was eager for more. I thought Ruby Rose did a great job as Kate Kane/ Batwoman: she was sarcastic and fun, but also dark, which was what I wanted from my Batwoman. I was sad to hear that she wouldn’t be returning to the role, but her replacement, Leslie, has stepped in flawlessly.

I’ve been following the announcements around Leslie’s casting closely and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see her wear this cape. I can’t imagine what all the hype and pressure of leading a superhero show, especially as the first Black Batwoman, could be for her. But in ‘”Whatever Happened to Kate Kane,” Leslie doesn’t buckle under the strain at all.

Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder in Season 2.
© 2020 The CW Network

This opening episode is an excellent vehicle for Leslie’s Batwoman, and she absolutely shines in the role. You can see how lost Ryan Wilder is in Gotham City; we get a great deal of backstory for Ryan (without much exposition), and how much the Bat-suit means to her. It creates an immediate connection between Ryan and the viewer. She could be anybody—she could be us—and her being Batwoman comes across as not just aspirational but believable.

For those who read Ryan’s brief introduction in Batgirl #50, you’ll already know that she is a character raging against the system, with good reason. Everything about Ryan in the premiere makes her compelling.

And you can clearly see that Leslie is having the time of her life as Batwoman. She’s effortlessly funny and skilled in the suit; it takes Ryan a few tries to understand the mechanics, which added some levity to the episode. And the confidence the suit gives Ryan is evident in every frame. I can’t wait to see more action scenes with Leslie and her stunt team. Those scenes looked so good!

Loving Ryan Wilder is going to be easy. She’s a character who knows she stands for everyone who has been marginalised because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and their social and economic status. She’s not a millionaire but she can still effect change. And she’s an absolute badass. What a fantastic addition to the show.

Aside from Leslie, we are reacquainted with Camrus Johnson’s Luke Fox and Nicole Kang’s Mary Hamilton, who make up Team Batwoman. They form the emotional core of this episode, seeing as their friend and stepsister Kate has gone missing. We get inklings of their future relationship with Ryan here, and I’m interested to see how those connections will be explored. Luke has been in the superhero game since he took over from his father to help Bruce Wayne’s Batman, but Mary is still new to this world. Perhaps having a newbie superhero is just what Team Batwoman needs right now?

Kate’s ex-flames, Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) and Julia Pennyworth (Christine Wolfe), have a smaller role in “Whatever Happened to Kate Kane,” but they get crucial plot lines nonetheless. We get some idea of which direction these two characters will go—since they both have ties to Batwoman—but the episode keeps things vague enough to have viewers hankering for more to be revealed during the season.

Batwoman’s major villain, Alice (Rachel Skarsten), returns, which is great. It feels like Skarsten never stopped being Alice because she picks up on the eccentricities of the character so easily. She has a part to play in unleashing this episode’s villain, but we can assume she’s got more tricks up her sleeve for ensuing installments. It’s great to see a scenery-chewing villain like Alice on-screen again, and she’s clearly going to play a big role again this season.

I usually expect great characters and action from CW’s Arrowverse shows, but the writing on “Whatever Happened to Kate Kane” is magnificent. There are some unexpected twists thrown in that had my jaw on the floor. I love that there are facts the audience knows but the characters don’t. I was at the edge of my seat, yelling at the screen so the bad guys wouldn’t get the upper hand.

The writing is embellished with some excellent direction. Introducing a new lead to an established show should have been hard, and could have taken up time through exposition. But “Whatever Happened to Kate Kane” turns that exposition into a moment of character growth. It’s masterful stuff that speeds up the pace of the story without compromising on drama or character development.

Batwoman’s second season opener is epic in so many ways. A great story, backed by excellent editing and direction, plus characters that we already love who are set to grow even more. Leslie’s Ryan Wilder is going to bring a whole new perspective to the show, the Arrowverse, and to the superhero genre. She’s the underdog who’s going to take a stand. With such an amazing start to the season, I can’t even imagine what’s going to come next.

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books, or video games. E always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media. Louis' podcast, Stereo Geeks, is available on all major platforms. Pronouns: E/ Er/ Eir