Batwoman season one stars Ruby Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman. The series co-stars Dougray Scott, Elizabeth Anweis, Meagan Tandy, Camrus Johnson, Nicole Kang and Rachel Skarsten.
The series is currently on break in North America and airs new episodes weekly here in the UK on E4.
Those of us here in the UK woke up yesterday morning to the news that Batwoman star Ruby Rose had quit the freshman series just days after the first season finale aired in North America.
The news has been met with widespread criticism from Rose who now faces a social media backlash for turning her back on a character which many have found to be inspirational. But many also forget that the journey to Batwoman’s first season was not plain sailing for the model-cum-actress.
A Hero’s Journey
When Rose was first announced to take on the role for the Elseworlds crossover in 2018 the casting announcement was met with calls that Rose “wasn’t lesbian enough” to play the character. Rose identifies as a lesbian much like Kate Kane.
Such was the backlash that Rose quit Twitter and disappeared in to her work.
Positive reviews of her appearance in Elseworlds led to talk of a series, rumours of a pilot led to the announcement of a full series order and Batwoman quickly joined the DCTV pantheon in time for Crisis On Infinite Earths.
But still Rose faced criticism. Her acting was deemed “weak and emotionless,” storylines were criticised for being derivative and it seemed like the so-called Arrowverse might have its first potential cancellation on its hands.
But with Crisis On Infinite Earths something extraordinary happened. Rose suddenly seemed at ease amongst her peers. Kate was written more warmly and if I’m not mistaken she may have even smiled. The relationship between Kate and Kara/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) certainly seems to mark a turning point in the audience’s relationship with Rose and her character.
When Batwoman returned from its winter break fans seemed more optimistic. Things began coming together. The story became more cohesive, the fight choreography got tighter and Batwoman began to stand out amongst the five DCTV shows on the air on The CW.
In its Post-Crisis batch of episodes Batwoman brought us plenty of nods to the wider Batman universe, Arkham Asylum finally became a more relevant location for the show and relationships between the characters began to feel earnest and organic.
But now with Rose leaving the show there is plenty of time to ruminate on season one’s issues and the potential changes that we could see in season two. A recently released synopsis teased some big changes for the series, many of them tied to the casting of Alpha’s Warren Christie as “Bruce Wayne.”
Looking back on some of the more functional episodes of Batwoman’s first season, its easy to see now that the series made excellent use of its supporting cast, more so even that of Rose. Later episodes are anchored by the relationship between Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) and Mary (Nicole Kang) and we seem to spend increasing amounts of time with Alice (Rachel Skarsten).
Alice? Alice? Who The F**k Is Alice?
Skarsten has been the saving grace of Batwoman season one. Even in the most dysfunctional of episodes her performance has been outstanding. Scenes between Skarsten and Rose have certainly elevated Rose’s performance and it leaves us with the question of whether her replacement will have the same chemistry.
It seemed as though Batwoman was teeing up Alice to take more of a backseat role in season two. Although the synopsis would tease an old foe of her returning it made narrative sense for the series to move on her quarrels with Kate. We’ve done the sisterly game of cat-and-mouse (literally for poor old Mouse) for most of a season now and it would only feel repetitive for this to continue.
But shifting Skarsten in to a recurring or even guest star role could be problematic alongside a new lead. The writers are likely now faced with the challenge of striking a new balance between retreading the steps of Alice and Kate’s season one arc or under utilising their best asset at a time when the show needs to really up its game.
Batwing To The Rescue?
With the audience acclimating to a new face for Kate Kane – not a plot point which is likely to be addressed unless we go all multiverse on the character – the writers will need to focus on these characters to help the show feel like it’s business as usual.
Don’t be surprised if, when the show returns, the “new” Kate spends an increasing amount of time relying on Luke and Mary whilst in the field. Anchoring a new face to those recognisable ones will enable to audience to feel more at easy.
Perhaps this situation with put a gun to the writers heads to step up any plans to have Luke transition in to the role of Batwing from the comics. To take him out in the field would be an exiting development for the character as well as his fans and also detract from the focus being on an unfamiliar face.
The bond between Luke and Kate was an early draw for many fans. Whilst is paralleled the same relationships we’ve seen on Arrow and Supergirl – tech genius lends support to technophobe hero – it felt different. Kate’s sexuality immediately removes any romantic potential between two. Thus leaving the audience with a mixed-gender bromance which feels fresh in a franchise almost a decade old.
With Hush still on the loose it leaves plot threads regarding the murder of Lucius Fox hanging. This gives Camrus Johnson plenty to play with in season two and plenty of reason to start on his journey to becoming another of Gotham’s vigilante elite.
Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves
Nicole Kang’s Mary has been on an interesting journey throughout the season. Initial comparisons to early-Arrow Thea painted her a spoiled, social media brat. But the decision to have her manage an underground medical clinic allowed the character to become something much more complex.
Of all the leads it feels like Nicole had the longest stretch of the writers being unsure how to manager her character. But as the season wore on she became much more integral to the story and also a much stronger personality amongst the pack.
By season’s end, particularly after discovering Kate’s secret, Mary really began to hold her own. Our season two synopsis teases a relationship with Luke, something which became apparent in the last few episodes of season one. Pairing these two certainly seems to have been an attempt by the writers to pull focus away from Kate.
Given the relationship between Kate and Luke it seemed odd that Mary was the one to accompany him to the hearing which saw the potential murderer of his father released. Was this a sign that Ruby was already stepping back from the show? We’re the writers overcompensating for Ruby’s behaviour by giving screen time to other cast members?
Season two needs to find a solid home for Mary. If she is joining team Batwoman it needs to be in a purely supportive role. A series like Batwoman, steeped in Batman-lore needs to keep its vigilante’s individual. Batwoman doesn’t need a Robin and a fleet of sidekicks would dull the unique edge the series has developed over time.
Speaking objectively, Mary is placed in the story as a Lee Tompkins figure. An associate of the vigilante who aids as and when required. Giving Mary the opportunity to continue patching up Kate whilst keeping an ear to the ground would suit her personality well.
We already know that Batwoman season two will tackle the character of Safiyah Sohail. A lesbian pirate from Coryana (that name sound familiar?) who has history with Kate.
It seems the show may switch out Kate for Alice in terms of that backstory but it also offers the chance for Batwoman to cover some new ground. What are her reasons for coming to Gotham? Why is she after Batwoman?
But aside from bringing in a new big bad, Batwoman needs to look a little closer to home for other stories. This isn’t Gotham, we don’t need a week-by-week rundown of the A-list villains who have plagued Batman for decades. But in its first season the series stayed away from all but the most obscure comic book characters (Hush aside).
With teases of Joker, Penguin and Riddler it seems the writers were anxious to dive in to the big games for fear of them overshadowing Kate. Now that the character is established, we need to see her go up against some heavy hitters. Firstly to prove that she is more than capable of holding her own and secondly because, at present, Gotham simply doesn’t feel like Gotham.
Giving Kate much more familiar surroundings, familiar locations and villains etc. then Batwoman could take another huge step towards moving on from it’s checkered past.
What are you most excited for in Batwoman season two? Let me know in the comments below.