We all got a major surprise at the end of season one of Batwoman. Ruby Rose, who played Kate Kane and her masked alter ego, our titular hero, suddenly announced she was quitting the show. There’s never really been an explanation, but I find what’s been said by some, and distinctly not said by others, to be interesting. All this left me with grave doubts about season two. They decided to not recast the role, and put someone new in the costume, which I had mixed feelings about. I had no idea how they would handle that and a few other plotlines from the finale. As it turns out, I was very pleasantly surprised by the season two premier, “What Happened to Kate Kane?” I will do my best, but there will be some spoilers below.
The show opens with the new star, Ryan Wilder, sleeping in her van. As she has some flashbacks to some past trauma, her night gets even more disturbed by a rain of wreckage and fireballs. What we eventually learn is that Kate Kane took a company plane (I guess? It’s the first mention of it in the series as far as I know) to National City to discuss something with Supergirl. Unfortunately, the plane didn’t make it back, or at least, not all of it did. Ryan searches the crash site, tries to help someone, gets another flashback triggered, and, after she staggers away, makes an important find. Meanwhile, at the cave, Luke and Mary piece together what’s happened, much to their shock and dismay.
A bit later, Crow Commander Jacob Kane shows up, frantic with worry about his missing daughter Kate. He’s joined by Sophie, and the two search the area. What they expect to find after a jet crash from altitude, I’m not sure, but I get the desperation. Back at Wayne Enterprises, Luke and Mary get a second shock as “Bruce Wayne” shows up. If you watched the first season, you know who this is actually is, and he proves fairly adept at not quite answering questions and bluffing his way through things.
We learn more about Ryan, our new hero, as she goes through a meeting with her parole officer (the position is never made clear, I only learned for sure who this was through the credits on IMDB). We learn the story of her life, and it’s appropriately tragic for anyone who wears the Bat. She’s in a bad position on many fronts, but stands up for herself well. At the Crows’ Nest (I’m going to keep calling it that), Sophie and Julia share some suspicions about the crash. Commander Kane argues with the police Commissioner about the search for Kate, and then gets some reassurance from Mary. It would have been an easy slip for the writers to not acknowledge the parallels between this and the accident that separated Kate and Beth, giving rise to Alice. Instead, they mention it naturally a few times, and I think that was a strong choice.
Feeling defensive, Luke does his best to explain to “Bruce” about how Batwoman came to be as they wander the cave. The impostor slips up about something important, but covers it well. Luke also reveals something very important to another character, but it’s never referenced again and I think it got lost in the shuffle. While Luke worries more about Kate and her being missing, “Bruce” keys in on the suit itself being missing. Elsewhere, Ryan locks herself in a really big bathroom somewhere or other and suits up for the first time, fighting through another ugly flashback. Her debut is less than perfect, which makes complete sense, but we do learn what her focus is going to be. She also is clearly excited about her new career. The enthusiasm is a nice touch for our rookie hero.
We get to see Wayne Manor for the first time on this Earth, as “Bruce” is living up to the original’s reputation. His great night gets interrupted by the unwelcome appearance of Alice. The two argue about how to handle Batwoman/Kate, and we hear what Alice’s master plan had been. To her credit, it was a good one and I could see it working. The two clearly don’t get along. Then again, Alice really doesn’t play well with others.
A distraught Sophie drops by at the Hold Out, Kate’s bar. She goes through a ritual of sadness a lot of people have done, before getting interrupted by Julia. Julia reveals why she’s there, and there’s more tension between the two. I’m not at all sure their relationship is going to survive Kate’s apparent death. In some of the omnipresent tunnels under Gotham, Kate and Luke have their first meeting with the new Batwoman, which doesn’t go well. She reveals her identity for reasons I’m not sure of, then refuses to give up the suit and flees. “Bruce” drops in at the Crows’ Nest, irritates Jacob, and arouses the suspicions of Julia. She trips him up with an easy bluff, but it’s something that it’s wholly in character for this impostor to not know.
In a nicely written scene, Mary researches Ryan while Ryan herself does some checking up on Kate Kane. The cuts between the two, and the violent incidents from Ryan’s past, are edited together skillfully. Mary also does her best to stop Luke from blaming himself for Kate’s accident. I get where he’s coming from. When she’s done with her reading, an impressed Ryan reaches out to the Batwoman team.
Julia finds Luke and Mary and shares her suspicions. Julia, being a skilled and clever investigator, has already gotten proof about what’s going on, which she shares with the two. I really liked this; we didn’t get the plot dragged out needlessly and there wasn’t someone keeping secrets for no discernable reason, which plagues a lot of the CW shows. Faux-Bruce goes back to the cave and searches for an important part of the Bat-Mythos we haven’t seen yet. He finds it at the same time he gets an answer about something else he’s concerned with.
In a fit of remarkably poor, if somewhat understandable, judgement, Jacob Kane goes to confront Alice. Alice devastates him with a big reveal and really drives the metaphorical knife home. By the time she’s done, Jacob is a mess, shocked and saddened. It’s another well-written and believable scene.
A few plotlines crash together, as “Bruce” goes after Ryan, while she gets a barely-in-time warning from Luke. There’s a very unique car chase that only works because Ryan gets some help from Luke. Ryan has some reactions to all this that ring true for someone in her odd situation. Finally, there’s a showdown between “Bruce” and Ryan, who has apparently already mastered the superhero quick change. The new Batwoman comes out on top, and some of Alice’s careful work is undone.
In the Wayne Enterprises office, Luke and Mary go over what they know so far about their missing friend, which is a whole lot of “inconclusive.” They get interrupted by Ryan showing up (Wayne security still leaves a lot to be desired, I guess) and making a surprising decision. Julia and Sophie have another tense meeting, where Julia delivers a message. As the message is read, we see Luke, Mary, Sophie, and Jacob all dealing with their grief. The show ends with a new and unpleasant surprise for Ryan, which will prove to be a good reason for her to get back in touch with Luke and Mary. Off on her own, Alice has a grim reunion and talks about the future, after getting an important message.
What I liked: The entire episode was a welcome surprise. I had no idea how, or if, they’d pull this major change off, and they did it well. I like Ryan, and her transition makes some degree of sense. Everyone had reactions that rang true, and I didn’t have any big “Wait, why is this happening?” moments, which was nice. It was great seeing the special thing “Bruce” found. I thought not dragging out that story was a good choice and showed the cast to be a group of smart people with appropriate skills. It also confirmed that another major Bat character is actually still alive, which we hadn’t known for sure until now. I still have questions about some others, but it’s nice to find this out.
What I didn’t: Very little. There’s going to be a “shared world” problem they need to address soon if they’re going to keep this believable: if Kate’s last “mission” was going to talk to Kara, we’re either going to need a Supergirl guest shot in the near future or a really good explanation as to why she doesn’t show up. If what was implied about Kate’s accident is true, it’s a horrible way for a hero to die, but not the first time that kind of thing has happened around a Bat.
What I’m Not Sure About: I can see a lot of reasons for not doing it, but I’d really like Kate’s fate resolved. Between the intelligence and skills of some of her nearest and dearest, and the powers and abilities of some of her allies, that really can’t drag out and be believable.
I really enjoyed this episode, and feel much better about the upcoming season. I hope they can maintain this level of quality. The writers did an amazing job of adapting to an unexpected curve ball. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5. Nicely done, all.