The CW’s Batwoman premiered in 2019 and is the sixth Arrowverse series. The show is infamously known for, among many other reasons, lead star Ruby Rose’s exit after one season. So would you believe me if I told you that, in a world with critically acclaimed superhero shows, such as Prime Video’s The Boys, HBO Max’s Doom Patrol, and even The CW’s Superman & Lois, Batwoman is the best superhero show on TV right now?
A history lesson
Before we get to the part where I tell you why it’s the best one, let’s rewind a little bit. Batwoman was first announced in July 2018, two months after word came out that the iconic DC character would show up in the Arrowverse crossover event, Elseworlds. The following month, Ruby Rose joined the franchise as the person who would don the cowl. Rose’s casting was the first of many, many controversies involving the series. The main reason Rose was attacked was that, as a gender-fluid person, she was “not gay enough” to play Batwoman, according to some people.
That was, however, clearly not the reason why Rose was being attacked. A huge part of the comics fandom is, unfortunately, composed of bigoted people ready to call anything with representativity “woke”. And to those people, Batwoman never stood a chance. And neither did Supergirl, Jessica Jones, or Captain Marvel. All those projects received a similar backlash from the same community. Batwoman and Captain Marvel were also review-bombed on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb before they were released.
The show finally premiered on October 6, 2019, and the general consensus was that the show was good. Rachel Skarsten received praise for her portrayal of Alice, while other supporting characters quickly became fan-favorites. The show, however, for many reasons, didn’t really connect with most of the audience during the first season. And then, the unexpected happened. On May 19, 2020, Rose exited the CW series after only one season.
A chance to do better
At the time, the reason behind Rose’s departure wasn’t disclosed to the public. However, after Rose made several allegations regarding the show’s working conditions, Warner Bros., as well as series regular Camrus Johnson both confirmed that Rose was fired from the show over multiple workplace behavior complaints. A former production assistant has since backed the allegations against Rose.
With Rose’s departure, showrunner Caroline Dries had a second chance at fixing what wasn’t working in the show. Her first decision was to not recast the character of Kate Kane and instead create a new character to lead the show. And so Javicia Leslie joins the show as Batwoman herself, Ryan Wilder.
I must say, I was pretty disappointed when I first heard Kate wasn’t going to be recast. Mostly because the whole cast was related to her in some way: Rachel Skarsten’s Alice and Nicole Kang’s Mary are her sisters, Dougray Scott’s Jacob is their father, Meagan Tandy’s Sophie was her love interest, and Camrus Johnson’s Luke was her close friend. It was hard for me to understand how Batwoman was supposed to work without Kate Kane. After news came out that Leslie was the new Batwoman, and I was able to see her excitement, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, this could work.
It didn’t take me too long to admit that I was wrong though. It took me half an episode, actually. “Congratulations, Caroline Dries, you did it” was all I could think of when I watched the season 2 premiere. Because she did it. Ryan Wilder is Batwoman and more importantly, Javicia Leslie IS Batwoman.
Ryan Wilder, Batwoman
And this was when things changed. Kate’s departure and Ryan’s subsequent introduction allowed the show to explore powerful themes and stories, like grief. The show asks how do you move forward when the center of your world is suddenly gone, as the characters deal with Kate’s disappearance. It also allowed the cast to show off their amazing acting skills even more than they usually do. And what a fantastic cast this show has.
Another powerful theme the show explored in season 2 was racism and police brutality. Going into season 2, the show had two Black main characters (Sophie and Luke). However, now it also had a Black lead. And with that came an enormous responsibility on how to tackle those subjects. And the writers did that in a brilliant and thoughtful way, as the three characters deal with those issues in different ways. One episode in specific has the trio discussing their different opinions and points of view on the matter.
Suddenly, it felt like the show finally knew not only what it wanted to be, but what it had to be. And that’s because of Ryan Wilder. She’s the complete opposite of Kate. Ryan is a poor Black ex-con, while Kate came from a privileged background. Kate chose to be Batwoman, while Ryan had to earn her place. And she earned it. And maybe that’s why Ryan works so much better as a character than Kate did. Ryan is a real person. She represents a lot of people that have to fight to earn their place in the world. And it’s a breath of fresh air to see a person that represents so much wearing the Batsuit. Ryan is more than just a character. She’s a statement, a symbol that you can be whoever you want to be, no matter what the odds are.
So if you ask me why Batwoman is the best superhero show out there, there’s your answer: Ryan. A show is only as good as its lead. And Ryan is the best lead we could possibly have. And, of course, you pair that with great writing, acting, and fight choreography, and you have an amazing show that focuses on important subjects while still knowing how to be fun and entertaining.
The show is currently airing its third season that, among other things, is focusing a lot on the importance of mental health.
This season also features the introduction of three new main characters, billionaire Jada Jet (Robin Givens), her son Marquis (brilliantly played by Nick Creegan), and well-known comics character Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena, who previously played the character in FOX’s Gotham). The show has also introduced new versions of classic Batman foes, such as the Joker and Poison Ivy. Meanwhile, the original Poison Ivy (fan-favorite Bridget Regan) will debut in the next episode of the drama.
Another highlight of the new season is a queer slow-burn romance between Leslie’s Ryan and Tandy’s Sophie. They exhale chemistry and the flirtations and the will-they-won’t-they aspect of their relationship are super fun to watch.
This season proves what season 2 had shown us: That the show found itself, and managed to thrive against all odds.
But most importantly, this season proves once and for all that Ryan Wilder is Batwoman, and while she might be Kate’s successor, she is in no way her replacement.
Batwoman stars Javicia Leslie, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, Victoria Cartagena, Nick Creegan, and Robin Givens. The show will return on January 12, 2021, on The CW.