This review of Batwoman Season 2 Episode 1 contains SPOILERS for the episode.
Batwoman is back, with Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) taking up the cowl and becoming a very different kind of Batwoman. This episode had a near-impossible task: reset the series after its abrupt Season 1 ending and cement Ryan Wilder as the new Batwoman. It lands this impossible task and more, setting us on a new trajectory that leaves open a completely different direction for the series to explore. So while it's sad to close the door on Kate Kane, it's incredibly exciting to open it for Ryan Wilder.
First, Ryan is not Kate, and the show goes to great lengths to show that. Not only does she have the expected learning curve on using the Batsuit (which provides some requisite fun and action), you can immediately tell the difference in their approaches. The military trained Kate Kane. Ryan Wilder is an MMA fighter.
Leslie also brings a lightness to the role that is refreshing. While she has her requisite tragic backstory, which gives her personal reasons for wanting to take on Gotham's criminal element, she doesn't feel quite so broody as either Kate Kane's Batwoman or the OG Bruce Wayne Batman. Her finding the Batsuit is a happy accident, a trick of fate, and while she feels the responsibility, she isn't driven by a devotion to a specific idea.
What's also great is that while Bruce Wayne's approach — I must punish criminals so that nothing bad happens like happened to me — is personal and, dare we say, narcissistic, Ryan Wilder is here to indict the system. Her tragedy isn't just that someone she loved was killed in front of her, and so she's driven to revenge. Hers is that the entire system has failed her and people like her for her entire life.
"You can have this damn suit back when her killer is dead" is a great line and tells us a lot about what kind of Batwoman she's going to be. And it helps answer the big question of the season: how do you replace the central drama of the show when it has always been about two sisters, Kate and Alice, and now replace it with literally some rando who found the suit? You give her stakes that tie her to Alice and the Wonderland Gang.
The episode also manages to tie things up for all of our major characters and their relationships with Kate. Most are heartbreaking, and you get some especially hard moments from Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) and Sophie (Meagan Tandy). It's not clear yet how they're going to be used in this new post-Kate world, but let's give the show a few episodes to introduce us to that: they already did so much in their initial 42 minutes, it's hard to ask them to do much more.
And on top of all of that, the episode climaxes with an appearance from The Batmobile giving chase through (of course) an abandoned amusement park because Gotham is apparently full of those. I can't imagine this is a one-off appearance of the Batmobile, and they're not going to use a lot more of it through the season. Bring it on, because it is cool as hell. Give me the toy of this Batmobile! And here's hoping we see more of it through the rest of the season.
We also need to take a moment to revel in the fact that during this scene, Tommy Elliot sings "Batman smells, Robin laid an egg!" meaning we are to understand that in this universe, a) Robin exists, and b) children in their universe also sing "Jingle Bells" about Batman. What the? Also– awesome.
I'm here for more of this crazy gonzo attitude, mixed with the pitch-perfect for 2021 social commentary all season long. If you've been sleeping on Batwoman, now is a good time to pick it up.
Batwoman season 2, episode 2 "Prior Criminal History": DOWNRIGHT BATTY — After her quick spin in the Batgear, Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) is back to facing the daily challenges of life as herself. Meanwhile, Alice (Rachel Skarsten) has a new, devious plan to get the attention of both Gotham and Safiyah (guest star Shivaani Ghai). With Kate still missing and the city in an uprising, Luke (Camrus Johnson) and Mary (Nicole Kang) are desperate to find a stand in. In a pinch, Ryan dons the suit again and comes face-to-face with Alice for the first time. Back at Crows Headquarters, Sophie and Commander Kane try to uncover who may have had a vendetta against Kate. Carl Seaton directed the episode written by James Stoteraux and Chad Fiveash.