Javicia Leslie Bursts Onto The Screen As A Compelling And Kick-Ass New Lead In Season 2 Of ‘Batwoman’ – Review
Season 2 of Batwoman starts off on a rather bleak tone, which is appropriate for all things set in Gotham City. Kate Kane is missing, and Gotham is suffering the consequences. As Kate’s loved ones struggle to find her, Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) struggles to find herself. Lucky for her, donning the cowl and cape is a good place to start.
Lead actress Ruby Rose announced in May that she was stepping down from her role as Kate Kane a.k.a Batwoman. It is still unclear as to why she left, though some cyberbullying from “fans” may be the case, but it is clear that Rose has no intentions of reviving the role. Just two months later, The CW announced that Javicia Leslie (God Friended Me) will be replacing her as the new lead. Just about everybody celebrated this news, fans and critics alike. Not only would the young show live to see another season, but Black girls around the world could see a hero that looked just like them.
Leslie plays Ryan Wilder, an original character. So, let me give you the basics on our newest Batwoman, Ryan Wilder: she’s Black, gay, and kicks ass. While Ryan may be new to the suit that fights injustices, she’s no stranger to injustices at all. Orphaned from a young age due to an absent father and one of the many Black mothers that don’t make it through childbirth, Ryan is quite literally born from tragedy.
Since life can only get worse, she was even sentenced to prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Her most recent tragedy is that her adoptive mother was murdered by a gang, and the police can’t seem to be bothered to give her the justice she deserves. With her being a master of multiple martial arts and not one to be submissive, Ryan won’t let one more Black woman fall victim to the same prejudiced system that failed her.
The Arrowverse show has just about every disadvantage in the book. Their lead actor quit, they have to write them out while maintaining the previous season’s storyline, they have to write a new main character in, it’s all during the worst global pandemic we’ve seen in nearly a century, and racial tensions are rising in the world as more injustices are exposed. The bar is set very very high, and somehow they have to make it seem like they pulled it off easily. This means this all has to feel natural in the world of Batwoman. The transition into this new season must feel flawless, and judging from this episode alone, they did a good job.
Written by writer and producer Caroline Dries, the first episode of the season—aptly named “What Ever Happened to Kate Kane?”—balances introducing Ryan and following-up on where last season left us. Alice has turned Tommy into Bruce Wayne with no one the wiser, and she and her gang are still wreaking havoc on Gotham.
Sometimes the change in focus from Ryan’s backstory to Alice’s current story is a bit distracting, often spending too much time on what seems like nonessential story and too little on what’s important. There are times when I wish the narrative would pick a story, either Ryan’s or Alice’s. However, I also understand this is a lot to ask because of the trickiness of the situation the creatives are in. It’s rather difficult trying to get a good grasp on Leslie’s performance as Ryan.
Although Ryan is the main focus of this episode to an extent, I’ve never seen Leslie act in anything else and she doesn’t get enough screen time to show her range. What I can tell from her screen time is that she’s physically capable of pulling off the stunts her character requires and she brings an energy to the character that has her fit into the Gotham landscape.
All in all, Leslie proves to be a refreshing, exciting move for Batwoman and the Arrowverse as a whole. Never-before-adapted characters are cool, but original characters are way cooler and much more interesting for everything involved. Batwoman illustrates this well, and I have no doubt it’ll only get better as the second season continues.