It’s been known for a little while that when the superhero drama Batwoman returns to the CW…at some point… the titular heroine won’t be played by original series star Ruby Rose. But according to recent reports, it may be that instead of recasting the role of Kate Kane, the Batwoman cowl will be taken over by an entirely new character.
Female, Mid-late 20s, any ethnicity. Ryan Wilder is about to become Batwoman. She’s likable, messy, a little goofy and untamed. She’s also nothing like Kate Kane, the woman who wore the batsuit before her. With no one in her life to keep her on track, Ryan spent years as a drug-runner, dodging the GCPD and masking her pain with bad habits. Today, reformed and sober, Ryan lives in her van with her plant. A girl who would steal milk for an alley cat and could also kill you with her bare hands, Ryan is th emost dangerous type of fighter: highly skilled and wildly undisciplined. An out lesbian. Athletic. Raw. Passionate. Falliable. And very much not your stereotypical All-American hero.
The casting notice also makes a point of saying that “performers who identify as LGBTQ are encouraged to submit,” which tracks with the joint Warner Bros. TV, the CW and Berlanti Productions statement made when Rose’s departure was originally announced.
At that point, said statement skirted around the question of whether Rose’s exit meant that said new LGBTQ actress would be playing a new character within the world of Batwoman, saying only that “The studio and network are firmly committed to Batwoman’s second season and long-term future, and we — along with the show’s talented creative team — look forward to sharing its new direction, including the casting of a new lead actress and member of the LGBTQ community, in the coming months.”
In the comic book world, there is long-established precedent for superhero identities to be taken over by new characters — just witness how many different Batgirls there have been over the years, not to mention Robins. But the secret identity of Batwoman has always been a character named Katherine Kane, though there have been two versions of said character: Kathy, a heterosexual woman with romantic interest in Batman (created in the 1950s) and the modern Kate Kane, a lesbian who happened to be Bruce Wayne’s cousin.
It feels understandable that the producers of Batwoman would want a clean slate, given the degree to which it’s been public that making the first season was not a pleasant experience. The name Ryan Wilder does not appear anywhere in DC fandom lore (and by the way, please let that be a placeholder name, because the trend of naming strong female characters with traditionally male names has just gotten tired at this point), but all the elements described above hint at a lighter protagonist for the CW series. As executive producer Marc Guggenheim recently told Collider, “this is a great creative opportunity.”
One complicating factor is the current supporting cast of Batwoman, all of whom were introduced via their connections to Kate, and in many cases are their primary reason for being a part of the show’s storyline — for example, series regular Dougray Scott plays her father, and primary villain Alice (Rachel Skarsten) is Kate’s sister. The character description indicates that “Ryan Wilder” has no family or friends, but does that mean she’ll get absorbed into Kate’s world after Kate “returns to her home planet,” or will the original ensemble eventually get phased out for new characters more connected to this new protagonist?
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Batwoman, “O, Mouse!”]
Plus, there’s the question of Kate’s cousin, because in the season finale, Alice reveals that she has used the show’s established Face/Off technique to transform Batman nemesis Tommy Elliot (originally played by Gabriel Mann) into the spitting image of Bruce Wayne, now played by Warren Christie. It’s a massive cliffhanger for the series (which had to wrap production early due to COVID-19) and certain to be a big part of Season 2, however it might evolve given these developments.
There are massive question marks all around, but “Ryan” (again, please let that be a placeholder name) feels like a big swing for the series. We’ll be waiting until at least 2021 to see if it connects. Meanwhile, Batwoman Season 1 is currently streaming on HBO Max.