Final Thoughts on ‘Batwoman’ Season 2

by Erik Amaya

Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, Batwoman is still a series looking for itself.

To be sure, it weathered a colossal storm about as well as it could. During its COVID-19-created hiatus, it lost its original star before it had even finished its Season 1 story. So instead of a more prolonged conflict with Hush, the character was quickly written out to make way for new lead character Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie). And, we have to say, the show felt fresh as Ryan acclimated to wearing the Batsuit and butted heads with Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson). But once the two characters examined the socioeconomic reasons for their conflict (an aspect of their early relationship we would’ve liked featured in more depth), the show lost some of its edge. The conflict became an external thing as the series tried to grapple with real world issues.

And, sadly, we feel like the series faltered here. Despite introducing the institutional rot within the Crows in the first season, the full-blown “All Crows Are Bastards” narrative never got the time it needed to be satisfying. It also seemed hampered by the presence of Sophie (Meagan Tandy) and Jacob (Dougray Scott) withing the Crow ranks. If, perhaps, both had realized what was going on around them sooner, Jacob’s decision to disband the private policing force would’ve had more heft. But then, we’re still left with the famously corrupt Gotham City Police Department still serving as a more direct critique of law enforcement overreach.

Also, again, these ideas are hampered by the loss of a handful of episodes in the first season.

While the police metaphor never hit the mark, other stories across the season were remarkably well-paced. The main Safiyah (Shivaani Ghai) storyline went on for the correct number of episodes and made a nice clean cut as Black Mask (Peter Outerbridge) took center stage in the back half. Although both stories featured the Desert Rose as a key plot device, they offered the show a balance of villains not really seen in Arrowverse shows. And though the stories were not executed in a completely successful manner, that sense of pace across the season is something it would be wise to replicate next season.

Beyond this, though, the show did accomplish the one thing it absolutely had to get right: establish Ryan as a worthy Batwoman. From her first moment on screen, it’s clear Leslie is a lead. She can carry a show and has a lot of the right emotional chops. Sure, there are still things to improve in terms of the character — and her “Season 1 Love Interest” is the worse the Arrowverse ever presented — but we think the show will be stronger for sticking with her. As proof of that, consider how much better Luke, Mary (Nicole Kang), and Sophie became via interacting with her. By season’s end, the four were a likable Team Batwoman and we hope Sophie stays part of that team instead of, say, joining the GCPD.

In fact, the transformation of Sophie from a Season 1 Love Interest into a solid member of Ryan’s adopted family is one of the more remarkable things the series did this year. Just look at her last scene with Kate (Wallis Day) to see how ill-suited she was to be Kate’s romantic complication. It is nice, though, that Kate declared they are not meant to be together.

Oh, right, we should talk about Kate. While most other action shows would simply kill off its lead character if its lead actor decided to leave, Batwoman really couldn’t kill Kate. For one thing, it would be the ultimate example of the “Burying Your Gays” trope. We also imagine people above showrunner Caroline Dries — like executive producer Greg Berlanti or concerned parties in the Warner Bros/DC Entertainment consortium — or Dries herself never really offered that as an option just in case Ruby Rose ever felt differently about coming back. But leaving her fate uncertain created a storytelling vacuum. The show had to resolve Kate’s disappearance. And, to be fair, recasting her with Day was the right choice; she was the Internet’s favorite choice, after all. But we think bringing her back into the series after only half-a-season blunted Ryan’s story. Also, look at the way Kate’s alternate persona was defeated for proof that the show went into this too hastily. Maybe the Day-as-Kate revealed would’ve been stronger as a Season 2 cliffhanger.

Nevertheless, it certainly feels like the show became more nimble with its flaws. Julia Pennyworth (Christina Wolfe) was written out. Its dalliance with Angelique (Bevin Bru) ultimately ended and Jacob Kane — the character we least like on the series overall — is accepting a martyrdom of sort behind bars. And if we assume Kate will be off hunting for Bruce (the reason she should’ve gone missing for in the first place), all of the action taken to mitigate the show’s flaws suggests to us that Dries and her staff recognize the program’s strength: its core quartet.

All that said, there are things we hope the series can overcome in Season 3. For one thing, the pace of individual episodes this season tended to drag. Granted, that may be a side effect of producing a television show in the middle of a plague as nearly every network show we watch has this same issue. Trusting the character interactions is a way to deal with that as they are strong enough to hang out without a season-long baddie threatening them all the time. Then there’s the baddies themselves. Like Arrow before it, the show could do with more one-episode threats. The Cluemaster episode, for example, was one of the show’s strongest hours, benefiting from a lower-level threat and a greater emphasis on the characters.

Which means, for as much as we love her, maybe Alice (Rachel Skarsten) has earned a break. Or, maybe, it’s time for Beth to take center stage for awhile as a member of the team. We’d hate to lose Skarsten’s energy, but it is possible Alice is a crutch the show leans on too hard because she just so good in the part. And, as she is in Arkham, a longer break for the character may freshen things up.

In an older era of television, Batwoman would have had the luxury of these two seasons to find its footing. But as it essentially had to start over, next season will be its make-or-break moment. It will be interesting to see if it, at long last, finds itself.

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