In a stunning announcement last month, the CW and Ruby Rose announced that the Australian actress would put down the cowl for good. Ruby Rose will not return as Kate Kane in Batwoman. Instead, the CW said, it would be pursuing a new actress from the LGBTQ community to lead the show. Recasting a main character is the biggest shake-up to the Arrowverse since it expanded beyond Arrow and turned into a -verse. The second shock came when the network announced just this week that not only would they be recasting the lead actress, but Batwoman herself. A woman named Ryan Wilder will replace Kate Kane, according to reports.
And that’s a terrible idea.
This change burns off the entirety of the first season, essentially undoing everything that has happened with Batwoman so far, as much of her story was linked to her identity as Kate Kane. It’s undoing, I would argue, the best parts of the story. The worst part of it all is that this seems unnecessary. The writers could’ve gone in any number of directions.
What we’re losing
The biggest part of the show that we’re losing is Alice. Rachel Skarsten has been, without question, the best part of Batwoman since day one. She’s a true scene-stealer in the best possible way, bringing earned insanity and believable genius to the character. She feels hyper-real in a way few comic-adapted villains do. I feel like I could write a thousand words on just this.
But we’re also losing Batwoman’s connection to her family. One of the big arcs this season was Mary finding out that Kate is Batwoman and joining Luke as one of her team members. Similarly important is the relationship between Jacob and Kate. Jacob is one of the few people that doesn’t know Kate is Batwoman, and that was meant to be this emotional reveal sometime during season 2 (or later if they really wanted to stretch it out). Now, when Batwoman unmasks in front of Jacob, it won’t be this huge emotional catharsis. Just a quizzical look.
“And… you are?”
It also drops things like Kate’s struggles with being a hero, her past with Sophie and Julia, her relationship to Bruce Wayne–which is definitely going to be a big part of season 2 considering the cliffhanger–and Kate’s role as an ultra-wealthy person in an economically-troubled city like Gotham. Her relationship to Supergirl, too, is blitzed.
What we’re getting
Recasting the character feels like someone flipping the table when a game of Monopoly is going badly. It’s a total reset for the sake of a total reset and a middle finger to Ruby Rose. I’m frustrated that she left but excited to see an actress who can emote more easily than Rose did–someone who could keep up with Rachel Skarsten.
It feels unnecessarily extreme. Discarding so many story elements makes it feel like a total reboot. They’ll have to spend time explaining why Ryan is Batwoman now, going through her origin and her hero’s journey misfires. They’re going to end up dumping like five or six episodes on something we’ve already been through.
What they could’ve done
There are so many other options available here.
The simplest would be to just recast the actress. I don’t know if the CW is aware of this, but its viewers know they’re watching television. If you advertise that there’s a new Kate Kane ahead of time, they’ll figure it out. Shows have recast major players before. Rosanne had to recast the eldest daughter for part of the series, then brought back the original actress. The recast stood in for her at least one more time after that, and then the short-lived reboot used both actresses. TV viewers, especially in 2020, are very savvy.
But okay, you want an in-fiction reason? I can think of at least two.
Four major characters (Mouse, August, Hush, and Duela Dent) in the first season had storylines revolving around face-swapping. In the world of Batwoman, you can simply take someone’s face off and sew a new one on and it’s not going to necrotize or sag or whatever. Maybe Kate suffered a horrible accident. Maybe Alice captured her and replaced her face to torture her and take away her identity outside the suit.
Another major plotline in Batwoman, as well as major plotlines in The Flash and Supergirl, revolved around doppelgangers. Crisis on Infinite Earths showed us that not all doppelgangers are twins, as we met three very different-looking Supermen. There’s some way to bring in a Kate Kane from another universe, to have a time reset, or something.
Instead, though, the network and writers threw up their hands and said “let’s just dump all of that and start over.”
Rose’s departure is definitely a weird twist for a show to go through, but the decision coming from the showrunners is even weirder.