A new era of crime-fighting in Gotham starts Sunday night as the second season of Batwoman begins on The CW. As widely-covered, gone is actress Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, and in is actress Javicia Leslie as new the new crime fighter-in-leather, Ryan Wilder.
At today's virtual Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter press day with The CW, Batwoman showrunner and executive producer Caroline Dries and Leslie talked with reporters about how the series is changing with the handing over of the cowl.
In particular, Dries says figuring out how to make Ryan as central to the story as Kate was in Season 1 was the biggest challenge for the writers. "I wanted a girl nobody was connected to," Dries says about crafting a new lead that wasn't as embroiled in the Kane family dramas. "Ryan is a nobody: she's invisible and lost in system."
Dries says it was actually easier to integrate Ryan into the Batworld of the narrative because that could just be about confronting the villains. But in the development, they found a "very specific" relationship between Ryan and Sophie (Meagan Tandy) which is friction based. "And Ryan has a specific issue with the Crows," the showrunner adds.
One of the central narratives of Season 1 was Alice's (Rachel Skarsten) obsession with her sister/enemy, Kate, and now that's gone. The season finale ended with Alice concocting a very specific plan to get rid of Kate once and for all, but Dries says they were able to flip that into a revenge story of Alice against Ryan in Season 2. "Alice's reaction is the typical unhinged, entertaining way, which will become a rollercoaster of emotions for Alice in grappling with the loss of Kate. But the first thing is about getting revenge on a person who took this away from me."
Grief regarding Kate's loss will also be addressed by the rest of the core cast and a through line to the season. Dries offered that, "Sophie has this loss of unrequited love so there's this void in her heart. With Mary (Nicole Kang), it's about finally bonding Kate and now that's gone. And for Luke (Camrus Johnson) she was his buddy and doesn't want to say goodbye. Everyone is coming at it from a different angle."
Asked if there will be a definitive answer to Kate Kane's future, Dries said it would be resolved and was well aware that audiences are aware Rose has left the show so she didn't want it to feel like a "wank" to keep it going. But narratively, the answer will have a lot of twists and turns that will be a deep mystery in Season 2.
But there's always darkness to overcome in a town like Gotham and Ryan is going to have her work cut out for her as Victor Zsasz comes to tangle with her in Episode 3. As a bad guy who carves tally marks into his skin after every kill, Dries says Zsasz rose to the surface due to his "flair" and interest as a bad guy. "But we also always ask how can we thematically make him matter to the moment? Why now? He has a great scene in Episode 3 where Ryan is wearing Kate's suit where he tells her that you don't have to wear Kate's hand-me-downs. He says, 'I'm a weirdo but at least I'm comfortable being me.' So that's how we choose the villains, as someone whose cool and then hits the themes."
She also teases a more serialized inclusion of Black Mask and the leader of the False Face Society. Dries said, "They'll be peddling a very specific drug in Gotham. And Ryan is tasked with taking them all out and she has a special relationship with a member of his gang."
Also, lookout for the Batmobile to finally make itself known in the premiere on Sunday. Dries says it was supposed to debut in the Season 1 finale but COVID delayed its introduction. "It's a new character in the premiere and the design is based on a new Corvette chassis. Our production designer designed it and props designed the inside. It's a new Batwoman with new transportation and a whole new world of gadgets and stunt sequences."
Batwoman Season 2 begins on Sunday, January 17 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT.