When it was first announced that Rose and the CW series were abruptly parting ways, a joint statement from the production studios said they were “firmly committed to Batwoman’s … long-term future” via “the casting of a new lead actress and member of the LGBTQ community.” Though in hindsight we now can parse words and see that recasting the role of Kate was never outright stated as the plan, that presumed approach would have meant navigating just one tiny bump in the road — acclimating viewers to a brand-new face — before continuing on with established mythology and diving into multiple promising cliffhangers in Season 2.
Primetime recasts have been done before (as chronicled here). And while the longer-term ramifications might include, say, having to avoid or reshoot old scenes for flashback purposes, it would have kept all story threads perfectly intact.
For example, the No. 1 cliffhanger from Batwoman‘s ersatz Season 1 finale involved archenemy Alice making over Tommy Elliott to look like the Bruce Wayne. The plan was for “Bruce” to then reunite with his cousin Kate in the name of stealing some Batsuit-defeating kryptonite that had been left in the late Lucius Fox’s care. But if Kate is now suddenly gone (we’ll get to that in a moment), where is this payoff?
The other unfortunate side effects of subtracting Kate Kane and replacing her with a new character (possibly code-)named “Ryan Wilder,” who is described as “likeable,” “goofy,” and a “highly skilled [but] wildly undisciplined” fighter, are as follows:
ALICE | The central dynamic on Batwoman was between Kate and her twin sister Beth, who in the years since a tragic accident evolved into the villainous Alice.
LUKE | Just when he and strong-willed Kate had begun to develop a Bat-team rapport (after working through some trust issues)… poof.
MARY | Just when Kate had allowed Mary onto the Bat-team, giving the stepsisters as strong a bond as ever… poof.
COMMANDER KANE | Can you imagine Jacob’s face when he realizes that the costumed vigilante he has set out to kill in cold blood is his own daughter?? Keep on imagining.
SOPHIE, JULIA, REAGAN…. | The triangle with Sophie and Julia that was just heating up? The softness/chemistry with admittedly misguided Reagan? All gone.
SUPERGIRL | Showrunner Caroline Dries had already told TVLine there was no plan for Kate and Kara (played by Melissa Benoist) to reunite on-screen over the aforementioned kryptonite issue. But having a brand-new person inside Batwoman’s cowl and cape will eventually lessen the impact of any next Arrowverse crossover (such as this one) involving the Scarlet Knight.
In addition to the things we will now miss, here are the complications that the introduction of a brand-new lead heroine brings:
*The start of Season 2 will need to serve up a whole new origin story, for “Ryan Wilder,” whilst also juggling any Season 1 cliffhanger resolutions.
*The start of Season 2 will need to account for Kate’s sudden absence (for which zero groundwork has been laid), whilst also juggling any Season 1 cliffhanger resolutions and the new character’s introduction.
Again, all of the above seems like an awful lot of trouble to borrow. A simple if momentarily awkward recast would have kept all established storylines and dynamics intact; Season 2 could then pick up where the solid Season 1 left off. Instead, loyal viewers will be asked to re-invest in something that is significantly new, while also possibly giving up some of the things they liked most about the show.
ETA: Yes, it’s possible that “Ryan” could be introduced as a stranger but eventually turn out to be Kate with a new face, though I doubt they’d cast younger and for such a different personality.
What do you think, given all of the issues noted above? Are you, as a Season 1 Batwoman viewer, ready to keep an open mind in sampling Season 2’s soft reboot?