“Black, male, foster kid, juvie. In case you’re wondering why GCPD isn’t looking for him, those five words.”
Those are Ryan Wilder’s words to Mary Hamilton in the fourth episode of Batwoman’s second season on the CW. Batwoman, still early in its inception, already has had to deal with a major transition. Javicia Leslie, who plays the caped superheroine replaced Ruby Rose’s Kate Kane after Season 1. There’s always a challenge when it comes to changing the lead specifically so early in television. It also requires a redirect in story. Season 1 focused primarily on Kate’s rivalry with the show’s villain, her sister Alice. Season 2 feels like an entirely different show, and it’s been for the better.
Often, representation for black people on network television has been about getting the faces seen but not heard. A pleasant surprise on this season of Batwoman has been the nature of the stories being told. They represent the real-life issues that not only black people face, but mainly black women as Ryan’s character is a homeless ex-con. Nothing quite articulates the experience like an exchange in episode 1 between Ryan and her parole officer. Officer Stevens tells Ryan, “They are your choices, Ryan. You have the power to turn this around.” Ryan responds in kind, “You want to know why I haven’t paid my fines? Because I can’t find a job. Because I don’t have a home. Because no landlord wants to rent to an ex-con who’s post-release. You see how this works? No one cares that the dope wasn’t mine or that the Crows were dirty or that I’m actually a decent human. I am a file in your cabinet. That is not having power. That is the very definition of powerless.”
Lines like those are so important in storytelling. We are reminded every day in society that it’s all about the bottom line. Your circumstances don’t matter to the powers that be, nor does context. This is Ryan’s reality in trying to find a job. Leslie and the writers deserve a lot of credit for the nuance in their storytelling. Ryan Wilder is not only trying to make sense of her life after prison but also trying to fill the shoes of Gotham’s missing hero.
“That suit. It’s bigger than me. It’s one thing to put it on and it’s another thing to wear it.” That line is symbolism for not only what Ryan carries but exemplifies the constant juggling act of expectations versus reality that is the life of a black woman.
In Batwoman’s latest installment nothing hits home more as she finds the boy she was looking for. Jacob Kane asks, “How did you know he was here?” Batwoman replies, “Easy. I looked.” It’s the simplicity of the words and the delivery of them that punctuates the meaning of the story. That meaning? It’s not enough to just be seen, people need to be heard.
Batwoman airs every Sunday evening on the CW at 8pm EST