Batwoman: Why Ruby Rose's Exit Is a Loss for the Arrowverse

The CW's Arrowverse of shows got one of its biggest shifts in status quo yet on Tuesday night, with the news that Ruby Rose will be stepping down from playing the titular role on Batwoman. Rose confirmed in a statement that she has made "the very difficult decision to not return" for the series' sophomore season, reiterating that it "this was not a decision [she] made lightly". The reasoning behind Rose's exit has not been made entirely clear (which, by the way, should not be an open invitation for the Internet to speculate about it), outside of confirmation that it wasn't because of the stunt injury she sustained while on set last fall. Regardless of whatever motivated Rose to step down from playing Batwoman, one thing is clear -- it completely changes the Arrowverse going forward.

While it's almost impossible to imagine the Arrowverse without Kate Kane in it, the initial news that she would be making her live-action debut in the 2018 "Elseworlds" crossover was pretty revolutionary at the time. The fact that The CW would finally get to properly acknowledge the mythos of Gotham City - while adapting one of DC Comics' most beloved LGBTQ+ heroes in the process - was both exciting and a little daunting, both for fans and for whoever would be bringing Kate Kane to life.

When Rose was ultimately cast in the role August of 2018, it was both incredibly fitting and a bit of a surprise. Some were quick to argue that Rose - who gaining notoriety thanks to projects like Orange Is the New Black, John Wick: Chapter 2, and The Meg - was almost too big for the Arrowverse -- but honestly, that was part of the beauty of it. Not only would a recognizable actress be introducing a beloved character to mainstream audiences, but Rose's involvement in the Arrowverse would be the kind of headline-grabbing way to prove that the franchise as a whole was continuing to creatively grow and innovate.

Rose's casting wasn't completely met with a perfect response - there was some backlash about whether Rose, who identifies as genderqueer, was "lesbian enough" to play Batwoman, while some fans (understandably) were upset that a Jewish actress wasn't cast in the role. But by the time Rose first made her debut in the cape and cowl in the "Elseworlds" crossover, a lot of viewers were ecstatic to see what else she could bring to the character in her solo series. The crossover also established the dynamic chemistry between Rose's Batwoman and Melissa Benoist's Supergirl, a female friendship founded on pure mutual respect and admiration that still feels incredibly scarce in the world of mainstream superhero stories.

While the first portion of Batwoman's first season had a lot of ground to cover - from Kate's origin story, to the events of "Elseworlds", to the immediate lead-up to the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover - Rose's take on Kate evolved right along with that. She showcased the right mix of genuine goodness and inherent swagger, whether while fighting a villain-of-the-week in costume, or trying to rekindle the fragile relationships within her personal life. This was abundantly clear during the five hours of "Crisis" itself, where Kate was able to have a unique rapport with the ensemble of other heroes, while also finding her own footing as the Paragon of Courage and growing her relationship with Kara.

To an extent, Batwoman benefitted from "Crisis on Infinite Earths" unlike none of the other superhero shows, as it allowed the show to find its own comfortable, confident, and genuinely weird footing. Even amid doppelgangers from other universes, homicidal torture doctors, and the end-of-season search for Kryptonite, Rose legitimately came into her own as both sides of Kate's persona. Look no further than the midseason episode "How Queer Is Everything Today", where Batwoman publicly came out as a lesbian after meeting a bullied queer girl, or "A Narrow Escape", where Kate began to experience panic attacks about her role as Gotham's savior after murdering her sister's abuser. Those scenes, and countless others across the show's twenty-episode first season, wouldn't have hit exactly the same without the gravitas and endearing personality Rose brought to the role.

"O, Mouse!", the show's defacto season finale which aired this past Sunday, showcased a lot of the sides of Rose's take on Kate - her awkward humor with her stepsister, Mary (Nicole Kang), her sense of profound duty to stop Gotham's latest villain, and her genuine insecurity about her father's disavowal of Batwoman. Watching that episode, there was a sense that it would be a joy to see Rose play Batwoman for many more years to come. One of the greatest joys of the Arrowverse has been getting to see its actors truly make iconic DC characters their own, both through individual episodes and larger crossovers. Over the course of the past year-and-a-half, Rose's take on Kate Kane has done just that, while also helping legitimize Batwoman in the eyes of mainstream viewers.

Berlanti Productions and The CW, who help produce Batwoman, have made it abundantly clear that they will be looking for a new queer actress to portray Kate Kane, and are expected to announce the replacement in the months to come. While there's no doubt the new actress will bring a captivating, entertaining take on Batwoman, we can't help but mourn the loss of Rose's tenure as the character -- and how it could have only grown in the years to come.

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Batwoman will return with new episodes in January of 2021.

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