Ryan was raised in foster care and spent time in the carceral system in adolescence and as an adult. She is a survivor, and all of the victimization she has endured informs the choices she makes as a person now with the power to protect people. When a young boy triggers a store alarm to get Batwoman’s attention, he asks her to find his brother Kevin, who has been missing for weeks. When she looks into his disappearance, the circumstances mirror an experience from her past, where she was abducted and nobody came to look for her.
Ryan’s investigation into Kevin unlocks her own memories of the time she spent with the “nice neighborhood candy lady,” a white woman who abducts young people and sells them off to gangs after they’ve been spiritually broken. Ryan flashes back to a moment in captivity where she thought she’d be saved after a search party arrives at the house. Only to find that they were looking for a girl with “fair skin, blue eyes,” and not her. That search for Beth Kane was extensive, just as the search for Kate is now that there is a modicum of a chance that she survived the plane crash. The time and resources spent to find these white girls and women are juxtaposed against Ryan and Kevin, both missing, and neither sought. This highlights a real-world issue.
Luckily for Ryan, her friend Angelique (Kerensa Cooper) allows herself to get snatched by the Candy Lady, and she and Ryan escape together—without the help of any adult or authority figures. In the present, Ryan is too late to save Kevin from the Candy Lady before he’s sold off to a gang. But Ryan gets to him before he can be initiated into the False Faces by taking Jacob Kane’s life. Batwoman saves Jacob and Kevin, and when Jacob asks how she found Kevin, she says “easy, I Iooked.” And there it is. Ryan has been forgotten, she knows what that feels like. But she also knows what it feels like to be found. She understands what the people of Gotham who are just trying to survive need in a hero, and she’s becoming that for Gotham and for herself. She also reconnects with Angelique (Bevin Bru), someone who had her back, which is necessary in the vigilante life.
Batwoman is asking new questions with its storytelling and avoiding easy, palatable answers. A masked Black woman vigilante can’t change a system, but who she chooses to save and how she uses her power can spark conversation about the ways the system fails the citizens of Gotham and why Batwoman, or even the Crows, are needed. This is the kind of existential question I have while watching, and the kind of dilemmas I want the show to examine, especially when the show operates in such a morally gray area. We can have fun with costumed heroes and also interrogate the power structures that necessitate their existence.