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Batwoman's titular hero is returning more confident than ever in season 3.
Last season, the CW superhero drama had to reconfigure its story around a new lead character, Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie), who picked up the Batwoman mantle following Kate Kane's disappearance and spent the entire season wondering if she was worthy of it. Thankfully, that's no longer a question.
"Season 3 is definitely a continuation of season 2, but Ryan is now firmly planted as Batwoman," showrunner Caroline Dries tells EW. "She's confident, she knows her role, [and] her biggest problem now is, 'I have to clean up this mess I made at the end of season 2.'"
Colin Bentley/The CW Javicia Leslie on 'Batwoman'
The mess she's referring to is the Bat team losing track of Batman's villain trophies in the season 2 finale. As the new year begins, these dangerous items are out in the world and anyone can pick them and cause mayhem — as we'll see in the season 3 premiere, which introduces a dangerous new version of the Mad Hatter (Amitai Marmorstein). There will be more twists on Batman's rogue's gallery as the season progresses.
"How we left off with all of the Batman villain trophies being spread out in Gotham, it brings this feeling of nostalgia because we get to play with these villains that we've grown knowing and watching," Leslie says. "Episode 3 [has] the Victor Fries influence. That episode was my favorite."
Dries adds, "That was our key goal this season: to create [Ryan's] own rogues gallery. To [give Ryan] her own personal mess that she created, that's part of her backstory and history and responsibility."
Introducing these new villains has affected the show's tone as well. "The tonal vibe that we leaned to is more of a horror, action-thriller tone. That plays out in almost every episode," Dries says. "On The Flash, they have metahumans that can do all of these crazy things, so that makes them really challenging villains for the Flash and his team to go up against. With our show, she's going up against human beings. So how do you still make them feel formidable? How do you still get the scares and the tension? And so it almost ends up leaning itself towards more of a thriller."
That said, Batwoman isn't shying away from larger-than-life villains. For example, this season will feature Bridget Reagan (Jane the Virgin) as Poison Ivy, a villain whose plant-controlling powers push her very close to metahuman territory.
"That story is heightened and crazy and pure spectacle as it gets at certain points, [but] it's a love story," Dries teases. "She is the big bad, but there are a couple big bads who are being groomed along the way."
Camrus Johnson and Javicia Leslie on 'Batwoman'
Thankfully, Ryan isn't facing these threats alone, because Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), who was previously stuck behind a computer screen, will be joining her in the field as the armored hero Batwing.
"It's so much fun!" Leslie says of Ryan and Luke's crime-fighting partnership. "We never really get to see a male and female Bat duo go out there and kick villain ass [on screen]!"
"For Batwoman, having Batwing as her literal wingman has been good. He's been incredibly helpful, and the Bat team is able to be two places at once, essentially, in the field," says Dries. "For Luke, it's great because he's living out this fantasy of, 'I actually get to the man who I think my dad wants me to be.' For Mary [Nicole Kang], who is also part of the Bat team, there's a piece of her that's feeling left out. But more so than that is the medical science that backs her concern, which is that Luke shouldn't be wearing that Batsuit because he is not ready yet. He has some problems that he hasn't dealt with yet, and you don't just put on a super-suit and become superhuman."
But Batwing isn't Ryan's only new partner. As the season 3 trailer revealed, the Bat team is being forced to work with Alice (Rachel Skarsten), who was imprisoned but agreed to a White Collar-like deal in which she helps the Bat team round up the missing Bat trophies.
"Alice hates it with all of her heart, but I think to add to it Alice is also going through her own mental trauma, because a lot of what has happened to her in her life has never been dealt with and she's constantly being abandoned," Leslie says. "So when they're going on this journey, obviously Ryan hates it and Alice hates it, but they know they need each other and they're forced to work together."
Dries adds: "At the end of the day, she's a brilliant genius, but never forget she will always be out for herself. Her arc this season is realizing, 'What if I'm starting to care for somebody else, and what does that mean for my own survival?'"
Rachel Skarsten and Javicia Leslie on 'Batwoman'
On the personal front, Ryan is also still reeling from Alice revealing that her birth mother didn't die in childbirth and is still alive.
"She is not that happy about it because, obviously, knowing that your birth mother is alive means that she chose not to be your mom. I think it's almost worst to know that she's alive than to think that she's dead," Leslie says. "That ends up being a huge hurdle for her to get over in order to be able to find out what's really going on. There's obviously a bigger picture, something bigger happening. Our show doesn't bring on a character for nothing. There's obviously something bigger behind the character of Ryan's mom, but I think that before she can get to why her mom is even in the picture again, she has to get past feeling that she got left, that she wasn't special enough to have her mom in her life."
Batwoman returns Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.