Batman's disappearance is one of the greatest mysteries of The CW's Arrowverse, and especially the Batwoman TV series - could he have vanished because he refused to give up looking for Beth Kane? The new Batwoman series began with Kate Kane returning to Gotham, learning that the city had fallen on hard times since Batman disappeared three years ago.
It's gradually becoming clear that Batman had been active in Gotham for at least a decade, and had proved to be the city's greatest defender against the tide of madness symbolized by the inmates of Arkham Asylum. The Arrowverse's Batman is clearly a seasoned crimefighter and vigilante, and he'd even gathered his own Bat-family around him, including at least one Robin.
Then, mysteriously, just three years ago Batman vanished. Without Batman, the fabric of Gotham's society began to fray, to the extent that the city called an end to all public events until recently. Several "pretenders" apparently tried to take up the mantle of the Bat, but their efforts failed spectacularly. Just what happened to the Dark Knight and his associates in the Arrowverse?
Batman Was Investigating The Disappearance Of Beth Kane
It's reasonable to assume that Batman's Arrowverse disappearance was connected either to events that happened in Gotham three years ago, or else to a case he was working on. So far, there's been no hint of any particular crisis that struck Gotham at the time; rather, the city seems to have been taken by surprise, as though one day the police lit the Bat-Signal in the sky and nobody showed up. That makes it more probable that this was all about a mystery Batman had been investigating - perhaps even a "cold case," that the GCPD had closed its books on but that Batman still considered unresolved.
The Batwoman premiere confirmed that Batman was indeed working on one such cold case. When Kate Kane entered the Batcave, she found that Bruce Wayne still had newspaper clippings pinned to one wall, reminding him of the apparent death of her sister Beth. According to Luke Fox, Batman had never given up searching for Beth. Everybody else had stopped looking for the body, but Batman seems to have intuited that there was something darker afoot here.
Batwoman episode 2 revealed why Kate herself always believed her sister was still out there. The police called off the search after skull fragments were found at the Miller farm, and DNA testing confirmed that they matched with Beth's. Kate refused to believe this, insisting that she'd searched the Miller farm from top to bottom herself and would have found any such pieces of bone. It's likely that Batman had been even more exhaustive in his own search for Beth, and that he believed these fragments had been planted. Given this is Batman, it's hardly inconceivable that he broke into the forensics lab to obtain a sample and tested it himself. Thus, ironically, the very thing that convinced the police to stop looking for Beth could have told Batman something far darker was going on.
Beth Kane's Disappearance Was Clearly A Major Conspiracy
It's gradually becoming clear that there's some sort of conspiracy operating in Gotham, and that Catherine Hamilton - who has now married into the Kane family - is at the heart of it. Fifteen years ago, Catherine's detectives were the ones who "discovered" the skull fragments on the Miller farm. In the present day, Catherine was disturbed to learn that Kate suspected Beth had returned as the Gothamite terrorist Alice, and realized that this could be proven by DNA testing. She went to remarkable lengths to acquire the knife before tests could be conducted, hiring agents to pretend to work for Alice and steal it back. It's likely that Catherine was also responsible for the bomb that exploded on a Gotham bridge, given that seems more like an attempt to kill Alice than an, ill-thought-through rescue.
If there is indeed some larger conspiracy behind Beth Kane's disappearance fifteen years ago, then it raises the possibility Batman vanished when he got too close to it. It wouldn't actually be too difficult to connect fake skull fragments to Catherine Hamilton, given her people were the ones who found the pieces of bone in the first place. Perhaps three years ago, Catherine did something that put her back on Batman's radar - and led him to figure out the truth. If this is the case, though, Batman's disappearance suddenly becomes particularly sinister. It's possible he was either killed or captured by Catherine Hamilton and any associates.
In the Batman comics, there are indeed certain shadowy groups who secretly run Gotham, and who even Batman struggles to defeat. The most prominent of these is the Court of Owls, a Gotham legend of rich aristocrats and power-brokers who care little for human lives, and who manipulate affairs in their interests. There's as yet no evidence to suggest that Batwoman is about to introduce the Arrowverse's Court of Owls, but it's not hard to imagine all this being something equivalent. An unwary Batman could well have been taken down. Another possibility is that Catherine Hamilton is somehow connected to Hush, a classic Batman foe who has already made his debut in Batwoman, and knows Batman's secret identity.
Batman Isn't The Only Person Missing In Batwoman
While all attention is focused upon Batman's disappearance, it's worth noting that he isn't the only one to have gone missing. In fact, many of Batman's closest associates have vanished as well; Batwoman episode 2 confirmed that there's a Robin in the Arrowverse, and Arrow has already name-dropped Oracle several times. And yet, for all other members of the Bat-family do indeed exist, none of these vigilantes have stepped up in Gotham's hour of need. Meanwhile, even civilians who are connected to Batman or Bruce Wayne are also mysteriously absent. There's been no trace of Commissioner Gordon, or even of Lucius Fox.
Frankly, all this feels rather like a clean-up operation; as though Batman got in over his head and was neutralized, and this mysterious conspiracy then wiped out everyone connected to him. Once you've identified Batman as Bruce Wayne, it's actually not too difficult to expose the entire Bat-family, because his associates are all naturally possible vigilantes. The only one who'd have been spared is Luke Fox, simply because he's hardly the type to suit up and he doesn't have high-level connections. Fortunately, though, this group reckoned without Kate Kane's returning to Gotham. If this Arrowverse theory is correct, then Batwoman is confronting a conspiracy that even Batman couldn't handle - can she succeed where the Dark Knight failed?