If you were disappointed with the Birds of Prey’s depiction of Cassandra Cain, don’t be — it was better than the comics’.
As a comic book fan, it’s easy to think Birds of Prey didn’t get Cassandra Cain right. Comic fans will (understandably) point out that Cassandra’s essence is shrouded in her silence and mystery. After all, she was born into the League of Assassins and tasked with protecting Ra’s al Ghul. She is, of course, the child Lady Shiva and David Cain: two of the world’s deadliest assassins. As a matter of fact, her mother is widely considered the greatest fighter in the DC Universe. In case you need a refresher, here’s a quick breakdown of Cassandra Cain, courtesy of DC Comics:
“Raised from infancy under the tyrannical and abusive thumb of her father, the world-class assassin David Cain, Cassandra was taught violence before she was taught anything else—even how to speak.
Cassandra was completely mute and unable to read—her ability to fight was her “first language.” Her father considered language and literacy a waste of memory and brain space for someone training to be the perfect weapon.”
This isn’t the Cassandra Cain we saw in Birds of Prey, but that’s not to say her history was completely overhauled. Think about it, if Cathy Yan wanted to completely rewrite Cassandra’s history, she could have done what Shazam! did to Billy Batson. In the comics, Billy was the son of archaeologists, and his father died during an exhibition after being betrayed by a friend. However, Shazam! screenwriter Henry Gayden and director David S. Sandberg opted to make Billy the son of a teen mother and deadbeat father.
In Birds of Prey, Yan didn’t finalize Cassandra’s history, instead she opted not to mention Cain’s biological parents. Moreover, Yan’s Birds of Prey made Casandra Cain less bland by giving her a voice, and she’s better for it. Cassandra’s need for a role model is quickly evident, and Yan gave us that. Of course, Harley Quinn isn’t the greatest role model, but she does set the tone for Cassandra wanting to be an assassin.
How future films can give us the kick-butt Cassandra Cain
While BoP didn’t confirm her as the daughter of Lady Shiva, it doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t. In fact, we don’t know who her parents are. In Birds of Prey, she was adopted so, technically, her parents could be members of the League of Assassins. It’s possible her mother, Lady Shiva, ran away from the League in the hope of giving her daughter a better (and normal) life.
Imagine a story where Harley gets tossed back in jail and Cassandra is once again left to fend for herself. Only this time, she’s being hunted down by the League. In comes her mother, Lady Shiva, to help protect her. There’s also Barbra Gordon, aka Oracle, who could come to an agreement with Shiva to mentor the orphaned teen. Imagine taking a character who was meant to be a villain and making her a hero. That’s a concept Shadow of the Batgirl author Sarah Kuhn used:
“I love that she was a character who had all the tools and training and everything to be a super villain and then decides to be a hero instead.”
So for all of the things Birds of Prey didn’t do with Cassandra Cain, there’s still time to make up for it. With the right story, Cassandra could start to become more like her comic book counterpart. With the set-up she had in Birds of Prey, Cassandra Cain could up headlining a solo film on DC Universe or HBO Max — who doesn’t want to see that?