The CW goes back to Gotham for Gotham Knights, where the city reels from the murder of Batman and a ragtag group of teenage heroes sets out to find who killed him.
Spoilers for the Gotham Knights Pilot Below…
The CW shows have always struggled to land big-name characters, with the ‘Big 3’ (Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman) being featured in name only thanks to DC’s licensing and desire to save those characters for the big screen. So it makes sense that Gotham Knights takes place in a world where Batman is dead, his sidekick Robin is Carrie Kelley, one of the lesser-known names behind the moniker, and the rest of the main cast of characters will also likely be new to the casual DC fan, but familiar to those who have read the comics.
Gotham Knights finds Turner Hayes (Oscar Morgan) as Bruce’s adopted son who is framed for hiring the three people accused of murdering Bruce. Those framed for the murder are also part of the show’s core, being Duela (Olivia Rose Keegan), which comic fans will recognize as the daughter of the Joker, Harper Row aka Bluebird (Fallon Smythe) and her brother, Cullen Row (Tyler DiChiara) who are paid $100,000 to break into Wayne Manor’s safe but find themselves framed and at the scene of the crime.
Misha Collins returns to the CW for the role of Harvey Dent, first on the scene to discover Bruce’s body while Duela, Harper and Cullen decide to steal a cop car and flee the scene. Kids, of course, make bad decisions all the time, but the three that were quick-witted enough to realize they were set up for murder deciding to actually commit the crime of stealing the cop car is just hilarious.
Dialogue is, as par for the course with a CW show, full of cringe-worthy moments, like when Duela proclaims “This place looks like a museum had sex with a bank vault!” while breaking into Wayne Manor.
Turner gives a speech at Bruce’s funeral while authorities raid Duela and friends’ hideout, capturing them before they can make their planned escape out of Gotham. Cinematography here is surprisingly well done for a CW-calibre show, managing to be both appropriately bleak in its color-grading, while still letting color through.
Gotham Knights skews more towards a feature-film in its visual aspects, even eschewing a full-screen presentation to give a more cinematic feel. This feels appropriate for the source material and will hopefully serve to make die-hard comic and comic book movie fans feel more at ease as Gotham Knights throws what may be unexpected character details at them.
The character of Cullen is revealed to be trans while being interrogated for the murder, and his sister cites her sexuality as another of the reasons they wanted to leave Gotham. It’s nice to see DC and CW including more LGBTQ+ characters openly, and their identities feel like a core part of their character rather than being a superfluous detail added for inclusivity points. It makes total sense for Harper, Cullen and Duela to team up, finding common ground in their feelings of being outcast or unwanted.
Inside the Batcave, Turner and Stephanie Brown aka Spoiler (Anna Lore) begin their search to find the real killer. The show having a less-than-box-office budget is sorely on display here, as Spoiler adroitly uses Bruce’s computer to look for bank withdrawals of $100,000. The Batcave feels empty and claustrophobic at the same time, with a set of small computer monitors giving them access to all of Gotham’s banking information. It’s a far cry from the extravagant, fully tech-ed out Batcave fans will have come to remember.
Seeing a batarang beside the computer instantly puts Tanner into ‘vigilante’ mode, and he tells Stephanie to ‘give him a name and he’ll do the rest.’ Of course on paper it makes sense for Batman’s adopted son to instantly want revenge, but considering Tanner didn’t even know Bruce’s identity as Batman before the murder, he’s had zero training from Bruce, and the only other scenes we saw him in before the murder portrayed him as a party boy, it feels a bit out of character.
Stephanie discovers that the money used to pay the framed gang came from an account in Tanner’s name, and, unsurprisingly, police arrive immediately to detain Tanner as news breaks in Gotham of Tanner being the mastermind behind it all. Quickly realizing that Tanner couldn’t have orchestrated the attack, Duela, Harper and Cullen aim to team up with Tanner and escape from prison in a cleverly planned fight scene that forces Tanner to choose whether he wants to willingly go to prison or join the other kids and flee.
Gotham Knights actually features some poignant and well-written dialogue as the kids have a showdown with Gotham P.D. Duela is as unhinged as she possibly can be — perfectly acted by Keegan — but she’s the crystal voice of reason when she tells Tanner that the police don’t care if they are innocent as he tries to intervene and do what ‘Bruce would have wanted.’
This reveals that the police are actually apart of the conspiracy — and they’re completely willing to kill Tanner and the others before Carrie Kelley drops in as Robin to save the day.
For much of the pilot, the most interesting thing about Gotham Knights was its off-screen villain that has set everyone up. But the introduction of Robin relieves some of the contrived tension between the kids and the adult police officers. Having a superhero on their side gives a sliver of hope to the otherwise bleak outlook for the four main characters.
Hopefully as the show inches closer and closer to the true killer’s identity being revealed, things will get more interesting. Luckily, the show smartly features Duela in its main cast; the character is the perfect blend of comedic relief and wildcard. She and Carrie Kelley both have the potential to carry Gotham Knights through for now — buying the show the time it needs to flesh out Tanner, Harper, and Cullen and hopefully make them less one-dimensional than ‘good boy’ and ‘troubled siblings.’
Luckily, the pilot ends with the ominously teased Court of Owls and Talon being introduced — a positive sign that there’s plenty more twists and turns coming to Gotham Knights to keep viewers interested.
Watch Gotham Knights on the CW.