'Gotham Knights' review: It is its own sad Batman meme

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Batman falls off a building and dies.

It sounds like the setup for a joke, or some clever ruse (like Kevin Costner's character falling "off his horse ... off a cliff" in the rousing 1985 Western Silverado).

But no, any joke contained herein is on comic-book fans, apparently.

Not a spoiler: the Bat-croak happens pretty near the start of Gotham Knights, the latest DC Comics "adaptation" from The CW.

With the Big Bat gone, you would think the series will give prominence to one of the many Robins from the rich history of the comics, right?

As a certain masked vigilante might grunt, "Hurm, no."

Instead, showrunner Greg "Don't Stop Me Now" Berlanti of Arrowverse fame chooses to make it mostly about Turner Hayes.

As a certain Rebel princess might say, "You're who?"

'Roll call! Wannabe 1, Clueless Prime, Emos 1 through 3 ... yep, the team's all here.''Roll call! Wannabe 1, Clueless Prime, Emos 1 through 3 ... yep, the team's all here.'

Well, in this particular multiversal Elseworld, it turns out the late Bruce Wayne adopted a ward named Turner Hayes (Oscar Morgan), who never knew his adopted dad was Batman. (Incidentally, Turner was created just for this series and does not hail from any comic, canonical or Elseworlds.)

But right after Wayne's demise and outing as Batman (he died with his cowl on, or part of it anyway), Turner soon becomes the prime suspect.

He's not alone, being also accused of hiring the Joker's daughter Duela (Olivia Rose Keegan) and the Row siblings Harper (Fallon Smythe) and Cullen (Tyler DiChiara) to do the deed.

Fortunately, Robin aka Carrie Kelley (Navia Robinson) knows the four of them couldn't kill a cheesy crust pizza, let alone the Batman, and helps them uncover the truth.

Which is more than district attorney Harvey Dent (Misha Collins, who could really do with a trenchcoat from the costume department) appears willing to do despite his "long friendship" with the Waynes ... but you know he's only here to set up his eventual transformation into Bat-villain Two-Face, right?

So with Dent still pre-evil, and the Joker apparently dead (so we're told), who's behind the skullduggery here?

Also not a spoiler: it's the Court of Owls, since one of their trademark coins (meant to signal the imminent death of the recipient) appears very early on.

Anyone looking could easily tell that Turner would rather be elseworlds – er, we mean elsewhere.Anyone looking could easily tell that Turner would rather be elseworlds – er, we mean elsewhere.

The Court, a cabal comprising some of Gotham's richest, oldest families, was created by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo for the pretty good "New 52" Batman comics, and has featured in some gripping stories over the past dozen or so years.

In fact, Gotham Knights name-drops quite a lot from Snyder and his contemporaries' recent comic runs, though the familiar-sounding folk who troop in and out of the episodes don't quite resemble their print counterparts ... mostly. (Fun fact: Cressida, Wayne's chief aide in this show, appeared in the 2021 The Joker comic and is played by Sarawak-born actress KK Moggie.)

Speaking of fun, it was pretty tough squeezing any out of the first four episodes that aired up to the time of writing.

The first episode was all over the place, and by the fourth the series had yet to establish a groove of its own.

Is it Turner's "hero's journey"? Dent's descent into duality? Robin's redemption for failing Gotham City and her mentor? Emo Duela, Emo Harper and Emo Cullen's struggle to ... rein in the emo? A long con by Bruce Wayne who might turn out to be alive after all? Hey, toss a coin and decide.

We get some neat Robin gadgets and fights but really, having her constantly show up to make last-minute saves of the hapless "protagonists" gets old too quickly.

Also, the Court's sinister assassin the Talon is impressive and menacing when he/it is on screen, and veteran Veronica Cartwright delivers an effectively creepy (related) moment during a nursing home visit.

To an audience used to the flashy, scenery-chewing Bizarro-worldness of Gotham and even Berlanti's own lightning-paced (if not always rational) Arrowverse efforts, however, Gotham Knights is just too mild-mannered and unfocused to stand out.

And for all their bickering and angst, its protagonists have not mustered a shred of the personality and appeal of characters from previous CW DC shows.

Makes you wish James Gunn had received all that absolute power over DC movie and TV projects a little sooner.

New episodes of Gotham Knights Season One are available every Wednesday on HBO Go.

5 10


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