With the survival of the CW in doubt and the DC universe in turmoil; Gotham Knights follows an old formula that falls flat in a new age.
Let’s be honest. Since selling to Nexstar, things haven’t been going well for The CW. They’ve canceled all, but one of their Arrowverse shows (Superman & Lois) and The Winchesters is still trying to find its footing. Meanwhile, HBO Max has canceled the best non-animated DC shows to date, Titans and Doom Patrol. In the middle of all this turmoil, Gotham Knights emerges.
I was furious when Legends of Tomorrow was canceled, my favorite of all the CW Arrowverse shows. I was even more outraged by the ending of Titans and Doom Patrol. As a Marvel girl at heart, these shows truly pulled me into DC fandom. As a huge Supernatural fan, I really wanted to like a show starring Misha Collins.
After slogging through six episodes of Gotham Knights, I realized it was just one more predictable CW series. While this formula has worked great for The CW in the past; I don’t think they’ve received the memo that younger people just aren’t watching television like their older counterparts. According to Neilson, 18-34-year-olds watch less than two hours of television daily. Yet The CW seems to be doubling down on the hot teenager formula by canceling shows with anyone over the age of 30.
FAILS TO LIVE UP TO THE HYPE
While the show has a promising log line – Bruce Wayne is murdered, his adopted son and a group of teenage thieves are framed for his death, this unlikely band of troubled youth must come together to prove their innocence and take down an all-powerful cabal controlling Gotham, and form a new group of vigilantes trying to save the city in the absence of Batman – the actual show fails to live up to this intrigue.
A combination of excessive exposition, hackneyed plot lines, stereotypical characters, and production design that pales in comparison to their HBO Max counterparts, results in a show that doesn’t have much hope of standing out amongst the streaming behemoths. If you want to watch a show about angsty teens taking down the forces of evil check out Wednesday on Netflix. Or if examining the fractured teen mind is more your style, I highly recommend Yellowjackets on Showtime. And of course, HBO Max still has Peacemaker if you really want to see a ragtag group of misfits that have great charisma.
STEREOTYPICAL CHARACTERS FALL FLAT
I truly feel for the cast of the show. They’re doing their best to make the most of vapid characters and lackluster storytelling. Oscar Morgan as Bruce Wayne’s adopted son Turner nails the lust for vengeance and smoldering look of his father. Unfortunately, the writers failed to do anything original character. They made him a copycat of David Mazouz‘s Bruce Wayne from Fox’s Gotham series, complete with a wardrobe of black turtlenecks. Fallon Smyth and Tyler DiChiara are convincing as sister and brother Harper and Cullen Row, thrown into a life of crime after fleeing an abusive father and needing to find money to pay for Cullen’s top surgery. I will say, the trans storyline was a nice subplot that wasn’t overdone and managed to emerge naturally in the storytelling.
I think I felt most sorry for Navia Ziraili Robinson as Carrie Kelly, Batman’s sidekick Robin in this version of events. While Robinson is a pleasant actor to watch and her character’s intelligence is palpable, I didn’t buy for a minute that she came from the nitty gritty streets of The Narrows and has the physical prowess necessary to be part of one of the greatest crime-fighting duos. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t stand up to Curran Walter’s devastatingly damaged Jason Todd in Titans. Then there’s Anna Lore‘s Stephanie Brown, the brainy prep-school code breaker and computer hacker who is constantly fighting to prove her relevance in this group of misfits. Unfortunately, this also applies to the character’s place within the show. The writers seem to only include her because every vigilante group needs a computer hacker. She’s not even in any of the promotional photos.
MOST PROMISING CHARACTERS ARE UNDERDEVELOPED
Olivia Rose Keegan‘s Duela had the most charisma of any of the characters. The daughter of supervillain The Joker, Keegan displays hints of her father’s psychosis while grounding it with good intentions. Unfortunately, the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with her beyond serving as comic relief. And finally, there’s Misha Collin’s district attorney Harvey Dent. Why oh why, when you have an actor like Misha Collins, do you waste him in a role that gives him virtually nothing to do?
Dent takes a backseat to the teen stars (again, not in any of the promotional photos) and spends the entire series at virtually the same level (aside from one scene where he expertly punches out a goon), with a combination of heartfelt and confused looks on his face most of the time. I know the show is slowly burning to his eventual transformation into villain Two-Face, but the whole season seemed like a giant missed opportunity for an actor who spent 12 years as the disarmingly charming Castiel in Supernatural, developing a massive fan base around him. But I guess that’s what happens on The CW when you’re nearing the age of 50.
A TEEN SOAP OPERA, BUT AT LEAST THE FIGHT SCENES WERE GOOD
The writers seemed to try and conceal their cookie-cutter characters and a sagging plot line with unnecessary overly-dramatic scenes that are better suited for a soap opera than a gritty superhero show. While there are elements of genuine emotion, they’re either overdone or break up a story that’s trying to move forward. The one thing I will say about the show is that the fight sequences were actually pretty good. The producers were smart to pull in veteran stunt coordinator Christopher McGuire, who just wrapped up five seasons as the stunt coordinator on Star Trek: Discovery.
Though, if Gotham Knights does return for a second season, they would be smart to get all these teen stars personal trainers, so they can craft even more convincing fight sequences. After eight seasons of watching Steven Amell kick ass in Arrow, even The CW has set a standard for itself. And, to once again compare to a far superior DC superhero show, the fight sequences in Titans were next level.
A TESTAMENT TO A DYING NETWORK
If you’re a mega DC fan then I’m sure you will watch it and enjoy its elements of it. If you love the CW’s other teen soap operas, this is right up your alley. However, if you loved Titans and Doom Patrol, don’t bother; it will further enrage you to know that they were canceled while this was given the green light. The show is yet another example that the CW seems to be completely out of touch with the current TV landscape and that the DCEU still has a lot of restructuring to do.
Despite the cancellation of Titans, Doom Patrol, and Pennyworth, HBO Max and Netflix still have some good live-action DC shows left, having renewed Peacemaker and Sandman, respectively. We also have the upcoming Dead Boy Detectives and Colin Farrell-led The Penguin series on HBO Max to look forward to. And there’s always hope that Netflix will green-light a Joanna Constantine spinoff. Sorry CW, I think your days are limited. You just can’t compete with the quality shows being put out on streaming services.
Episode one of Gotham Knights airs tonight, March 14th, on The CW.
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