Welcome to the Couch Club, our recurring column devoted to all things #DCTV! This week, Tim Beedle reveals how he went from Gotham Knights skeptic to superfan…and why it’s going to be so hard to say goodbye.
That was my thought when I first heard about Gotham Knights. A show set in Batman’s famous city, but rather than focusing on the Dark Knight, it’s telling the story of his son and a bunch of teenage vigilantes…and they’re not even Robins…and the series won’t even be a part of the CW’s shared DC universe?
Why? Just, why?
If you’re a DC fan who’s never seen the show, I’m guessing you probably had a similar reaction. Maybe you wrote it off immediately because it’s on The CW. Maybe you’re sick of Batman shows without Batman. Maybe you’re upset that it has the same name as DC recent video game, and yet has absolutely nothing to do with it.
That last one really didn’t help, and neither did the show’s angsty, teen dream first trailer. Yet, part of being one of DC.com’s Couch Club contributors is staying up on all DCTV, so I watched the first episode…and was pretty underwhelmed. So much so that I let a different writer cover it here in the Club. I don’t remember the second episode doing much to change my opinion. The third episode featured the Mutant Gang, but Gotham Knights was no Dark Knight Returns, even if Carrie Kelley happened to be part of the team.
To my early 2023 mind, The CW’s most recent DC series struck me as a show that wanted to play with the toys in Batman’s biggest comic books, but didn’t want to actually adapt those stories, assuming the story they had to tell was better. Well, I wasn’t buying it. Not at first.
That cynicism remained until around episode five, when we met Stephanie Brown’s addict mother, Crystal, and suddenly we learned that the affable, seemingly well-to-do Stephanie had been living a nightmare at home and quietly suffering on her own. I’d imagine your own mileage may vary, but I felt that. I have real empathy for people who struggle in silence, not wanting to burden others with their problems. In this same episode, we also discovered that Harper Row had gotten involved with one of Gotham’s crime families so that her trans brother Cullen could afford his top surgery and that she had kept all of this from him. Making silent sacrifices for the ones she loves.
Suddenly, I was reevaluating how I felt. These kids have had it hard. How could you not feel for them? Especially when it’s clear that they liked to act tough and uncaring, but chip just a little under the surface and they have big hearts.
Surprisingly, the biggest may very well belong to Duela, the daughter of the Joker brought to scene-stealing life by Olivia Rose Keegan. Of the Gotham Knights, she’s ostensibly the only true villain—at least, that’s how she likes portraying herself. In reality, she’s been damaged so much by the abuse of an uncaring society and a broken foster system that her natural state is one of hurting others—whether it’s through thievery, manipulation or anything else—before they can do the same to her. Yet, as we’ve learned in recent episodes, Duela is deeply caring and loyal when others prove to be the same to her. Her willingness to do anything to save an abducted Turner was shocking in how relentless it was. While the rest of the team made the logical choices, choosing to retreat to figure out a plan and fight another day, Duela reacted from the heart, demanding they rescue Turner immediately.
It's not surprising that the relationship between Turner and Duela has turned romantic. What is surprising is how invested I’ve found myself in it. For Turner, the son of the deceased Bruce Wayne and—as soon as he clears his name—the heir to his fortune, you’d expect getting involved with the presumed daughter of his father’s biggest enemy would be a bad move. But instead, it feels very much like what the two of them need. (Besides, it’s not like Dad doesn’t know a thing or two about dating a one-time villain.)
As a cis, heterosexual male, I’ll leave it to Gotham Knights’ many LGBTQIA+ fans to discuss how powerful and important the show’s queer representation is, but with characters who are gay, straight, bi and trans, it’s very much there. So are a ledger’s worth of comic book Easter eggs and direct references. Yes, Gotham Knights is telling its own story, but it turns out it’s a deeply a respectful one. It pays clever tribute to the stories that paved the way, particularly Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s 2012 Court of Owls, the storyline that introduced Harper Row.
Let’s talk about the Court of Owls for a moment. While its emergence on Gotham Knights doesn’t quite have the punch of Batman discovering a powerful cabal working under his nose for many years, once you get past that, it’s pretty comics accurate. Seeing Turner and Duela infiltrate a secret meeting of the Court, with their featureless, gaping-eye masks, was absolutely chilling.
Gotham Knights may have taken a few episodes to find its voice, but it’s discovered it now, and it’s surprisingly strong. In the process, it’s become clear to me that I’ve fallen for these characters. I care about them and genuinely have become invested in their exploits from week to week.
So, it’s an absolute shame they’re about to end.
I can’t say I was too surprised when we learned that Gotham Knights had been canceled earlier this week. With all of the changes that are taking place at both The CW and at DC, the deck was unfortunately stacked against Gotham Knights from the very beginning. But I was still upset. I was hoping when the series wasn’t included in The CW’s first wave of cancellations, that Gotham Knights may have defied the odds and found its way to renewal. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
I wish things were different and that we’d get to watch Turner, Duela, Harper, Cullen, Carrie and Stephanie grow up together. I wanted to see Misha Collins’ downward spiral towards his inevitable future as Two-Face. I needed to know whether Duela would find her way back to her newly found family, or if her recent actions would see her tragically become a villain. What’s going to happen to Stephanie and her family? Will Carrie find a way to continue as Robin? Is that an unrequited crush on Turner I’m seeing from Cullen?!?
Unfortunately, so much of this is now going to be left unresolved, and like Gotham Knights’ other fans—the BatBrats—all I can do is wonder why things couldn’t be different.
Why? Just, why?
Gotham Knights returns for its final two episodes starting on Tuesday, June 20th on The CW. Discuss them with fellow fans in the DC Community.
Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DC.com, writes our monthly Superman column, "Super Here For...", and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our recurring television column. Follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Tim Beedle and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.