I was ready to hate this low-budget, low-rent Batman-less series. But to my surprise, it wasn’t all bad. The characters are likeable and the effects are very well done. The whole episode felt cinematic in a way that the other CW DC shows often lacked.
The story is pretty basic. Billionaire Bruce Wayne’s adopted son Turner Hayes joins forces with Stephanie Brown, Harper and Cullen Row, Carrie Kelley and Joker’s daughter Duella after they are all accused of killing the Batman. But don’t worry, Alfred, Tim, Dick, Barbara and Jim Gordon all rush to the sides of these C-list Gotham misfits to prove their fallen leader…oh, that’s right. None of these people are here. Alfred apparently existed in this universe, but there’s no mention of anyone else. And that’s where things start to get a little shaky. It’s clear from the get-go this is an “Elseworlds”-type story. None of the Robins ever existed. Turner appears to be Dick Grayson-lite. But from there, I can only imagine that the series started out as something that mirrored the video game Gotham Knights, but WB legal went through and drew a line through all the characters that the TV series couldn’t use—which was all of them. The best they could do was big C-listers from the DC catalogue and then resort to just retconning the Robins altogether. There are nods to the Dark Knight Returns comic in the form of Carrie Kelley and Commissioner Ellen Yindel. The only major-ish DC character is Misha Collin’s Harvey Dent (who is said to eventually become Two Face). Wayne killer Joe Chill will eventually appear. The only wildcard is the new Alfred—a woman named Cressida. She appears to be Bruce’s housekeeper or other type of aid, but one wonders if she might actually be someone else (Talia?) The big bad for the season has been revealed to be the Court of Owls, plus we’ll likely see some C and D-list criminals. But don’t get too excited, Joker is dead and since Two Face doesn’t even exist, there’s no certainty that many of the rogues gallery are even in this world. There is a Batmobile and a great-looking Bat Cave, but I’ve seen no evidence of any superhero suits like the Titans don.
There are the requisite changes to the characters from their comics counterparts that will elicit the equally requisite groans. Harper is bi. Carrie is black. And for whatever reason, Cullen is trans. (Note: Cullen was gay in the Batman comics, so this change is very perplexing.) All of this got revealed in a cringeworthy police interrogation scene, but it goes fast and then we get back to the Bat story. These characters are not well known from the comics beyond we hardcore Bat readers, so these tweaks are not nearly as distracting as they might have been.
Bruce Wayne and Batman make an appearance. Well, Bruce Wayne in a cowl that I’m sure came from Spirit Halloween. But there was a little kid in a Batman Halloween costume, so that makes up for it, right? I’m wondering if there is some truth to the Batman-on-TV legal issue. One has to wonder if someone were allowed to make an actual Batman (or at least, everyone but Batman himself) TV series, how good could it be? Even with this series and its clearly evident studio-imposed limitations, it could elevate itself to using someone like Tim Drake (Jay Lycurgo might be available!) or even Duke Thomas as Robin instead of the C-lister Carrie Kelley. Why DC/WB insist on starting these series by first blowing their right foot off baffles me to no end. I feel sorry for the creators who get to do a Gotham series and get told they can’t use any of the characters Bat fans cares about.
I can’t close out the review without mentioning the coolest thing about the series. The appearance of Talon! Or at least a Talon. While we don’t see much of him, other than beheading a man, what we do see looks pretty comics accurate!
Yes, I’ve only seen one episode, but I have to say I’m intrigued in a way I did not expect to be. I’ll be back for the rest of the series…er, season. Given CW’s state, I expect this show to only last a season regardless of quality, but hey, here’s hoping. And if it is short-lived, I’ll be happy to get a little entertainment Batman-style for as long as it lasts.