After frustrating episodes of Gotham Knights, we have enough character development and dynamics to do something interesting with the characters. This week manages to make good use of pretty much the entire cast of the show and pack in some fun character moments, as well, while riding a fine line between advancing the plot and giving us a standalone episode. Spoilers follow for Gotham Knights, Season 1, Episode 3, “Under Pressure.”
After their leader is taken down by Carrie (Navia Robinson), the Mutant Gang retaliates against Gotham by taking hostages at the annual Founder’s Gala, forcing Turner (Oscar Morgan), Duela (Olivia Rose Keegan) and Harper (Fallon Smythe) to come out of hiding to save the people of Gotham. Elsewhere, Cullen (Tyler DiChiara) infiltrates the GCPD after the team uncovers a possible connection between the Court of Owls and the death of another Wayne family member. Lastly, Harvey makes a big decision about his future.
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is a weird artifact of Batman history and maybe one of the best-known story in DC’s Elseworlds, imagining an apocalyptic Gotham where an aging Batman ends up uniting gangs under a single vigilante banner and protecting the city during a blackout fighting Superman, who was sent on President Reagan’s orders to apprehend him. Gotham Knights is similarly an Elseworlds tale, but in just three episodes it’s pulled two major elements from Miller’s story, to varying degrees of success.
This week begins with DKR’s Carrie Kelley, the last person to wear the Robin mantle in Gotham before Batman’s death, fighting a guy in a metallic visor with a red viewer. No, it’s not Cyclops from the X-Men–it’s the leader of the Mutant Gang, lifted right from the pages of DKR just like Kelley herself.
The Mutant Gang, seriously
The very inclusion of this character is a daring move on the part of the showrunners. The Mutant Gang is even weirder than the henchmen that characters like Two-Face and the Joker run around with; in the comics, he’s a big, bald dude with sharpened teeth and spikes jutting from his forehead. You simply cannot do him 1:1 justice in live-action because he’s a cartoon character. Just picking this character to include shows a willingness on the part of the showrunners to get a little weird with the story. That’s not to say the show isn’t still riddled with problems, but it’s still pretty wild.
Further, it helps Carrie’s story. Just as in DKR, Carrie tells Turner that she met Batman when he was injured after a fight with the Mutant Gang, and that she got him to safety. Things obviously don’t go quite the same after that–there’s no Gotham apocalypse, no Superman, no old, one-armed Green Arrow. But as Carrie tells Turner that she had to approach Batman over and over before he let her in suggests a lot about her tenacity and intelligence.
The Mutant Gang becomes the center of the episode; after the Mutant Leader’s capture, the gang takes down a GCPD airship. The manipulative Duela hints to Carrie that the explosion and any fallout from it are a direct result of her actions, prompting the vigilante to go looking for more information about what the gang might’ve been doing.
Despite her resistance, Turner independently follows her to the same warehouse, stopping a Mutant Gang member who had caught her unaware. When she asks how he found the place, Turner tells her a story about how Bruce was always prompting him to pick out the out-of-place things in any given situation, subtly training him to be a detective without him knowing.
This is one thing the show is going to have to do a bang-up job with–making us believe that Turner Hayes is capable of the things the show is going to ask of him despite the fact that Bruce shut him out of the Batman part of his life completely. We know so far that Bruce had him in all kinds of martial arts and fencing training and now that he tried to prepare him to be as perceptive as himself. This part isn’t that different from the origin story of Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, or anyone else who wears the Robin cape. They join the story and then we learn, often retroactively, why they’re good for the role.
The Mutants’ goal in taking down the airship was to hide their heist of Ace Chemicals. The pair pulls some blueprint plans from the gang’s warehouse and it’s thanks to Harper’s engineer mind–a direct lift from the comics–and Duela’s willingness to think like the Joker that they’re able to figure out that the Mutant Gang is planning to gas Gotham’s elite at the same gala celebration that Stephanie is set to attend.
Gassing the Gala
Turner and Carrie sneak into mansion where the gala is taking place and the two take down most of the gang while Stephanie and Harper work on the bomb. Turner warns Harvey about what’s going on, but Mayor Hill is too excited about his personal victory to allow for any possible danger to enter his mind. Stephanie ultimately cuts a wire on the gas bomb just in time to stop it from going off and killing everyone, though this causes a rift between her and Harper, who had been trying to make sense of the bomb’s workings from another angle. To Harper, this feels like a rich elite person trampling over her once again, despite the fact that the move saved them both. Stephanie is, believably, unsure of how to feel between her heroic action and Harper’s admonishment.
Afterward, Duela reveals that she picked up the bag of jewelry that the mutants had collected at the gala. While the fugitives are excited about the prospect of having a source of funds to survive off of (except Turner, of course), they quickly find out that a portion of the jewelry featured the same Court of Owls insignia on the back that almost got Duela skewered by a Court Talon in the previous episode.
While this is all going on, Cullen works to prove himself to the group–and Harper especially–by going into the GCPD in disguise to obtain the case files surrounding the murder of Alan Wayne, the first Wayne to meet an untimely demise in Gotham City.
Gotham and the Court of Owls
I do have to question how the Court of Owls is still secret considering how they apparently put their logo on things like they have someone in charge of branding and marketing, but if we make an allowance for that, this episode has tons of little pieces of development that move the story forward. There are a few moments, too, where the action feels reminiscent of the show’s missing hero, with Carrie using a grappling hook to pull Mutant members away from their posts at the gala.
The show makes good use of Harper and Stephanie’s intelligence, gives us insight into Carrie and Turner’s histories, and shows what Cullen and Duela are willing to do to survive, while fleshing out Harvey Dent and the Court of Owls a bit more. I’m still deeply wary of some elements of the show. It still feels like the CW’s white-label Batman story. But the show is beginning to bring in enough Batman-related elements to make it feel like a part of Gotham, and it’s getting weird enough to feel like it really takes place in the weirdest city in comics. So let’s see where it goes from here.