I don’t know how I didn’t put it together before, but literally every main character in Gotham Knights has some kind of father-related trauma; some even have multi-generational father-related trauma. That’s the thing that connects all of these characters. Spoilers follow for Gotham Knights, Season 1, Episode 11, “Daddy Issues.”
Duela’s (Olivia Rose Keegan) birthday reunion with her mom, Jane Doe (guest star Lindy Booth), unearths some shocking information that will irrevocably change her. Meanwhile, Stephanie (Anna Lore) is forced to choose between her family and the Knights, putting her at odds with Harper (Fallon Smythe). Finally, Harvey (Misha Collins) finds himself on a collision course with someone from his past.
Let’s run through the list. Turner’s birth parents were killed, and his adoptive family kept a major secret from him before being killed. Harper and Cullen grew up with a deeply abusive parent that they had to run away from and turn to a life of crime and vagrancy. Stephanie Brown’s family life is a fabrication held up by her father to assist with his career. Duela grew up in Arkham Asylum believing that the Joker was her father (more on that later). While Carrie Kelley doesn’t seem to have any drama with her father thus far, he’s notably absent with not a word spoken about him. Even Harvey Dent isn’t immune to this, having developed a second personality to protect his primary personality from his abusive father. And this week the show formally reveals that Dent’s darker half fathered a child 18 years ago: Duela.
Gotham Knights touches on a number of these this week. Surprisingly, though, Turner feels like a secondary character. Stephanie and Duela take center stage with both seeing huge character development.
Stephanie stands up
For weeks now, Stephanie has been having these strange, tense scenes with her father. They finally come to a head when Arthur gets arrested for trying to acquire more drugs for his addicted wife. Stephanie stands up to Lincoln March, then her forceful and creepy father, and finally her drug-addled mother before Harper steps in to back her up.
Stephanie ends up pouring her heart out to Harper; to this point, she’s never had control of her life. She’s been a puppet moved about by her parents to help create the appearance of a specific sort of dynamic. Even her romantic interest in both Turner and Brody was an unconscious attempt by her to fit into the mold her parents had laid out. Finally able to choose for herself, Stephanie finds herself attracted to the one person who can hold up a highly technical conversation with her–Harper. The two end up kissing before heading out to find Turner.
This is a huge moment for both of these characters and Gotham Knights. The CW has struggled for years with so-called gay-baiting–giving same-sex characters tons of chemistry and spark-filled scenes, only to never make good on the promise of those scenes–and Stephanie looked to be a classic example of this sort of thing. She’s coded as being stereotypically straight and the show has put her across from the show’s straight male characters since the first episode. Harper, meanwhile, has been framed as someone who is queer but who makes questionable decisions, falling in with dopey guys or developing crushes on straight girls. For both of them, this is a moment of payoff–intimacy with someone she feels she can trust.
While all of this is going on, Duela has introduced Turner to her mother, who immediately begins plotting to turn Turner in for the multi-million-dollar reward, while also working on a plan to introduce Duela to her real father.
In the comics (and the CW’s own Batwoman), the woman named Duela is the daughter of Harvey Dent. So far here, she’s been the Joker’s daughter–a nickname she has in the comics–by reputation and her own belief. But even just her name, Duela, seems to fit with the Harvey narrative better, and it seemed like only a matter of time before this information came out. Harvey wakes up in a straightjacket, looking at Duela and her mother. He tries to explain himself, but it would be a stretch for just about anyone to believe that a guy had fathered a child while stuck in his secret personality.
Harvey ends up shot in the chest and seemingly dead, saved only by the Court of Owls coin in his pocket. I really hope the show tries to tell us that the Court orchestrated that, too, but this storyline at the very least seems to be outside the Owls’ spheres of interest. Harvey awakens in a hospital bed to see a news story following up on all of the allegations made by Jane Doe, potentially destroying his career and setting up his shift.
With the truth out about Duela, I’m wondering if we’ll see a visible change in her. She’s believed her father to be the Joker thus far and bought into the hype that comes with that, patterning her behavior and even her look off of his. So will she drop the facade, or consciously adopt it as artifice? Or will the show just skip over the whole idea?
At this point, we have only two episodes of Gotham Knights left, unless the CW should decide to renew it. Considering their current slate of shows–golf, racing, and a drama about Jesus–this seems unlikely. It seems like we’re not going to get satisfying finishes to any of these stories, so right now it’s all about enjoying the ride. I want more from Harvey than Misha Collins has been able to give us. Dent is by far the most famous character on the show, and Collins is the most famous among the cast, but Dent is a tall order, with the story essentially asking you to play three characters, and Collins thus far hasn’t given us much to work with, and neither has the writing. He feels extraneous to the plot and there’s not really enough time to change that.