One of the common threads that comes up when discussing Batman is the idea that his villains directly exist because of him–that he’s an active participant in an arms race between vigilantes and criminals, and that if he had never shown up, the GCPD would still be doing everyday stuff. More and more, the comics have been reaching back further into Gotham’s history to show how Batman was an inevitability, even a century before the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents sent him on his quest. Spoilers follow for Gotham Knights, Season 1, Episode 4, “Of Butchers and Betrayals.”
“Of Butchers and Betrayals”
After discovering some potential leads in their investigation, Turner (Oscar Morgan) and Harper (Fallon Smythe) investigate a possible connection between Bruce Wayne’s death and the mysterious death of a lawyer. Meanwhile, Carrie (Navia Robinson) and Duela (Olivia Rose Keegan) head to a nursing home to question Eunice (guest star Veronica Cartwright). At the Belfry, Stephanie (Anna Lore) opens up to Cullen (Tyler DiChiara) about her life at home, while Harvey (Misha Collins) makes an unsettling discovery.
While I’m still confused about why the show is using a newly-created son of Bruce Wayne rather than Damien, Tim, Jason, or Dick, I do like the direction the show is taking. When examining the decades-old autopsy photos from the case of Alan Wayne, the first of the murdered Waynes, the kids notice a series of X-shaped wounds on his body. Eventually, they connect that information to the murder of Bruce Wayne’s longtime lawyer and to other murders in the city, including those belonging to a century-old serial killer case that ended with the perpetrator being publicly hanged. This is a hardcore story episode, too; if you’re at all interested in Gotham Knights, do not miss it.
Spooky Old People
Carrie goes to talk to the elderly daughter of that killer, and Duela decides to accompany her at the last moment. Together, the two meet Eunice, played by Veronica Cartwright. While Cartwright isn’t a household name, her sci-fi and horror pedigree is unmistakable: Alien, The Birds, The Witches of Eastwick, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers are among her credits. She gives a chilling performance, speaking in a childlike manner to the two young women until they make mention of the Court of Owls. At that point, things take a sharp turn and she becomes truly frightening. Sure, kids going to a nursing home and talking to a creepy old person is a well-worn trope, but it’s one that works well in cases like these.
It also gives us a moment to get deeper into Duela’s mind than we have so far. Previously she’s mostly just been the wacky, true-neutral clown (a harlequin, if you will) of the group, dancing around like she’s in A Clockwork Orange and saying mildly upsetting things. Here, though, we see that she can still be frightened when faced with someone as unhinged as Eunice.
The Owls are in the House
Turner investigates the dead lawyer and quickly makes an ally of his left-behind son, but then goes to his father’s mansion to speak to the woman who helped raise him, Cressida. This is another Batman divergence that I’m curious about. Why is there no Alfred? Or even a mention of “dad’s previous butler, who died before he adopted me,” or something like that? Even so, I’m thrilled to see that instead of going the usual CW drama route of making us wait weeks and weeks to find out that Cressida betrayed him, she pulls a gun on him immediately, and mask-wearing members of the Court of Owls walk in. Of course, the masks look rad, but they were always going to.
Turner narrowly escapes them thanks to the intervention of Carrie. In the process, they crush the Talon sent after them under an explosion of rubble. Here we discover that not only is the Talon not dead, but it also’s actually Eunice’s serial-killer father, still alive long after he was pronounced dead. One thing that live-action Batman often hesitates to get into is the supernatural aspects of these stories; the tragedy of Mr. Freeze, the body horror of Clayface, and things like that require diving into the comics when filmmakers want to tend toward more grounded stories about the Dark Knight. I love that the show is saying early on, right here, that things could get weird.
This episode has more going for it than the previous ones, and if this is what we can expect from Gotham Knights moving forward, then there could be fun to find in the show despite the many hurdles we were presented with in the first few.