Superman and Batman sounds like a pretty solid one-two punch, but the details of that combination somewhat undo the CW’s new Tuesday lineup, featuring the third season of “Superman & Lois” and a new Dark Knight-adjacent drama, “Gotham Knights.” Specifically, the former doesn’t fly as high this time out, while the latter plays too much like a “Riverdale” wannabe.
Joining a long list of productions peripherally connected to the Caped Crusader (“Gotham,” “Titans,” “Pennyworth” and “Batwoman” among them), “Gotham Knights” begins with the provocative premise that Batman/Bruce Wayne has been murdered, leaving his adopted son, Turner Hayes (Oscar Morgan), to try to find out who’s responsible.
Still, Turner wasn’t really brought into the family’s bat-business, with one of his school classmates, Carrie Kelley (Navia Robinson), having acted as Batman’s sidekick Robin. The ill-tempered daughter of the Joker, Duela (Olivia Rose Keegan), also gets pulled into this de facto Scooby team, along with a sibling pair of accomplished thieves, Harper (Fallon Smythe) and Cullen Row (Tyler DiChiara).
Circumstances turn them all into fugitives, and there’s plenty of squabbling and bickering among them, with Duela teasingly referring to Turner as “Bat-brat.” As for the serialized mystery, the main thread involves the shadowy criminal enterprise known as the Court of Owls, whose nefarious doings make the teen contingent seem to be in way over their heads.
The atmosphere certainly oozes the dark vision of a corrupt, dystopian Gotham that we’ve come to know, but it loses a lot by wedding that to a “Gossip Girl” (pick your version) sensibility. Plus, if you have questions about all the unaccounted-for parents in the show, get in line.
“Gotham Knights” is watchable for committed fans of the genre or DC completists, but it mostly feels like another test of the franchise’s coattails (or cape tails). Mainly, the show fuels the perception that despite the character’s durability, it’s possible to dip into the Batcave once too often.
As for ‘Superman & Lois,” what had been a bright spot for the CW starts its season slowly, with an uninspired serialized threat and a lot of emphasis on juggling relationships among the core cast.
The show also introduces a more grounded crisis for the Kents, Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch), along with their teenage sons, with Michael Bishop taking over the role of Jonathan (after Jordan Elsass chose to leave the show) and Alex Garfin returning as Jordan.
Obviously, the formula for these CW series hinges on playing up the soap-opera aspects (who knew sleepy little Smallville was such a hotbed of hormones?), because despite the impressive-for-TV special effects it’s not like they’re turning producer Greg Berlanti and his teams loose with a Zack Snyder-sized budget.
Yet even making that allowance, “Superman & Lois” feels more sluggish, as if the producers are straining to pair up characters in unexpected but not particularly interesting ways, including the disposable subplots surrounding Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who is now aware of Clark’s secret, and her marital troubles.
Part of “Superman’s” mission will be to help launch “Gotham Knights,” while both face the more existential threat of the CW altering its programming profile – and its reliance on titles from DC (like CNN, a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery) – under new ownership.
It’s not exactly a bad combination, but rather the kind of team-up that feels less brave and bold than simply familiar and played out.
“Superman & Lois” and “Gotham Knights” premiere March 14 at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET on the CW.