TV

REVIEW: Nightwing: Prodigal

Written by Will Webb

Nightwing: Prodigal gets a lot of love from this site, and for good reason. Brady Roberts– both lead star as Dick Grayson and man behind the scenes- is a great talent, and his team have made a fantastic series. As Nightwing: Prodigal put out its finale yesterday, we decided to take a look back at the series and see how it fared. Here’s our take.

Poor Dick Grayson. Sure, he’s gorgeous, more ripped than an old sheet, and an expert in martial arts, but not everything’s golden: Bruce Wayne has gone missing, and he’s on his own. Attempting to track down Bruce takes Grayson on a tour of the best Batman rogues: the first episode features Poison Ivy (and Solomon Grundy!), the second Harley Quinn, and the third includes a rather nasty turn from the Riddler himself. Going over the plot would spoil the ride for the viewer, but suffice to say that as Dick gets closer to finding Bruce, the Court of Owls begins to rear its ugly head…

The show itself hews closer to the 60s TV Batman series, but for the best reasons. The dialogue is mostly light and campy, with Dick getting a lot of quips in. The villain performances also veer into the hammy side of things, with the Riddler in particular chewing some scenery in a fantastically updated performance that has much in common with Frank Gorshin’s 60s turn without ever stepping on its feet. The set design is also deliberately over the top, drenching spaces in neon light and discarded material. Harley’s lair in particular is a real triumph: a single mattress in a warehouse space, covered in rags and sheeting, playing cards littered all over the floor and a TV playing static in the corner. Shooting in this 60s-esque style allows the filmmakers to have some real fun while still offering an updated style: transitions to and from Harley’s lair include star irises, ala Star Wars, and split screen is often used in conversations between Oracle and Dick.

Speaking of Dick- sorry, that’s crude, but accurate- a significant subplot of the series deals with Dick’s romantic entanglements with the ladies of the story. This can vary in effectiveness, depending on the actor and character who Dick’s displaying attraction to. As it is- and as it should be- his best chemistry is with Oracle, with whom he shares an almost-kiss and some loving glances.

The best thing about this is where it is deconstructed, and this is a strength of the series in general: Nightwing’s working out in the corner, showing off his buff bod, and Oracle just watches him while eating a salad. It’s a lovely moment that shows their closeness as characters, while also providing a good laugh off the more cheesecake aspects of some Nightwing comics and making explicit just how attracted Oracle is. Outside of this moment, they have more of a kiss-kiss-fight-fight relationship, but it’s a great moment. This deconstruction plays across the series, especially in the villain scenes. I have two favourites. Dick absent-mindedly asks a girl in Harley’s lair if she needs to be saved: ‘No, I’m alright.’ Takes all kinds to make a world go round, I guess. And during the Riddler’s expository villain speech, Dick waits until he gets closer, then just hits him really hard in the stomach, winding him and allowing Dick to save the day while he’s wheezing on the floor.

For a show of this scale and ambition, the budget is obviously low, but it is used extremely well. The variety of locations, from hillside mansions to abandoned warehouses, and the quality of the costumes, helps bridge more obvious production value gaps- where, for instance, actors can’t be scheduled to actually share a scene they’re in (the split screen also helps here). One triumphant moment is the arrival of the Batmobile, an all-CG reworking of the Tumbler from the Nolanverse. I was skeptical of this, as I’ve seen enough ‘CGI’ in independent films to think less than well of it, but actually this is an awesome moment, well carried out by JD Buzz, the effects whiz (and co-writer).

The final episode of this ace fan film series is out now, and is absolutely awesome. This is a finale they’ve been building to for a long time, and I’m not going to spoil it! I can say, however, that it features an incredible fight sequence, the Batmobile, and a few crazy twists. All I ask is that if you like it, support these indie filmmakers and share it amongst similarly geek-minded friends.

Catch all four episodes out on YouTube now!

About the author

Will Webb