When you think of Gotham City in Nolan’s gritty imagining you are not exactly picturing the green and red tights of Batman’s trusty sidekick Robin. The classic crime fighting duo has unfortunate connotations with homo-erotic swinger parties, camp 1997 comic book movies and dressing up in costumes with your older brother when you were five and six (yes I was a year younger and always relegated to be Robin). Previous cinematic efforts to tell a Gotham tale with Robin have been dubious. He seems to be a character best suited to cartoons and early comics. There seemed little room in the “real” world for Robin. But in the final chapter where the legend is promised to end we are given an origins story that promises it will live on forever.
One of the reasons Nolan’s adaptation works so well is that whatever changes in tone he always stayed true to the characters’ motivations. Robin is young and naive but ultimately a good person, honest and just. He does not possess the presence or strength of Batman, but he is fit and willing to fight crime all the same. This is the Blake that we meet The Dark Knight Rises, the subplot to the film being Blake’s transformation into Robin, a loyal apprentice who believes the best path to justice is masked vigilantism.
The first time Officer Blake really shows up on our radar is when he approaches Bruce Wayne, in Wayne Manor, and openly states that he knows Bruce is the Batman. It is a bold move and reeks of youthful confidence but he is not there to accuse and interrogate, instead he is asking for help. We learn that Blake grew up an orphan in a boys’ home funded by the Wayne Foundation, his youth mirrored that of Bruce and it drew him closer to the conclusion of Batman’s identity. Blake does not linger in Wayne Manor, he simply lets his point be heard: that there are people who still look for the bat symbol in the sky at night and that Gotham City still needs their hero.