When viewers last tuned into Fox's DC Comics-inspired Batman prequel "Gotham," Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) defeated Hugo Strange (BD Wong), Azrael (James Frain) and Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). It wasn't all good news, though. Jim left the police force in pursuit of a missing Leslie in order to profess his love. The second season finale culminated with a busload of Indian Hill monsters unleashed on the unsuspecting city, with a souped-up Fish (Jada Pinkett Smith) taking charge, and a creepy Bruce doppelganger emerging. As a result, Season Three promises to be crazier and darker than ever before.
In advance of tonight's third season premiere, "Gotham" EP Ken Woodruff spoke with CBR News about Jim hitting rock bottom, Fish's resurrection, Tabitha and Barbara's insane new venture and that Bruce Wayne doppelganger.
CBR News: Last season was dubbed "The Rise of the Villains." What have you labeled this year?
Ken Woodruff: "Gotham: Mad City." That comes into play for a lot of different reasons. There are friggin' monsters running around the streets of Gotham. That's going to make things a little hairy. Secondly, we cast an actor to play the Mad Hatter. He really comes in these first 11 episodes for a big run of five or six. He's going to have a big impact on Jim Gordon and all of our other characters. He's going to really interact with all of our villains and heroes and drive things for a little bit. The one thing I'd say is we usually do a first half and a second half [of the season]. For the first half, "Mad City" was the most accurate and compelling for us. Then, when we're ready, we'll announce the second half.
The Season Three premiere, "Mad City: Better to Reign in Hell," features a time jump. How would you describe the state of Gotham City at this point?
It's not quite a disaster, but it's pretty close. This city has been plagued by the Indian Hill escapees and monsters that have been out. What's worse is there's been a government, or a city municipality, cover up of it. You have the Mayor and the GCPD collaborating to keep the truth about the escapees from the public. It's not quite working as well as they would like, especially with Penguin being the loud, public opposition. It's tough. There's a lot of fear and panic on the streets of Gotham. The GCPD is missing one of their best, which is Jim Gordon. He's not on the GCPD and his heart is not in it. The GCPD is down and out, and the public can feel it as a result.
In last year's finale, Jim Gordon left Gotham to find Leslie. How's that working out for him?
Not great. Not great at all. In the premiere, he went down there to make a bold declaration of love and found her happier with someone else. So, Jim is really down in the dumps. And not just sad. Nihilistic is more accurate. We sort of talked about the character in "The Hurt Locker" when we were talking about Gordon, as somebody who doesn't have a lot to live for and isn't afraid of death the way you should be. Maybe he's like Mel Gibson in "Lethal Weapon," that kind of vibe, where he's a bit more reckless and careless. His friends will definitely take notice of this. It's a different Jim. It's a scarier, on-edge Jim.
Fish and the Indian Hill monsters are on the loose. What is Fish's endgame?
One, Fish wants to get better. We say in the first episode that the transformation that she underwent in Indian Hill -- whenever she uses the power she was given -- it's really making her sick. It's killing her. Priority number one is to fix that. She goes to Ms. Peabody as the only lead from Indian Hill to solve the problem. But there's one other person who can solve it and, of course, that's Hugo Strange. Either way, she's going to try and get cured. Fish is Fish. She's not an unambitious woman. She knows the power of this ability and what it means. She would love to use it to exert her will. There's no reason why given this power and her force of will that she can't take over Gotham.
Bruce previously discovered ties between Wayne Enterprises and Indian Hill. How is that nugget of information going to push him forward?
It really forces a confrontation between Bruce and the people that were behind Indian Hill - that dark, secret faction that operates within Wayne Enterprises. It does force a confrontation at the end of the first episode. We'll follow that up immediately in the second episode and really show who they are, where they are coming from, what they want and how they are going to work with Bruce -- or not work with Bruce. Just the revelation of them is confirmation for Bruce that there is something out there, that he's not crazy, so that's always good. Also, he needs to decide whether he's going to go to go to war with these people. Is he capable of going to war? Is he willing to put his life and everybody else's life in jeopardy to do so or does he have to bide his time? Is the smart move making a deal with them knowing he's only a teenager?
Power motivates Penguin. How does he go about achieving his goals?
In the first couple of episodes, Penguin is the very vocal opposition to this cover up and this conspiracy. He's really smart. He's a politician. He knows that he can take advantage of the public's fear to exploit that into his own power. The scariest things in Gotham right now are these monsters, these Indian Hill escapees. The more he can use that, and stoke that fear, the better. It's crazy because he rides the wave of popularity to this seat of power and weirdly becomes one of the most liked figures in Gotham. That's the thing that's most shocking to him. Not only does he have power, but the love of the people.
Tabitha and Barbara open a new night club, Sirens. What can we expect from these two lovely lunatics?
A lot of fun. They are going to look great. The biggest thing is they are not going to be under the thumb of someone else. Fish, in Season One, as powerful as she was, lived under the rule of Carmine Falcone. It's one of the lessons the Sirens have learned, that they don't need some dude telling them what to do or to keep them safe. They are more than capable, more than any of these guys in Gotham. It's a real, liberated, powerful moment for them.
The other thing about the Sirens, particularly Barbara, is because she has such a long history with Gordon, and because she's now legally sane, she can operate freely. She can travel both worlds. What we all like about the Sirens is that they are wild cards. You never know whose side they are on. The reason is they are always on their own side. They can help Gordon out or not. They can help Oswald, Nygma or any of the villains coming in like Hatter. Or, they can burn them. They are serving their own interests and sometimes they play the long game. Sometimes they don't like someone and, so, they are going to try to kill them.
Nygma took some massive steps into becoming Riddler. How will his time in Arkham Asylum put the brakes on that progression?
I don't think Arkham keeps people from being villains. It does the exact opposite. It accelerates that transformation. One of the things we found we loved is that relationship between Penguin and Nygma. When Penguin rises to power, he's going to have a lot more control and the ability to do a lot more. Maybe it means he can pardon someone. Maybe it's a jail break. We really wanted to capitalize on those two incredible actors and their dynamic together. It's really going to be a Penguin/Nygma dynamic for the first half of the season, which I think everyone would love to see.
Besides the Mad Hatter, how long will viewers have to wait to see some of the other announced Batman foes such as Solomon Grundy, or the return of Jerome?
I can't speak to Jerome, yet, but the Hatter for sure is in the first half. Solomon Grundy is more of a slower burn. We're plotting that out over a much longer arc. One of the fun things for us is, yes, there's this incredible wealth of characters, but you don't have control of them all the time like you do with invented characters. One of the things we love thematically about this season is this is the season heroes do fall, and the good guys can either be killed or turned bad. Some of the villains we are bringing out aren't just named villains, but are invented villains that we know and have spent time with. To see their transformation from good to evil is exciting.
In order for a city like Gotham to exist, and for Batman to come into being, you need it to be a pretty dark place. The first step of that was in the second season and the explanation of how supervillains came into being. The second part of that is you also need your good guys to not be around. That's one of the things we're trying to accomplish this season, is to really strip away the good guys and turn them bad.
Finally, how does this premiere set things into motion for the rest of the season?
There's the Bruce Wayne/Indian Hill doppelganger that's going to be a huge mystery and conspiracy, that is going to unfold over the course of the entire season. That's going to have a lot of emotional impact for Bruce because it's like looking into the mirror. Why was this person created? What does he know about his parents' murder?
The other thing is the Gordon and Lee's heartbreaking emotional story. There are a lot of shows that would have had Gordon go down to see Lee and she was waiting for him. We chose to go the exact opposite way. We wanted to break these people up and break their hearts. They do still love each other, but there's miscommunication or misunderstanding. Sometimes Lee was doing what was right for her. Gordon loves her so much that he allows her to do what is best for Lee because he believes he's probably dangerous for her. That's one of the things that is going to play out in a huge way in the first-half finale and then continue to play out for the rest of the season. If there's a heart to our show, it's Bruce and Gordon. On the emotional romance side, this story is the gut-wrencher for us.
The third season premiere of "Gotham" airs 8 tonight on Fox.