Throughout the show’s second season, “Gotham” has certainly lived up to its “Rise of the Villains” subtitle, and even with the finale in sight, shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, the series has picked up the pace of introducing — and re-introducing — more evil influences to Gotham City, with the penultimate episode seeing the resurrection of Fish Mooney and a newly-born Clayface taking Jim Gordon’s form with the intention of replacing him. Meanwhile, Ed Nygma had Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox on the ropes while Firefly forced her former friend, Selina Kyle, to pledge allegiance to her. To put it bluntly, Gotham’s villains appear to have won the war for the city.
Ahead of the show’s second season finale, titled “Transference,” executive producer John Stephens spoke with CBR News about what lies ahead for the birthplace of Batman. In addition to introducing the clandestine Court of Owls, Stephens promises more will be revealed about Hugo Strange’s intentions by the end of the episode. Meanwhile, Stephens teases a “huge piece of the puzzle” in Season 3 as Bruce contirues his path to becoming Batman, .
CBR News: Throughout the season, Hugo Strange has been playing Dr. Frankenstein. What exactly is his endgame?
John Stephens: We’re going to understand his endgame in the finale. We’re going to understand that he received a directive from his employers, who gave him a very specific directive, specifically about reanimation. That is something which his employers, who we know are the Court of Owls, is going to be paid off in Season 3 when we understand why they wanted him to do this thing. We will understand in this season what exactly he was supposed to achieve, although part of that we will pay off next year, too. It plays into our overarcing Court of Owls’ mythology.
Strange refers to his employers as “masters.” Who are the Court of Owls, and how much are we going to learn about them in the finale?
The Court of Owls is like an Illuminati. They are a shadowy group of powerful people who have controlled Gotham for centuries. They might, or might not, be behind the Wayne murders. They have financed and directed Indian Hill and Hugo Strange’s research. We will not learn all that much about them in the finale, save for the fact they are the people behind Hugo Strange and are most likely the culprits behind Martha and Thomas Wayne’s murders. Bruce will learn of their existence, but not necessarily their name. That will obviously push him forward.
As part of Strange’s experiments, he brought Fish Mooney back to life. What makes the resurrected Fish deadlier than before?
Hugo Strange had to modify Fish’s DNA in order to being her back to life, and it had the side effect of giving her certain abilities. Those abilities are going to manifest in the finale. She goes from the real of reality to grounded sci-fi, becoming a quasi-supernatural character in the finale.
How important is the fact that Fish retained her former memories?
Incredibly important. That is the key. That is what we will discover Hugo Strange has been up to all this time, is to resurrect somebody who has their full personality. That is what the key members of the Court of Owls want him to achieve.
At the moment, the crisis is somewhat contained in Indian Hill and Arkham Asylum. Assuming things spill out into the streets of Gotham, what does that mean for the city?
The Pandora’s Box gets opened at the end of the episode in a way that is going to have a huge effect in the entire city. The city we return to in Season 3 will be very different than the city we leave at the end of Season 2.
Bruce and Lucius are currently being tortured by Nygma — what does that mean for these three characters?
What we gain from that is all three are intellectual, especially Lucius and Nygma. Also, we as an audience have a great deal of affection for Nygma. In having watched his development from quirky forensic guy past two seasons, I hope when you are watching it, even though you are pulling for Bruce, that your sympathies are a bit divided because there’s a great deal of affection for Nygma.
Do you consider Nygma a full-blown supervillain?
Not quite. I say that because I know where we’re taking him in Season 3. I thought he was going to be full-blown by the end of the season. Now, we’ve slowed him down a little bit. When you watch him in Season 3, he has a little way to go yet before he really is the Riddler you know from the books.
Speaking of character growth, Bruce Wayne isn’t the same teen audiences met in Season 1. How far along the path is he to becoming Batman?
He has a long way to go. Our thinking is that, in every season, we’re going to start trying to add another piece of the Batman jigsaw puzzle. For instance, in Season 3, we’ll be adding another huge piece of the puzzle that will go into being Batman. He still has a long way to go — physically, emotionally and intellectually — in all those different facets.
When you saw episode 10 this year, where he and Selina ran a con on Silver St. Cloud and he appeared to be one thing over another — you saw him really step forward and be a different person than he had been before. To me, that was a big step forward to him becoming Batman.
On the other hand, Jim Gordon took a step back. He killed Theo Galavan. Jim was framed for another murder, fired from his job, and went on the run from the law, crossing a number of moral lines along the way. What did he learn about himself through this season?
He learned was what he is capable of. He’s come face-to-face with the darkness that was inside of him, in a way that’s going to inform his actions going forward. We very much try to live by that adage of, “You look into the darkness, and that darkness looks into you.” Jim could not be untouched by the darkness that was all around him. Jim found out that perhaps what draws him to Gotham is an equal darkness that resides inside him. That’s going to inform his actions going forward, and he’s not going to recover from it right away. Jim is not out of the woods yet.
Penguin emerged from Arkham Asylum a reformed man, though he eventually ended up hosting the most disturbing family dinner ever. What have you enjoyed about Penguin’s rollercoaster ride this year?
I loved when you got to see him turn good for a while and lose his other self. You got to watch Robin Lord Taylor play someone completely different, which is hugely fun. I also feel that, by the end of the season, Penguin, more than any other character, is actually motivated by his need for love. First, he needed it from his mother, and then his mother died. Then, he found his father, who filled that void, and then he died. So where is he going to go for it after that? That’s why I think he’s so sympathetic as the villain. You understand everything he’s doing is being driven by his need for love. That is enormous.
The old Penguin was pretty power hungry. Is ruling Gotham still his top priority?
He definitely took a step back in terms of ambition and Machiavellian aspirations. When we come back in Season 3, we’re going to see not just a return to the old ambitious Penguin who wants to control all of Gotham, but even a step further forward than that. If you can imagine even a step past what he was doing in Season 1, that’s where he is going to be in Season 3. He’s moving forward in a very aggressive way.
What else can you tease about the finale?
A lot more of these creatures are going to come out of Indian Hill, who are going to lay the groundwork for a lot of the future Batman villains. In the very last scene of the episode, we’re going to see a twist which is going to up the ante for everything in Season 3. I would definitely wait around for the very last scene — that’s when the biggest reveal of the episode happens.
Season 2 was dubbed “Rise of the Villains.” Do you have a title for Season 3?
We don’t have the same title to encapsulate it so neatly. We definitely have themes we’re working on — I just can’t encapsulate it as neatly as “Rise of the Villains.”
The “Gotham: Rise of the Villains'” season finale airs Monday, May 23 at 8 p.m. on Fox
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