The cast and creative team behind Fox’s Batman universe-drama Gotham showed up at Comic-Con International in San Diego this past weekend to discuss season three and tease the upcoming fourth season which airs on a new night -- Thursday -- this fall.
Panelists included Ben McKenzie (James Gordon), Robin Lord Taylor (Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot), Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma/Riddler), Sean Pertwee (Alfred), Jessica Lucas (Tabitha Galavan), Drew Powell (Butch Gilzean), Alexander Siddig (Ra’s Al Ghul), Erin Richards (Barbara Kean), Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle) and Executive Producer John Stevens.
The panel began with a 5-minute sizzle reel highlighting the high points of season three, which ended with the hinting of Bruce Wayne’s eventual progression to Batman. It then switched to a preview of season four, which included the return of Barbara (who many thought died last season) as well as the introduction of The Scarecrow, last seen in live-action in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight films.
Stevens acknowledged the amount of story that they’ve put up on the screen so far. “We throw a tremendous amount of story at the screen,” he said. “I think the thing that surprises us again and again is how much story and how many characters we put up on the screen and how much more there is to tell week after week. The mythology is so rich and so dense that I can see the show going on and on and us never running out of material.”
McKenzie discussed how the character of Jim Gordon has changed since the show began. “It’s fantastic. Jim serves as the eyes and the ears of the viewers but also the reflective surface off of which we see the world evolve or devolve. We see as Jim somewhat loses his mind at the end of season three and in season four we will see the world around him crumbling and cracking and devolving into anarchy,” he said. “It’s fun for me as an actor to watch this incredible cast and get to react to them.”
Taylor, whose Penguin character was the first member of the Batman Rogue’s Gallery of Villains to get his story developed, was happy to see Smith’s Riddler character get developed as well. “It was long overdue. It’s nice to have someone that will always match Penguin in intelligence and cunning,” he said. “But that’s a testament to John Stevens and the amazing writers. They’ve rooted these characters in real human experience. We’ve tried to honor their work and bring it to these characters but it all begins with them.”
Smith, whose Riddler character was frozen in a block of ice by Mr. Freeze in the season finale, says that being frozen will have an impact on the character once he’s thawed out. “The question will be what’s it like for someone who’s brilliant to thaw out? His body thaws, his bones thaw, his muscles thaw, and then his brain.. .what are the effects of being on ice? It’s going to mess up his trajectory. He’s not going to operate the same way. He has to find a new path and a new identity in season four.”
Will the Riddler and Penguin become buddies? “Oh I don’t know,” Taylor yelled. “They’ve got a bridge to cross. It’s troubled waters. It’s worse than 'The Real Housewives of Gotham' with these two.”
“It’s a complicated relationship,” Smith interjected. “Their ambition is complimentary so I think there are ways to team up again. We enjoy working together so I hope it happens.”
“Enemies and friends are not that far removed,” Taylor said. “There is a giant gray area on this show of what is good and what is bad. These people are all connected to each other in Gotham.”
Pertwee talked about fearing that his character Alfred, despite being a “legacy character” in the Batman world, was going to get killed off at the end of last season. “At the end of episode 21, I took one straight to the chest. I didn’t know that it was all going to be one film (episodes 21 and 22 aired as a two-hour episode),” he said. "I made a very nervous phone call to John when I read the episode."
Richards also thought she was being killed off. “That’s an actor’s greatest fear,” she said. “The communication on our show is always so good though. John and the creators know how much we want to be here and watching that trailer today -- my heart was bursting with pride for the show that we make -- it’s an incredible show. But thankfully, John was kind enough to sit me down and tell me what was up.”
Bicondova said that Selina will be the thread that brings Barbara and Tabitha together in the aftermath of season three. “It’s tough at first, but I’m excited to see what the writers come up with.”
Stevens then hinted at some of the things fans can expect to see in the new season: Ra’s Al Ghul will be the one responsible for bringing Barbara back from the dead, and she will be trained to be a fighter. Ra’s will also try to bring Bruce Wayne over to the dark side. Butch will evolve into Solomon Grundy and the character will have an origin story. Bruce will get body armor, grappling hooks and a mask this season but will not become Batman in season four. And of course, as hinted in the trailer shown at the beginning of the panel, the Scarecrow will be making an appearance in Gotham City.
Finally, Stevens hinted that the first half of the new season will be inspired by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's The Long Halloween, and the second half will be inspired by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One. They will not be adaptations of the classic comic book stories, but the episodes will be loosely inspired by them.
Gotham returns for its season four premiere Thursday, Sept. 28 on Fox.