There’s a malevolent darkness spreading over “Gotham” in its second season — which is an expected development considering that this batch of episodes has been dubbed “Rise of the Villains.” The Fox drama, which chronicles the span of time in the iconic DC Comics city’s history immediately following the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne — the game-changing event that lead their son Bruce to become Batman. The stars of Fox’s pre-Batman drama, specifically the talents behind five of those rising villains, were on-hand for members of the press at New York Comic Con to build up what’s to come as “Gotham’s” second season continues to escalate.
New addition James Frain, who plays the deceptively evil industrialist and “philanthropist” Theo Galavan, talked about the show’s change in focus. “We’re going to transition from a world quite like our own into a chaotic space where we can accept that there are these super villains that have these larger than real life personalities,” said Frain. “That’s sort of the goal of Season Two, to show the rise of the villains from a corrupt environment into a really quite insane one.”
Executive producer John Stephens spoke about the emergence of villains like the Galavan siblings, Penguin and the Riddler, saying, “We always knew we wanted to lean more into the rogues gallery [in Season Two]. We knew we had these nuclear weapons that we weren’t deploying yet. It has given a level of energy and fun to the show, which is fascinating, and also it’s allowed us to write longer scenes, than last year… Last year, because we were following cases so much, we were following clues. Now, because we have these larger than life characters, what you really want to do is see them in a room interacting with one another — whether they’re trying to kill each other or just talk to each other.”
“We can really build these arcs,” added series lead Ben McKenzie, who plays troubled Gotham detective Jim Gordon. “Jim hasn’t even figured out that Theo is up to no good, but by the time he does, how does he dismantle Theo? He can’t just go straight at him. Theo’s far and away the most complicated and sophisticated of the villains he’s faced up to this point. So it becomes a real clash of the titans, if you will, between the two of them with some really big repercussions for Gotham.”
McKenzie added that the crime families of “Gotham” Season One, the ones that had a self-serving interest in a type of law and order, are gone for good. “Once they go away, they were dispatched at the end of Season One, there was a power vacuum and Penguin steps into that.”
The new villainous focus also means that some of these previously disparate villains will get to share the screen, like Cory Michael Smith’s Edward Nygma and Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot. “With the rise of the villains, that generally implies that we’re all going to start having to interact with each other,” said Taylor, who seized control of Gotham’s criminal underworld at the end of Season One. “Since we’ve already met briefly in the first season, we come back into each other’s lives in a pretty major, exciting way.”
“Edward and Oswald must meet again,” added Smith. “They run into each other again in a very interesting place. Edward knows exactly who Oswald is, obviously, as we know, and Oswald could really care less [who Edward is]. Edward is such a fan. We’ll see his evolution across the next few episodes because of Bad Nigma sort of spurring him along. He’ll be interested in talking to Oswald.”
One character that’s undergone a massive transformation is Erin Richards’ Barbara Kean, who has gone from being Jim Gordon’s fiancee to a parent-killing evildoer on a criminal streak.
“We changed Erin’s character this year and let her go down that path,” said executive producer Stephens. “That, to me, has been one of the most exciting things that we’ve done. The culmination of the Erin/Gordon/Thompkins storyline, which happens in episode eight, is bananas. I watched the episode the other day and it is just — it feels very core and mythic and elevated, like everything we wanted to have out of this show.”
“I definitely knew that she was going to a darker place,” said Richards when asked about her character’s evolution. “I didn’t know she was going to murder her parents. That was quite a big shock! But it’s such a fantastic development because it really releases her into the world as this kind of new, dark being that has nothing holding her back now.”
On the topic of redemption, possibly in a future season, Richards said that would be “nice.” “I think the fans sort of want her to have a baby with Jim at some point because then Batgirl comes out,” said Richards. “I personally think that right now, it’s so much fun to play this darkness and there’s so much to explore inside that darkness. And also I’m having so much fun watching Jim and Leslie; I think that relationship is a really strong one and a much better one for him right now than what Barbara was. It’s nice to see redemption, but I don’t know how we’d achieve it right now.”
The fall of his ex-fiancee has had a rough effect on Jim Gordon, and his moral center will continue to slide. “He’s holding it together barely,” said McKenzie. “He’s starting to fray a little but under the pressure. He’s certainly wearing the guilt of what he’s already done at the beginning of this season, having killed a man to collect a debt on behalf of the Penguin in order to get his job back. You’re starting to see that he’s becoming a bit unhinged.”
One character on Gordon’s side is Michael Chiklis’ police captain Nathaniel Barnes. “I look at him as sort of a battlefield commander,” said Chiklis, a veteran of police dramas like “The Shield” and “The Commish.” “He’s not a desk jockey. He’s a guy who comes in who jumps right into this on a war footing because the villains have run amok and this season is called ‘The Rise of the Villains.’ They’ve been brazen enough to come into the precinct and slaughter cops and kill my predecessor. So I come in as both mentor to Ben [McKenzie]’s character and also I’m worried for the kid, because he’s getting into that brand of law enforcement where the ends justify the means. My character is absolutely adamantly against [that]. You find out why down the line, which is really interesting. You find out that certain things from his past inform the reasons that he’s so adamantly against breaking the law in order to achieve the law.”
But in addition to a new law enforcer like Chiklis’ Barnes, Frain and Jessica Lucas, who play the Galavan siblings, have become a dark wild card in this game of evil. “[Theo is] a rogue billionaire who is obviously narcissistic and has a strong point of view feels like a hero for a city on the brink of collapse,” said Frain. “So that’s a very obvious, meaningful place for him because he can get close to the real power players, Jim and Bruce Wayne. That’s his plan, to come in and seduce everyone and then stick it to them.”
Lucas’ Tabitha Galavan, or Tigress, has also taken up an interest in Barbara Kean. “[Their relationship] is basically what you’ve seen so far and it’s going to continue to develop a little bit,” said Lucas. “It’s an interesting dynamic between the three of them. There’s a lot of manipulation going on between the three of them and a lot of jealousy.”
“If you were to ask [Barbara] which one she prefers, I think she would say Tabitha,” added Richards.
Lucas also weighed in on whether or not her Tigress character, who wears leather and carries a whip like another famous Batman villain, will in any way inspire the young Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova). “Sure, there was conscious thought put into her look and how it was going to relate to someone else, a very famous someone.”
Will Catwoman be another one of the villains to rise on this season of “Gotham”? You can find out by watching new episodes Mondays at 8 PM ET on Fox.
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