Season 2 of the Fox series Gotham is being billed as the “Rise of the Villains,” and while they’re unleashed and causing chaos around the city, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and the GCPD will clearly have their hands full. Everyone will be divided and pushed to the edge, as Gotham transforms into a city in need of a vigilante to help save it.
While at the Fox portion of the TCA Press Tour, executive producer/director Danny Cannon spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about methodically and meticulously breaking a 22-episode arc, weaving a lot of origin stories into one main story, the major goals for Season 2, showing new aspects of Gotham, as a city, the choice Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) will have to make, who Jim Gordon is now, where that leaves Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), the addition of Captain Barnes (Michael Chiklis), and new villains. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
DANNY CANNON: The one thing that’s easier is that we’re not establishing the world. Luckily, that world was accepted as a reality of its own, so we have the confidence that we’re standing on the correct foundations that we built in Season 1. I think what’s harder about it is that our ambitions are higher. We’ve created a saga in Season 2 and are splitting the saga into two pieces. Rather than telling so many different stories and treat them as individual stories, it’s 22 episodes of one story. Therefore, it’s a lot harder to break because we want to organically weave in a lot of origin stories into this one main story. It’s very complex.
Did you have to really plot out the whole season then, or do you still have room for things that come up to get slotted in somewhere?
CANNON: Slotting in will be hard now, but it’s not that we haven’t done that before. A good idea will win over, every time, and we’ll continue to do that. But we methodically, for six weeks, broke down the entire season. That was exhausting. I’ve shot some very difficult things in my time, I’ve worked in production for a very long time, and I’ve also acted. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing quite as hard as methodically and meticulously breaking a 22-episode story, which then has to spin into another 22, straight after. That was difficult.
You’ve done a great job with making the city of Gotham feel like it’s own world. Will we get to see aspects of Gotham that we didn’t get to see in the first season?
CANNON: Absolutely! We have a new villain coming into town whose ancestors were some of the builders of Gotham. Their bones are hidden in the foundations of the city. And he has high hopes and big plans for Gotham. So, we will start to see opulent areas, as well as more run-down areas. Some of the locations in the second season are breathtaking.
Who is that villain?
CANNON: Theo Galavan is somebody who comes to town, like The Great Gatsby or Dracula, with huge Machiavellian aspirations and insidious ambitions. We will also meet many others, along the way, like Firefly, Tigress, Mr. Freeze, and a few others. We can go further back with their origin stories than has ever been seen before.
What are the major goals for this season?
CANNON: It was very much in our mind that, if someone like Batman is going to be necessary, the rise of the villains is about creating an environment where Gordon has to lose control. What’s unleashed upon Gotham is a villain who is only trying to outshine, outplay and out-maneuver another villain, and not the police. There’s a competition amongst villains, and a lack of honor. A type of villain that believes in chaos and anarchy and doesn’t have the same morality as any of us and is unhindered by the same ethics and morality that we have is a dangerous man, indeed. So, Gordon has to embrace his darker side, in order to face that.
When we last saw Bruce Wayne, he and Alfred were about to venture down the stairs to see what Bruce’s father left there. How will what they find affect them?
CANNON: We’ve never seen this aspect of Bruce Wayne before, but whatever he does find, he’ll have a choice to protect himself and walk an honest path in the daylight, or he’s going to have to walk in the darkness and face the secrets that his father was keeping, for which he was killed. And once Pandora’s box is opened, Bruce will never be safe again.
Bruce and Alfred were at odds quite a bit, in the first season. Will they be getting closer now?
CANNON: I think both Gordon and Alfred have found themselves fathers to somebody they never expected to be a father to, and like with every teenage boy, they’re going to go through some tumultuous times. I think Bruce Wayne probably has the biggest arc of this season, in that, in choosing to walk the dangerous path because of his true calling, he will not only need protection from the villains, but protection from himself. There’s a recklessness in him that we haven’t seen yet, and once Pandora’s box is opened, things get very complicated and dangerous.
Jim Gordon has discovered a lot of things about Gotham that he had never realized before. Is he a very different person now?
CANNON: Yes, and his morality is tested in Episode 1. In order to combat the rise of the new, unhindered, anarchic villain, he will have to walk the dark path also, in order to level the playing field. In doing so, he’s going to make some very bad choices. There’s a hot-headedness to Jim Gordon, which I think we all relate to, but at the same time, could be his undoing. We always love the villains of this great DC canon because, unlike us who always walk that straight path and are scared of authority and offending others, these villains don’t follow the same rules. They knock the walls down. They are more free. They are people who don’t give a damn what we think about them, and don’t give a damn about the consequences. They want to build a new Gotham, and in order to build something, you’ve got to destroy something first.
There were some big shifts for some of the characters, by the end of Season 1, including Ed Nygma, Selina Kyle and Barbara Kean. In Season 2, will they continue down that dark path that they started on?
CANNON: Selina, for example, is somebody that we’re going to investigate her backstory, and we’re also going to watch one of her friends walk a darker path. In order to see somebody really have an internal fight about the light and the darkness, it’s good to see it through other characters also. When we learn her origin story and what that’s done to her, we’ll understand her a lot more. Sure, she could go either way. The great thing about these origin stories is that, no matter how bad it gets for Nygma, for example, and the demons he’s facing, because you know that origin story and you know where that pain and darkness comes from, you always root for him. That’s the genius of these characters and why they’ve survived for so long. Nygma is somebody with a split personality. There is a brilliant, timid, sensitive man, and then there is a more confident but darker individual who couldn’t give a damn about other people. We all have that fight within all of us, and watching Nygma battle his demons in the second season has been a lot of fun so far.
Where are things at for Barbara Kean?
CANNON: Barbara has some of the most shocking scenes, at the beginning of the season. What we’re doing with these villains is allowing them to run free and dig down to the darkest, most primal parts of themselves and unleash that upon the world. She can play both sides because she can seduce and get you to pity her, and she can also destroy you. We will watch the origins of a type of villain that is quite terrifying.
After having been showed another way of doing things and being pulled a bit into the light in Season 1, where is Harvey Bullock now?
CANNON: Bullock attempts to leave the police force and lead a normal life, but what’s in your blood is in your blood. He’s almost switching roles with Jim for awhile, and he becomes somebody looking out for Jim. But the dark path he’s treading, sometimes there’s no way back. Even though you think you can get back, the demons you bring with you will stay with you forever.
Who is Captain Barnes and what will he be bringing to the GCPD?
CANNON: With Barnes, we knew we needed somebody to come in and finally say the words that Jim Gordon wants to hear, which is, “I believe in the law. I believe in the system. No matter what, we will make this work.” That’s the way Jim Gordon has been doing it, but Jim Gordon has been doing it in a very solitary way. It’s been infecting his soul because he’s been taking it on by himself. What Barnes represents is somebody who’s come along that can help Jim get back on that straight path and get him to believe again in why he wears the badge. He’s another military guy who believes that, no matter what, the only way is the right way and that true justice comes from walking that straight path, believing in the badge, believe in the law, and believing in the system. He’s a real strong, single-minded individual.
If this is the season of the rise of the villains, does Jim Gordon have help to fight that?
CANNON: Well, Barnes finds a way to get Jim some support, but they are increasingly becoming outnumbered in that chaotic, inherently corrupt city. So, Jim has got his hands full.
With so many villains off the leash, will any of them try to team up and work with each other?
CANNON: The first three episodes are very much the maniacs running the asylum. They attempt to rule with each other, but with villains who have such a selfish sense of purpose, that’s an almost impossible task. There are a lot of deaths in the beginning of the season.
What is Penguin’s journey going to look like?
CANNON: Whenever we attempt to articulate the world that Penguin is walking into, we think of Shakespeare. There’s a Richard III quality to Penguin. He’s somebody who’s brilliant and way ahead of his counterparts, but also has a deep self-loathing that we’ll look into. The thing about Penguin is that the minute you self-proclaim yourself the king of anything, you’re basically guaranteeing a queue of people, ready to knock you off your pedestal. So, like Richard III, he has to stay ahead of the game. His genius, his charm, his wit and his Machiavellian expertise is either going to destroy him or keep him on top.
The way that Cameron Monaghan played Jerome immediately led to speculation that he would become The Joker. Was that intentional?
CANNON: He is the archetype for the type of villain that we will start to see in Gotham, in that something inside of him snapped. His morality was eroded or destroyed. He now runs free, as somebody who doesn’t care about life’s rules or values, or anybody other than himself. That’s a very free character, and that means that you can pretty much go anywhere with him. That epitomizes what we see in the villains this year. There is a freedom to be unshackled by life’s moralities.
Do you already know what you want to do for Season 3?
CANNON: Absolutely! Because there’s a big break in the middle of the season, Season 2 is really Season 2 and 3. We started breaking story five days after delivering the Season 1 finale because we’re very excited to do so. And we didn’t just break this season. Intention wise, each season has a different aspect of Gotham that it will explore. This season, we are exploring what kind of a world would beg for a vigilante to save them. It’s the kind of world where the villains run free and where, instead of being denounced by the public, the public actually starts to respect the villains for their freedom and defiance of authority. That becomes a very dangerous thing for Gotham.
Gotham returns for Season 2 on Fox on September 21st.