The Batman origin story continues on the TV series “Gotham,” and the stakes are higher than ever, as Super Villains more ambitious and depraved are introduced, and a realignment of alliances shakes up the fight for power in Gotham City. Detective Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) and the ethically questionable veteran detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) remain at the forefront of the fight against crime in this dangerously corrupt city. While confronting Gotham’s most notorious criminals, Gordon’s moral compass begins to waver. But he is taken under the wing of Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis), a law-and-order zealot who is unafraid of making enemies. Meanwhile, Gordon continues his quest to gain the trust of the young Bruce Wayne (played by David Mazouz), who is on a clear path towards the man he is destined to become, after discovering his father’s deepest secrets, with the help of his trusted butler and mentor, Alfred Pennyworth (played by Sean Pertwee) and newfound ally at Wayne Enterprises, Lucius Fox (played by Chris Chalk).
In the epic turf war that occurred at the conclusion of Season 1, Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (played by Robin Lord Taylor) battled his way into power over Gotham’s underworld. Heading into Season 2, “Gotham: Rise of the Villains” will continue to follow the evolving stories of the city’s most malevolent villains: Edward Nygma/The Riddler (played by Cory Michael Smith), whose transformation from Gotham PD’s forensic expert to psychologically unhinged villain continues; Selina Kyle/the future Catwoman (played by Camren Bicondova), whose hard-knock existence propels her into a life of crime; and the increasingly unstable Barbara Kean (played by Erin Richards), who is out for Gordon and his girlfriend, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (played by Morena Baccarin). Also hoping to leave his mark on the city is Theo Galavan (played by James Frain), the billionaire industrialist, who appears to be the savior for whom Gotham has been waiting. Theo, along with his sister and lead enforcer, Tabitha Galavan aka Tigress (played by Jessica Lucas), keep their centuries-old vendetta hidden, as they manipulate their way to power. Here is what Chiklis and “Gotham” executive producer John Stephens said in a roundtable interview with me and other journalists at 2015 New York Comic-Con in New York City.
What can we expect in Season 2 of “Gotham”?
Chiklis: Barnes is sort of a force of nature. He comes in a kind of counter-balance to the rise of the villains. The villains are running amok, and they’ve been brazen enough to go into the precinct, and slaughter cops, and kill my predecessor. So he comes in on a war footing, frankly.
The only thing is he refuses to acquiesce to the temptation of that slippery slope of “ends justify the means” law enforcement. In other words, he wants to get the bad guy but he wants to do it right. Otherwise, we’re as bad as they are.
And he sees this kid Gordon as almost like a son and the hope and future in law enforcement in Gotham. But he sees him going down the wrong road. What you learn about [Nathaniel Barnes] as time goes on is that there’s a reason why feels so adamantly about this. It’s because he has a darkness in his past.
The law is sort of his touchstone. It’s his church. It’s his way of combating anything that might harm him. I think that’s really strong and really cool from a character standpoint.
I like three-dimensional people. When I play a cop, I want to play somebody who’s different in a different world. This world is decidedly different and familiar at the same time.
I love that I’ve done comic-book stuff before, but this is very different from the comic-book stuff that I’ve done before. I’ve done a lot of cop-show genre stuff, but this is very different from that. [“Gotham”] is sort of a hybrid of the two, so it’s the best of both worlds.
Can you talk about the transition from Season 1 and Season 2 of “Gotham”?
Stephens: Last season, it wasn’t really a procedural, but there was more of a stamp on the episodes. They made the decision to go fully serialized this year. It’s a giant arc.
Chiklis: It’s a big reason why I took the gig, by the way.
Stephens: It’s a lot more fun for us as writers, and it’s a lot more fun for us as actors, when they’re really charting everything through. And part of that was when we didn’t call it a procedural as much, we started giving more and more time to the villains, for different reasons.
The rogues gallery in Batman is the best in the world. It’s incredible. And we live in an elevated world in “Gotham.” Our normal characters are very grounded emotionally and we want to have them as real people and three-dimensional. But then the villains can bring a different level of not unreality but surreality to that world.
Stephens: That’s the word I was looking for. It’s also like you have these nuclear weapons in your arsenal, so why aren’t you using them?
Is Nathaniel Barnes going to be a mentor to Jim Gordon and influence Jim to become police commissioner of Gotham?
Chiklis: I don’t know if we go that far. In all honesty, one of the reasons why I decided to do this [show] is to see where it goes. Not to be a complete tease, but we don’t know where it’s going to go and what direction it’s going to go. It can go anywhere.
Stephens: When you’re mapping out stories, it’s like you’re saying, “I know we’re driving on to Chicago, but I don’t know how many twists are going to go.” You actually have an end point. The road can always be a surprise.
Chiklis: [Nathaniel Barnes] can be an ally or a problem down the line. I don’t know. I’m not saying that because I know something. I really don’t know. I know the function that [Nathaniel Barnes] is serving is as mentor and as agitator. I’m trying to keep this kid on the straight and narrow. I’m also trying to groom him, but I get the feeling that sh*t is going to happen. [He laughs.]
Stephens: We very much live by the adage, “You look into the darkness, and the darkness always looks into you.” We put everyone in that spectrum of light and dark, and we want to move everyone into that side.
Some people go into the dark, and are able to pull themselves out. Some people go into the dark and just stay there. With Barnes, he’s someone who has been to that dark side and pulled himself out. The question will be: “Is that an example?” Is Barnes able to stay where he is? Because we know everyone is on that spectrum, it’s exciting to watch.
For more info: “Gotham” website