Tagged: Gotham

The Law Is A Ass #422: Penguin Issues A License To Kill… Logic

Like I said before, well if they’re gonna make it easy for me…

Seriously, the season premiere of Gotham, “Pax Penguina,” didn’t even get out of the teaser before I was thinking, “Well, that’s not right.” It didn’t get three scenes into its first act before the episode confirmed it wasn’t just not right, it was wronger than a sentence using the word, “wronger.” And take it from someone whose grammar wasn’t run over by a reindeer, that’s wrong.

What did we learn in the teaser of the episode? We learned that the Penguin was issuing Licenses of Misconduct in Gotham City. What did we learn in the first scene of the episode? That criminals in Gotham City were paying Penguin half their take to get their Licenses of Misconduct. We also learned that criminals with licenses were fully sanctioned by Penguin to commit crimes in Gotham City and that criminals who were operating without licenses were physically, and violently, stopped from committing crimes by Penguin’s henchmen led by Victor Zsasz. What did we learn in the second scene of the episode? That Penguin had reached a deal with the Mayor of Gotham City and its Police Commissioner. By only allowing licensed and sanctioned crime in Gotham City, Penguin had reduced violent crime rate in the pre-Batman and crime-ridden city by fifty-seven percent. And in order to keep those crime numbers low, the Mayor and Police Commissioner permitted Penguin’s licensed and sanctioned criminals to commit crimes without any police interference. Unlicensed criminals they could apprehend, but licensed criminals were to be left alone. Oh yeah, and that the Mayor and Police Commissioner weren’t doing this just to keep Gotham’s crime numbers low. They were also getting a percentage of Penguin’s action; a small percentage, but a percentage nonetheless. What did we learn in the third scene of the episode? That when criminals flashed their License of Misconduct to police officers, said police officers were supposed to let them continue their criminal acts without interference.

And what did I learn from three years of law school and twenty-eight years of practicing criminal law? (The first one of you who says, “nothing,” will get such a pinch!) I learned that the odds of such an arrangement between a crime boss and the city government actually existing are about the same as the odds of getting in to see the Great Oz; as in, “Not nobody, not nohow!”

Oh, I’m not saying that crime bosses won’t bribe local governmental officials to look the other way when their operatives commit crimes. Hell, any city, town, village, or burg big enough to have an organized government will likely have such an arrangement with the local crime bosses. Hell, even the ones with unorganized governments will have such an arrangement.

What I am saying is that it defies logic that any government regardless of size would have the type of arrangement with their local crime bosses that the city fathers of Gotham City had with the Penguin. Not one that involved actual, physical Licenses of Misconduct.

Oh, did I forget to mention that part? Penguin wasn’t issuing metaphorical or symbolic licenses. He wasn’t telling people, if you pay me half you’re take, you’re free to commit crimes in Gotham City and the police won’t bother you. No Penguin was issuing actual, physical pieces of card stock that were called License of Misconduct and made that promise.

How do I know this? Because I screen capped one of the licenses when Bruce Wayne held it for its Mr. DeMille-sanctioned close-up and studied it. So I can tell you this actual, physical card, suitable for lamination, had the actual words “License of Misconduct” printed on it, a number indicating which license it was and the name and address of the licensee. It contained a checklist of crimes: “Smuggle, Loot, Rob, Murder, Blackmail, Grand Theft, Larceny, Kidnapping, Arson,” with actual boxes to be checked to indicate which crimes the bearer was licensed to commit. The bottom of the license contained the following promise, “This license entitles bearer permission to commit criminal offenses without repercussions or punishment from issuing authority and its affiliates.” The license was signed in ink (not by Pierre Andre) and stamped with the Penguin’s official umbrella seal. Then just to show that the license was comprehensive, it indicated whether the licensee was an organ donor. (You’ll be glad to know that the license Bruce took off some mugger indicated he was an organ donor. Nice to know the guy was socially-conscious scum and not just common scum.)

Okay, I know that the organ donor thing was a sight gag. But the License of Misconduct thing, that’s a joke.

No crime boss would issue such an actual, physical License of Misconduct. No mayor or police commissioner would honor such a thing. And no police officer encountering such a thing would let the bearer go unimpeded in his criminal activities. Not if they wanted to keep on being crime bosses, mayors, police commissioners, or police officers.

How do I know this? I know this because previous seasons of Gotham have established that Gotham City has a District Attorney’s office. And what do all district attorney offices in TV shows, movies, comic books, novels, or any other work of fiction that supports our tropes have? A crusading DA who wants to become mayor or judge or governor or even President. Seriously, this cliché is so old, I think it’s the actual clich A.

Now you know what would a crusading district attorney who wanted to become mayor or judge or governor or even President love to be able to do? Prosecute the mayor, police commissioner, police officers, and local crime boss for corruption and R.I.C.O. violations.

And what’s the only piece of evidence that a crusading district attorney would need to prosecute the mayor, police commissioner, police officers, and local crime boss for corruption and R.I.C.O. violations? If you didn’t say an actual, physical License of Misconduct issued by the local crime boss which promises that the bearer was free to commit crimes without fear of being arrested, then what column have you been reading?

No, crime boss would print an actual physical License of Misconduct and no city official would honor such a thing because its mere existence would land all parties involved in the hoosegow. See, a License of Misconduct wouldn’t just be suitable for lamination, it would also be suitable for lamentation.

Dennis O’Neil: PI’s

Now as I was young and easy and gentlemen still trod the Earth and politics still made sense (a little… sometimes) I held that private eye fiction was about righteous men who had the courage to be alone. I was, at the time, living by myself in a small Manhattan apartment and so I guess I was seeking identification with heroes (and maybe seeking an excuse for my isolation.) But I was, I now think, wrong.

Which fictional gumshoes did I have in mind? My two favorites were Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and they were, indeed, solitary beings walking the mean streets seeking truth. And there were others sprinkled through the pop culture regions of pulp magazines, radio, B movies. (Comic books? Patience, please, we’ll get to them.)

If you’re looking for antecedents, cast a glance at the King Arthur stories. Arthur’s knights mostly roved without companionship on their quests for the holy grail or whatever. But they did have a whole posse of clanky buddies waiting for their return at that round table, not to mention the odd fair maiden.

And from the very beginning of detective fiction, the heroes often had assistants, sidekicks, companions, homies – you pick the terminology – and these did a lot more than wait at home for the questers return. Edgar Allen Poe published the first private eye story way back in 1841. His hero was not a cop; he was a gifted amateur sleuth and here Poe established a much-imitated prototype, and not the only one. His good guy was a Gallic dilettante named C. Auguste Dupin whose exploits were related by an anonymous narrator whose name Poe did not share… and a mere 46 years later behold!

Dr. John Watson delighting us with the wizardry of his roommate and constant companion, the world’s first “consulting detective” and by now you know that I refer to the master, Sherlock Holmes. Then, a lot of others, some lone wolves, some with healthier social lives.

Comics have not been congenial hosts to the consulting detective crowd..There have been a few, including a pre-Superman toughie named Slam Bradley who, by the way, had a sidekick, Shorty Morgan. Slam was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the team much better known for Superman.

Superman did not have on-the-job companionship, at least not in his early days, when he was supposed to be the only survivor of a doomed planet. (That changed. Considerably.) But Batman, the character Superman’s publisher commissioned to repeat his success, though originally a loner, had, within 11 months of his debut, an official assistant, Robin The Boy Wonder. Costumed vigilantes thereafter often came equipped with young acolytes.

And that brings us to now. These days, the superheroic genre is evolving a new paradigm. There is a kind of boss hero and several attractive helpers who take an active part in the quelling of antagonists. They aren’t gathering dust at that stupid table, they’re doing stuff! This, I think, is to accommodate the needs of television, which reaches a much bigger audience than print media ever did , specifically, a certain demographic, millennials old enough to have disposable income and young enough to identify with having lots of friends and getting involved with romances and disapproving parents and such woes. Of the five comics-derived weekly shows, only Gotham violates this pattern; its creators are going with the earlier Holmes-Watson template.

And say! Did you hear about Sherlock’s girlfriend? Elly Mentary?

Yes. Inexcusable. Bye.

Ed Catto: Nerd is the New Normal

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Geek culture has come a long way. Half the time, I still don’t think that many of us can quite believe it.

I can’t believe that for Monday night television, I can choose between CW’s Supergirl and a young Batman in Fox’s Gotham. After that choice is made, I can’t believe I can then watch a Vertigo comic, Lucifer come to life the next hour.

And I can’t believe that in the groceries my wife brought home, I just unpacked Avengers cheese sticks.

avengers-hero-twistsGeek Culture is everywhere.

Back In the old days, professing to the world your love of Geek Culture, be it comics, Star Trek, science fiction or any other flavor of nerdom, meant that you’d be subject to ridicule, derision and scorn. The world at large didn’t respect your hobby. Instead they just quietly put you into that “nut” or “weirdo” category and tried hard to forget about you.

I’m one of those comic fans who never took a break from it. Weekly trips for comics have been part of my life as long as I remember. However, that presented some difficulties for me in the late 70s during my high school/college/post college year dating years. In fact, I recall more than a few relationships, usually the third or fourth date, where I’d have skewer my courage and come clean. The conversations would typically go like this:

Me: “I have to tell you something about me that you don’t know.”

Her” What’s the matter, are you a serial killer or something?”

Me: “No, it’s much worse. I read and collect comic books.”

Her: “Oh dear, God….NOOOOOOOO!!!!”

tpautosBut things have changed now.

As I recently related, my family gives out comics for Halloween and that propels us into the “cool house” category. I was recently was invited to be a part of the Marketing Executives Mentoring Program, a conference at Cornell’s School of Business. I was honored to be part of a very impressive assembly of marketing professionals.

Remember that moment in the Star Trek episode when Spock gets married, and Kirk and McCoy remark, in awe, that that the legendary T’Pau is part of the gathering? That’s what this event was like for me – about 40 times over.

With this in mind, you can imagine that I found their reactions to Geek Culture all the more validating. Maybe they were all just being polite, but the executives and the business students were fascinated when I discussed my business and marketing efforts in Geek Culture as co-founder of The Bonfire Agency. They wanted to hear more, not less.

the-caped-crusade-batman-and-the-rise-of-nerd-cultureAnd last weekend, it was invigorating to again be the go-to person when the world at large had questions and comments about the newest super hero movie, Doctor Strange.

Like so many Geeks, I enjoy the spotlight and the elevation from outcast to valued expert. It’s a refreshing change.

I just finished an engaging book called The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon. He outlines the many changes of the character, and franchise, called Batman. In particular, he chronicles this story alongside the rise of geek culture.

Weldon writes quite a bit about the relationships between nerds and normals. But that dynamic is rapidly changing. Nerds used to occupy a place in society below the “normal” population. But not anymore. Passionate fans of Geek Culture are now perched in a unique spot in the social structure’s hierarchy. Not necessarily above but certainly not below. And so often they are positioned as experts. It’s a long time in coming, but it’s a nice spot to be in.

Now it’s time for to nibble on one of those cheese sticks.

Emily S. Whitten Looks Forward to NYCC 2016!

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The New York Comic Con is upon us once again, and I can’t wait. This year, as usual, I have a massive list of things I want to see, people I want to talk to, and, of course, merchandise I want to take a gander at (not to buy it, of course. Oh no no no! Certainly not, considering I have way too many collectibles already. I’m just going to look. Really. Just…you know, a little bit. No buying here, nosiree…um). There are also a few cool parties floating around…and you know how I love a good party.

Everyone who goes to NYCC has their own unique wish list of what they want to experience while there. But in case you aren’t sure what you want to see first, here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to. Maybe they’ll appeal to you, too!

Panels

I’ve finally managed to catch myself up on a lot of the great shows out there. The first of these is The Walking Dead. I had to take a break on that show after the first season, despite the awesome character arcs, because there was just a leetle too much zombie head-squishing for me to handle non-stop (from which information we all know how I’d fare in the zombie apocalypse. I’d be the one hiding behind Daryl). But once I started in again I just couldn’t stop – the show is such a great adrenaline-plus-compelling-character mix, with just the right balance of cliff-hangers.

So this NYCC, I am super-psyched to finally experience a Walking Dead panel without my usual concern about spoilers. So many cast members are going to be there (Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Michael Cudlitz, Lauren Cohan, Sonequa Martin-Green, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, and Alanna Masterson) and I can’t wait to see what they have to say about the new season.

Now that I’m back into Gotham (and also have had the pleasure of meeting several of the fantastic cast members and even interviewing one) I can’t miss a Gotham panel. NYCC is offering “Inside Gotham,” with David Mazouz, Erin Richards, and Robin Lord Taylor, and it’s definitely on my list. I’ve already seen a couple of Gotham panels thanks to Dragon Con, and from that I know these folks are definitely worth the price of standing in line. Gotham panel? I’m so there.

Netflix and Marvel are killing it with their partnership on shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Now that Luke Cage has dropped, next up is Iron Fist. I’m particularly curious to see how the mystical martial artist will fit into the street-smart collection of characters that Marvel has developed to date – so there’s no way I’m going to miss the Iron Fist panel, which will give us a sneak peek into what’s coming to Marvel’s Netflix line-up March 17, 2017.

Speaking of The Walking Dead and Daredevil… I am kind of notorious among some friends for loudly declaring that I can’t stand The Punisher (which stems in part from his actual character, and perhaps in part from the fact that every Marvel blind box toy I’ve ever opened magically morphs into The Punisher right before I open it. Seriously. At one point I had six little Punishers, and none of them by choice. Argh.)

But I will admit that The Punisher as portrayed by Jon Bernthal in the Netflix Daredevil series was really well done; and also I will say that while Shane on The Walking Dead was an infuriating character, he was also really psychologically interesting, given the intersection of his love for his best friend, his obsession with his best friend’s wife, and the misogynistic tilt of that obsession that clearly took it out of the category of real love and into a dark, scary place, despite his firm belief that he really loved her.

NYCC is doing two spotlights on Jon Bernthal, with most of the focus being on his role as The Punisher; and given my interest in the way he portrayed both of those characters, I’m going to do my best to get to at least one.

And finally, it wouldn’t be a New York Comic Con for me without going to see the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel. I’ve been covering the show for four years, since NYCC 2013, and I haven’t lost my love for it (or the excellent cast and crew) at all. It’s such a great show, full of humor, and heart, and fun characters, and cool animation; and I’m stoked to see what else the cast and crew have to share with us since the last time I chatted with them at San Diego Comic Con. Whatever they bring us, it’s a guaranteed good time.

There are tons of other panels out there, and my FOMO will undoubtedly be in full swing, but I can’t do it all! So after attempting to see all of the panels above, I’ll probably move on to my other goals, such as visiting the:

People

There are a lot of really cool entertainment celebrities at NYCC, and I might get the opportunity to chat with a few; but when it comes to catching up with guests, my favorite people to talk to are always sitting in Artist Alley. I can’t even begin to list all the cool and talented people I want to see on this year’s comics guest-list; but I do know for sure that I’m already looking forward to walking the vast aisles of NYCC’s Artist Alley and seeing what everyone has brought to the tables this year.

One thing I really love about NYCC is that, despite the focus on entertainment guests, their Artist Alley is full of top-quality folks (and while I won’t list them all, I will say I’d be sad to miss Amanda Connor, Amy Chu, Art Baltazar, Clayton Henry, Cully Hamner, Dan Govar, David Gallaher, Dennis Calero, Dustin Nguyen, Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, Janet Lee, Jeremy Haun, Jim Calafiore, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Harris, Katie Cook, Louise Simonson, Mark Brooks, Mark Morales, Matteo Scalera, Reilly Brown, Sanford Greene, Sara Richard, Thom Zahler, Tony Moy, and Walter Simonson, among others). And maybe along with seeing some old friends and new I will finally, finally meet Fabian Nicieza, after several conventions wherein we are both there and I don’t get to his table in time. Here’s hoping!

Of course after a hard day’s work seeing panels, wandering Artist Alley, and also, of course, exploring the con floor and merchandise and admiring some awesome cosplay, everyone needs to unwind. And although NYCC doesn’t compete with SDCC when it comes to the after-hours hangouts, I have managed to locate a few cool-sounding…

Parties

Sonicboombox is organizing a couple of parties this year, and I fully intend to hit at least the Friday one. This party will be at the Bowlmor Times Square, and is combined with the Image Comics After-Party. I attended that one last year, and had a really fun time; so that’s at the top of my list for this year. Sonicboombox is also doing a Cosplay dance party at Slake NYC on Saturday – and both the Friday and Saturday events feature giveaways, cosplay guests and photo booths, and fun stuff to do there (dancing, bowling, arcade games, or whatever takes your fancy). All the details for those events and ticketing can be found here.

If bowling alleys aren’t your thing, another Friday option is the Super Smashed Bros. V party, hosted by NYCRavers. This party is definitely for gamers, with a video game-themed EDM line-up of music, and a Super Smash Bros. tournament with cash prizes (for those who would rather play than dance!). It’s easy to get to via train, and goes late into the night.

Friday offers plenty of gamer-friendly options, with the GBX 2016 Electric Underground Party at Space Ibiza going on as well. With “the best anime/gaming/nerdcore music remixed into EDM” to dance to, this sounds like another one that gamers who also like to hit the dance floor would love. And, of course, as with most NYCC parties, cosplay is welcome.

The only reason I might not make it to Sonicboombox’s Saturday party is that it’s the same night as the Adult Swim Tyrannic’s Third Maiden Voyage. This is “a three-hour cruise along the Hudson, featuring a night of NY views & city sights, an up-close look at Lady Liberty, a live performance from a secret musical guest, and the company of your Adult Swim Friends & Family.” The last couple of years they’ve done this, I thought it looked really fun (being a huge fan of boats and being on the water, as is clear from my mega-excitement over my upcoming voyage on January’s comic-con cruise, Fan2Sea); but schedules never quite aligned before. This year, they have, and I RSVP’d early to make sure I didn’t miss out.

Well! That’s probably enough to keep me busy; but as with every NYCC, I’m also looking forward to having unexpected adventures. And in-between all of that, I’ll be keeping tabs on my plans via the NYCC app, which you really should have if you’re going adventuring at NYCC.

So snag that, make your plans, and if you see me at the con, don’t forget to say hey!

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten Interviews Gotham’s Penguin – Robin Lord Taylor

Emily S. Whitten Interviews Gotham’s Penguin – Robin Lord Taylor

Robin Lord TaylorFox’s Gotham TV series has been going strong for two seasons and is now renewed for a third. The show began with a focus on (future Commissioner) Jim Gordon’s early career in Gotham, but has quickly expanded to include the early days of many Batman villains as well. One of the most striking of these is The Penguin; a previously cartoonish character (in screen adaptations) who has been masterfully portrayed in Gotham by Robin Lord Taylor as a complex young man who rises from being a minor player in Fish Mooney’s entourage to becoming the self-proclaimed “King of Gotham.” Taylor’s nuanced portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot, The Penguin, has made him a compelling, horrifying, and yet somehow still sympathetic character – one I’m invested in even while I’m despising what he does.

After having had the opportunity to speak with Taylor by phone in the week leading up to Awesome Con in Washington, DC, and to meet him at the Con, I can see where The Penguin’s charm and disarming manner originate; but fortunately for us, and unlike The Penguin, Taylor himself strikes me as a delightful human being; and he has a lot to say about his role in Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery.

Read on below for a most enjoyable interview; or listen here for the audio version.

ESW: Robin, your current role on Gotham is a big part of your career, and The Penguin, as we all know by two seasons in, has been called a “breakout character.” I love the nuances that you bring to the Penguin, who is a mix of pathos and viciousness. Are there any parts of his character that come from you, or that you identify with?

RLT: Yeah; I mean, the thing that really got me into the human aspect of Oswald was, when I first got the job, I reached out to Geoff Johns, who’s the chief creative officer of DC Comics, and I was like, “Do you know any stories?” Because obviously I’d grown up with Batman, and Batman Returns was huge, and the Adam West series was also huge, but beyond that I really didn’t know very much about the character.

And he found some stories; he found one in particular which was Penguin: Pain and Prejudice; and in that story, they really went into detail about Oswald’s childhood, and how when he was young, he was horrifically bullied. Which is not something that I ever experienced, to that extent; but the fact that he had always felt like an outsider – you know, growing up in a small town in the Midwest, I definitely identified with that feeling. Like, just because you didn’t look like everybody else, or there was something different about you – like in my case, I was just not a “sporty” person, and I basically grew up in Friday Night Lights. So it’s just that feeling of outsider-ness, and also that feeling of being counted out just by things that are out of your control. So that was the first thing I really hooked in to. I was like, “Oh, I understand what this feels like,” and it just made him all the more human for me.

And on top of that, his ambition is something that – you know, obviously I don’t think I share quite the same amount of ambition, in the sense that I, you know, value human life! But out of all of the years of basically being rejected by everyone, and having that feed into his outsized ambition – that was another thing that I totally could identify with and understand.

ESW: I read somewhere that when you did the audition, they didn’t actually tell you it was the Penguin. Do you recall if there were any particular acting choices you made in that audition that still define the character or that rolled over into the actual on-screen character?

RLT: Yeah; the scene itself that they gave us to audition for was a fake scene – it was not in the pilot at all, and the names were all different. But the scene involved, I believe, the Penguin character was named Paul or something, and he’s having this meeting with a Mafia don, and trying to get this person to do some deal for him. Of course the don is not into it, and that’s when it’s revealed that Paul has had the Mafia don’s daughter kidnapped, and she’s about to be “taken care of” unless he does his bidding.

And in that scene, all of that is the epitome of Oswald, and that ability to sort of play – you know, in the first part of the scene before it’s revealed that he has the daughter kidnapped, he’s very obsequious, and kind of meek, and deferring to the Mafia don; being lower status. And then there’s that switch halfway through where it’s like, “Oh no no no, actually I’m driving the ship right now; I’m steering the ship.” You know, “You’re going to listen to me.” So going from that humble, almost meek, low status attitude that he had, and then immediately switching to be the guy on top; that was something that I think I definitely carried through to the show that we do now.

ESW: Generally, in previous characterizations of The Penguin on screen he’s portrayed in a more cartoonish style. Can you talk about what you did to make him more real in the Gotham show sense, and yet keep him defined as he is in the comics so that he’s still recognizable as the character?

RLT: First of all, I give so much, if not all credit, to Bruno Heller, and Danny Cannon, and our other producers and writers on the show. It started with Bruno and Danny, this vision and this treatment of the character. It starts with them, and then I step in and we collaborate. Again, going back to what I said before, learning how he was bullied – it was more about finding…you know this is a fantastic world. It’s being able to see this character as an actual person who could exist. Which is actually kind of the allure of Batman itself in the sense that of course it’s still a comic book, and crazy shit happens that would never happen in the real world, but it’s always rooted in the fact that Batman is not supernatural, that Batman is a human being.

And that even though it is this gothic, noir, colorful, crazy world that we inhabit in Gotham City, it’s still all rooted in reality, in the sense that, like, gravity exists, and these are human beings, and there is real pathos behind everyone.

And it’s about justifying every choice that this character makes so that every action he takes, there’s a reason behind it; it’s not just being evil for the sake of being evil. Also what I love about the character is that – at one point in the second season, Galavan is trying to get him to help him get some real estate deal going, and that would require tearing down a big chunk of Gotham City, and Oswald is not into it. He says, “Look, I’m a builder, I’m not a demolition person. I’m not interested in tearing everything down.” He’s interested in controlling everything, but also building alliances and making connections and using that to his advantage. So I guess it would be making sure that everything he does and says comes from a real place – a real desire for Oswald to be – I don’t know if it’s accepted, or feared, or both!

ESW: You mention that Oswald is a builder and has these particular goals. He’s a monster in many ways, but he seems to have his own moral code. How would you define his moral code?

RLT: I would say: Oswald is all about – do not come for him. If you do, you will pay. He remembers every single slight against him, every person who ever hurt him or tried to hurt him. All that, again, stemming from a childhood where he’s an outcast in so many ways, like being a first generation immigrant, for example, in our show. I guess his moral code is just: “Don’t tread on me.” But that’s the thing – with the exception of the poor fisherman in the pilot, and maybe the guy who delivered the flowers from Maroni – a couple of people who really didn’t deserve what they got – for the most part, everyone whom he attacks, it’s motivated by revenge, and it’s all strategy for Oswald. He is anti-chaos. Chaos is not interesting to him; that’s not a place where he can get the power that he needs to survive. He wants order.

ESW: Anti-chaos. It makes me think that perhaps we’re playing Dungeons & Dragons. He’s a lawful evil – not chaotic at all.

RLT: Yeah, totally!

ESW: Now in the second season, trying to rule Gotham, Penguin needs some worker-bee villains who will be loyal to him; and then we get Butch’s betrayal in that second season. It’s a very tricky proposition, getting those loyal worker-bees and knowing that he can rely on them. What traits about the character do you think would believably cement a henchman’s loyalty and how do you establish that?

RLT: In a way, I think even though, you know, he chopped off Butch’s hands, you know, big deal – but even those things have happened, I think that Penguin himself, and it goes back to his anti-chaos attitude, I think he is actually also interested in being loyal to people as well. I think he knows that if you treat people well, you get more from them. You get more loyalty; and ultimately, that can be exploited as well.

You see this very, very clearly in his relationship with Jim Gordon, in the sense that for all intents and purposes they should be arch-enemies. But for some reason, it’s this delicate dance and a push and a pull between the two of them that is important to Oswald. Because that keeps Jim in his world and again, that can be exploited in the future if need be. So I think he does reciprocate loyalty to the people that he is trusting and that’s ultimately how he can get people to join his side.

And also, this goes into – because his actions are justified, and because we understand why he does the things he does, there’s a sympathetic side to this character. And I think that comes through to the other characters as well; in the sense that there’s something enigmatic about him that draws people in.

If I had to root this in the character’s history, I would say that this is something he learned as a survival instinct, when he’s being bullied or when he was being basically tortured by his peers when he was younger. This is what you learn; you learn to ingratiate yourself to people. You make yourself seem more meek and sympathetic, and then eventually they come around, and that’s when you stick the knife in.

ESW:  Speaking of that, he’s a pretty dark character, and you seem like a nice guy. Do you have difficulty getting into and out of that character?

RLT: I really don’t, actually! I know that sounds crazy, but… Look, I’ve never played a character that physically is so different from who I am in real life. And so with the hair, the makeup, the costume – all of those pieces coming together every day that I have to work, is – and this is generally how I work as an actor too – is I generally start from the outside and I go in. I let the physicality and the costuming help me get into character so I’m ready. And also, again, it goes to the sets that we shoot, and the locations that we use. With all of these things, it’s like I’m stepping into Oswald, I’m stepping into Gotham City. And at the end of the day, the nose comes off, and the hair is different, and I take these beautiful suits and I put them back in the closet and then I’m back to me. It’s great to have that physical transformation that gets you into character; and from that it’s generally pretty easy.

ESW: He does have some really cool suits!

RLT: God, they’re amazing. The sucky thing is they’re not quite my, Robin Lord Taylor’s, style, so it’s not like I could ever really wear them anywhere. But also – as you can probably tell, I’m one of the least confrontational people that ever lived. And so it’s actually therapeutic in a way. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s really fun to step onto the set and step into the character and then all of a sudden I’m the guy who’s pushing everybody’s buttons, and I’m the guy who’s messing with everybody and starting shit. And it’s liberating, and it’s fun in a way.

ESW: I can understand that. So Oswald has been through a huge journey in season 2 – he was on top; he lost his mother; he convinced Gordon to murder somebody; he was messed with by Hugo Strange; he met his father; fell back into murder; now he wants revenge and all of Strange’s monsters are out there, and Mooney is back… Can you talk about how you think season 2 changed him, or what you think he’ll be doing in season 3?

RLT: I think that in season 2 – it happened twice for him, with the loss of his mother and then the loss of his father – and there’s that lovely speech that Cory Michael Smith as Nygma gave Oswald. It was after his mother died, before he knew his father existed – Nygma says, “You’re free now.” The gist is – and this is a continuing theme throughout our entire show – to love is to be vulnerable. You see throughout the show, characters are falling in love, or they have love in their lives, and then they lose it; and then in a way they are liberated to do whatever the hell they want to do and not feel any pressure. Because what’s left to lose.

So I think that was hugely formative, and then that it happened twice – I think going into season 3, it’s all guns blazing. And also, he’s learned, having been at the top for the brief period. He learned now how much more difficult it is; and he severely overestimated his own abilities, and he didn’t take into account the fact that when you’re the “King of Gotham” you have a giant, giant target on your back in a way that you never did before. I think that’s the most valuable lesson that he learned this season; and then going forward, I think we’re watching his transformation from someone who’s finding their way in this world to someone who now has the wherewithal and the knowledge to basically, kick ass and take names. And not fear the repercussions because, again, having lost all the love in his life, going forward, he’s just going to be completely unhinged – which I’m really excited about!

ESW: So Gotham is obviously a very villain-heavy show, and we know many of Batman’s villains are way ahead of him in development – he’s still Bruce; he’s still young. How do you think this will affect the future seasons in the show, or how do you think you’d like to see that happen? Do you think it will shift to being a more heroic focus as Bruce matures?

RLT: I don’t know; I think our show is about how the city corrupts. Bruce Wayne – Batman – comes from one of the most corrupted acts that could ever happen, one of the most horrific acts; the execution of his parents in front of him. And I could see heroic moments coming through, because obviously you need a balance between the light and the dark, but at the same time, I just think it’s so much more interesting seeing even someone as virtuous and good-hearted as Bruce Wayne – seeing him get swept up into, or sucked down into, the morass of Gotham City and its questionable moral fiber as a city; I think that’s ultimately what’s really interesting to me. And I just think that the villains are where it’s at.

Also, going forward, what I find most interesting, as someone who is a fan of the Batman world, and what I think our show does very well, is show how all of these characters interact, and come in and out of each other’s lives. It’s like seeing how the Penguin’s and Gordon’s connection evolves over time, and also eventually, I’m sure, Bruce Wayne is going to come into Penguin’s life, and all of the other characters’ lives. I love that alliances are formed and then broken; and the re-formed with someone else; some other canon character. I just think that’s fascinating.

ESW: I’ve heard Gotham compared to a soap opera, and it’s not too far off!

RLT: Yeah, except we’ve got monsters and bazookas; it’s As The Gotham Turns.

ESW: So what experiences have you had working with the other Gotham actors? Do you have any fun stories, or any stories about having to work with actors that then the Penguin kills?

RLT: Yeah! Well we get along, as a cast, just smashingly. In fact, early on in the first season, Ben McKenzie had a barbeque; and all the cast members came, and we were all there having fun, dancing, and drinking, and at one point I said to Ben, because this is my first rodeo as it were, and he’s been doing this for longer than I have in a big way; I said to him, pointing at everyone having a ball, “Dude, is this normal? Do casts get along like this? Because I’ve guested on shows, and you can definitely feel the vibe, and it’s not this.” And he said immediately, “Nope. This is not normal. God willing, we can keep this going for the rest of our run,” because it just makes the environment more pleasant, and we all just truly have love for everyone, and it’s so nice. It’s all I’ve ever wanted in a job.

ESW: That seems to come through the social media where I’ve seen you and Cory and Ben and everyone interacting; seeing everyone talking to each other on Twitter and wherever else.

RLT: That’s so nice to hear. And the other thing too is that we’re from all over the place, and everyone’s had such different experiences growing up; and the fact that I can, you know, meet Sean Pertwee, who could not have been from a more different place than me, and have had a more different childhood than I did – and yet, he’s now one of my very best friends. And I just love it, that people can come together and find – in this show, we found a community, which is really great.

So then on the other hand, people have asked me, “What’s the hardest thing about Gotham?” and honestly, it is when a main character dies. And especially if I have to do it. It’s one thing if it’s a movie or a play, because that’s such a contained work. You know when someone’s going; you know the whole thing is going to be over in two-and-a-half hours anyway. It’s not as cathartic as when you’re on a television show. You really do feel that loss. Like when Carole Kane’s character is killed. It was honestly devastating for everybody. It was like, “Oh, God, she’s not going to be here.” Even though she wasn’t there all the time to begin with, it was the loss of that potential for her to be there. I can’t say enough amazing things about her.

And then of course also the same with Paul Reubens. With both of those characters, it really is devastating. You just keep thinking, “If they had written something different, we could have been working together for years now.” I think that’s the hardest part of the job.

ESW: So what’s been your experience with fans and conventions and this role; do fans ever blur the line and call you the Penguin; or what do you like and dislike about that? Have you had any crazy experiences?

RLT: I mean, the whole thing is generally pretty crazy. Even if you think just logically, what I do is, I’m an actor. So ideally I would just sort of disappear – Robin Lord Taylor would disappear – and the character would live in people’s imaginations and that would just be it. But you know that’s not how it works. You become public people; and that’s been probably one of the most challenging things about the job. Just going from relative obscurity to being in peoples’ minds and consciousness – that’s definitely been intense.

For the most part, everyone has been incredibly, incredibly nice, and kind. I’ve been doing conventions now for the last two years, and, like, I signed someone’s ankle, and she went and got a tattoo, and that’s kind of crazy. Honestly, the tattoos, I think, are the craziest thing! Someone also tweeted me a photo of their leg, and it’s my giant face on their leg. I find that so unsettling; I mean, compared to most other things. Like, “Oh God, you did that?” You defaced your body with my face.”

ESW: They will never forget you, ever ever!

RLT: I know. I know; that makes me really uncomfortable! But I will never be forgotten. There’s something to be said for that.

ESW: So are you looking forward to Awesome Con? And do you follow other comics? Do you have a favorite character or storyline, or something you want to see or pick up while you’re at the show?

RLT: I’m totally psyched. This is going to be super. I’ve never been to Washington for a con before; I’m really excited to see what the vibe is like at Awesome Con. From what I hear, it’s an amazing experience. For me it’s always very strange. Obviously I love all of the other DC Comics properties, especially the ones that are on television, in particular The Flash and Arrow, and Supergirl as well. Because we’re all the Warner Bros. family, and we run into each other at San Diego Comic Con and all these other things. So that’s always really exciting to see those folks.

But then at the same time, with the actors who played characters from my childhood –  for example, I was at a convention and I was in the green room, and sitting across the table is Denise Crosby who played Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and when I was a kid, that was my jam; and it’s always so fun to feel the way that people feel when they come to my line or when they come up to say hello. Everyone’s so sweet and so excited to be there, and then some people are really excited and they can’t speak, and that was me talking to Denise. And that’s someone I grew up watching, and that show was so important to me at the time. So experiences like that – just seeing anyone from something I grew up watching – that’s where I really fan out, for sure.

ESW: I know that you recently made a foray into voice acting in Dishonored 2, and you just wrapped a movie, The Long Home; anything you’d like to share about those or other projects?

RLT: Well – Dishonored 2 – when they told me that I was going to come in and be part of it, and read, especially, that character, the Outsider, that was amazing. An amazing experience, and also reading all about what the game is going to be like; I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a video game in a long time. The only thing I’m a little worried about is when I get it and I start playing it, I have to hear my own voice… But yeah, that was a brilliant experience. And then The Long Home, I would just encourage everyone to look for it on the festival circuit and show it some love. It’s an independent film, directed by and starring James Franco, with Josh Hutcherson, and Courtney Love, and there are just amazing, amazing people in it. It’s a low-budget, independent movie; so we’re really hoping to get some momentum behind it and I’m just really excited to see what the final product is.

•     •     •     •     •

So there you have it, folks. Thank you to Robin Lord Taylor for sharing his time and thoughts with us here at ComicMix!

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Marc Alan Fishman is Catching Up With Gotham

Paul Reubens Robin Lord Taylor

With the current crop of network TV shows all ending for the season, I thought I might double back on a show I’ve checked in on a few times in this column. Gotham has been a guilty pleasure since the start. As much as my betters at the AV Club like to poke fun at the show’s inconsistent tone, it never struck the nerve as hard for me as them (and, I’ll feign a guess, hopefully others). With The Flash and a few other appointment-worthy shows off my DVR, I binged through the back half of Gotham one episode a night for a little over a week. And here with the final installment digested, I’m ready to deliver my verdict.

paul reubensFirst, I liked it. Then, I really liked it. And then, I liked it a whole lot less.

Saddled with the moniker Wrath of the Villains for this portion of the season, Gotham as a show shifted its focus to the once very-out-of-focus “Indian Hill” facility below Arkham Asylum. B.D. Wong’s Professor Hugo Strange stepped into the big bad role that Theo Galavan had chewed on in the front half of the season. Bruce Wayne, now aided by Lucius Fox, Alfred, and Thomas Wayne’s old super computer, sets to the task of solving his parents mystery.

And Jim Gordon? Well, he was as grimacey as ever, having once again crossed the line between law abiding Commissioner-In-Waiting and monster. Oh, and Edward Nygma was now off the leash of quasi-villainy. And the Penguin was locked away as a plaything for Hugo Strange. Whew! And with all those moving parts, I truly liked the show.

The Gotham incarnation of Hugo Strange – not unlike the Matt Wagner penned Batman and the Monster Men series – sees the philosophical Hugo playing mad scientist with the various living and less living goons, crooks, cranks, and in-patients that Arkham belches forth. It’s clear to anyone who has read a comic book that this device would lead eventually to a litany of otherwise impossible freaks from the Bat-cannon. The storyline eventually gives us Mr. Freeze, Azrael, and Firefly – in addition to a plethora of as-yet-unnamed ne’er-do-wells to act as the future villains of the week.

As with plenty in the series, Gotham finds a way to add a bit of hipster verve to these well-worn characters. Firefly, for example, is reborn with new origins that trump any comic counterpart I’ve ever read for the character. As a closeted pyromaniac slumdog living and working with a crew of crooked brothers, the Hispanic Michelle Veintimilla brings a creepy hidden villainess beneath layers of downtrodden physical and emotional abuse. It’s a depth not really afforded to the character in any incarnation I’d seen, and the show is brightened by the addition almost. We’ll put a pin in that.

Some of the storylines really came into their own. Both Penguin and Nygma continue to steal every scene they’re in. With a jaunty cameo by Paul Reubens as the long lost father of our little Oswald, we got to see a retread of Cobblepot’s journey from picked-on put-upon straight through to raging psychotic. While the family who secretly conspire to murder the unsuspecting rich ninny was perhaps a little to worse for wear as predictable dreck… it served its purpose to allow Penguin to reclaim his former self. This is of course after the psychotropic experiments of Hugo Strange. An arc without a purpose, save only for wasting time. At least it was entertaining.

Elsewhere Nygma gave birth to his first riddle-based crime. But unlike the often-predictable cash grab or mental chess game… Gotham’s Riddler had the endgame all along; to frame Jim Gordon for murder to remove him from discovered Nygma’s rage-induced murdering of his would-be-beau not so long ago. Again, the story itself wasn’t ever going to win an award for originality, but the performance of our quizzical crook kept it very watchable indeed.

As we rounded second base in the back half of the season, Strange’s master plan was revealed. Spoiler Alert For Those Who Care: Seems Indian Hill, and all the work by the good doctor was in effort to reanimate the dead. And while my geeky heart rooted for an eventual Solomon Grundy, instead we crossed the line from good to goofy right at the event horizon. Theo Galavan’s floating corpse is brought back to the land of the living in part because of Mr. Freeze’s cryogenic research, coupled with the longstanding work of Strange. But the Galavan the show once depicted as a cold and calculated Bruce Wayne on his worst day, here we’re treated to a scenery eviscerating lunatic spoon-fed the Order of St. Dumas in order to claim his new identity as Azrael. Oh, and he’s also mildly invulnerable to pain, super strong, and crazily agile. Because… why not.

It’s here, with this final master stroke Gotham began to unravel at rapid speed. I’ll spare you the full recounting of it all. Because what matters comes in the end game that’s offered to us in the parting shots. Fish Mooney (yes, you read that right) is back where she started – now with super mind-control powers (because… science). Penguin may very well return to his butler boy status under her Press-On nails. Bruce is still forever brooding. Selina is forever vexxing. And Bullock is acting captain of the GCPD.

None of it is cannon, or even close to it. Jim Gordon is off to find Lee Thompkins for a “don’t get your hopes up” rekindling of romance. And a bus full of CGI and prosthetic makeup toting villains now litter the unkempt corners of Gotham for the season to come in the fall. Because the show spent so long making the attempt to broaden the horizon of an already packed show, to see the ending of this season simply reset the status quo is dirty ball that doesn’t make me excited to return.

But that’s how it goes. Because… It’s Gotham.

Dennis O’Neil: Superheroes in Three Dimensions

Kara Danvers

Back when days were yore and the sun was yet in the sky and I had a shining splendor of a job – could any job be better than editing Batman? – I didn’t always go film versions of comic books. Not sure why. Fear? Of disappointment? Of being shown that others were better than I was? Of just needing to get away from my day job and watching actors portray the characters who lay on my desk was not exactly getting away from them. All of he above? None of the above?

Not that I missed all the superhero flicks, but I still haven’t seen the last Christopher Reeve Superman and I caught only a few minutes, on television, of the Ben Affleck Daredevil. There may be others I’m forgetting.

Now, though, I catch ‘em all, even the ones that reflect my comic book labors, and I tend to like them, even those that are darker/grimmer than they might need to be. The most recent Daredevil – the unAffleckian version – and the quite similar Jessica Jones are not exactly jolly entertainments. In a few minutes, when I leave this computer and get in the car, I’ll be off to see the much discussed and maligned Batman vs Superman and tonight I’ll probably tune into FOX’s Gotham while recording what is, I think, the lightest and brightest of the teevee superdoers, and of course we’re talking about the lovely Kara Danvers – Supergirl.

I accused Ms. Danvers of lightness and brightness and that’s true only if you can ignore the Maid of Might’s backstory which, like her cousin Superman’s bio, involves the destruction of an entire planet, including friends and relatives. Many of the other costumed heroes have grim pasts too. Batman, of course, seeing his parents killed in front of him and Spider-Man, responsible for his beloved uncle’s death, and Daredevil whose father was killed and who owes his powers to a nasty accident and the Thing, changed into a monster by radioactivity and Iron Man and Nightwing and and and…

Are we dealing, here, with modern fairy tales? Well, there’s Bruno Bettelheim, of the renowned psychologist Bettelheims, who said said that scary fairy tales, with all those dark woods and evil witches, are developmentally healthy because they allow youngsters to face and acknowledge fears, and then reassure the kids that they will survive. And I’ve read very few, if any, comics that did not end with the good guys triumphant.

Batman vs Superman, currently playing at a theater near me, has a happyish ending. I know this because somewhere/when in the last bunch of words I went to a theater near me and saw the movie. Then I came home and checked the email and

had dinner. Oh, and did I like the movie? Well, that might be a topic for another time. Or not.

John Ostrander: Not Your Father’s Superman

Batman-2nd-Amendment

My friend Paul Guinan put an interesting post up on his Facebook page yesterday. It sparked an equally interesting discussion, and, evidently, you can have discussions on Facebook that are not all salvos of rants.

Paul wrote: “I grew up with Superman being a character of pure good. Every once in a while something like Red Kryptonite would cause him to do some bad things – nothing too bad – and he would be forgiven and once again beloved. He wasn’t a morose, frowning, reluctant hero, he enjoyed his life and mission.

Batman With Gun“Batman was a victim of gun violence. Bob Kane flirted with the idea of Batman carrying twin pistols for a very brief moment (a holdover from Batman’s inspiration, The Shadow), but seminal writers like Bill Finger solidified the code of Batman not carrying firearms. It made great thematic sense. Batman would sock a villain on the jaw, or throw his Batarang at a them – not beat them to a pulp and wind up with bloodied gloves. Batman is a scientist, detective, and martial arts expert. Such training develops character that’s in contradiction to being a rageaholic.

“Wonder Woman is the Princess of Peace, an ambassador for justice. Yes, she’s descended from Amazon warriors – but who had come to live a life of peace and tranquility on a secluded island. The Wonder Woman I grew up with wouldn’t carry a sword or shield, as that would be a sign of using men’s instruments of war to resolve conflicts. Her weapon? A Lasso of Truth! The villain would be socked on the jaw, tied up with the magic lasso, and be calmed.

“If the evolution over generations of an iconic character reflects society, then such indicators reveal we are becoming way too cynical and mean. Shouldn’t that be an opportunity to provide role models who inspire us to be greater, rather than reinforce our negative natures?

“I write this after seeing the second trailer for Batman v Superman, in which the DC trio is constantly angry –  even Clark Kent! The trailer climaxes in a shot of the DC trio. Superman is wearing a suit more dark and sinister than the outfit worn by “evil” Christopher Reeve in Superman III. Wonder Woman is dressed in a dark monochrome knockoff of the outfit worn by Xena, brandishing a sword. Batman looks as he should be is carrying a rifle. WTF? Sigh.”

I’m a founding member of the dark “grim ‘n’ gritty” hero (or anti-hero) club. GrimJack, Amanda Waller, my remaking of some established heroes – if I can find some tarnish to put on a hero’s armor, I’m known to apply it. However, I’m also not without sympathy for Paul’s point of view. The notion appears to be that if it’s darker, the story is more “realistic,” it’s more relatable to the reader/audience. That notion pervades not only comics but the movie and television adaptations of them.

And yet, what is my favorite superhero adaptation right now on TV? It’s not Gotham, it’s not Arrow – it’s The Flash. The main reason is that Barry Allen is presented as a hero, that he wants to be a hero, and that people respond to him as a hero. The show doesn‘t pretend it’s easy but that it is worthwhile. The show also really honors its roots and is often very funny. It’s well written and acted. It’s also very much in the tradition of the character as published by DC for the past few decades.

One of the issues raised is that many of the movies (Man of Steel was cited and, potentially, Suicide Squad might be another) are not meant to be for all ages. The attitude of some appears to be that superhero movies should be, at best, all ages or even kid centric, that superheroes are essentially a child’s fantasy, but this flies in the face of what movies are about commercially: studios want to put as many butts in the seats and eyes on the screens that they can. The movies that have been made so far have reaped tons of money and that tells the studios this is what the audiences want. If a little of this is good, more is better. Don’t fool yourself; plenty of kids went to see them as well and bought lots of the paraphernalia connected with it (and that’s where the real money is made).

Kids are not all that sheltered, either. Take a look at some of the video games that are popular. Kids know more than when I was a kid; take a look at the world around us. ISIL, climate change, the very real possibility the seas are dying (and with it all of life) – when I was growing up, we only had the specter of World War III to cope with. If movies are darker it’s because the world that the kids must cope with is also getting darker.

However, it’s not simply the dark and the grim that makes money. Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant-Man were very successful at the box office and they were for a more general audience. They were brighter and more fun and more hopeful. Meaning what? That, as usual, it’s not all one thing or the other.

I believe that all characters and concepts cannot stay stuck in one time or era. To remain viable, they must be re-interpreted for the time in which they are in. They have to be part of the world that the reader/audience inhabits. That world, our world, has grown darker in the past few decades. The comics and the movies did not cause that; they reflect it.

That said, there also has to be hope. There desperately needs to be hope today. That also should be reflected in our movies and our superheroes.

If that sounds like I’m conflicted, I am. I see both sides’ views and sympathize with all of them. I’m looking forward to the Suicide Squad movie; the trailer suggests to me that they got what I was doing and it will be part of the movie. That said, I’d also like Superman to be a bit brighter than they seem to be making him, to represent the best in us. That was my Superman.

Oh, and he should wear red trunks. Definitely they should bring back the red trunks.

Marc Alan Fishman: How Gotham Got Great(ish)

gotham

The past Monday, Gotham had its fall finale. While the episode itself was a bit meh to not-bad, the show thus far this season has been darn good to dare I say great. Since I last wrote about James Gordon and friends, the show has really settled into a fantastic groove. It’s been so good, I’ve privately sang its graces enough to ComicMix‘s EIC, Mike Gold, such that he mentioned it on his rockin’ good radio show. When Mr. Gold recognizes your opinion as valued, then you know something must be going right.

With the new season dubbed “Rise of the Villains,” Gotham has added a bit more serialization to its previously procedural format. We started with the entrance of the never-been-comic-booked nemesis Theo Galavan. Introduced as a scene chewing billionaire by day/evil criminal mastermind by night, Theo’s been mostly a high point to the proceedings. Especially when he flipped the script and murdered the Joker. OK, should I have said spoiler alert? Nah.

One of the worst parts of any prequel is knowing where everything and everyone is headed. Gotham smartly sidestepped that and showed that it has no problem playing its audience a fool when Theo sliced the throat of the proto-Clown Prince of Crime. And while the ginger-haired Jerome was an astounding would-be Joe Kerr, the powers-that-be recognized that there can be too much of a good thing. One knife slit later, and suddenly the show is a bit more unpredictable than it was the week prior. When Gotham remembers that it need not follow any known scripts to see means to the eventual communal ends we know and love, things have been never better.

Gotham from the starting gate was clawing over itself to debut as many proto-villains as it could. The need for world-building outweighed the need to build and establish emotional arches for the bloated cast. Take the curious case of Edward Nygma.

When first we met the horn-rimmed medical examiner, most of us smacked our foreheads in frustration. Nygma was easily one of the worst parts of the show when it began. The fact that the writers shoved him unnecessarily into the fold at the GCPD felt like the cold, lifeless hand of the boardroom trying to script doctor its way into good synergy. Each time Nygma popped up, the show got goofy. And while camp has proven useful to lighten Gotham’s macabre production design, with Edward it always felt like a chore.

However, in season two we get to see the fruit from those wicked seeds. Halfway into “Rise of the Villains” and Eddie is a murdering, piano-dueting, BFF with Oswald Cobblepot. Remember when I said camp is useful? I beg you to answer the riddle of how taking the character 1000% away from anything resembling even the Jim Carrey performance somehow ended up with the Riddler being one of the high spots of the series. Maybe it was the slick turn from Nygma’s actor, Cory Michael Smith, in showcasing the dormant dichotomy within Nygma. Or maybe it was the writers leaning into the shared psychopathy of seemingly everyone in the show, allowing all problems to be eventually solved with murder. Whatever the specific answer to that riddle is, I assure you, making me care about Edward Nygma has been a huge win for the season at large.

And how could I forget the last son of Gotham? At the end of the first season, Bruce Wayne found his father’s secret cave of wonders (behind the fireplace, don’t ya’ know). I half gagged over the triteness of it all. Somehow, my silent prayers were answered. Season 2 has shown young Wayne to have finally gotten a dose of needed testosterone. Somewhere between firing, re-hiring, and demanding a fight education from Alfred to staging his own abduction to glean information from Silver St. Cloud, I saw the necessary glimpses of the man who would become the Bat.

Kudos for denoting Bruce’s love of owls. Well-played, fancy pants. And double kudos to the writer who wrote Wayne’s parting words in the fall finale, which denoted the young scion’s predilection to planning the perfect escape.

Ultimately Gotham has come a long way. It’s traveled from a groan-inducing parody of noir and Mafiaso procedural to a semi-serious / semi-camp gallivant loosely playing with every known rule in the Bat-handbook. There’s no doubt we’ll never get to an actual man in a cape and cowl striking fear into the hearts of men. Instead, we’ll travel to every dark and dank corner with a murder-happy grin-scowler in James Gordon as he cleans up the streets just enough to eventually need the help from a sexy Ben Affleck and frowny Henry Cavill.

And while we’re making our way there, the writers and producers will ruin every single villain and confident we think we knew… laughing maniacally all the way to the bank.