Who cares what Punxsutawney Phil has to say, winter is officially over because Gotham is finally back where it belongs: on our TV screens!
Fox’s DC Comics drama returns tonight with a new tagline, new villains, and a whole new energy. Ditching the “Rise of the Villains” story for “Wrath of the Villains,” the second half of season two hits the ground running. The premiere episode, “Mr Freeze,” picks up exactly where the midseason finale left off (brrrr, is it getting a little chilly around here?), diving deep into the origin story of that icy villain. But he’s not the only DC Comics baddie you’ll meet during the hour.
Nerdist got to chat with Gotham executive producer John Stephens about everything you should know about “Wrath of the Villains.” Check out our full Q&A below!
Nerdist: Gotham is finally back! That hiatus was a tough one.
John Stephens: That was a long winter, wasn’t it? We’ve been off the air for so long, I’m astonished.
N: Let’s talk about the new tagline first. Why the change from “Rise of the Villains” to “Wrath of the Villains?”
JS: Well, these villains are so angry! They’re furious this half of the season. [laughs] Because we’re airing 11 episodes the first half of the season and we have 11 episodes in the second half of the season, we wanted to create the feeling of two chapters for the same overarching story. We wanted to give a sense of identity for both halves. Our heroes, I guess you would say they got the better of the villains in the first half of the season. Even though they paid a personal and ethical toll, they kind of rose above the rising tide and so now, we get to see the backlash of that. People they’ve been fighting against and other new people we will meet come back stronger than ever, and so can our guys rise up to that challenge? It’s a classic Empire Strikes Back, right? You feel like you win but it turns out, the Empire is not down.
N: Where exactly does the premiere begin?
JS: It picks up essentially where the last episode left off, with Mr. Freeze [Nathan Darrow]. It also picks up with the repercussions of Jim Gordon’s [Ben McKenzie] act at the end of the first half of the season when he shot Theo Galavan [James Frain]. We’ll see both of those stories play out in these next two episodes. As Jim deals with that on a professional level, as Barnes [Michael Chiklis] is suspicious of what he’s done, he’ll also be dealing with it on a personal level, knowing that he’s crossed over that line.
N: Gordon’s lying to everyone about who actually killed Theo Galavan, blaming Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) for his murder. Obviously, the only one who can poke a hole in his story is Penguin. I have to imagine that Gordon will end up regretting telling that lie.
JS: I would say so! [Laughs] When you go out and commit a major crime and the only person who knows about it is Penguin, you can be rest assured that that is probably not the person you want to be committing a crime with. At the end of the day, he’s probably not the most trustworthy. There’s that old noir adage that there’s no trap as deadly as the trap you set for yourself, and I think Jim is going to find that to be true. He wanted so badly to clean up Gotham that he’s willing to do anything for that, and he finds that the price he ends up having to pay is steep indeed.
N: Ed Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) is a completely different person now that he’s committed more than a few murders, but he’s still trying to fly under everyone’s radar. Are people going to start to notice that he’s acting differently?
JS: Yeah. We have all these storylines coming to a climax in part two of our season and I vacillate back and forth depending on the day which one is my favorite but the Nygma coming into his own story is just fabulous. You really watch him rise up into that role of becoming the Riddler and people becoming aware the Ed Nygma is not the sweet little guy they remember from season one. Cory just gives an absolutely stellar performance. He’s always surprising, he’s always interesting, he’s funny and dark and dangerous. I would totally watch out for that story in the back half of this season.
N: We meet Doctor Hugo Strange (BD Wong) in the premiere. What will this version of Dr. Strange be like?
JS: We’re really calling him Professor Strange to make sure that no one messes him up with the Marvel character. Hugo Strange is played by BD Wong and by the nature of his own personality and talent, he brought so much into the role. We started writing more and more to what he is doing. One of the things he brings to the role is a level of deliciousness. You see the relish that Hugo Strange takes in his endeavors both in Arkham and his other, even more nefarious endeavors as we go forward we’ll see. He is going to represent a new kind of villain in the second half of the season. And he’s got some great suits, too, if you’re into that.
N: Victor Fries showed up at the very end of the midseason finale, and now we’re going to see his origin story of how he becomes Mr. Freeze. What are you most excited to explore about that story?
JS: We tried to create a template in the making of this show where the villains are as humanized as possible. We get to watch the steps that they take where they become these dark characters. That was the whole idea behind the “Rise of the Villains” in the sense that everybody exists upon this continuum and they can go backwards and forwards and good to evil, whether that’s Barbara [Erin Richards] going from Barbara in season one to crazy Barbara of the beginnings of this season, or watching Jim go from the white knight to someone who sullies himself in the same way. When you’re watching Mr. Freeze, you’re watching someone who is a good man who is trying to save the woman he loves. He also, very much like Jim, is willing to do almost anything to save her, even becoming a villain. When you’re watching the story, you’ll start to really feel for Victor and are pulling for him to succeed in his endeavors, even though his endeavors involves him freezing people in blocks of ice [laughs].
What are you most excited to see from the second half of Gotham season two? Tweet me your thoughts at @SydneyBucksbaum!
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.