Fox’s Gotham presents its fall finale tonight at 8/7, capping a run of strong episodes that gave the freshman drama some much-needed creative momentum. In turn, ratings have stabilized, regularly outdrawing its equally buzzy lead-out, the sophomore spooker Sleepy Hollow.
With an eye on this week’s pre-holiday climax, TVLine invited executive producer Danny Cannon to survey Gotham‘s strengths-to-date and tease a bit of what (and who) is to come.
TVLINE | Beyond the pilot, was there a particular episode which, for you, really clicked and made you say, “This is the origin series that TV both deserves and needs right now”?
I’ve got to say, I felt very confident after the pilot. It’s a little scary going into the pilot because you have such a short amount of time to prep, and it’s such a big undertaking. But it was during the shooting of the pilot, when I saw our characters in the clothes and saw the world that we created, that it clicked for me. I knew from that point on that it would be OK if we just stuck to our guns and didn’t get swayed, if we didn’t get called back into a careful place, if we could always be bold.
TVLINE | And since then, do you have a favorite episode?
I think Episode 7 [“Penguin’s Umbrella,” in which word gets out that Gordon didn’t kill Oswald] was a great episode. It paid off the pilot. And Episode 12 coming up is quite great as well.
TVLINE | Speaking of Episode 7, do you feel that Harvey Bullock forming a somewhat begrudging alliance with Jim Gordon was the key to giving the show a needed thrust forward?
Yes. I think Bullock represented old Gotham with the complacent, corrupt way about him. But Gordon’s integrity and willpower are infectious, so it’s great winning Bullock over.
TVLINE | And if he can win Bullock over, others might jump on board.
Hopefully, although it’s not going to be that easy. There are a lot more people trying to destroy Jim than to support him.
TVLINE | With last week’s episode, has Arkham Asylum officially stepped forward as a major character in and of itself?
Without a doubt. And Episode 11 will really solidify that. When you’re making a show basically about the lunatics that are running the asylum — and I imagine that’s what Gotham is — it’s really good to actually go to an asylum and do stories there, because you can be as bold as you want to be.
TVLINE | A recent featurette suggested we will learn how it is that Gotham became this breeding ground for these particularly twisted characters. Is that where Arkham comes in?
Absolutely. Also, not only are there dangerously criminally insane people there, but some people are put there for the wrong reasons and swept under the rug. It’s a big rug that corrupt Gotham can sweep people under sometimes.
TVLINE | A recent throwaway line referred to the Indian Hill toxic waste dump. Was that perhaps not as throwaway as we might be led to believe?
I got to say, this is a show with a lot of enthusiastic people working on it. Nothing is a throwaway. No, that will play again.
TVLINE | Nothing good ever comes of toxic waste.
Or ancient Indians [upon whose graves the dump is built].
TVLINE | In the fall finale, “LoveCraft,” Jim Gordon gets assigned to Arkham. How does that come to be? He’s riding a high as of late.
Yeah, but the thing about that is if you piss off the wrong people enough times, you’ll end up in a place where everybody else they don’t want to deal with is. Like I said, Arkham isn’t just a home for the criminally insane, it’s a place where people can hide things — like discard meddle- some cops who won’t tow the line.
TVLINE | Will we be getting some more Selina and Bruce bonding in this episode as well?
Absolutely. Their relationship is a strange one, but they’re both very similar in a way, even though they’ve been brought up in completely opposite ways. It’s a lot of fun trying to find ways where which they will bond, because there’s a million more ways for them to be torn apart. Something is drawing them in towards each other, but they’re young and they don’t quite know what that is yet, but it’s not just the fact that their circumstances are similar. It’s the fact that their very organism is connected.
TVLINE | I loved that line where they commended each other on how stealthily they get around.
Yeah, and that’s it, that’s the bond. That’s the line that starts the bond there. It’s not about upbringing and who’s in the streets and who’s in the mansion. It’s much more about, “At the core, who are they?” They’re very similar people.
TVLINE | I’ve been warming up to the mob war storyline the past month or so. Who takes the next big swing in that?
Well, you see, the thing about Penguin and his Machiavellian genius is the fact that he’s actually the one inciting the riot. He’s the one whispering in everyone’s ear. It’s much more about the way that he’s trying to make the way things work, the hierarchy, collapse. So even though there are going to be some major roadblocks for Penguin, he’s clear on his mission, which is to bring it all down.
TVLINE | To look a bit further down the road, talk about bringing on Morena Baccarin (Homeland) as the DC Comics character Dr. Leslie Thompkins. It looks like she might be arriving at a particularly vulnerable time in Jim’s life.
Absolutely. And maybe that’s why their relationship may have some lasting effects, because I think they have a lot in common, too. He is vulnerable, and he can’t really do this alone. No, we have a lot of plans for that relationship, and not just to support Jim but also to make him vulnerable.
TVLINE | Will, per DC Comics lore, Leslie also afford you an additional avenue to access the Bruce Wayne character?
Absolutely, but later. We’re not going to rush that relationship.
TVLINE | What can you say about last week’s scene revealing Barbara in bed with Montoya? For many, that was kind of a “Huh?” moment. What was the greater significance?
It was the idea of however much Barbara tried to win Jim back, her failure to do so jettisoned her back into her past — a past where she basically was out of control, and numb to the pains, where she’d blocked out whatever turned her into that animal. Now she has opened those floodgates again and reverted back to…
TVLINE | Oh, is this a first step in a greater regression?
It’s about to get very dark for Barbara.
TVLINE | You have a lot of characters to juggle. What have you found to be the secret to making it all work?
Utter joy in what we do. Utter joy. There’s a reason this franchise has lasted 75 years. It’s very, very unlike a foreign world or a supernatural world. It’s a real world so close to our own, but at the same time a little heightened, a little more “anything can happen,” a little more rife in unpredictable things. And because of that, and because we keep our feet on the ground, we keep things real but we still get to put a lot more visual flair and a lot more outrageous or heightened reality into it without losing its relatability.
TVLINE | Gotham was originally conceived as having a 16-episode season; now you have an order for a full 22. What was your first order of business once you found out you were going to have the extra time to fill? Was there an opportunity there that otherwise might not have been seized?
Our only fear is that we need to keep the quality up. That’s all. What we’re finding with a lot of fan mail and a lot of people speaking to us is that people are trying to watch this [several episodes] in a row, going back and starting from the top, and [22 episodes] is a lot of television to watch. And it’s a lot of television to produce. So the daunting aspect of it was not in our heads; we have an abundance of ideas. It’s the workload and keeping that quality at a level that we find acceptable. So far, we’ve been able to do it, but it’s a 24/7 job.
TVLINE | Is there anything in particular we might be getting more of as a result, that you originally were planning to breeze through?
No. No. We’re staying on track. We spread [the story] out a little, which is a good thing. You know, [Episode] 16 would’ve been a massive, massive, massive episode if we [held to the initial plan], but now we were able to spread it out a bit, which it’s kind of nice because it gives us more character time, and it gives us more emotional time where we don’t have to be obsessed with plot, even though some of the plots coming up are very complex right now. What’s nice about it is we don’t have to rush that or squeeze it into a small, confined space. We can take that complexity and stretch it out over another six episodes now, which, in the long run, might be a blessing.