At a special screening on set at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, select press were invited to come watch the first two episodes of Gotham ahead of their release. While the premiere hits Monday, September 21, 2015, the episode will do something that episodes in season 1 didn't do very often: directly come from events in the episode before, focus solely on the core characters, and push forward at an incredible pace toward the next episode.
The new interconnectivity of Gotham didn't go unnoticed by press in attendance, but it's more importantly not going unnoticed by the stars of the show. When I asked Ben McKenzie, who plays Jim Gordon on the show, about the "new pilot" feel, he agreed instantly.
"Yeah, we’re re-originating the show pretty significantly. You could say this is a second pilot, and you’re right. The first pilot we made did show how it could be a grand, serialized saga, but it got diverted into the procedural act," McKenzie said of the way the first season often felt like very individual episodes instead of a full season-long story. "We basically needed to end the first season and right the ship, to move it back to where it should’ve been. There’s 75 years of this stuff, all these characters and all these movies. They’re really rich and have this really complicated moral landscape that they’re living in. So let’s, you know, let’s explore that!"
That moral landscape is something he has wanted to explore more, especially in how it relates to his character of Jim Gordon in particular.
"When I was pitched this by Bruno Heller, it was ‘Serpico meets L.A. Confidential’ in both its moral landscape and its visuals. It’s the good guy trying to bring justice to an injust world, and in doing that has to rise everyday and confront not only the world but himself and what he’s become," he said. The actor followed up with an intriguing tease for those who haven't seen the premiere yet, saying, "He becomes a pale version of the hero he sets out to be. I think you see that in the first episode of season 2."
Sean Pertwee, Gotham's Alfred Pennyworth, said the new episodes "rip along" and push together into longer story arcs. "I think it feels like there are less pages to the scripts but more going on," Pertwee said. The Brit said in his native slang that the first season was "banderjacked" by excessive breaks, causing the flow of the story to get a bit lost. "We won't have that extra break, that March Madness thing. We're just going 11, break, then the other 11," he revealed.
Erin Richards echoed all this, and said that with Barbara Kean, who broke toward the end of the season and starts season 2 in Arkham Asylum, she's now getting to "embody her own darkness," which the actress admitted is "so much fun to play." However, that's something they were only able to do by losing the "procedural element," focusing instead on the "strong characters."
Richards' initial audition for the role did include more than what was in the pilot, with a bit of a darker edge. She embraces the idea that Barbara embodies the whole nature of Gotham City and vice versa. "She's a reflection of Gotham and it's own darkness," she said. "It's like the fog in the story 'The Fog," that spreads out and consumes everything; the Gotham darkness just spreads into everything."
Lucius Fox only made a brief appearance in season 1, though it was a pivotal one, and he's back in season 2 to help Bruce along the way in discovering his father Thomas Wayne's hidden past. Chalk praised the directorial and writing staff, who are "almost the entire same" group for letting themselves "learn as they go." He said they "learned something" from season 1's procedural nature, and what worked better with characterization, and "they're making it happen for season 2."
For the show's eventual Batman, David Mazouz, the season brings probably the most change. His stable of confidants increases, but he also has to deal with some surprisingly dark - and some surprisingly normal - moments for a teenage boy. Mazouz said that he's ready for it, and really enjoying the new storytelling he's seeing in the scripts and on set.
"Everything feels different with season 2. We really got our groove. There’s a whole new sense of confidence, from the writers and for me," Mazouz said. "We know what we are doing [now]; we had that year under our belt to figure out what worked, what didn’t work, what we liked. We know what we're doing."
Gotham Season 2 debuts Monday, September 21 at 8pm on Fox.