Watch: A Legend is Reborn in 22-Minute Preview of Gotham
"What makes a town so crazy, what makes a town so out of control that villains begin to wear costumes?"
This preview of Gotham shows us plenty of new footage, gave us testimonials from cast and crew, and did its best to answer some burning questions about the upcoming Batman prequel:
Will it stay true to the comics?
Not really. They're insistent that they will pay due homage to the comics, but they are very much attempting to create their own world here, or to "make Gotham something it's never been before while still staying true to the DNA." This is likely a good thing, as adaptations can often feel stifled in a medium that requires writers to constantly adapt to factors like casting, cast chemistry, and fan reactions.
Whose origin story is this exactly?
Bruce Wayne does appear, but this is the villains' show. The series is asking the question: "Who are the supervillains in this city and how did they become that way? Maybe they were just like me and you. Why on earth would that real person turn into this crazy psychopath?" The murder of the Waynes, which creates a "power vacuum" that is readily filled by nefarious figures, is a catalyst for Gotham spinning out of control, and seems to cast a pall over the entire town, but Bruce himself is too young to really compete with the fleshed-out portrayals of the villains and police officers.
And it's just an origin story for Gotham, an exaggeration of New York City at its most degenerate. "Gotham is a corrupt place, it's a place where you can't trust anyone, you can't trust the mayor, you can't trust the police force. The police force is under the thumb of the underworld." It's a town that, after losing their "mama and papa bear," is overrun by the mob, with the Falcones and the Maronis fighting for dominance. "Every city has its dark side, and that's what Gotham is... Watching Gotham just tip ever so slightly over the edge and into complete chaos... It's not just about the cops, it's not just about Jim Gordon, it's about the madness that springs from this horrible crime. People are starting to lose faith in law and order, criminals are starting to run the streets... You can never be sure who's a friend and who's an enemy."
Will the show be as dark as all that?
Although the themes are lofty and the writers seem to be trying to write a morality play as much as a comic adaptation, they seem to recognize that Dark Knight-level darkness will not be sustainable for an ongoing series (unless you're a Leftovers fan, like me). It will be dark, it will rainy, it will try to attain the elusive quality of "gritty," but seems to also be cultivating a sense of fun, a sense of "craziness," and maybe even occasional cheekiness. There may not be many outright light moments, but from the footage shown here it certainly seems to be embracing the pulpiness of the premise.
Who is the Big Bad?
I have my own theories about who will be the Big Bad of the second season, which we'll get to in a minute. But in the first season, it seems unquestionable that the Big Bad will be Fish Mooney, an original creation who has evil dictator ambitions. She's an "up and comer in the Gotham crime scene" with designs to "take over Gotham." Penguin is also an option, although his character is so sympathetic and Robin Lord Taylor's performance is so well-received (not least by Ben McKenzie, who called it a "revelation") that he will likely be a secondary villain so his arc will be more sustainable.
Will the Joker appear?
Like all the early buzz about the Joker in Gotham, Ben McKenzie was maddeningly (intentionally) coy about whether the classic villain would appear. That smile tells us that it is in the cards in some sense, but we might have to wait, as his cagey attitude lends credence to the theory that fans will be teased with different potential Joker characters in various episodes. If I had to guess, I would say that he won't make a definitive appearance until at least the end of this season, and he will be the Big Bad of the second season.
Who will be the fan favorite?
Penguin. There's no question. I am personally most interested to see Poison Ivy's origin story, and the Riddler appears to be suitably creepy, but Penguin is clearly being set up as the antihero. And as we've seen in- pretty much everything ever (Loki from the MCU, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ridiculous romance novels, Victorian literature)- antiheroes are always the favorite. Ben McKenzie seems to have grown into a mature, talented actor since his O.C. days, garnering fairly great reviews for his performance in Southland and a couple of little-known indies, but let's face it, no one likes the straight man. It would be a challenge for almost any actor to make the tragically earnest "white knight" seem compelling next to all these psychologically twisted villains. Their two options going forward are essentially to be content with having their protagonist serve as a foil for more interesting characters, or to have him seriously flirt with corruption. I hope it's the latter.