Bruno Heller, the show runner on “Gotham,” took to the stage at the TCA’s this weekend to talk up FOX’s upcoming Batman prequel series. He laid out the direction the show intends to take and even discussed the few criticisms lobbed so far at the otherwise well-regard pilot.
One of the most common criticisms to date has been that of the pilot being ‘over stacked’ with references. No less than four future Batman villains appear in the one episode alongside a bunch of key supporting characters in the lore including Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, Carmine Falcone and more. Heller says subsequent episodes dial back on all the foreshadowing:
“You kind of have to frontload the pilot with the best you’ve got. As the show rolls on, we’ll be far more careful with how we roll out the villains and in what way… These are the origin stories of these guys. The Penguin comes fully fledged since you have to show your best cards up front, but as we go on, a slower roll out.”
Heller has denied the rumor about potential The Joker candidates popping up each week, but he does say they will tease the arch villain’s identity. We won’t see Batman anytime soon in the series either, but Heller did discuss Jim Gordon’s importance in how Bruce Wayne eventually takes on the persona:
“Gordon is the moral linchpin of the show – he’s the guy that creates Batman, or gives Batman permission to exist in that world. This is the journey of a man who’s very much about law and order to someone who accepts this dark vigilante. The stories will proliferate and the characters will proliferate, but Gordon will remain at the center. [It’s a story of] how do you deal with crime of this level when there are no superheroes? When ordinary men and women are dealing with the struggle waiting for a savior. It’s about men and women and not about superheroes and that’s the more interesting story.”
In terms of sticking with existing Batman lore, Heller says “we won’t break the canonical iron truths of the Batman mythology, but issues of chronology, we will play with.” The first season will reportedly revolve around the rise of The Penguin and his struggles with Fish Mooney.
The show aims to essentially explain how the city itself falls into such an anarchic state of disrepair and despair that the need for the Batman arises. This means they won’t shy away from violence:
“This is a crime story and crime is violence, essentially. We’re all very aware that we’re telling a crime story to a general audience, Fox is right on top of that and very aware of the type of audience they’re trying to go for… the benchmark of what is acceptable violence has risen, it’s hard for any individual show to calibrate that.”
The pilot has a very 1970s New York cop show look – low-tech, dark, rainy, gritty, retro cars, CRT TVs, and no computers or social media in sight. The only thing suggesting it isn’t period is the use of cell phones and the lack of period-specific fashion or haircuts. The plan is to keep the show in this “timeless setting” without mention of a specific time period.