Robin Lord Taylor on the Darkness of ‘Gotham’: ‘I Don’t Think There Is a Bottom’

(Credit: Kevin Lynch/Fox)
(Credit: Kevin Lynch/Fox)

Pandora’s Box has been opened on Gotham. Well, really it’s more like Pandora’s School Bus Full of Insane, Super-powered Zombies, but who’s quibbling? The first arc of Season 3 is subtitled “Mad City” and will see Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and the Gotham City police struggling with a massive influx of criminals possessing powers that law enforcement isn’t equipped to deal with.

We talked to Robin Lord Taylor, who — as the Penguin — has no powers, but is still as much of a threat as anyone in the city. Taylor talked to Yahoo TV about the return of Fish, the possible return of Jerome, and where he hopes to take Oswald Cobblepot going forward.

Fish Mooney
Taylor says the return of Fish (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a game-changer for the Penguin and Gotham. “He and Fish Mooney cannot exist in the same city. It’s given him something to channel all his energy into, and it brings him back to his original, scheming, powerful self,” says Taylor. “In a way, he’s at his most powerful when he’s at the very bottom.”

(Credit: Kevin Lynch/Fox)
(Credit: Kevin Lynch/Fox)

Fish is inextricably tied to the monsters who have escaped Indian Hill, and the presence of both is something that “unites Penguin and James Gordon and the GCPD along with the criminal underbelly of Gotham.” Traditionally enemies, all of them are endangered by this new threat, so this season everyone’s rallying cry will be, “The monsters have to be banished.”

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Anarchy and the Joker
The Penguin is no hero — Taylor argues that “there aren’t any heroes on our show” — but there is room to sympathize with the crime lord. “He’s done some very despicable things,” says Taylor, adding, “You understand why he does them; you see how he’s pushed to do those things.”

“There’s a moment in the second season,” he continues, “where he asserts that he is a builder. He’s not interested in tearing things down. He’s not interested in anarchy at all.” This desire for order is one he shares with Gordon and the police, which is why they often find common ground. “There’s something identifiable in his madness.”

It’s also the reason that if Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) comes back — and given the number of returning faces Indian Hill has provided, that’s looking more and more likely — he and Penguin absolutely would not get along. Taylor says, “Joker represents anarchy, whereas Penguin is all about there [being] an order to everything.”

Odd Couples
“Every relationship illuminates parts of the characters that we wouldn’t necessarily have known,” says Taylor of the many pairings that Cobblepot has had in the past two seasons. How he deals with Gordon, for example, “informs Penguin’s ideas of fairness and honor.” In the pilot episode, we learned everything we needed to know about his sense of pride from how he interacted with Fish.

This season, though, his main paring will be with Ed Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). “We’re watching the Riddler come into his own” this year, says Taylor, and because “they really don’t have anyone else in their lives,” their friendship becomes a vital part of the shaping of each character. With Nygma in jail and Cobblepot surrounded by a rapidly disintegrating criminal organization, the only person they feel comfortable with is each other, which Taylor says is great fun to play. “They’re just two insane oddballs,” he says with a laugh. “But somehow they found each other. I just love that idea.”

“I would really like to somehow find a way for Penguin’s story to intersect with Bruce Wayne’s [David Mazouz] story,” Taylor says of people he’d like to work with more. He hasn’t had a lot of screen time with Bruce or Alfred (Sean Pertwee), but “it’s inevitable because Wayne Enterprises is a huge, insanely powerful entity, and Penguin would be foolish not to ingratiate himself to them in some way.” That early connection would then lead, of course, to “their eventual rivalry when Bruce becomes Batman.”

Hitting Rock Bottom
No matter what happens this season, Taylor says Oswald is not going to end up in a good place: “It really got superdark for him last year.” He was locked in an asylum and had to cope with the loss of both parents, and now “after really experiencing emotional and mental torture on that scale, he has nothing to lose.” Not only that, but he’s also learned how ruthless he has to be just to protect himself. “Going forward, he’s just going to be completely unhinged,” he says.

On the other hand, that could be good news for viewers. As Taylor said, Oswald is at his best when things are at their worst. “He’s going to make a grab for power in Season 3 in an unprecedented way,” says the star. But even if he does succeed, “the higher you get, the farther you have to fall.” How much farther could he possibly fall? Taylor laughs. “This is Gotham. I don’t think there is a bottom! It just goes and goes into an abyss — just this really dark abyss!”

The third season of Gotham premieres Monday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. on Fox. Watch our Facebook Live chat with star Ben McKenzie: