'Gotham' Star on Character's Fate: "No One Is Exempt"

The actress who plays Gordon's boss and 'Gotham' showrunner Bruno Heller talk about tonight's deadly climax.
Courtesy of FOX

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Gotham season two, episode two.]

If there's one thing to learn from the first couple of episodes of Fox's Gotham this season, it's that becoming a police commissioner is a bad idea. After commissioner Loeb was forced out by the Penguin in the season-two premiere, Capt. Essen (Zabryna Guevara) stepped into the role — only to end up murdered by the Maniax.

For showrunner Bruno Heller, Essen's murder at the hands of Jerome Velaska (Cameron Monaghan) signals that things are getting more dramatic on the series. "In Gotham's world, dramatic and crazy stuff happens every week, and police officers get used to living in that world of tragedy and trauma and victims. The only way to knock them off their equilibrium is to go after their own," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's not that they don't care about deaths outside of their own number, but when it hits home, when someone comes into your home and takes away an authority figure like commissioner Essen, then you're really hitting home."

Essen's death, Heller said, paves the way for the arrival of new series regular Michael Chiklis' Capt. Barnes on a plot level, but more important, "it really lets everyone know that however hard Gotham has been hit in the past, the Maniax are taking things up a notch — and that the show is taking things up a notch."

But what about Essen herself? THR caught up with Guevara to discuss her exit from the Fox drama, her character's death and the world she's leaving behind. 

All things considered, Essen really shouldn't have taken that promotion.

I'm sure everyone had that moment of fear when Essen was named commissioner! [Laughs.] It's one of those things in the show: the higher you go, the more danger you're exposed to. As you can see with the mayor, who's not doing so good himself! No one is exempt.

When did you find out that Essen was going to die? Did you know going into the second season?

At the beginning of the season, I knew Essen was going to meet her demise in some way or fashion, but I didn't find out how it would happen until I got the scripts. It really was a great final two episodes that gave the character a great exit.

In her final scene with Jerome, it's clear that she's going out fighting.

Cameron's a super-intense actor — a lovely guy, but it's not hard to imagine the fear that [Jerome] can instill in someone. At the same time, there's a great sense of fortitude you get from playing a character who has developed a strong spine — in playing the scene, I approached it in the same way I do any scene: What do I want? What am I trying to affect in the other person, and that was pretty easy because Cameron really committed in a big way.

As we were getting the episodes, I was collaborating with the producers to tweak the scenes, and in that final scene when Essen says, "That's gonna leave a mark," that was me. I was like, "You know what? I want to go out with more bite."

It's such a dramatic moment, especially because she'd become one of Gordon's strongest supporters in the GCPD, which wasn't how she started the show. Even when you and Ben [McKenzie, who plays Jim Gordon] were butting heads, did you expect her to end up where she did?

I knew that Essen would be a major player, but I didn't know how it was going to progress. Definitely in the beginning, she had a tug of war with Gordon's moral center being so firm; he really did rock the boat for everyone in the GCPD. Everyone was working on the status quo and maintaining everything the way it was, and he came in and shook everything up. That was something that she really struggled with in the beginning, but in the end — and it's something that you can really see by the end of season one — she was completely on board with him.

If she hadn't died, what kind of commissioner do you think she would have been? Would she have ended up falling prey to the same pressures that Loeb faced?

No. I absolutely think that she would have gone in the direction she had wanted to go with Gordon — ridding the city of the apathy that had taken over every part of its gut. I totally think she was totally going to try and affect a greater change, and she was just cut off before she had a chance.

Having taken out the head of the Gotham police force, what will the Maniax do for an encore — and just how messed up are Gordon and Bullock going to be as they try to rally a response to the newest menace to society? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Were you surprised to see Essen's demise? Sound off in the comments below. Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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