'Gotham' Showrunner Previews Higher Stakes and Nastier Villains in Season 2

Gotham Season 2 - H 2015

After the climactic events of Gotham's freshman finale, it seemed as if nothing would ever be the same again. But to hear showrunner Bruno Heller tell it, that just means that everything is going exactly as planned.

"The first season was very much old-school Gotham, run by mobsters and the mafia," Heller tells The Hollywood Reporter. "What we're seeing this year is the transformation of the underworld from that conventional underworld to a grotesque, larger-than-life underworld that eventually takes over Gotham and requires the creation of Batman. That was always the plan — when you're telling a story that everyone knows, and which leads to this epochal event, the birth of Batman, you have to build to something. Every season of this show will have to be bigger, and more spectacular, and more scary than the last season."

To that end, the second season of the DC Comics drama introduces three new characters intended to shake things up for both sides of the fight between good and evil. First, audiences will meet Theo Galavan (James Frain) and his sister Tabitha (Jessica Lucas), two newcomers who have big ambitions for Gotham — unfortunately for those living in the city.

"The Galavans bring that heightened, larger-than-life feeling that personifies what is happening to Gotham," Heller said. "Falcone was a familiar style of villain — anyone could just look back to 1930s Chicago and they'd recognize him as a crime boss. What happens to Gotham is that the villains keep mutating and growing more gothic and stranger. They have larger visions, and more apocalyptic visions. As Jim gets better at his job, the villains are getting better at their jobs, and the stakes are higher. Penguin just wants to run the city. Galavan is someone who wants to control Gotham in order to destroy it."

Luckily, Ben McKenzie's Jim Gordon will gain a new ally this year in the shape of new series regular Michael Chiklis, who joins the Fox drama as GCPD's Capt. Nathaniel Barnes and proves to be a welcome partner in cleaning up the corrupt police force. Not that things tend to go smoothly in Gotham, of course.

"Finally Gordon has someone who is as gung-ho, committed and reckless enough to challenge the powers that be in Gotham, and bring about genuine change," Heller teased. "The problem is that Gordon's going to discover that, although they might be soul mates in their desire to change Gotham, Capt. Barnes is much more committed to the law. He's a stickler for it; he'll do anything within the law, but that's a hard edge for him. For Gordon, there's much more of a gray area there. They start out as allies, but as the stakes get higher and tensions get more fraught, they'll start to get torn apart."

As Gotham City undergoes a transformation with the infusion of new blood, so does Gotham the show. Heller said that viewers should expect a different pace to the stories this year, in contrast to the frenetic first season. "I think in the first season we tried to tell too many stories, because there are so many stories you could tell," he said. (He calls the first year of the show "very much a learning experience.")

This time around, he said, "we're telling fewer stories, and in greater depth. Instead of trying to encompass the whole universe that is Gotham, we're focusing on the larger emotional themes. The storytelling is much more focused and character-driven, partly because we now have characters that have been established, and the audience knows their history."

Don't expect that to mean that the show will only stay with the leads from the first year, however. "It is called Gotham, not 'Gordon' or 'Penguin,'" Heller pointed out. "It's a show about the whole city. It's a world that will roll on for years, in theory, so we have time to tell all these stories properly, and not have to use every character in every episode. If you don't see your favorite in one episode, he or she will probably appear soon enough."

Gotham returns Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox.