Gotham‘s freshman season had its criticisms (chiefly, storytelling muddled by too many familiar faces from the DC Comics universe), but Monday’s finale made up for all of those issues and more with a truly cinematic finish that seemed to assure viewers’ loyalty has been warranted and that season 2 will be a must-watch.
WARNING: Gotham finale spoilers are below!
Now that Penguin’s (Robin Lord Taylor) machinations led to the demise of both Maroni (David Zayas) and Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), he ended the season at the top – both literally and figuratively.
As he stood on a ledge overlooking Gotham City, celebrating his victory, it was an almost poetic nod to the character’s most well-known origins as seen in Batman Returns, in which he ruled Gotham from the sewers.
In a chat with PEOPLE, Taylor previews what’s to come for Oswald Cobblepot moving forward, his thoughts on that truly excellent scene in the warehouse, and which villain he’d like to see more in season 2.
Despite the fact that Penguin has double-crossed basically everybody by this point, he has an uncanny ability to engender loyalty. “He has this manner of ingratiating himself,” Taylor, 36, tells PEOPLE. “He makes himself as pitiful as possible to basically undercut, ultimately, what he’s trying to do. He knew all along that Fish would never work with somebody like Maroni because he’s somewhat let’s say ‘uncouth.’ ”
Taylor particularly “loved” a viciously satisfying scene that saw Fish shooting Maroni in the head for calling her “babes” and his “number two”: “In terms of where Fish comes from – and this is what Penguin knows about Fish – what did she have to go through to get herself to a position of power as a woman in Gotham city? That’s a sore spot for her,” says Taylor, “and Penguin knew that Maroni was going to rankle her in that way.”
On Season 2 and the Physicality of Acting with a Limp
In his newfound position of power, Penguin will have to do what he’s had to do his entire life, having been “discounted” and “treated like less than a person” for the way he looks. Given that, asks Taylor, “How do you get people to do your bidding or be on your side or to listen to you?” Well, Penguin’s “knack for intuiting people’s motivations and people’s movements” will serve him well, but his greatest asset – ambition – is also his fatal flaw.
“He envisions things for himself that no one has ever envisioned for him. A lot of that comes from being a powerless person his entire life up until that point and that’s all fueling this desire to be number one,” Taylor explains. “However, that ambition is sometimes too big, and he oversteps his boundaries and keeps finding himself getting knocked back and making bad judgment calls.”
The finale was Taylor’s biggest episode yet – and the most physical. When he was first told that his character would have a limp, he waved off the concerns of his actor friends who warned him that it was going to hurt. “I was like, ‘Whatever! It’s going to be fine, I won’t feel it!’ But by the time the finale wrapped, I was feeling it!” says Taylor, laughing.
“It was the most I’d worked on any episode, days-wise, and so much of it was physical. I was, like, lying at home on a tennis ball for a week! But, you know, it’s amazing to bring a specific physicality – it’s just another tool to help myself get into character, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Finally, Taylor is all of us: He wants to see more Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) in season 2, who – even more than Penguin – totally fell off the edge into villain territory by the end of the season. “I think [his storyline] was set up so beautifully and so terrifyingly,” he says.
“I’m inspired by Cory Michael Smith, personally, and by his insane talent. I need to see more of it! I just wanna see what he brings and I want more scenes with him! He’s one of my favorite people.” Aww.