In spite of a somewhat mixed response from die-hard Batfans, FOX's comic book powered police procedural Gotham has continued to pull in solid ratings for the network. Criticized most often for heavy-handed nods to future Batman villains, exemplified by on-the-nose development of characters like Edward Nygma, not to mention an (arguably) flat performance from lead Ben McKenzie, there's still plenty of potential in Gotham's core foundation. Without question, Robin Lord Taylor is still a highlight of the series, bringing the iconic character of Oswald Cobblepot (aka the Penguin) to life as the future rogue establishes himself as one of Gotham's most feared crime lords.
Yet, Gotham can't (and hasn't) relied entirely on established comic book bad guys to meet its villain of the week quota- the series has also invented a number of twisted antagonists for Detective Gordon and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) to track down. Now, it sounds as though Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller has employed the help of former do-gooder (and super power sponge) Peter Petrelli, portrayed by Milo Ventimiglia, to play a newly created serial killer on the series.
Word of Ventimiglia's casting comes directly from Fox - who made a point of stating that the villain, nicknamed the Ogre, is not based on the DC Comics character of the same name (a genetically augmented man with the strength of an ape). Instead, Gotham's Ogre will be a "normal" guy, named Jason Lennon, who has become obsessed with finding his ideal mate.
Check out the official description of Ventimiglia's character below:
Handsome, wealthy and seductive, the Ogre is a serial killer who has been preying on the young women of Gotham for nearly a decade, luring them into his web and confronting them with a series of “tests” as he searches for his perfect mate. When the women fail to live up to his impossible standard, Lennon disposes of them quickly and viciously.
The press release indicates that Ventimiglia will debut in season 1, episode 19 for a "major, multiple-episode recurring arc" that, due to "his obsessions, combined with Gordon’s determination to bring him down, send both Gordon and Lennon — and those around them — on a course toward tragedy."
Nevertheless, despite presenting the Ogre's backstory, some fans are already speculating (with no tangible evidence to support their theories) that the Ogre storyline could lead into the introduction of Gotham's version of the Joker - specifically that Jason Lennon could become Batman's arch-nemesis after his misadventures as the Ogre. Heller's recent claim that Gotham will kickoff their Joker storyline before the closing of season 1 has added fuel to speculation that Ventimiglia's "major, multiple-episode recurring arc," may be more than what is presented in the press release and the showrunners could simply be using the casting announcement as cover - to help maintain a surprising end of season story reveal. After all, fans are on high alert for information regarding how the Joker could be implemented this season (fans already tried to claim that Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin would actually become the Joker) - and, given the suspicion surrounding Ventimiglia's casting (Jo-gre?), Fox would have good reason to try and conceal the actor's true role in the series.
That said, as indicated, we have no official information to support any belief that Ventimiglia will transition into The Joker - and the Ogre could simply be a "major" supporting character on the same level as Christopher Heyerdahl's recent work as The Electrocutioner (aka Jack Gruber) on the show. Still, the idea of a Heroes alum like Ventimiglia taking on one of DC's most beloved rogues is certainly an intriguing (albeit farfetched idea) - especially after that eye-rolling "Joker" easter egg in the pilot episode.
Assuming that Ogre is just a short term recurring character, it'll be interesting to see how Gotham intends to use the villain - since he'll be debuting only a few short weeks ahead of season 1's final episodes. Given the description of Lennon as a handsome, wealthy, and seductive suitor, it's conceivable that the Ogre will be used to reunite Jim with Barbara, following weeks of a downright soap opera-like storyline that carries little weight - since, frankly, we know Jim and Barbara eventually end up together (unless Heller intends to drastically alter a key component of Commissioner Gordon's backstory).
The Ogre could also be a plot device used to remove Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) from the picture - after weeks of serving to further the disconnect between Gordon and Barbara. Whatever the case, given mention of Gordon's "determination" and a "course toward tragedy" fans should expect to see the Ogre strike somewhere close to the starring detective.
Gotham returns next Monday with “The Scarecrow” @8pm on Fox.