[SPOILERS ahead for those not caught up on Gotham.]
Season 3 of the Batman prequel TV series Gotham has been going fairly well so far, with viewing figures staying more or less steady from last season and episode reviews erring generally on the positive side. Benedict Samuel has joined the cast as this season's primary antagonist, the Mad Hatter. Jim Gordon's (Ben McKenzie) new role as a mercenary, rather than an official member of the GCPD, has also given Gotham a slightly different direction and feel.
Whilst the addition of the Mad Hatter - and indeed much of Gotham's narrative - takes at least some inspiration from the comic book source material, one element of the show's third season that is entirely original is the blossoming relationship between The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith). After their initial meeting last season, the two characters quickly developed a watchable and interesting on-screen chemistry that has developed over time. In recent episodes however, the duo's relationship has begun to turn somewhat more romantic in nature.
Now the actors behind the villainous pairing have both spoken about these recent developments and what future episodes may hold for Cobblepot and Nygma. Confirming that the duo have been "shipped", Taylor, speaking on Fox's official Gotham YouTube channel, says:
"Just the fact that they are two insane oddballs who come together and then actually have a connection through that, I think that speaks to a lot of people... Edward Nygma comes into his life at a very vulnerable time and I think he confuses that for true love... Oswald is an incredibly damaged person, everyone he's ever loved has been murdered so if anyone has true affection for him, I think he would be just as enamored with that, in this case it happened to be Edward Nygma."
As for Corey Michael Smith, the actor also has reservations as to whether the love Oswald believes he feels is totally genuine, claiming:
"Robin and I had so much fun playing that stuff... They're two very different people but I think Edward understands what Oswald needs sometimes more than Oswald does... I don't know what this brand of love is for Oswald, whether it's a sexual thing or whether it is just a deep need for companionship... Oswald is falling in love with Edward and then Edward is confronted in this Vertigo moment with this woman who is a dead ringer for Kristen Kringle [Nygma's former lover]"
With both actors heavily suggesting that Cobblepot's affections are borne more out of psychological issues than real romantic feelings, it's probably safe to assume that the duo won't be riding off into the sunset just yet. Furthermore, the introduction of Isabella (the Kringle-doppelganger) is bound to throw a spanner in the works, with Robin Lord Taylor confirming his character will seek to put an end to Nygma's relationship with the woman before it can develop further.
It should be said that the introduction of a romantic connection between two of the Batman-universe's best-known villains is a bold, progressive step in terms of diversity on television - and for that, Gotham should certainly be commended. Both actors clearly have a fantastic rapport with each other on-screen and "shipping" them, as Taylor puts it, is a move that brings a modern and original slant to the show that, for many viewers, will make Gotham a more socially-relevant entity.
Of course, the plot is likely to have its detractors. The fact that neither character is represented as homosexual or bisexual in the comics will irk some sections of the fandom - indeed The Penguin has been known to surround himself with scantily-clad women on more than one occasion. Others may not have any issue with the relationship but rather the speed at which it has developed on-screen - arguing that there was more mileage in the idea of a platonic criminal friendship between the two, before any potential romantic elements were introduced.
Gotham continues with 'Red Queen' tonight 8pm on FOX.