Last season, Gotham established that the name of the game for the series moving forward was to be a villain-centric show, one that told the story of Batman's future nemeses as they were still developing their skills and becoming real threats to the future Dark Knight's home town. The move wound up being a success, as the Rise of the Villains and Wrath of the Villains story lines gave the sometimes-campy series a level of focus that brought viewers back week after week, if only to see what proto-incarnation of established Bat-villains would bring chaos to the titular city week after week.
With season 3 fast approaching, Gotham's executive producers are busy getting everything squared away for what appears to be a dark and gloomy stretch of episodes that explores the maturation of Bruce Wayne, his relationship with Alfred, and quite possibly the use of a few gadgets from Lucius Fox. In addition to digging deeper on the Wayne side of the story, Gotham also promises to see a darker narrative for some of its established but empathetic ne'er to wells, in both Penguin and Selina Kyle, while also seeing Ivy Pepper make a big leap in both age and ability.
All that is to say, Gotham really enjoys putting its villains – proto and otherwise – front and center. While speaking at the TCA summer press tour, the series' executive producers Ken Woodruff and John Stephens even hinted that some of the big hitters from the recently released Suicide Squad might one day see a version of themselves running around the streets of a Batman-less Gotham City. According to Deadline, the producers confirmed that somewhere down the road fans should expect "proto versions" of Harley Quinn and Killer Croc to appear on the show.
The term "proto" is certainly eye-catching and maybe even a bit misleading; as it is the term the producers use to bring in a character without ever actually naming them as such. Case in point, Jerome Valeska, who's been running around with a wild smile on his face for some time, looking a lot like the Clown Prince of Crime, but never announcing himself or being referred to as the Joker. It's a clever workaround for the series as they can either let the character evolve into the Gotham version of the character or they can be written off as, well, something else. So far, the show has stuck to its guns with regard to Jerome, hastily killing him off after going down the is he or isn't he road and then bringing him back courtesy of Dr. Hugo Strange and the Indian Hill facility run by the Court of Owls.
How and when Gotham plans to introduce proto-Harley is not entirely clear, but given the way both Stephens and Woodruff spoke during the presentation, it doesn't sound like we'll be seeing Harley in season 3. But the building blocks are definitely in place for Croc, since the end of season 2 saw all the monsters being let loose onto the unsuspecting residents of Gotham. Woodruff said: “The Indian Hill that exists in Gotham, that’s the bridge to these villains like killer Croc and Solomon Grundy.”
As for Harley, well, considering her connection to the Joker in the animated series, the comics, and Suicide Squad, the more Jerome evolves into a Joker-liker character, the more likely it may be that Harleen Quinzel will follow. Right now, though, the producers are concerned with establishing the Joker as a real threat to Gotham and someone deserving of his own legend. Stephens said:
“It’s about developing the myth of the Joker, just like we’re developing the myth of Batman. It’s so we can stretch him over multiple seasons. The cult of The Joker began, and we’ll explore how that deepens and changes this year. There are underground movements where they talk about Jerome.”
While it seems that Gotham is fully prepared to present "proto" versions of some of DC Comics' biggest villains, it will be interesting to see just how well they fit into the ever-growing villain population of the series, much less how the audience will react to these new, untested versions of the characters.
Gotham season 3 premieres Monday, September 19 on FOX.