[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Gotham ahead.]
Among the many younger versions of classic DC villains introduced on Fox's Batman prequel show Gotham, Jada Pinkett Smith's scheming mobster Fish Mooney is a completely original character created for the TV show. In less than a season she's seen a lot of ups and downs, which more recently included digging out her own eye with a spoon - and after being absent for the past couple of episodes, Fish is returning in time for the end of the season with a radical new look.
Fish's season one arc may end very badly for her, since Smith isn't currently set to return for season two of Gotham. When asked if she would reprise her role, Smith said, "I don’t think so. I signed for a year, and the year’s up." In a more recent interview, showrunner Bruno Heller confirmed that there aren't currently any plans for Fish beyond the season one finale - though he's not ready to write off the possibility of her return just yet.
Speaking to ComicBook.com, Heller said that there will be more original characters to come on the show, and that like Fish they will be characters that fit into the fabric of the DC universe - at least, the version that exists in Gotham. With regard to Fish herself returning at some point in the show's future, however, Heller could only say that he'd be happy to have her back.
"Personally I'm still hoping that Jada will be back. One of the problems of making a show like this is that you need actors who can really be big characters. You either have bigness or you don't, and Jada is big in spades. She's done a wonderful job for us and nobody dies forever in the DC Universe, necessarily, so I'm hoping whatever happens at the end of this season that Fish can and will be back."
Despite the pilot episode of Gotham receiving generally positive reviews, the show has recently seen a slight drop in ratings and has received a lot of criticism for its uneven quality over the course of season one, with Badass Digest calling it "the worst thing to happen to Batman since Joel Schumacher." It certainly seems to be going through a lot of growing pains - and unless things improve in season two it's hard to imagine Smith signing up for another swathe of episodes.
New villains that will be introduced in season two of Gotham include Clayface and the Mad Hatter, and with the Joker storyline also seemingly set to continue there should be plenty of opportunities to make up for Fish's absence. Beyond a loose plan for Gotham season two, however, Heller said that there's a lot that's still subject to change.
"Especially in the early stages of this sort of thing, there's a lot more improv than people would think. You're reacting on the fly a lot of the time until a character's established and the actor kind of owns it, then you see how far you can go and experimenting.
"You have to do it bravely and with the intention of, 'Alright, this is going to be a big character,' and write it that way. But if it ain't working, especially with the stakes so high because this is a beautiful, iconic world that you don't want to mar with crappy characters, the security we all have is that if a character doesn't work, people will forget about them when they die and go away."
The way Heller described the approach to writing the show helps contextualize the ups and downs of season one, but his confidence that audiences will easily forgive and forget a poorly-written character that's set up as a major player (and then suddenly killed off - ?) might be a little misplaced.
Gotham season one concludes next Monday at 8pm with “All Happy Families Are Alike” on Fox.