Questioning The Riddler: Cory Michael Smith gives answers about tonight's Gotham

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Apr 24, 2017

Spoilers ahead: The following discusses plot points from the April 24 episode of Gotham, “Heroes Rise: How The Riddler Got His Name.”

There is no question about it, The Riddler has finally made his entrance on Gotham. In tonight’s “spring premiere” of the show, Edward Nygma donned all green, took to wearing a bowler hat and, lest we forget, went on a killing spree in an attempt to find his intellectual equal (and perhaps shed the ghost of his best friend Oswald).

The evolution of Ed from GCPD lab rat, to psychopath, to Arkham inmate, to Penguin’s consigliere, and now, at last, to the quizzing villain, has been a long one – but also well earned, and enjoyable to watch, courtesy of the performance of Cory Michael Smith.

At a recent press screening of the episode, Smith said Nygma has called himself The Riddler, but the story now continues about what that exactly means, and who this new person is that constantly struggles with identity.

“Now begins a whole new journey of a new identity for him,” he said.

On that note, I spoke with Smith – coincidentally on the same day he wrapped filming on Season 3 – about the episode “How The Riddler Got His Name,” and what might be next on the journey of Nygma/Riddler.

At the end of this episode, is Nygma free of Penguin? Has he shed that Penguin ghost?

No. I think he thinks he is, and wants to be. But the sort of symbolic gesture of letting go of this short-term addiction to drugs. They took out a scene that explained why I was doing that, which is that all of the mayoral duties I’m covering, and I’m taking them to stay awake. It is essentially speed. I think having context of why I was taking pills would have helped. But getting rid of that, and saying goodbye to him, is moving.

But the problem is, Oswald isn’t really gone.

He is essentially a co-dependent character.

Edward is constantly defining himself based on how people perceive him, react to him, how people rank him – if he’s funny, charming, mainly if he’s intelligent. While he’s quite a loner, and quite independent – more so than most people – he is very dependent on people’s perceptions. It dictates what he does next.

Are his riddles a defense mechanism to prevent getting to know who he is?

I think riddles for him are an investigation of someone’s intelligence. I think it is a way of testing people, tricking people, making sure he is smarter than them, and measuring if someone is potentially an equal. In the future, once he gets going with the games of riddles, then it becomes about finding someone who is an interesting competitor – who ends up being Bruce Wayne; he is remarkably intelligent. But is like a guy playing chess in Washington Square Park: They don’t want to play against some amateur. They’re sitting there, waiting for the real guy to come and sit down, and really give them a run. He wants to have fun.

Does it eat away at him that Bruce Wayne solved his question in the Season 2 finale?

Oh, yeah. Especially because he’s a juvenile. I thought it was captured well the moment Lucius gets it; that Edward is actually excited by that. He is not necessarily intimidated by it, or pissed someone answered his riddle. He wants people to answer his riddles. It is kind of exciting.

When he finds someone on his level, what’s his goal? To kill them? To join them?

I think that’s the changing variable as Riddler moves on in his life. It certainly changed throughout the comics. When it started, it was all fun and games. Today, it is quite demented, and murderous. The Riddler in Earth-One is jacked, and has a question mark tattooed on his face. It is a completely different kind of mind-and-body meets Batman, not just the mind. But I like the idea of him right now being more of an adventurer, showman, and puzzle artist – and just tricking people. I don’t think he’s remarkably homicidal.

Does it nag at him that Barbra Kean, who he probably views as insane, figured out Penguin killed Isabella, and he was meanwhile duped?

Yeah, and it actually happens to him more than he would like. Other people figure stuff out before him, and that is the ultimate frustration, and embarrassment. I filmed something today where he’s utterly humiliated because he was completely outdone. It is just the lowest for him. He is not trying to run Gotham – not yet at least. He is just trying to be the smartest dude out there. And, ideally, to be the great havoc Gotham has seen. He wants to be known, and respected, and regarded as a remarkably intelligent man.

Would he be an interesting pairing with Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome? One wants to create chaos, and the other wants to do it, but intelligently.

Oh, gosh. I know. The thing about Jerome is the lack of predictability. I got along with Oswald because I could figure Oswald out. I knew what motivated him, what he wanted, how to help him get what he wanted, how to do backroom stuff, and deliver what he wanted. Jerome is not satisfied by anything. He just wants mayhem and anarchy. I think Edward is a bit more logical, and purposeful. I don’t think he would trust him.

Will you discuss the journey as actors you and Robin Lord Taylor have been on this season?

It’s amazing. I love Robin, and having spent so much time with him is so cool. It is the richest relationship on the show, for me personally. I have never done anything like this, long-form TV. We now made 66 episodes of television. To have let these people grow this much, and to have this many experiences with another character? It feels like a genuine relationship. We, as actors, come into a project – you do a movie that’s two hours long, and you build a backstory. It is work you do, and part of the craft. Here, it is being done for us because we are living through it in real time. It is incredible we have this other relationship we are living through. It has been a blast, and the way we end is … the antagonism is really intense. And it is setting up some cool s*** for four. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, but there is a lot of potential between he and I.