“Holy God! Whattya showing me here?”
When Colin Farrell‘s Oz Cobblepot asked that question of Robert Pattinson’s Caped Crusader and Jeffery Combs’s Lieutenant Gordon in The Batman, he was reacting to a set of grisly pictures. The first set photos from The Batman spin-off The Penguin may not be nearly as disgusting, but they’re sure to provoke a strong reaction.
The HBO series, which takes place after Matt Reeves’ film, follows Cobblepot’s continuing evolution from the not-entirely respected underboss and Iceberg Lounge proprietor seen in The Batman to something closer to the criminal mastermind we know from the comics. Along the way, the series will further develop the Gotham underworld hinted at in The Batman, adding Clancy Brown as Salvatore Maroni and Cristin Milioti as Sofia Falcone.
The first images of Farrell shooting the series show him once again unrecognizable in makeup from Academy Award-nominated artist Mike Marino. While he’s not carrying his signature umbrella or chomping a cigarette holder, The Penguin‘s Oz does better resemble his comic book counterpart. The purple on his blazer pops more than the more muted checkered version worn in the movie, drawing a stronger connection to his four-color origins. In other shots, he forgoes the jacket to reveal suspenders, more conservative in color, but very much in keeping with his comic book roots.
In these images, we see Oz skulking along, looking up with an expression that mixes bitter resentment with a barely concealed anger. That tracks with Farrell’s approach to the character in The Batman. However, with John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone out of the way after being disgraced for working with the police and then murdered by the Riddler, Oz has an opportunity to fill the power vacuum and get the respect he so badly wants.
Standing in his way is Milioti’s Sofia Falcone, the late gangster’s daughter. Comic book fans will know Sofia from the two great Batman comics stories The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, from writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale. In those books, Sofia is a short-tempered enforcer in the Falcone family, and eventually becomes a serial killer called the Hang Man.
In the set photos, we can see that Milioti will not be undergoing a hair and makeup process like Farrell to transform herself into the hulking comic book version of Sofia. However, she does wear a white overcoat similar to the one preferred by the comic book Sofia. More importantly, Milioti’s steely expression in these photos reveals the mind of a killer, just like in the comics.
In The Long Halloween, Sofia is quick to take arms against another killer named Holiday, who is murdering members of the Falcone crime family on festive dates. Sofia’s rage continues even after discovering that Holiday is her brother Alberto, until she falls out of a window during a fight with Catwoman and is paralyzed. In Dark Victory, we learn that Sofia is faking her paralysis to masquerade as the vengeful Hang Man, wreaking havoc in the Gotham Police Department until she’s killed by Two-Face.
While we haven’t yet seen Harvey Dent in The Batman universe, the comic book connection between Catwoman and Sofia is compelling because of the movie’s revision to Selina Kyle’s backstory. In The Batman, Selina is the secret daughter of Carmine Falcone, which makes her Sofia’s half-sister, which will undoubtedly add a new wrinkle to the latter’s mission of vengeance. Rumors suggest that Pattinson will be making an appearance in the series as Batman, so it would not be surprising to see Zoë Kravitz also reprise her role as Selina Kyle. But again, that last bit is just hearsay at the moment.
At this point, it’s unclear how Sofia’s entrance into the story will affect Cobblepot’s quest for power. Set photos show the two seemingly enjoying a pleasant meal together at a fancy restaurant. Will the two be working together against rival crime boss Salvatore Maroni? Or will they each have their own agendas?
The latter seems most likely, especially in light of footage featuring Oz and a character reportedly named Victor, played by Rhenzy Feliz (Marvel’s The Runaways). We don’t know what role Victor will play in all this, but it’s possible Oz would keep a young informant or assistant nearby, someone to help him as he makes moves in the underworld. And anyone who drives a bright purple car like that surely has power on their mind. (Note for my fellow non-NYC people: Hawksmoor is a real restaurant, not a wink towards DC/Authority character Jack Hawksmoor).
As exciting as these photos certainly are, they only hint at a larger story. We’ll have to wait until The Penguin‘s eight episodes come to HBO, presumably sometime later this year or early 2024.