I know it’s not “Scandal” or “How to Get Away with Murder,” but there’s a black woman lead character on Fox’s hit freshman series, “Gotham,” that you really should know about, and be paying attention to. It’s a character we rarely ever see black actresses be given the opportunity to play, especially on a major broadcast network. And, if only for that reason, you should give the series a look, if you aren’t already watching.
Fish Mooney, as played by Jada Pinkett Smith in “Gotham,” is quite the bad-ass, to be blunt. A sadistic gangster boss and nightclub owner, with street smarts and almost extra-sensory abilities to read people. Further, despite her diminutive figure, she’s imposing, in control, even scary, and just not one to be messed with! Ask all the white male characters on the show who are intimidated or threatened by Fish Mooney and her presence.
I did wonder if the character was originally written as a woman (let alone a black woman). My research didn’t give me an answer to that question. But I did learn that Fish Mooney is the only major character on the show that doesn’t come from the comics. She’s completely original, an invention of “Gotham’s” creative team.
We know that she used to be Oswald Cobblepot’s (who would eventually become The Penguin) employer, before he betrayed her in the first episode. We know that she’s not exactly happy with her current position on the crime ladder, and that she has her eye on taking down mob boss Falcone, and gaining full control of the underworld for herself. We know that, what might at first seem like bipolarity, or a personality disorder in Mooney is actually a front for a character that’s a master manipulator, who knows how to get exactly what she wants from others; can be, at once, lovingly motherly, and in the same breath, fatal, especially against those who cross her. Most of all, we know that she’s dangerous. When dealing with Fish Mooney, you’re only safe so long as you’re useful to her. The minute that changes, well, good night and good luck.
And Jada seems to be having a lot of fun with the sometimes outlandishness of the character – a captivating and intriguing mystery in a svelte box. Although, according to the new video below, some of that mystery just might be unpacked in coming episodes of the series, about the dark days in Gotham before the Dark Knight.
She’s not the star of the show, but she’s a key figure – one you should be paying attention to if you aren’t.
To set up the below video, in the last episode of the series, Fish Mooney was run out of Gotham City (I’m trying to avoid spoilers so I’ll say no more about why), escorted to the docks by Harvey Bullock (played by Donal Logue), who’s deeply in love with her, although the feelings aren’t necessarily mutual.
And as Logue says in the behind-the-scenes preview of what’s to come below, we’ll apparently be seeing a lot of Fish, while she’s in exile, as her life is disrupted even further. As he states: “Things get crazier for her when she steps off the dock to leave town… That is going to be a wild story line that I guarantee — it shocked me when I read what happens to her. Some new super villains are coming into Gotham…”
“Gotham” airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox. It probably won’t win any Emmys, but it’s an unpretentious, well-made, fun show, that knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t try to be anything else.