The Penguin: 6 Quick Things We Know About The Batman Spinoff Series

Colin Farrell in The Batman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Even before Matt Reeves’ The Batman crashed into theaters and became a massive critical and financial success, word began to circulate that the long-awaited movie showing a darker and more somber Caped Crusader would be getting multiple spinoff series set in its version of Gotham City. Although details have been slim at best for some of the projects in HBO Max’s budding DC Comics universe, one of the announced shows, The Penguin, has continued to build up steam ever since it was first announced back in September 2021.

The series, which will focus on Colin Farrell’s Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin, has spent the past year and change building up steam in the shadows as The Batman came and went from theaters and a follow-up film was announced. If you’ve lost sight of the show, worry not, for we are about to break down everything we know about The Penguin while we wait for the HBO Max series to bring the gritty drama of Gotham City back to our TV sets.

Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin; Cristin Milioti on The Resort

(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures; Peacock)

The Penguin Cast Includes Colin Farrell And Cristin Milioti

Considering the upcoming HBO Max series will be centering on his character from The Batman, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Colin Farrell will be the one leading The Penguin when it arrives at some point in the future. That being said, the rest of the cast appearing on the show was, and largely still, remains a mystery. Well, except for one notable star who has come on as a major DC Comics character.

In October 2022, it was announced that Cristin Milioti will be joining Farrell on The Penguin, where she will take on the role of Sofia Falcone, the daughter of Gotham crime boss Carmine Falcone (played by John Turturro in the 2022 Batman movie). At the time of her casting, Variety pointed out that Milioti will become the second actress to play the character in a live-action capacity, as Crystal Reed portrayed her on Gotham during the show’s run on Fox.

Prior to landing the role, Milioti made a name for herself with performances on shows like How I Met Your Mother, Black Mirror, Made for Love, and most recently The Resort. Her film credits include Palm Springs, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Sleepwalk with Me.

Colin Farrell looking off into the distance in The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Penguin Takes Paces About A Week After The Events Of The Batman

In case you are in need of a quick recap, The Batman ending saw a flooded Gotham after The Riddler’s plan to blow up the city’s seawall was successful after his capture by The Dark Knight. In the film’s prologue, Oswald Cobblepot is seen standing in his base of operations looking out at the new landscape and new opportunities that are now within reach following the death of Carmine Falcone. And, according to comments made by Farrell when speaking with Extra in October 2022, The Penguin will start not long after those game-changing events:

It starts about a week after The Batman ends. So, Gotham is somewhat still under water. I read the first script for the first episode, and it opens up with my feet splashing through the water in Falcone’s office. Even just that alone, I read and went, ‘Oh, jeez.'

Later on in the interview, Farrell explained that he loved playing the character, so much so, he was “greedy” and felt like he didn’t have enough.

Al Pacino contemplating as Scarface

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The Penguin Was Inspired By Scarface And The Long Good Friday

Not a whole lot has been revealed about the plot of The Penguin, but The Batman director, Matt Reeves, did shed some light on the inspiration for the show and its main character when speaking with Deadline’s Hero Nation podcast ahead of the release of his 2022 DC movie. During the interview, Reeves compared the upcoming project to one of the most well-known rags-to-riches gangster movies of the past 50 years:

There’s a great Penguin story that’s an American Dream-Scarface story of a guy who is underestimated; how nobody thinks he’s capable of doing anything, who believes in himself with a visceral violence.

Also in the interview, Reeves listed the 1980 British gangster film, The Long Good Friday, as another inspiration for the HBO Max series. The movie, which starred the late Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, touched on a number of topics that sound familiar to fans of one of Batman’s greatest foes: crime, political and police corruption, and violence.

Robert Pattinson as Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Lauren LeFranc Will Serve As The Penguin’s Writer And Showrunner

Reeves will serve as one the executive producers on The Penguin, but the filmmaker behind The Batman won’t be the person running the day-to-day operations, as that honor has been bestowed upon Lauren LeFranc. When the show was officially picked up by HBO Max following the success of The Batman, Deadline revealed that LeFranc, who penned the pilot episode, had been named the showrunner and writer for the upcoming series.

In a statement carried by the outlet, LeFranc explained that she has “long been a fan of the world of The Batman,” adding that she was “excited and humbled” to help bring the new show to life. While this will be LeFranc’s first project set in Gotham City, the writer and producer worked on several episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout the Marvel show’s run.

Zoe Kravitz and Robert Pattinson in The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Craig Zobel Will Direct The First Two Episodes Of The Penguin

As the release of information regarding The Penguin went from a trickle to a light flow when the show’s pre-production process began to amp up, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that filmmaker Craig Zobel had been tasked with directing the first two episodes of the upcoming series. The outlet pointed out in October 2022 that the director, who has an overall deal with HBO, had also joined the upcoming project as an executive producer.

Zobel, who has worked with the premium cable outlet on shows like The Leftovers, Westworld, and most recently Mare of Easttown, has also directed controversial movies like Compliance and The Hunt throughout his career.

There is no word on who will direct the remaining episodes or if Zobel will stick around and direct the entire first season of The Penguin.

Colin Farrell in The Batman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The HBO Max Series Is Expected To Be Between Six And Eight Hours Long

HBO Max has yet to reveal how many episodes will make up The Penguin, but Colin Farrell did shed some light on the show’s possible runtime when speaking with Collider in October 2022. According to the actor, who described the first episode as “so tasty and so unusual,” the show will be around six to eight hours long, meaning we can expect six to eight episodes if that runtime sticks. 

At the time of the conversation, Farrell said he was supposed to be reading the second and third episodes within a week. This leads one to assume we’ll be dealing with one-hour episodes opposed to two massive The Batman-sized chunks when the show eventually premieres.

There is still a lot about The Penguin that we don’t yet know, including more specific details on its story, other members of the cast, and if Robert Pattinson’s Batman will be showing up in some shape or form. But, as we wait to see when, or if, it will pop up on the 2023 TV schedule, there are plenty of great DC movies and shows to watch with an HBO Max subscription.

Philip Sledge
Content Producer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.