The final episodes of "Gotham" will leave a legacy built on the villains rather than the crime fighters. The decision to set the Fox show (7 p.m. Thursdays, KMSP, Ch. 9) before Bruce Wayne slipped on the cape and cowl opened the door for some of Batman's most famous villains β€” the Penguin, the Riddler, the Joker and Catwoman β€” to take the spotlight.

None of the costumed criminals has taken advantage of that more than the Penguin, played by Robin Lord Taylor. His "Gotham" arc has taken him from politics to the criminal underworld. Taylor had bounced around in small TV roles until being cast to play Oswald Cobblepot.

"I just wanted health insurance. I never expected that the writers would be so willing to work with us and to allow us to grow into these characters and bring parts of our own life experiences to these characters that they maybe not necessarily had seen before," Taylor said.

The Penguin was part of the story from the start, but getting to where Cameron Monaghan's character could officially be called the Joker took several years and various death scenes. It started with the dual roles of Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska, but in recent weeks, he took the toxic chemical dive to become the Joker. Monaghan was rarely given a warning when a death scene for his character was going to be in a script.

"When my character died in Season 2, they talked to me about bringing me back while we were shooting it," Monaghan said. "I would get scripts where my head would be cut off and think 'I guess that's it.' A couple of my deaths didn't even make it into the show."

The big riddle for Cory Michael Smith was what kind of job he was auditioning for before being cast as Edward Nygma/The Riddler because the actors didn't get to see a script before signing multiyear contracts. The answer to his riddle was that the job proved to be a great acting opportunity.

"The great relief and joy for me personally in this project was the experience of having five years to build a character on such a grand, operatic scale," Smith said.

Rounding out the cast of criminals is Selina Kyle/Catwoman, portrayed by Camren Bicondova. The San Diego native was only 14 when she was cast as the character who would at times be a romantic interest for Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and at other times his biggest foe. The fact she has grown up on television didn't hit her until someone pointed it out. She still sees herself as the same actress who auditioned for the role that would eventually give her her first big TV gig.

"The fact that the show is ending is sweet," Bicondova said. "I think there is beauty in an ending because it means there will be another beginning. The fact that we have been able to go these past five years and be as successful as we have been shows how much of a respected show we have been."