Fox’s relatively new Batman-themed show, Gotham, has certainly taken its viewers on some wild rides during its first season. Robin Lord Taylor’s performance as Penguin astonished viewers with his extremely dark but compelling take on the classic villain. Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) evolution from starting as a detective to beginning his quest to save the city of Gotham has been twisting and turning. Seeing the rise of the Dark Knight during his formative teenage years as young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), overseen by his ever faithful butler Alfred (Sean Pertwee), has provided viewers with insight into why Batman will eventually become a reality. One other aspect that Gotham has been fond of is teasing its viewers with cameos of Batman villains-in-the-making. From the reoccurring Cat/Selina Kyle/Not-Yet-Catwoman to the guest appearances of villains such as Scarecrow and a Bane-prototype, part of Gotham’s charm has been in showing how these iconic villains are coming into being. These villains don’t just decide to start a life of crime. They are a product of their reality and Gotham has done good in showing how all that will eventually come to be. However, there was one guest appearance that was less well received than others and if you have seen the first season, you probably know who I am talking about.
———————–Spoilers will follow——————————
I am, of course, referring to the Joker. While he is never explicitly referred to as the Joker, it is made quite clear that psychotic Jerome Valeska, portrayed rather well by Cameron Monaghan, is supposed to be the most iconic villain of all time and during his Season 1 appearance, it is safe to say that his reception was less than stellar. While Monaghan offered a new take on the Clown Prince of Crime, it simply didn’t work, I think, as well as the producers wished. Giving the Joker a lackluster backstory was their biggest problem. Instead of leaving the Joker’s backstory unknown as was done in the Dark Knight or giving him an enigmatic and cerebral reason for being as he is as was done in Alan Moore’s graphic novel, The Killing Joke, Gotham instead decided to make the Joker the abused son of circus performers. Not only is this backstory simply not that compelling, it seemed a bit insulting to make the Clown Prince an actual clown. The redeeming quality of this appearance truly did lie with Cameron Monaghan’s excellent performance in making the teenage Jerome/Joker come to life. He really did feel as pointlessly and deliciously insane as all Joker fans have come to know him.
However, this all changed in Season 2. Not only was Jerome’s role expanded, Monaghan was allowed to bring so much more to the role while not having to heavily reference the backstory established in Season 1. Episode 1 of Season 2 reintroduced Jerome as currently locked up in Arkham Asylum, serving his time for being behind the murder of his mother and her lover as was resolved in his Season 1 appearance. Jerome is eventually broken out by Theo Galavan, a villain whose true purpose hasn’t yet been revealed. Episode 2 of this season made good use of Monaghan’s acting talent in such scenes where he forces another villain into submission through a game of Russian Roulette and where Jerome so playfully and psychotically leads in the murder of many of Gotham’s police department. Episode 3, however, took a brilliant twist. Jerome’s sponsor, Theo Galavan, in his bid to gain a following among the citizens of Gotham, has Jerome terrorize a fundraiser at a children’s hospital and then kills Jerome to end the terror and name himself a hero. The audience had every reason to suspect that Jerome would be a reoccurring character for all of this season, if not the rest of the show, but this twist ended his Gotham tenure prematurely and brilliantly. Not only did it accelerate the arc of this season by moving forward with Theo’s as-yet-unknown plans, it gave Jerome’s character a proper ending. The Joker has always been about chaos and thus, Jerome’s death needed to be just as chaotic and out of the blue, which it succeeded. This also would avoid Jerome becoming an overused character whose quirks and insanity, done well by Monaghan, I will say, may work for some time, but it would be unavoidable that Jerome would have become annoying. By killing him off this early, Gotham’s writers have succeeded in two things, preserving the integrity of the character as well as moving the season’s story arc much further along, although we don’t know the ramifications of such yet.
Another interesting thing they did with Jerome’s death is how apparently the Joker has become an infectious entity. This episode ends with citizens seeing footage of Jerome’s actions and they begin using the infamous Joker laugh. One such group even kills a homeless man for no reason. This implies that the Joker is not just limited to one person. The Joker is the chaos inside of everyone, wanting to break free. As Gotham’s executive producer, Danny Cannon, said in regards to this episode: “I think the Joker isn’t so much a single person as he is an ideology. [He’s] an idea that we can all live without fear and we can all be free and we can all not live within the world’s restrictions and not live within the rules at all. This guy walks between the lines and I think that’s an ideology. It’s not a single person. It’s a way to live your life, and I think that’s what we explore.”
As for me, this episode, and specifically this twist, has me hooked onto Gotham all over again. I look forward to seeing how this season will unfold.
What did you think of the Joker twist? Are you caught up on Gotham? Comment below with your thoughts.