jim gordon

Fox's Gotham has a Joker Problem

In starting up this new blog, I've been planning to write an article about the state of Batman (as well as a rather big Bat-project in the coming months), which makes the following news all the more interesting to me:

Today it was announced that Fox's new show Gotham will introduce a potential Joker each week, meaning that in literally every episode we will see someone who seems like they'll one day be Batman's greatest enemy. But only one of them can become The Joker. The question is: which one?

Conceptually, I like it. Functionally, I think it'll be distracting and a little bit annoying.

Before I explain, I need to quickly express my disappointment that this was announced. Imagine people slowly coming to realize that Gotham forshadows The Joker every episode. The knowledge would spread slowly, and, like a standard fan theory on the internet, most people wouldn't believe it. It would seem too ridiculous

However, eventually fans would point out that's exactly what's brilliant about it: The Joker has no singular identity, so rather than suggesting that he has some unknown origin, he's given a million origins. It's a sort of outside-in examination of the character. Maybe everyone has the capacity to become that monster.

The debate would be the best part of it, never knowing whether or not it was completely intentional. As a huge Batman fan, I'm certainly planning on checking out the pilot, but considering how busy and distracted I usually am (see: 4 podcasts a week, and several secret projects), I'm almost definitely not going to watch the whole season. However, if I heard a theory about the Joker popping up on the show (in seemingly impossible ways? Appearing as many people? Almost blipping onto the screen like Tyler Durdan?), I'd have to watch more. They'd have me.

It's like The Joker is an external entity that almost inhabits everybody, looking for the perfect place to stay and flourish. Why are there so many people that exhibit his tendencies unless he's a part of everyone? Again, in theory, I think this is a good idea.

However, I still think the way they're doing this whole show is a little silly. It's just a bit too convenient to think that years before Batman existed, literally every single person that grows up to fight or befriend him is involved in a massive plot. It's actually kind of Muppet Babies-ish, so I kind of wish they'd just make this show into a huge "what-if" story.

I say completely change the formula. We're too familiar with the standard "boy loses his parents and grows up to be Batman" story. What if Bruce Wayne died? What if someone else became Batman first? Or what if there were an earlier hero who influenced Bruce?

I'm sure the show will be well produced and entertaining, it just seems so intent on not taking any risks, even at the expense of logic. So instead, I'd vote they go fucking big and take a risk.

However, perhaps this is their way of doing just that. By having such a complex Joker origin running simultaneous to the main plot, they're certainly covering new, potentially deep ground. The Joker has many possible origins, he could have come from anywhere, he could be anyone.

Of course, they should definitely never reveal exactly who becomes The Joker. Even if the show runs for 10 years (and therefore we see something like 200 possible Jokers [one per episode, really?]), it should end without the creation of the Joker or any establishing shot clarifying exactly who he is.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good idea. Just not for a TV show about young Bruce Wayne/Jim Gordon.

It's ridiculous to try and reference a particular piece of Joker iconography per episode. How much can there really be? Is there enough to justify doing this once per episode? Is there enough that is so immediately recognizable while remaining subtle (I have to imagine we'll end up seeing smiling fish in the background or something. Seriously, you can only do purple pants/mad grinning so many times).

Although, here's a counter argument: maybe they'll reference every previous version, from Cesar Romero (a dude with a painted mustache??) to Heath Ledger (greasy hair? War paint?). That'd at least be cool to see.


It's not only distracting for a viewing audience, it's distracting as a narrative. It's ancillary. Disconnected. What I mean is that since none of our main characters can possibly predict the appearance of The Joker, presumably no one will be paying attention to the fact that there are a hundered people all acting vaguely similar, converging into a weird maniac clown. This means it's only meant to be picked up as a time consuming easter egg by the audience, which quite frankly does this concept a disservice.

I mentioned earlier that the beauty of this who-is-The-Joker idea is seeing the "multiple choice" origin in a different way. Where before it was a metaphor (he seemed to recall different versions of a prior life), now it would be literal. Instead of the multitude of origins being something inside the character, it's something external. There are literally many possible people who could become this monster. I love the implication that something about The Joker is inevitable or innately inside us all (all it takes is one bad day).

As corny as that is, this is a wonderful concept for a comic book miniseries. From what I can tell, this will just be a casual gag. Which means it likely lack the exploration it deserves as a concept, and that it really has no place on this show.

Then again, this is all conjecture based on a fucking sentence of an article, so who knows, maybe it'll be mind-blowing. Comic book fans are notoriously picky, so no show/movie/book is going to please 100% of the audience. It's possible that this show is just not for me.

What do you think of this idea? How do you expect it to be handled? Do you like having this announced or would you have preferred to discover the trend on your own? My interest in Batman is certainly well documented (see: Book Club Shmook Club's episode about Batman Year One and The Killing Joker), and I'd love to debate this new direction!