Who Will Be 'Gotham's Joker?

TV and movies this year have been saturated with superhero epics, but none have captured fans' interest quite like Gotham , a new Fox series starting Sept. 22. The show has been promoted as a Batman prequel, but it's built around Detective James Gordon, the same character who eventually becomes Commissioner Gordon and works with Batman to bring Gotham's villainous underworld to justice. James is played by Ben McKenzie, whom you may remember from a little show called The O.C. Promos and press for Gotham's first season promise that fans of DC Comics will get their fill of Batman baddies, including younger versions of The Penguin, Catwoman, The Riddler, and The Butcher. But what about the most iconic villain of all, The Joker? The show's creator, Bruno Heller — who previously helmed Rome and The Mentalist — has been careful not to give away too much about his plans to incorporate that character, but Gotham has already offered plenty of teases.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Heller said that the Joker is, "the crown jewel of the Batman villains. He will be brought in with great care and a lot of thought." In an ad for the show called "The Good. The Bad. The Beginning." we get to see just how much of an influence Heath Ledger's Dark Knight version of the Joker had on Gotham.

The one-minute promo features McKenzie's James grimly approaching a crime scene, passing villains like The Penguin (Robin Taylor), Fish Mooney (Jada Pinckett Smith, in a role created for the show), and The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) before meeting his partner, Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). The two detectives peer beneath a sheet covering a body, only to see a smear of blood and two black smudges in the shape of Ledger's famous Joker makeup spread over the white fabric.

Of course, this commercial was created specifically to generate interest in the show and by the time the actual Joker shows up, he may look nothing like Christopher Nolan's green-haired psychopath. The Joker was around long before The Dark Knight (he was featured in the very first Batman comic, written in 1940), and the character has worn some version of that makeup in multiple interpretations, though Ledger's is arguably the most well known. We won't find out until Gotham's Joker is finally revealed just what sort of look he's sporting.

There have been some clues sprinkled here and there to keep audiences guessing as to which character will eventually become The Joker. The cast list for the pilot includes someone named The Comedian (Jon Beavers), and fans were quick to point him out as a possible Joker (in some of the Batman universes, The Joker starts out as a failed comedian). There is also a DC Comics character named The Comedian, but he's part of the Watchmen series and not associated with Batman at all.

Plus, as Rotten Tomatoes reports, the show wants to build up the reveal as much as possible. As the showrunner Heller put it, "The great thing about the slow burn now is we can take our time getting there and really draw people in, and earn the right to discover somebody who may or may not be the Joker."

Translation: Gotham won't reveal its Joker in the first episode and The Comedian is probably nothing more than a red herring. It's possible that Gotham will present multiple characters who might or might not be The Joker, keeping the audience guessing and building anticipation throughout the first season, or even longer. Making us wait for the reveal? Now that sounds truly villainous.

Images: Jessica Miglio/FOX; Giphy