Gotham is teasing the most famous Batman villain of all time, and might be creating an all-new backstory for the Joker. The trailer for this week's episode suggests that a new character named Jerome, who's in his early 20s, will become the Joker and while he won't be wearing his trademark makeup, he already has the big smile and the crazy laughter that we expect from the classic villain. But the Joker's backstory isn't usually tied to the circus. Yes, he does wear a clown-inspired outfit, but he's not usually found working at a circus campground. And it wasn't until the '80s that comic writers even became interested in the Joker's backstory and its possibilities. Before then, he was mysterious and inscrutable, half gangster and half trickster god.
The next episode of Gotham is titled "Red Hood," which implies that the show will be taking its inspiration from the comics storyline The Killing Joke. In that arc, written by Alan Moore, whose entire career has been spent deconstructing what's appealing and dangerous about superheroes and superpowers, the formerly mysterious Joker's origins cast him as an aspiring comedian and family man who gets roped into being the "Red Hood," the patsy in a heist. When robbing a science facility, he gets pushed into a vat of acidic chemicals and it transforms him into a supervillain.
Interestingly enough, we see in a preview clip that Joker — excuse me, Jerome — grew up in the circus and considers them his family. As far as I know, this doesn't match up with any Joker origins I've heard of before. Especially because the context of this interview with Gordon implies that Jerome's mother will be a Gotham victim of the week. The death of a beloved mother could be the first thing that drives young Jerome to become a criminal, and losing the one person who truly loved and cared about him might make him lose his mind.
And he's already kind of a chilling guy — that stuff about sex being a normal part of life sounded pretty creepy. I know I should be applauding him for accepting that older women can have active sex lives, but it's almost weirder to not be freaked out when discussing your mom's sexual partners with complete strangers. No matter what else the writers of Gotham decide to add or subtract from Joker's origin story, adding an Oedipal Complex certainly sounds like a first.
Image: Jessica Miglio/FOX