If you were asking me to rank all of the tv shows that I have watched in my life, I wouldn’t put Gotham anywhere near the top but it wouldn’t be near the bottom either. Gotham has done some things really well and other things really not well. But if there’s one thing that Gotham has absolutely nailed, it’s the Joker.
It’s no secret to anyone, the Joker is an incredibly hard role to perfect. For whatever reason, shows and movies have had a difficult time really hitting with the Joker; Jared Leto in Suicide Squad is just the latest example. But Gotham’s take on the Joker, Jerome Valeska, has been a grand slam home run.
I think what’s so difficult to capture with the Joker is that he’s not just a senseless lunatic; there’s a level of rationality to his actions. There’s a blend between the schizophrenic behavior, maniacal laughter and evil plotting that makes the Joker the Joker. There have been some terrific Jokers over the years; Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill (voice) and Heath Ledger being the big three. I think we’re pretty close to adding Cameron Monaghan to that list.
It’s not just the voice and evil laughter with the Joker, it’s the mannerisms. Hamill does an outstanding job in portraying that through just his voice and Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight was legendary. I wouldn’t say that Monaghan has been quite to Ledger’s level he’s up near the top of the list. Monaghan’s acting has been superb; his laugh is perfect, he’s nailed the mannerisms and he has found the right blend between senseless lunatic and rationality. Monaghan hasn’t quite become the Joker yet, but he’s effectively played the character to this point.
I think that as recent actors have pushed the character to its limits, the Joker has really been taken to another level. There’s a more edgy side to Ledger’s Joker and Hamill’s Joker (Arkham series) that has really put a twisted spin on the character and Monaghan has captured that Gotham’s Joker. That’s no surprise either, because Monaghan revealed in a recent interview with ComicBook.com that his biggest influence for the character was Hamill’s Joker. Monaghan’s spin on an all time character has been terrific.
I get why many fans of the Batman comics don’t like Gotham; there is a near nonexistent attempt to stay loyal to the comics. Gotham is a completely non-canonical take on the Batman universe that puts a more original spin on a lot of the characters, so you have to take it for what it is. It’s a series that’s set in the Batman universe but it’s not the Batman universe. And believe me, Gotham has done a lot of bad stuff to this point like killing the Joker off in the first place, for example. Gotham was borderline unwatchable at the beginning of season one but it’s developed into a pretty good show and among its strengths, its Joker is really damn good.
Side note, why the hell did this show come back from a two month break, for three episodes, just to go on break until April?