Gotham‘s penultimate episode, “One Bad Day,” airs tonight on FOX, and we already know from a spoiler-filled Joker trailer and an explosive clip that it’s going to be leaning heavily into references to Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, except it’s Bruce Wayne (rather than Gordon) who the Joker (“joker”) is going to try to drive mad with the titular “one bad day.” The video above shows Jeremiah setting up that “transformative experience” for Bruce, whom Jeremiah is still referring to as his “best friend.” Get better friends, the both of you.
The actor behind both Joker-esque characters (Cameron Monaghan) also gave a couple of interviews to clear up whether he’s really playing the Joker (short answer: yes-ish) and what his influences were for both distinct performances.
Regarding whether the character is actually the Joker, Monaghan says in the video below, “Yeah, I mean, look, the character doesn’t have the mantle yet, but I feel Jerome was the Joker for the show for the first four years, and now we’re transitioning into [Jeremiah]. I think with this show we’re taking a different take on the Joker in the fact that it’s a bit of an ideology. Look, 76 years ago when the Joker was created, an angry young man who feels like the world has slighted him and is killing people or destroying things had a different connotation than it does now. […] That is terrorism.” Monaghan went on, “Unfortunately, there are destructive ideologies and dangerous schools of thought that can cause these things to happen, so I think that’s what they wanted to introduce with the idea of the Joker, is that someone that destructive — and that invested in their destruction — can spurn other people to do something similar and for people to want to emulate it and, you know, top it.”
This lines up with what showrunner Danny Cannon has said about the Joker: “It’s more powerful than just one person. […] I think that is a way of life, it’s an ideology.” In other words, Gotham continues to do its own bonkers alternate universe thing with these characters, changing things as need be to surprise the audience.
Regarding Monaghan’s influences for these two jokers in particular, in the video below he lists his inspiration for Jerome as a combination of every Joker depiction over 76 years, but especially Mark Hamill (no wonder Hamill liked his performance so much). His inspiration for Jeremiah, however, comes from outside the comic book mold. In the video, he described the character as being disturbingly on “the cusp of sanity” and lists influences from music, saying that criminals in Gotham are that city’s rock stars, so he wanted to take inspiration from rock stars (particularly the “thoughtful and specific” way they behave when they aren’t on stage).
He also took inspiration from Truman Capote (well, that’s new) and other people he describes as “hyperintelligent” yet “regarded as weirdos and outliers.” He also briefly namechecks Hannibal Lecter, and he went more into that influence in an interview with Comic Book:
“There are a lot of moments that made Hannibal Lecter so terrifying. [One] in my opinion, was even though he was the one in the cage, he was the one locked up under key, for some reason, because of his intelligence he was always the one who had control. He might have been in the cage, but he was the one who had all the cards and carried all the weight. That is something that Jeremiah has. No matter how this guy is backed into a corner, he plans for contingency and he is intelligent enough that he knows how to manipulate and hurt people. He can take control.”
Here’s the other interview, with most of the Gotham-related stuff starting about four and a half minutes in and ending around nineteen minutes in: