A beloved aspect of The Joker, the most iconic villain in the DC Universe (and arguably all of comics), is that he has no definitive origin. He is so far gone that he doesn't truly remember his own beginnings and has therefore recounted different versions of how he became the Clown Prince Of Crime.
Fittingly then, the TV show Gotham's version of The Joker is a hodgepodge of influences from the comic book and screen history of the character, with multiple potential origins thrown in. With The Joker there are no rules, which means even the things they change from the comics are perfectly acceptable alterations. Here are 5 things Gotham changed about The Joker, as well as 5 things they kept the same.
10 CHANGED: GOTHAM'S 'JOKER' IS TWO PEOPLE
The most obvious thing that Gotham has changed about The Joker is that the character isn't the Joker. He's two people: the Valeska twins, Jerome and Jeremiah! The producers were prohibited from using Joker in the show, as the higher-ups at Warner Brothers wanted the Clown Prince Of Crime to be solely reserved for film appearances.
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So, in response, they created their own 'take' on the character, with Cameron Monaghan playing both twins with as much 'Jokerness' as possible. Producer John Stephens said they imagine the real Joker is out there somewhere, watching the Valeskas and taking inspiration for what he will one day become.
9 KEPT THE SAME: THE LAUGH
Jerome first appeared in season one as the seemingly devastated son of murdered Haly's Circus performer Lila Valeska. He was polite, well-spoken and wanted to help the police with their enquiries into his mother's death. He seemed to be genuinely grieving, but Jim Gordon knew that something was off about Jerome.
He eventually got him in an interrogation room and pushed Jerome into a confession: he killed his mother for being a nagging drunk. He then began laughing maniacally and suddenly fans realized that this might be Gotham's Joker! The laugh was unmistakably Jokeresque, that's for sure.
8 CHANGED: THE CULT OF JEROME
In Gotham's second season Jerome Valeska died but, given that he had already appeared in a viral video encouraging the city's citizens to wake up and be free, a devoted cult of followers began to emulate his actions. Eventually, they became the Cult Of Jerome and their leader, Dwight Pollard, was responsible for bringing Jerome back to life!
They took over the city before Jerome died a second (and, thus far, final time). They then followed Jeremiah but he wound up burning them all to death in an incinerator. Oh, Gotham! In the comics, the Joker has never had a dedicated cult following like this, with the closest being the Jokerz gang in the Batman Beyond cartoon.
7 KEPT THE SAME: AGENT OF CHAOS
In The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger's Joker describes himself as an 'agent of chaos' and it was a brilliant description of what the Joker has always been about. The most frightening thing about the character has always been his unpredictability and desire to cause chaos in the lives of Gothamites and Batman.
One day he might wake up and decide to rob a bank. But then the very next day he will grab a sniper rifle to randomly pick off citizens because he thinks its funny and wants to show society how pointless their civilized lives are. Jerome does the same in Gotham and encourages the city to embrace anarchy.
6 CHANGED: JEROME'S PERSONAL MISSION TO KILL BRUCE WAYNE
Before he was killed (the first time) Jerome was on a mission to kill Bruce Wayne, Gotham's favorite son. Then, when he was resurrected, he tried again, taking him to a Hall Of Mirrors and attempting to shoot him with a circus cannon. The scene was intentionally reminiscent of the classic story The Killing Joke.
Jerome's obsession with Bruce was clearly Gotham's attempt at emulating the Joker's obsession with Batman, but it's different here. For one thing, Joker doesn't really want to kill Batman; he couldn't live without him. And The Joker also has no interest in Bruce Wayne; it's been hinted he's known Batman's secret identity for years but doesn't care.
5 KEPT THE SAME: JEROME IS INSPIRED BY LEDGER, JEREMIAH BY NICHOLSON
A fun aspect of having two Jokers in Gotham is that they can both take inspiration from different versions of the character. Jerome, with his mission to introduce anarchy to the city and belief in himself as an idea/philosophy of chaos, is inspired heavily by Heath Ledger's take in The Dark Knight.
Jeremiah, whose skin was turned white and mouth twisted into a rictus grin by laughing gas (sent to him by his brother), is much more like Jack Nicholson's version from 1989's Batman. He even wears the dark purple suit, wide-brimmed gangster hat and sometimes wears skin-colored makeup to disguise his white visage.
4 CHANGED: NO HARLEY QUINN
Harley Quinn has become just as popular as The Joker in recent years and is now an icon of her own right. Originally introduced as his jester-costume wearing gangster's moll, Harley went on to leave their abusive relationship and start a life of her own as a sometime villain/sometimes antihero.
Considering Gotham is forbidden from calling Jerome or Jeremiah 'Joker,' they've taken a similar tack with Harley. There have been a few Harley-esque women in the show, including Erin Richards's Barbara Kean and Ecco, Jeremiah's red and white clad right-hand-woman. She even called Selina Kyle 'puddin' at one point!
3 KEPT THE SAME: JEROME STAPLING HIS FACE BACK ON IS VERY NEW 52 JOKER
At the end of Detective Comics #1, the first issue of that title in The New 52 era, the Joker's face was cut off and pinned to a wall. It was grotesque and awful...and bizarrely hilarious because he did it to himself! He then attached the skin to his face again, but over time it began to rot and become maggot infested, and the sinewy red facial tissue could clearly be glimpsed beneath it.
All in all, it was memorably gross. Gotham emulated this when Dwight Pollard cut a dead Jerome's face off and began wearing it, but when Jerome was resurrected he stapled his face back on to his head. Lovely.
2 CHANGED: JOKER AND RA'S AL GHUL TEAMING UP? NO WAY JOSE
In season four, Jeremiah became obsessed with Bruce Wayne (just like his brother had), but for a different reason: he saw them as kindred spirits. He teamed up with Ra's Al Ghul to blow up the bridges leading out of Gotham, cutting the city off from the rest of the world and turning it into a 'No Man's Land'.
The intention was that Bruce would fulfill his destiny by becoming the 'Dark Knight' Ra's had foreseen. In the comics, there is no way Ra's Al Ghul would ever team up with an unpredictable loose cannon like Joker. Ra's knows he couldn't reason with Joker's insanity and would see him as a liability.
1 KEPT THE SAME: ONE BAD DAY
In The Killing Joke, the Joker's mission is to prove to Batman that one bad day can turn anyone into a raving lunatic. He says that's what happened to them, and so he kidnaps Jim Gordon and puts him through hell in an abandoned circus in an attempt to drive him insane.
It includes showing Gordon pictures of his daughter Barbara (Batgirl) in various states of undress, having been shot in the spine. Gotham did their own version of this in an episode titled 'One Bad Day': Jeremiah shot Selina Kyle and showed Bruce Wayne pictures of Alfred being tortured, all to drive the young man insane.