One of the most fascinating relationships in any form of entertainment is the dichotomy of the Batman and the Joker. While the original origin of the Joker isn’t as exciting or complicated as the origin we’ve grown up with. He’s always been there. He is, as Harvey Dent can appreciate, the other side of the coin. While they have had innumerable altercation over the 75 plus years history of Batman it’s never the physical aspect of their clashes that have made their interactions iconic. Rather, it’s the psychological impact the Joker is able to unleash on the Dark Knight. Most recently Snyder and Capullo’s run on the the Batman book told one of the best story arcs for these two enemies.
Death of the Family is a gorgeously told tale. The Joker returns, with his old face, bent on breaking Batman from within. Replicating all the major crimes and battles they’ve had over the years, the Joker goads Batman relentlessly. When they finally speak the Clown reveals he wants his old nemesis back. He finds Batman soft and blames the Bat family. No spoilers, it’s a must read. It’s also one of the best stories between these two characters to be told in a long time.
Some people may read the issues or graphic novels and wonder why Batman doesn’t just kill the psychopath and be done with it. Without realizing it, they are playing directly into the Joker’s hands the way he wants Batman to. It seems his sole mission, behind all the murder and mayhem, is to get Bruce to do just that. Pushing Batman to kill even someone as broken and violent as him would destroy everything Batman has stood for, for so long, instantly.
It’s harder to understand Batman’ refusal to put the Joker down when you read some of the story arcs over the years. The people close to Bruce who have suffered, died, or both at the hands of the madman.
The Killing Joke drove the point home when Gordon tells Batman to bring the Joker in “by the book” after the torture he had gone through at the lunatics hand.
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller showed Batman come the closest he ever has and still he doesn’t kill the Joker. The scene is powerful to be sure. Even in Miller’s much darker and more hopeless vision of a DC universe, though, he still can’t get the Bat to give in.
Last night on the show Gotham the take on a future Batman/Joker relationship was beautifully crafted. We’ve always gotten the Batman created Joker story in the books. Gotham showed us how Joker created the spark for the Batman we would come to know and love. David Mazouz plays a young Bruce Wayne so sincerely its heartbreakingly amazing. You believe, without question, that his Bruce will be the Dark Knight one day. It’s never been more clear or so well told until the winter finale.
Jerome, played masterfully by Cameron Monaghan, returns from the dead and kidnaps Bruce. Every scene between these two has so much gravity in this episode. Bringing young master Wayne to a carnival only the Joker could create, we see the clash in these two characters birthed for the first time. You see the chaos and insanity Jerome creates sink deep into Bruce’s consciousness. The looks on David’s face in the scenes perfectly sell the horror and the conviction form who he will become. One of the best points driven home is delivered by Jerome. He tells Bruce Gotham has no heroes while shooting staples into his arm. Here’s where the goosebumps come in. Bruce stares him down and the musical score changes to something reminiscent of a proper Batman film. We see Jerome become confused and angry at the lack of reaction. It’s a brief scene, but, anyone who loves these characters will be moved to see it.
The final scene between these two is all Batman! You see how close Bruce comes to ending Jerome, and, you see the realization that killing makes him no better than any other criminal. It’s a gloriously written episode and made me want to see this show go all the way through with seeing David Mazouz don the cape and cowl. I’d also love to see Cameron Monaghan become a show staple, no pun intended, and become a book accurate depiction of the Joker.
These two have always been my two favorite characters in comic fiction and I just wanted to share my thoughts growing up watching and reading this Dynamic Duo. Last night’s episode of Gotham might be the best origin story for Batman’s inspiration. If you’ve never watched the show before, at least, watch the winter finale.