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Anyone who isn't caught up with Gotham may see some spoilers below, so be warned.
Gotham reached more baffling heights in Season 4 with its twist-filled Jerome and Jeremiah storyline, and the show is going even harder on its Joker-influenced chaos with "One Bad Day," which serves as TV's first big take on the classic 1988 graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke. It won't be an exact adaptation, obviously, but fans can expect to see many recognizable elements during the hectic hour. CinemaBlend spoke with executive producer and writer John Stephens ahead of the ep, and here's what he told me when I asked why they went with Killing Joke at this point in the series.
You know, a lot of these things evolve pretty organically, to be honest with you. Part of it is that we always wanted to do a Killing Joke story. Once you start going down this road and doing a Batman prequel and have this wealth of material, there's certain things you just want to do. The Killing Joke is certainly one of them. So once we had the idea of Jeremiah himself being driven insane by his brother, and we knew he had this obsession with Bruce and wanted to drive Bruce insane, then one thing really just followed another, where Killing Joke became the obvious mold to put on top of the story.
The Valeska bloodline is to obsessive compulsions what the Wayne bloodline is to irreversible tragedies. With Jerome out of the picture (again), the toxin-affected Jeremiah is free to carry out his own horrifying schemes within Gotham City, and it's too bad young Bruce previously let all his empathy come to the surface for Jeremiah, because that's part of why the fashionable villain is now dead set on retaining Bruce's friendship on the other side of the law. But since Jeremiah won't get anywhere with polite requests, he'll have to go to more extreme measures. Like, the kind of extreme that first originated within the mind of Killing Joke writer Alan Moore.
Therein lies the major change from the comic to the Gotham narrative. While The Killing Joke focused on the Joker putting James Gordon through the mental wringer in an abandoned amusement park, Bruce is the one going through halls of horrors, with Alfred presumably standing in for Barbara Gordon. It makes sense, of course, since Jerome was the one who was more invested in destroying Jim on Gotham. I mean, Jeremiah did send that video to him, but he's still clearly more interested in opening Bruce's brain up for examination.
As many Batman fans are aware, The Killing Joke (along with its animated feature adaptation) is one of the most adult stories in the Caped Crusader's mythos, and it changed the game in a lot of ways. But then Gotham fans are aware that the show's hyper-heightened tone allows for some of the most grinningly sadistic scenes in broadcast TV. So I had to ask John Stephens if he and the rest of the crew were concerned about taking on The Killing Joke for Fox. In his words:
It's pretty violent, I have to be honest with you. [laughs] It's pretty gruesome. Yeah, there were definitely concerns about it. I wouldn't say they stopped us, but we were concerned.
Even just in the trailer that was released that teased moments from "One Bad Day," it looked like some truly horrifying things will happen that more squeamish TV fans might need to look away for. Alfred looks like he's going to be on his death bed by the end of things. Though I seriously doubt he'll end up turning into Oracle, as the paralyzed Barbara did in later comics.
Gotham is set to bring both its version of Killing Joke AND "No Man's Land" to fans. So tune into Fox on Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET for the final two installments of the craziest season of TV out there, and join us in clamoring for a Season 5 renewal. And then head to our summer premiere schedule to see what other new and returning shows will keep you busy in the coming months.
Head to the next page to catch the trailer for the final two episodes of the season, in which Bruce's Killing Joke terror is on full display.
Jeremiah may not officially be Gotham City's Clown Prince of Crime, but he's certainly cornering the market on anyone else who might attempt to make such an effort. Check out the extended-length trailer below, which heavily teases how Gotham is handling its Killing Joke story.