EXCLUSIVE: How Gotham's Version of The Killing Joke Will Test Alfred's Limits


WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for the May 10 episode of Gotham.

The words "one bad day" mean a lot in Batman's mythology. The phrase was famously uttered by Batman's greatest enemy in The Killing Joke, part of the Joker's monologue as a pseudo-explanation as to how a man could sink so low as to shoot and paralyze Barbara Gordon and torture her father James, the commissioner of the Gotham Police Department.

Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's classic graphic novel told a possible origin for Batman's most insane foe, a story based around the idea that it can take just "one bad day" for a person to snap and become . Though controversial due to its treatment of Batgirl, the story is one of the most famous to feature the Dark Knight and his biggest enemy, and is considered by many fans to be the definitive Joker tale.

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It's little surprise, then, that Fox's Gotham would turn to Moore and Bolland's comic for inspiration in building the show's own Joker mythology. In an upcoming interview with CBR, executive producer John Stephens makes no secret of the influence the graphic novel has had on how the series (set in the years before Bruce Wayne becomes a costumed crimefighter) is developing its own version of the Clown Prince of Crime.

While Gotham's creators have made a point of telling fans that the show will never have a single definitive Joker, the story of Jeremiah (the brother of the original proto-Joker, Jerome) will take a severe detour down a road eerily similar to the one Moore and Bolland paved decades ago in the show's May 10 episode, appropriately titled "One Bad Day."

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"Jeremiah is going to kidnap Alfred, and then torture him in a sense to drive Bruce insane," Stephens told CBR. "The new episode really plays out in many ways like our version of The Killing Joke. It really keys into the idea that all it takes is one bad day to drive somebody insane. Where Jeremiah is driven by this idea that he and Bruce are connected in a way, that they are two halves of the same coin. Again, we are trying to articulate our version of that psychology of the Joker and Batman in the comics. In [episode] 21, he is going to be trying to drive Bruce insane. Where he himself was driven insane by his brother, Jerome, Jeremiah is first trying to do it by torturing Alfred."

Those familiar with The Killing Joke will recognize the described scene as closely mirroring the Joker's kidnapping and torture of Commissioner Gordon in the source material. But while James Gordon is one of Gotham's main characters, it makes sense for the scenario to sub in Alfred here. His and Bruce's relationship has become more and more the focus of the show this season, and noting will take the young man closer to his breaking point than the prospect of losing the only member of his family he has left.

Check back with CBR shortly for our full discussion with Stephens, and tune in to Gotham tonight to see how closely it plays to DC Comics' The Killing Joke.

Airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox, Gotham stars Ben McKenzie as James Gordon, Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin, Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean and Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth.

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