'Gotham': Could the 'Red Hood' Be a Red Herring?

Three alternative theories about who and what Jerome might turn into in the Fox drama.
Courtesy of FOX

After his debut in last week’s Gotham, Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome looks set to continue along the path to becoming the Joker in tonight’s episode — or does he? Sure, the episode’s title is “Red Hood,” which is certainly a loaded term when it comes to the Joker, but the Clown Prince of Crime is far from the only character in Batman’s comic book world to claim that identity.

For those unfamiliar with the Joker’s comic book history, the character’s origin is somewhat apocryphal. While it’s never been outright stated as fact, a number of stories — most notably, The Killing Joke, a 1988 graphic novel written by Watchmen’s Alan Moore — suggest that the Joker was originally a criminal called the Red Hood who found himself dropped into a vat of chemicals that turned his skin white and his hair green, driving him insane in the process. (Other stories have kept the chemical bath but changed his pre-Joker identity; the 1989 Batman movie from director Tim Burton, for example, identified the Joker as a mugger named Jack Napier.)

With showrunner Bruno Heller telling THR that the debut of Monaghan’s Jerome was “not a bait and switch” when it came to the Joker, it certainly looks as if “Red Hood” is hinting that this is the path that the show is going to take. But that’s not to say there aren’t alternatives. Here are three potential ways in which Gotham can provide a Red Hood that won’t end up laughing his way to (and from) the bank.

Jason Todd

This one might require some serious suspension of disbelief, as it centers around the comic book trope of “What if someone died, and then got better?” The someone in this case is Jason Todd, Batman’s second Robin in comic book mythology — he’s on his fifth or sixth right now, depending on whether you count Carrie Kelley, the Robin from a possible future timeline, for those wondering — and, importantly, a character killed by the Joker.

The death didn’t take, for reasons that might be familiar to those watching Arrow on The CW, and upon his return, Todd discovered that he’d been replaced as Robin, and instead adopted an identity believed to be used by the man responsible for his death. This Red Hood went on to become a somewhat violent antihero, trying to live up to Batman’s legacy while rejecting his methods. Could Jerome end up becoming a pre-Batman vigilante on Gotham?

Professor Overbeck

Perhaps best described as a deep cut, Professor Overbeck is a little-known character from Batman '66, the comic book spinoff of the 1960s Batman TV show starring Adam West. Overbeck holds an unusual place in Red Hood history, in that he literally wasn’t in his right mind when he used the Red Hood name — instead, he was being controlled by the Joker himself in an attempt to throw Batman off the scent of the true culprit.

In this, Overbeck might prove to be an inspiration for Gotham’s Jerome: What if he’s not the Joker after all, but a distraction from the real thing elsewhere in the city? After all, what better character to attempt a sleight-of-hand trick with than one called “the Joker”?

The Red Hood Gang

As seen in the “Zero Year” storyline from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman comic book, the Red Hood gang is a group of criminals dressed identically — dark suits and red hoods covering their entire heads — and led by a criminal mastermind called Red Hood One, who wears a modified helmet and bright red cape. The genius of the Red Hood Gang is its scale: not all involved are career criminals, with some having been blackmailed into participating by Red Hood One.

It’s strongly implied, though never stated outright, that Red Hood One eventually becomes the Joker. He was last seen falling into a vat of chemicals a la the traditional Joker origin — which might allow Gotham to have its cake and eat it too: If Jerome turns out to be Red Hood One, he becomes Schrodinger’s Joker — a character who both is and isn’t the Joker, depending on your reading of events.

Gotham airs Monday on Fox.