Last night, Gotham season 5 reached an iconic Bat-mythos moment that fans have been waiting to see on the prequel series for years. David Mazouz’s Bruce Wayne and Cameron Monaghan’s Jeremiah Valeska had a grand showdown in the Ace Chemicals factory, culminating in the latter falling in a vat of acid. In short, it gave us the birth of the Joker.
This iconic event, of course, dates back years in the comics, but followers of Batman’s on-screen adventures will probably most know the Clown Prince of Crime’s origins story from 1989’s Batman, when Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson played out the same scene. Gotham has always been keen to pay homage to previous adaptations of the Dark Knight and, sure enough, episode 5×07 featured a subtle easter egg to Tim Burton’s classic movie.
On one of the vats in the chemical factory, a label reading “Ace Chemicals 1989” can be glimpsed. This neat visual reference also served to set the tone of the scene, telling viewers that things were going old school for the confrontation and the show was taking a page out of that well-loved take on the Batman/Joker rivalry. Even though the film actually called the factory “Axis Chemicals” instead.
Interestingly, the main plot of the episode also called back to Batman ‘89. It saw Jeremiah trying to recreate the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne as he wanted to be the one responsible for taking Bruce’s parents away from him. As Burton/Keaton fans will know, their movie shook up the hero’s backstory to have Jack Napier – the Joker’s real name – revealed to be the Waynes’ murderer.
This isn’t the first time that Gotham has harked back to the Burton movies, of course. One of the coolest things it did was getting Paul Reubens to play Oswald Cobblepot’s father, a role he previously portrayed in 1992’s Batman Returns. No doubt there will be some great homages to the rest of Bat-history as well as Gotham hurtles towards its series finale, in which Bruce Wayne will officially become Batman.