Until he appeared as Jerome on Gotham, Monaghan was best known for his role on Showtime's hit show, Shameless, where he played the tortured and beautiful Ian Gallagher. For five seasons, we've watched (often tearfully) as Ian struggled with his identity and the mental sickness that wreaked havoc on his psyche. While we in no way want to suggest that Ian is a villain, we can't help but think of some striking similarities between Monaghan's two major roles. For better or worse, the Joker and Ian have some things in common.
Monaghan confirmed his Gotham identity with a single, brilliant and eerie photo on Instagram and it reminded us of two other grins. One, of Heath Ledger's time as the Joker before his unfortunate demise. The other was Monaghan/Ian's coked-out grin on Shameless. You know what we're talkin' about...
Sure, the two characters were in there for very different reasons. Ian is bipolar, like his mother, and often spirals out of control. He's never killed anyone. The Joker is the Crown Prince of Crime. Instead of shifting from catatonic sadness to grinning, illogical euphoria (like Ian), various iterations have him going from a joke-telling mischief-maker to a truly insane, murderous villain. They're very different people, but both have spent time locked up for the parts of their minds they just can't seem to control.
As we saw, particularly in The Dark Knight, the Joker isn't entirely unfeeling. And while he doesn't necessarily like to dwell on his unhappiness, he is, ultimately, unhappy. Perhaps the only thing that brings the Joker true joy is tormenting Batman. Ian, meanwhile, tries continually to find happiness: in his relationship with his boss, his friendship with Mickey's sister, in the armed forces and in his relationship with Mickey. In all instances, happiness usually ends up rather fleeting.
We know the Joker's crimes, but we tend to write off Ian's because we love him so much. Over the seasons, Ian has done serious drugs, stolen and wrecked a helicopter, stolen his brother's identity and kidnapped a baby, among other things. Their reasons for committing those crimes aren't always similar, but sometimes they are. Sometimes it's just about getting enveloped in something other than your own thoughts... and cutting loose. Luckily, Ian's version of cutting loose has yet to result in a body count.
Harley Quinn and the Joker met at Arkham Asylum, where Harley worked as a psychiatrist. Despite knowing the signs of psychopathy and having the intellect that should keep her from falling prey to the Joker's manipulations, she continually has. She continually helped the Joker escape the Asylum and upon seeing his mangled body after a particularly bad run-in, she was driven insane and soon found herself donning her jester's suit and working alongside her evil and insane boyfriend. Ian puts Mickey through a different sort of torture. He's never actively manipulated Mickey, but this last season was particularly difficult for them between Ian excitedly stealing luggage as a way to make money and then running off with Mickey's son. In a manic high, Ian has partied and slept with numerous other men, but at the end of the day, Mickey is there to scoop up his broken "Orange Boy" and bring him home.
While Monaghan has stepped into an iconic role and will suffer major backlash if he doesn't perfectly nail his role as the Joker, all signs point to his casting being a true success. Shameless' Ian is far from being a murderous, villainous psychopath, but we can't help but think everything Monaghan and Ian have been through together so far has helped prepare the actor for his time as the Joker on Gotham. Only time will tell, though.
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