Welcome to Heroes and Villains, a place where we look back at the Premier League action and try to figure out where our favourite footballers would fit in the storytelling universe. It would be super boring to just list a bunch of people under those two categories, so for this, we will be incorporating more than just the protagonist/antagonist labels.

Over the weekend, Todd Phillip’s, the director best known for outrageous mid-2000s comedy films like The Hangover and Old School, dropped a new flick to the cinematic public – The Joker, an origin story for Batman and the greater comic book universe’s most disturbing, twisted, and (confusingly) revered villain. In now the 7th cinematic version of the creepy, sadistic clown, actor Joaquin Phoenix (yes, that guy who played Johnny Cash, the one country musician you’ve heard of, and a man who falls head over heels in love with a Siri/Alex-like computer interface) does his best to show viewers how a normal, easy-going, failed comedian became the vilest fictional baddie of all-time. 

Playing the Joker is a tough gig for an actor. With all due respect to Cesar Romero, who played the character in the 1966 film Batman: The Movie, the first time the clown stole the show was when Oscar winner- Jack Nicholson took on the role in 1989. Mark Hamill, a.k.a. Luke Skywalker, next impressed with his absolutely bonkers voice-acting take on the villain. It’s pretty amazing how creepy and nuts a cartoon version of the character can be but Hamill’s version was the closest to capturing the qualities that made the Joker such a success in the printed comics. It wasn’t until 2008 that an actor decided to even attempt the role when Heath Ledger set the bar for a movie villain in The Dark Knight. Ledger was met with universal acclaim, his version will forever be deemed Messi/Ronaldo status in all of comic cinematic history. Since then we’ve seen Jared Leto in Suicide Squad and now Phoenix.

But, the role has lasting effects on those who played it. Leto stayed in character during the entire movie shoot, reports surfaced that he constantly isolated himself and acted in bizarre fashion, sending dead rats and pigs to his co-stars. Nicholson never publically talked about it but was furious that he wasn’t consulted in helping during the casting of the character in The Dark Knight, mainly because he didn’t have a chance to dissuade the next actor from taking the job. He is on record as “having warned” Ledger of the psychological problems playing the villain. Sadly, Ledger died of a drug overdose at the age of 28 prior to the release of the movie. He is said to have become dependent on prescription pills, sleeping only two hours a night, while he kept a running journal in the voice of the character. Only time will tell if Phoenix, who not long ago many thought suffered several mental breakdowns, feels any post-effects of playing the character, 

These portrayals have all been varied and vastly different from one another,  except for one common element – nihilism. Ever since the character’s introduction in the very 1st issue of Batman comics in 1940, he has truly only wanted one thing: to cause absolute chaos and disruption within society. The Joker said, When the chips are down, these, uh, these “civilized people,” they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve… The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.”

And so that finally brings us to our look at the action this week and the key theme: chaos and disruption. Things were so disrupted that there wasn’t even a “Heroes and Villains” column for Matchday 7 (sorry to disappoint the dedicated HV Hive out there). Note: There will be no mention of Tottenham Hotspur in this article. There will be a Spurs-centered H&V during the international break.

Looking back on the past seven days, it almost seems as if the Joker, the clown prince of evil, had his hands all over these results. Let’s look at some of the big results of the weekend, through the lens of Joker’s most famous storylines.

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In 1988, DC Comics did something unimaginable – they asked the opinions of their readers. The company gave Batman fans a vote: should Robin, the Caper Crusader’s boy side-kick, live or should he die?

Die, was the overwhelming response. Readers waited patiently for A Death in the Family, pondering and hypothesizing how Robin would meet his end. After months of speculation, the writers decided there was only one villain best suited to ending the life of Batman’s pre-pubescent BFF. 

In the story, Robin has been searching for his biological mother, becoming a tad more emotionally unstable and impulsive with each issue. Batman can’t control or understand him anymore. The Joker senses his vulnerability, sets up a scheme to reunite Robin with his doctor mother, and blackmails the mom to give him access to a medical warehouse so he can make some venom to kill thousands. Oh, and she hands Robin, her own son, over to the bad guy. 

After hours of torturing Robin with a crowbar, Joker takes mercy and blows up the entire building with a timed bomb. Bye-bye, Boy Wonder. 

In order to make our football comparison, think of the most prestigious club in England’s history: Manchester United. The Red Devils spent years cleaning up the lesser competition, led by their fearless crusader Sir Alex. There were some difficult years with Moyes, Van Gaal, and Mourinho but the team seemed to finally get things moving in the right direction in the second half of last season, rolling off 14 of 19 matches in mid-March. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the once heavily-relied upon member of Ferguson’s sides, a baby-faced pretty boy just like Robin, was given too much too soon. He wasn’t ready. One decided to ignore the advice of his superiors, feeling confident he could handle the Joker alone, the other thought he could compete with Pep Guardiola, with only the help of Aaron Wan-Bisseka and Harry Maguire. 

If only United fans had the option of that timed bomb Joker set. The 72nd minute of Sunday’s fixture would have been a perfect time! Instead, they got Longstaff-ed, embarrassingly losing to Newcastle at Old Trafford. I’m certain most would pick that quick death over the crowbar Ole constantly is beating them with each week.

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One of the most important settings in the Batman universe is Arkham Asylum, where the majority of Batman’s enemies are detained after their plans of destruction are thwarted. In 1989’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth, Batman is summoned by the request of the Joker and the asylum’s inmates, all of whom have taken over the facility. He must come to save the hostages but, to do so, he must “play a game of hide-and-seek”. Along the way, Batman confronts some of his most dreaded foes and himself as he confronts a setting designed to prey on his weaknesses, inconsistency, and fragile mindset.

Carrow Road is the Premier League’s Arkham Asylum. 

There is no consistency in any way to the way Daniel Farke’s squad plays at home. Here’s a look at Norwich City’s home matches this season:

  • 3-1 victory over Newcastle. 
  • A 2-3 defeat against Chelsea. 
  • A shocking 3-2 upset of the champions, Manchester City. 
  • And a 5-1 loss to….Aston Villa?

Perhaps the Joker has been using this for his home base and he has left all his booby traps around the pitch? There aren’t many other explanations that hold up for me. How could the Canaries hold Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, and Pep off for 90 minutes but can’t withstand Wesley?

We need to get the Caped Crusader up to Norwich to investigate pronto. Something weird is going on up there. It’s a real looney bin.

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Exposed. 

It is both the word to describe Manchester City’s defence and the central aspect of the Joker’s most vile controversial, and revolting schemes in comic history. 

In 1988’s The Killing Joke, the Joker had a theory that a single bad event can disrupt the course and character of a “good” person, turning them “bad”. To prove this idea, he kidnaps Barbara Gordon, the real name of Batgirl and the daughter of close Batman ally, Commissioner James Gordon. While kidnapped, Joker shoots her in the spine, leaving her paralyzed, takes dozens of nude photos of her, and, after capturing her father, forces him to view poster-sized versions of those photos while tied up to a ride in an amusement park. 

Just like the troubling plot device of using a female character’s body as motivation, there were some troubling signs in City’s second loss of the season: no defence.

If you were to go by statistics, this game certainly didn’t favour Wolves. Yet, despite 77% possession and 18 total shots, City and Wolverhampton ended up with two shots on target each. Wolves went in, City’s did not. 

The strangest part of The Killing Joke is that readers don’t really know what happened at the end. From Wikipedia, ”From the text itself, the ending is ambiguous. According to one view, Batman breaks the Joker’s neck out of the panel, causing the laughter to stop abruptly. According to another view, Batman and the Joker, who has been fighting for years, end-all of their disputes by having a good laugh about it all. Though many people, fans and critics alike, have debated each of these theories, the ending was purposely left uncertain to allow each individual reader to decide what happened.”

When this season started, many thought we knew what would happen. I would have bet my home that City would be well on their way to a three-peat. But like the comic book’s ending, things are a bit more unclear. My faith in this football club is shakier than Nicholas Otamendi’s defensive positioning.

I don’t know if this means the end of Pep’s reign. It would be sad to call the title race in the first week of October, but with Liverpool 8 points clear and City’s defensive group looking worse each week, I’m starting to lean more toward Merseyside.

 

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I hate to sound like a hater but I was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of watching a pissed off-Jurgen. After James Maddison streaked through the Liverpool box, leveling the count against Liverpool, I was certain that the European Champions were going to drop their first points this year. And to B Rodg, nonetheless. 

It all felt so right and in sync with the entire weekend. Leicester City had been creating issues for Liverpool all day, clearly deserving something in this one. Yet, the football gods, who have inexplicably been favouring the Reds for close to a year, struck again. 

In Going Sane, the Joker believes that he has finally accomplished his goal of killing Batman. Joker decides it’s finally time to go straight and leave the crime game. It doesn’t take too long for the Joker, under his new guise of everyman, Joe Kerr, to get a job, fall in love, and lead a seemingly normal life. 

Because Joker realizes that he needs Batman. Without him, he doesn’t have any reason to trick or manipulate or scheme. And Batman, who actually survived the Joker’s murderous attempt, contemplates what to do with himself when his arch-villain is off the street.

There’s the real lesson, folks. Order can’t exist without chaos. Chaos can’t exist with order. Batman needs Joker just as much as Joker needs Batman.

As much as I prayed to see Liverpool, City, Spurs, United, Arsenal, & Chelsea all lose, it was too big of an ask for the footballing spirits. When Milner stepped up to the penalty spot, everyone watching the match knew. Liverpool restored the order.

Even in a week of wild results and unforeseen twists, we are reminded that almost always Batman, the favourite, the one with more resources, will come out on top. While the Big Six may seem like a frustrating concept, and the teams will certainly go through some temporary dips over the years, they are needed to bring order to this league. But we need the other clubs, the underdogs, the up-and-comers to inject shock and challenge those teams, week in and week out.

That’s the beauty of this league and the sport overall.

And that, ya’ll, is no Joke. 

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Until next week, just remember that we can all be a hero. Even when you are old. Or look like a potato sack filled with bones sitting on top of a Roomba so it can be moved around. Wait, is that Roy Hodgson?