WARNING: This article contains spoilers for episodes 3×13 and 3×14 of Gotham
Last night’s Gotham episode marks the beginning of a 3-episode arc that will be focusing on Jerome Valeska, his cult, and the anarchy he brings to the city. The show has hyped up the arc to no end, but it’s not like fans needed any extra motivation: viewers have wanted Jerome’s return ever since the moment he died. With the introduction of the Indian Hill/Hugo Strange storyline and the constant “HAHAHA” teases, it was only a matter of when and how.
Unfortunately, ‘Ghosts’ does not offer anything new that we didn’t already know, but it does clarify and confirm some of the theories regarding Jerome Valeska’s revival. We got introduced to Jerome’s loyal follower, Dwight (played by David Dastmalchian, who was also one of the Joker’s thugs on The Dark Knight). Dwight is currently working at a morgue, where he’s doing experiments to bring people back from the dead. The episode ends with Dwight announcing that’s “it’s time to get him,” and going by the promo for next week’s episode, he succeeds:
“One of the things that immediately jumped out when I got the scripts was the great homages paid to some of the most classic Joker stories, including “The Killing Joke” and “The Dark Knight Returns.” There’s also references to the New 52 Joker as well, specifically the “Death of the Family” storyline.” – Cameron Monaghan for TVInsider.
Right now it seems like the arc could go something like this: Dwight tries to revive Jerome, but it doesn’t work so he steals his face to steal his identity. What Dwight doesn’t know is that the experiment did work: Jerome wakes up at the GCPD and proceeds to attack Lee (perhaps to force her to stitch his face back on?). Judging by the fact that Jerome’s wearing the cop uniform again, as well as this promotional photo, it seems like he would escape the GCPD to go look for Dwight/his cult. As per episode 14, we know that Jerome will have a crucial showdown with Bruce and Alfred that’s supposed to change Bruce’s philosophy forever.
And then what?
A few hours before ‘Ghosts’ aired, Cameron Monaghan shared a tweet to a (now deleted) Instagram post. Fortunately, fan account @CameronMSOURCE took a screencap of it. Aside from thanking FOX, DC and Warner Bros. for giving him the opportunity “to pay tribute to such a great villain,” Monaghan also went on about his excitement for this mini arc. Some fans were quick to point out that Monaghan used the past tense in many of the sentences (eg: “We had more story to tell and we got to tell it) and how the post had a tone of finality to it. Meaning, this might as well be Jerome’s last appearance in the show. Granted, it could also just be Monaghan being extremely passionate and grateful for the role. After all, Season 4 of Gotham has yet to be confirmed.
When asked about the possibility of Jerome being killed off again, Cameron Monaghan replied with the following:
“His ideology is something that cannot be exterminated and has spread like cockroaches, you know, he himself is extremely durable. As hateful and terrible as he is, you have to admire his ability for perseverance throughout this story. [Laughs] It’s kind of the defining feature in the Joker myth, this idea that this character is unstoppable. He’s the immovable object to Batman’s unstoppable force. He can come back from pretty much any sort of physical damage. The idea of death doesn’t necessarily stop him and we kind of play with that really in some ways, especially towards playing with the arc, that I think is going to catch people off guard.”
While nothing in this quote seems to indicate that Jerome will die again (not like the actor would be allowed to reveal such a thing), there could be some hints regarding the character’s future. The show has often toyed with the idea of the Joker being an ideology. This decision is reinforced by Jerome’s father’s words right before he died, as well as Jerome’s contagious laughter earning him a cult following. You can kill a person, but not an idea. It’s certainly an original take on the character, but it’s got one little problem: the audience wants Jerome. And they want him to become the Joker.
“If he’s so loved (and Gotham needs those ratings), why not have him as a series regular?”
Cameron Monaghan’s commitment to Shameless might be one of the reasons behind this. However, much of it also has to do with Gotham and its identity problem. Despite having started out as Batman-prequel/police procedural show, the writers probably realized it was the villains that made the show really stand out. Introducing a proto-Joker in the first season was seen as a desperate move for ratings by many, but it worked well. Perhaps too well. The Joker is the most popular Batman villain, and Monaghan’s performance was so mesmerizing he instantly became a fan favorite. Even fans of the DC universe who were not into Gotham would tune in only to see this new live-action version of the character. Unfortunately, there’s one small problem: Gotham is not ready for the Joker yet.
Many of the villains that appear in the show are supposed to be born as a reaction to Batman’s effect in Gotham. In the current timeline, Bruce Wayne is still far from becoming Batman. That’s OK, though: Gotham has always done its own thing, and its storylines are not meant to be taking as canon at all. Still, the show has to hold some credibility. You can send villains like Fish Mooney away for a while, but you cannot send the Joker away with no explanation. And you can keep calculative villains like The Riddler or The Penguin around, but you can’t have the personification of anarchy and chaos in the show, and not have it be the main attraction. The Joker is the type of character that should be introduced as the ultimate villain once Bruce has become Batman. That’s why he was introduced too soon.
But what is the show supposed to do until Bruce becomes Batman? Kill him and bring him back again and again? Make him stay on the sidelines, which would be completely out of character? One plausible solution would be to put him back in Arkham. This option would also fit with the recent news about Harley Quinn appearing in this season. Seeing a young Harleen Quinzel working as a psychiatrist in Arkham and meeting the Joker there could work pretty well (we just have to ignore Harleen should be in middle school at this point). Or, who knows, maybe she’s just one of Jerome’s cult followers! Regardless of how it turns out, Harley Quinn’s introduction sheds some hope on Jerome still sticking around for a while.