Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't yet watched Gotham's winter finale.
At long last, Gotham brought Jerome Valeska back to audiences last week for his glorious return as the cult-inspiring prototype for The Joker, and just a single episode later, the Fox drama has already gotten rid of him a second time. Not only was the exit a face-flopping hoot, but Gotham has at last delivered a Bruce Wayne that has undeniably been pushed toward becoming the Dark Knight.
While it wasn't initially obviously how Jerome was going to again work his Joker influence in this version of Gotham City, it was recently teased that the antagonist's most recent arc would clear a more distinct path for Bruce's transition to vigilantism as Batman. And that's exactly what Gotham audiences got to see in "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies," with Bruce arguably suffering more than ever at the hands of his resurrected foe, as well getting a college-level lesson in human depravity.
With his consciousness and thoughts now back inside his formerly deceased head, Jerome had one main goal in his "al dente" mind: killing Bruce Wayne. And now that he had an entire cast of batshit hooligans following him around and doing his bidding, it was that much easier for the staple-faced goon to gain access into Wayne Manor to kidnap the young billionaire. Had Jerome been a smart cookie, he'd have just ended Bruce immediately, but he hesitated, and Bruce appealed to the villain's showman side.
This time around, Jerome and his fellow lunatics have taken over a carnival, where Whack-a-Human was particularly brutal, and Bruce faces a horrifying scenario as Jerome turns him into clown, complete with someone's blood being used as the "smile paint." That's when the psychological underpinnings come out, and Bruce molds some of the tenets that Batman has held true for most of his history. And it more or less got put into motion with this quote.
That stapler showdown between Bruce and Jerome was pretty badass, hinting at his grim-faced future, and I love any showdown that calls back to Enter the Dragon with a House of Mirrors scene. And it was during the reflection-filled sequence that Jerome attempted to fuel Bruce's own inner madness, offering him a gun and several opportunities to end Jerome for good. But as he sees himself in such a position, all the pieces snap in place to form that most holy of Batman laws: he refuses to kill. Alfred even makes him repeat it, just to make it that much clearer to anyone watching.
Perhaps the most cheer-worthy part of the episode, however, came in the end, when Jerome attempted his last-second spectacle and Jim Gordon literally punched the skin off of his face. (Those staples had to hurt his knuckles, right?) And then Jerome is taken away to jail, rather than suffering anything fatal, so we will almost definitely be hearing Cameron Monaghan's cackles on Gotham in the future.
Oh yeah, and Ed shot Oswald, so maybe Penguin is a goner? That's for another talk, though. We're still floating on how fucking gruesome Jerome's face looked after Bruce pummeled it so hard.