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Warning: spoilers ahead for the March 9 episode of Gotham.
Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) has finally made his triumphant return to Gotham. Now that Penguin is locked up at Arkham, he has to deal with Jerome as the king of the asylum, and Jerome hasn't exactly gotten less crazy since being incarcerated. In fact, Jerome seems more like the Joker now than ever before, although one star recently reaffirmed that Jerome is not actually the Joker. We do know that the Joker is on the way, and Cameron Monaghan spoke to CinemaBlend about why he doesn't see Jerome and the Joker as entirely separate:
Well, I think that saying that they're separate entities is a slight misnomer. Because I always considered that we call Jerome the proto-Joker, and I think that is exactly what he is within our show and in our canon. He is the foundation on which the Joker mythos is built upon. And I feel like, with Jerome, we wanted to pay tribute to the many different comic arcs and performances -- both in live-action and in the animated stuff. There's over 75 years of history to this character, and so we wanted to pay homage with this guy, and also introduce some new stuff with him as well. But now, especially this new character that's coming in, we really carve our own identity with this mythos, and introduce new elements and new methods of performance with him. We wanted to have a new voice in something that's going to be of interest within this universe. So it's exciting to get to both respect the old and also to introduce the new as well, and to have this pretty radical element.
Gotham has spent a couple of seasons now selling the idea that Jerome's antics at this point in the show's timeline ultimately inspire the Joker to become the Clown Prince of Crime, and Cameron Monaghan's comments indicate that Jerome will really serve as the foundation for the most legendary villain in Batman lore. Jerome as a proto-Joker has allowed Gotham to dabble in presenting a clownish madman and touching on existing Joker storylines without using the actual Joker so far. There's never any predicting what Jerome is going to do because he's an entirely original character to Gotham. Jerome may not be the Joker, but the Joker will evidently borrow some of what has made Jerome so effective on the series to date.
The good news is that Gotham will finally reveal the Joker himself sooner rather than later, and Cameron Monaghan was clear that we're in for all kinds of classic chaos when he does arrive on the scene. He had this to say about how Gotham can get truly creative in crafting its version of the villain:
We're not bound by the Batman canon. The show has shown many times over that it's willing to change things for the story that we're trying to tell. And I think that it's important with the Joker character, for things to not feel predictable, and for us to not be beholden by the stories that came before. And obviously to pay a tremendous amount of respect to them. But I think the audiences want to be kept on their toes, for it to be unpredictable. Sort of the key vision about the Joker and his influence in the story is he's not predictable. He's chaotic, so we have this really chaotic story coming in that I think is gonna be really cool.
Interestingly, Jerome and the Joker may be more closely connected than many of us could have guessed in earlier years. According to comments from Gotham actress Morena Baccarin, Monaghan will play a wholly new character in Season 4 in addition to Jerome, and Cameron Monaghan also mentioned in his chat with CinemaBlend that he's going to have "a new makeup look" that will be "exciting in its own sense." A double dose of Monaghan is almost certainly on the way in Gotham Season 4, and it's entirely possible that this second character will be the Joker. Only time will tell. Given what may happen at the very end of the season and Bruce's continuing development toward becoming Batman, we can be pretty confident that Jerome and the Joker won't be the only sources of chaos on Gotham in the foreseeable future.