Spoilers for Gotham Episode 3. Be warned, Gothamites.
In its first three episodes of Season 2, Gotham has already eclipsed most of the uneven Season 1 both in story beats and in characters. And in “The Last Laugh,” the show pulled the wool both over our eyes and back off again, and then shoved it down our throats. After months of wondering whether Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome was actually The Joker or not, we finally have an answer, and it’s a resounding and blood-curdling “Nope.”
After Jerome stabbed his father in the eye and murdered him early in the episode, tonight’s act of mega-mayhem saw Jerome and Barbara taking over a charitable event as a magician and his assistant. Following a couple of standard magic tricks, their true intentions are revealed, and Leigh, Alfred and Bruce are all put into danger. But in steps the pseudo-hero Theo Galavan, who had already been knocked unconscious (or was he?) by Barbara. While the plan was obviously for Galavan to interrupt the havoc and play the good guy, he goes one step further and plunges a blade deep into Jerome’s neck, putting an end to theories that this red-headed cackler is actually the Clown Prince of Crime.
Part of me expected for even that to be a big gag, with Jerome rising up at the end of the episode, somehow fooling everyone into thinking he was dead. (With a fake neck with fake blood packets in it? I dunno.) But no, our favorite TV sociopath is indeed dead, with his eyes wide open and a smile plastered across his face.
This wasn't entirely a surprise, as it seemed clear that if Jerome wasn't The Joker that he would be killed off as to not allow his story to crossover with whatever Joker origins creator Bruno Heller has planned. After all, the character doesn't exist in the comic universe until Batman is doing his thing, and we know that's not coming for a while, so it makes sense for Jerome to have been a red-headed herring this whole time. But why'd they have to kill him off already? He was so good! Although Galavan had other thoughts about him.
Such a compelling character, but limited, you know. He was never going to last long.
The end of the episode possibly offers up another clue as to how the "real" Joker is going to come up in this universe, as Jerome's camera-ready madness worked its charm on quite a few different people who were all eager to impersonate his signature cackle. That homeless guy getting stabbed was pretty intense, and showed off just how psychotic people can get when they're influenced in such a way. But I can't imagine The Joker would get pegged with something as cheap as a copycat killer motivation. He's better than that.
R.I.P. Jerome Valeska. You would be a horror in real life, but were a fictional peach.