When Gotham first debuted, fans were curious how the series was going to manage integrating familiar characters from the Batman mythos when most major players were traditionally depicted as being in the same relative age-range as Bruce Wayne. The series’ answer, so far: Have them show up anyway, and worry about a Rogues Gallery full of senior citizens later. But the “main” Batman nemesis, The Joker, still has yet to appear – officially.

Now, a new photo again teases the possibility of The Clown Prince of Crime arriving, as part of the return of an old enemy. While Gotham has been more than eager to introduce “beta release” versions of famous Batman foes like Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Joker has always been treated as a special case. Instead of debuting a full-on “Young Joker” (a character whose actual origin is often framed as being a mystery even to himself), the series teased fans with actor Cameron Monaghan as Jerome Valesky, a deeply-disturbed homicidal youngster whose mannerisms and signature laugh deliberately evoked you-know-who.

The character was seemingly killed-off in a surprise move early in season 2, but that didn’t stop both the series and fans from theorizing that perhaps Jerome’s posthumous popularity among Gotham City’s criminal class would inspire someone else to become The Joker – though such theories became complicated when trailers for season 3’s January return showed Jerome himself seemingly back from the dead. Shortly thereafter, Monaghan himself added fuel by Tweeting (and then deleting) an image of himself in what looks very much like a Joker costume:

The images (which have now been widely copied and shared across social media) seemingly show Jerome having either transformed or costumed himself into a look that reflects a traditional post-1980s vision of The Joker, with the signature smile, green hair and a bright purple vest. No context was given for the image, so it can’t be known whether it’s a publicity still, a rejected costume test or just the actor having fun – though it does feel timed to raise awareness of Gotham and Jerome’s impending return.

Gotham (the third season of which has been subtitled “Mad City”) is set to return mid-January 16th, 2017 with the 12th episode of the season, “Ghosts.” Previews for the return have depicted Gordon encountering a gathering of Jerome’s cult-like followers, only to view a video that appears to depict a back-from-the-dead Jerome announcing his comeback.

Gotham season 3 returns January 16th, 2017 @8pm on Fox.

Source: Twitter