Gotham's Biggest Mystery Is (Still) The Joker

Season 4 of Gotham brought us closer than ever to a new live-action version of The Joker on the small screen, but in the end Jerome and Jeremiah were just two more pieces of a four-year tease by the show. After years of hints and misdirection, actor Cameron Monaghan recently revealed that Gotham can't call Jeremiah The Joker. Apparently, DC's fear is that having the Clown Prince of Crime on the TV series would dilute the villain's brand. It's the same logic we've heard for why Deathstroke and the Suicide Squad can't appear on Arrow anymore, but it hardly holds water.

DC has plenty of duplicate characters across film and television - even without counting animated offerings. Characters like The Flash and Superman exist in both mediums simultaneously, and audiences haven't seemed to take issue with this. What's more, but it's not as if Jared Leto is the lone Joker out there. Warner Bros. is actively developing a Joker origin movie starring a completely different actor in what looks to be a new universe of films. As such, the idea that the popular rogue can't also show up on TV - in a Batman prequel series nonetheless - doesn't exactly track.

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Regardless of what Gotham is or isn't allowed to include, the show certainly hasn't held back when it comes to teasing the viewers about the potential arrival of The Man Who Laughs. In fact, Gotham has worked in tons of Joker Easter eggs and presented several contenders for the mantle since season 1 of the show.

How Gotham Teased The Joker

Whether or not the showrunners for Gotham were always restricted in bringing The Joker to the small screen is unknown. What is clear is that, while Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska have come the closest to resembling the supervillain, creator Bruno Heller and the other producers on Gotham have spent years hinting that The Joker was coming.

At first, those teases took the form of Easter eggs and nods, including incorporeal laughter and "Hahaha" graffiti in the background of episodes. Towards the end of Season 1, we even met a group of criminals called the Red Hood Gang, whose name and appearance alluded to The Joker's origin story from the comics - specifically, Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. Between the references, the creatives on the show openly discussed how aspects of The Joker's mythos were being doled out on the show, all but confirming they were planning to introduce the character. And with early versions of Catwoman, The Penguin, and The Riddler already regulars on Gotham, the introduction of Batman's greatest foe seemed all but guaranteed.

Jerome Comes to Gotham

Cameron Monaghan as Jerome Valeska in Gotham season 2

Though the first couple of seasons of Gotham featured plenty of figures who could conceivably be The Joker, Cameron Monaghan's Jerome quickly shot to the top of the list. First appearing in Season 1's "The Blind Fortuneteller", Jerome initially seems like the opposite of The Joker. In fact, many fans worried the boyish actor couldn't quite fit the bill of the maniacal villain. But the character's reign of terror in Season 2 (which also helped reinvent Barbara Keen into a fan-favorite) showed he had what it takes to claim the mantle. Despite his popularity, however, Jerome was soon killed off and his journey seemed to end.

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But with the introduction of Hugo Strange and Indian Hill, death no longer became an issue of Gotham. Jerome was revived after a few teases of other potential Jokers, and his new face (inspired by the New 52) and renewed obsession with Bruce Wayne more than ever telegraphed that he was the show's one true Clown Prince of Crime. The midseason premiere trailer for Gotham season 4 even included a Joker playing card to tease Jerome's return after a year-long absence, serving as a fairly blatant parallel to the comic book character. But just when it seemed like the minds behind the show were ready to finally introduce The Joker, they upped the fantastical ante by giving Jerome a secret twin brother.

Jeremiah (Almost) Becomes The Joker

Earlier this year, Gotham star David Mazouz claimed the connection between Jerome and The Joker would be shocking. But with the whole of Season 4 in the rearview, that proved to be another false alarm. Granted, Jerome became more like The Joker than ever in this year's half of the season alone - even channeling Mark Hamill's voice for the character - but the writers once again killed the character off. Luckily, they added a new twist by introducing Jerome's long-lost twin brother Jeremiah, who has issues of his own and quickly bonds with Bruce Wayne.

As it turns out, Jerome only ever wanted to inspire someone else to take the baton and used Scarecrow to develop a version of The Joker's iconic laughing gas. The result saw Jeremiah become yet another take on The Joker - this time channeling Jack Nicholson from Batman. Jeremiah turned out to be an interesting iteration of the character, hiding his villainy under a mask of focus. But the multi-layered finale of Gotham Season 4 didn't do much to bring Jeremiah closer to The Joker. And with Monaghan claiming the character and his most well-known look are off-limits, Season 5 might not make good on the promise of the villain ever showing up.

Season 5 of Gotham will be its last, and will cut its episode count nearly in half. We already know a slew of new villains are coming to the city, so there will only be so much time to focus on Jeremiah. Knowing he can't truly become The Joker, questions are raised about whether Bruce can turn into any version of Batman. But whatever happens, it's clear Gotham isn't done with Jeremiah - and likely won't stop teasing the arrival of The Joker even until the series last laugh.

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