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Did we just meet the REAL Joker?

Not that there’s been any real doubt about Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome being the un-official Joker for FOX’s Gotham, but this past week’s episode, “Mandatory Brunch Meeting,” pushed the character even closer toward iconic-Joker status.

Yes, on top of having his own face sewn on to his face, the joker card Easter egg from a few weeks ago, this week’s “One Bad Day” reference, and many more Joker hallmarks, Jerome acquired his first ever batch of Joker Venom/Joker Gas this week. It’s not labeled as Smylex, or anything of that ilk, as of yet, but it has the exact same effects.

The “test subject” Jerome acquired at the end was exposed to the chemicals, burst into a fit of laugher, developed a gruesome grin, and then died. As Gotham’s fourth season barrels toward its endgame, Jerome plans to unleash this toxin on the city.

So Jerome’s got the gas now and aside from officially adopting the moniker Joker, he’s the complete Joker. Gotham’s been all about the early years of these villains and the idea that all of Batman’s classic rogues’ gallery existed before Batman – and that the inevitable creation of Batman is actually a response to the villains (the lore usually has it flipped the other way), so in this remix of the source material it makes total sense that Joker’s around this early. Plus, Monaghan is superb as Jerome.

But, at the same time, the story offered up a bizarre twist (when is Gotham not assaulting us with bizarre twists, right?). Jerome’s long lost/hidden twin brother Jeremiah, also played by Monaghan, was introduced. A reclusive engineer genius holing up in an underground bunker maze, Jeremiah was plucked out of the circus by their uncle and sent off to an orphanage in order to protect him from psycho sibling Jerome.

Or so Jeremiah says.

There’s no question that Jerome is a maniac but it became clear by the end of the episode that Jeremiah wasn’t telling the full truth. In a moment between the two brothers, it was revealed hat Jeremiah had lied about Jerome trying to kill him as a young boy. So if Jerome wasn’t an actual danger to Jeremiah, then why was he taken away? Was it for his protection…or Jerome’s?

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Cameron Monaghan as Jeremiah Valeska.

Could Gotham be trying to play a sick shell game here? Will Jerome die (again) by the end of this story, leaving Jeremiah to become the REAL Joker? Will he have his “one bad day?” Or, is there already a madman locked up dormant inside of him and he was taken away from his brother because that connection drew out the absolute worst in Jeremiah?

On top off this, Jeremiah already comes with his own enigmatic blonde bodyguard – an ass-kicker named Miss Ecco (Francesca Root-Dodson). Yes, Jeremiah totally has a feisty female sidekick. She’s nothing like Harley though. But, when the dust settles on this story, perhaps Jerome’s gone and Jeremiah’s locked up and with Ecco gone (maybe she perishes too), he’s looking for a new Number Two. And Dr. Quinzel shows up to treat him and we finally get that Harley nod that was rumored to happen in last season’s finale.

What do you guys think about this? All in all, Monaghan would still be playing Joker, if the show goes forward with a fifth season, but…is this twist really necessary? After the past two big Jerome outings I think fans were pretty much okay with him being Joker. When he was first brought on it was all about how he was a proto-Joker, possibly influencing the man who’d become the real Joker down the line.

But as the seasons progressed and Monaghan continued to slay in the role, we all just adopted him as the show’s Joker. The last thing we really needed now, as Jerome’s solidly slid into the Joker role, was for the rug pulled out from under him and for the show to return to the old idea of “Oh, he’s just the inspiration for someone else.” Gotham’s been at its best when it wasn’t playing toward/feeding into the “future show we’ll never see.” It should live in its own madness and not feel like a stepping stone.

Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA). Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.





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