What a "Joker" that Cameron Monaghan is — swapping Shameless for Gotham, the red-headed 20-something rules the roost as the rather familiar face of #Fox's #Batman bonanza. For those who haven't been tuning in (and why not?), Monaghan plays Jerome Valeska, a boy with a psychotic past, who makes trouble for Ben McKenzie's Jim Gordon and a young Bruce Wayne.
From a one-episode stint in the show's first season to an untimely demise in the second, even in the grave, Valeska went on to gather quite the following. However, with fans demanding more, there was a "Hush" that Jerome would be back to be the "Bane" of #Gotham's future, but little did we expect, that "Under the Red Hood," would be someone all too familiar. With a cackle (and a facelift), Jerome was back in Season 3 to embrace his destiny as Batman's most notorious foe. This is why Jerome Valeska, a.k.a. the #Joker, is undoubtedly the best of a young Bruce Wayne's increasing Rogue's Gallery, while Brucey is barely out of diapers.
Hamming It Up
Look, let's be honest, Gotham isn't exactly groundbreaking television, nor is it going after any Academy Awards with its acting. With more ham than a butcher's window, at least Gotham knows what it is good at. While some performances come off as a little OTT, that is exactly what you need from Mr. J. As soon as Monaghan premiered his role back in Season 1's "The Blind Fortune Teller," the internet was awash with rumors that this kid could possibly be the Clown Prince of Crime. Working alongside the rather famous Flying Graysons at the circus, Jerome wasted no time in taking a hatchet to his mother and stepping out on his own — a small thing like an arrest wasn't going to stop him.
Out acting even the likes of Ben McKenzie's lead as Jim Gordon, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean, or Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin, Monaghan becomes star of the week in any episode he (briefly) turns up in. Away from the comedy and the witty one-liners, there is the perfect balance of darkness that every Mr. J needs. Take for example the show's most recent episode "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies." Swinging a batarang from nowhere at us, we had an hour of television inspired by Alan Moore's lauded 1988 novel #TheKillingJoke. Admittedly, there was no nude Jim Gordon, or Babs in a wheelchair, but the inspiration for the finale was clear — and that's what Gotham does best: weaving 78 years of Detective Comics into an otherwise humdrum show.
But back to Jerome's formative steps and his time in Arkham Asylum. His appearance in Season 2 led to slightly more screentime, becoming the leader of the Maniax gang and littering Gotham with corpses. However, a big twist for fans saw Jerome stabbed in the neck by Theo Galavan and left to die with the iconic Joker grim, etched in blood, across his face. It led many to think, "OK, maybe this kid wasn't the Joker," but thanks to a series of cryptic interviews, and Monaghan's social media presence, it looked like Jerome wasn't done just yet.
Returning as a corpse in Season 3's "Ghosts," a cryogenically frozen Joker was resurrected only one episode later by the madcap Dwight. Incorporating several strands of Batman lore for quite the showdown, the way in which it was done was nothing short of brilliant. A cult of Jerome fanatics wanted to bring Jerome back to life, emulating the gang of Jokerz from the animated Batman Beyond. However, the real fun began when Dwight inadvertently took on the roll of Dollmaker, who took Joker's face off prior to the events from Batman: Death of the Family for Jerome's *erm* fancy new look. As far as "back from the dead" returns go, Gotham got it right!
The Leto We Wanted
Now, don't shoot the messenger here, but the general consensus is that Monaghan hits Leto's performance right out of the park. Just the right hint of Jack Nicholson unpredictability and a dash of Ledger. Sure, it may be a little too Heath-esque at times — featuring eye rolls and tongue licks — but if it worked for the Nolan-verse, why change it? Whereas #JaredLeto's Joker was all shiny grills and a tapestry of tattoos, Jerome is a little more relatable. In his raw form, Jerome gives us the Joker origin we have been craving, and what's even more impressive, Monaghan has nailed the best Joker laugh since (dare I say it) Mark Hamill's glorious tenure as the madman.
Just like "The Man Behind the Red Hood" from 1951, and later fleshed out in #TheKillingJoke and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, having a Joker with an origin will divide critics. Some are used to the ambiguous "Do you know how I got these scars?", which was the epitome of Heath Ledger's character, but on a #TV show, you come to expect a backstory. Gotham may not have the hype of #WarnerBros. and the #SuicideSquad, but perhaps Leto and co. could also take a few pointers. The main point of Joker is to put on a show and have a little fun on the way, not submit an entry for Best Rap Artist at the Grammys. A lighter side of the dark was something we would have expected from David Ayer's introduction of Joker into the #DCEU, but sorely missed, whereas Monaghan has it just about right.
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The Joke's On You
Perhaps the best bit is though, Jerome isn't even the Joker!
At no point during the show has the J word been bandied about. Sure, the name Valeska sounds a lot like Valestra (Joker's origins in Mask of the Phantasm), he dressed as a police officer, took on a hospital, and hijacked a bus (all nods to Ledger), and was responsible for the death of Commissioner Sarah Essen (like comic book Joker), but showrunners are in no hurry to get out the clown makeup just yet. Monaghan even revealed that his most recent stint on the show was originally meant to be as short as the rest. Speaking about “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies," Monaghan said it was curtains for the clown:
“I don’t think the producers will mind me saying that initially Jerome wasn’t going to live. He wasn’t originally going to make it through this confrontation. He was going to be beheaded and that was going to be it for him. Ultimately they decided that instead, we’ll go the opposite way and really embrace the idea of the character being involved in the Joker mythos...They decided not to dance around it but instead embrace it and bring the audience on the roller coaster ride of the episode, allowing it to be open-ended, playing into whatever they decide to do with that stuff later down the line."
Monaghan had previously been interviewed prior to Jerome's first death, saying that the Joker is more of an idea than a man. Just as Nolan tried to round off The Dark Knight Returns, featuring Batman as a symbol, it looked like Gotham was queuing up its own batch of tortured Joker-esque souls, for someone to eventually take on the title. Perhaps Gotham should take a piece of its own advice, as Jim Gordon said to Dwight:
“Well, for the record you’re doing one thing Jerome never did, boring me.”
Not that the show needs Jerome to survive, but with the announcement of his impending return, you could just skip a half season and thrown yourself back into the action. With so many intertwining storylines, Gotham is pretty easy to dip in and out of, depending on who you want to see. The whole show serves as one giant Joker Easter Egg, and we are just itching to unwrap whatever horror lies inside. If all the pieces of the riddle fall into place, then we could be looking at a fully-formed Puddin'. It is only a matter of time before Monaghan will be donning that purple suit and trying a shade of Schwarzkopf Live Color XXL Green.
Check out the promo for when Gotham returns in "How the Riddler Got His Name," and don't forget our poll below!
Is Jerome the best part of 'Gotham'?
(Source: Nerdist) [Poll Image Credit: 'Gotham' - Fox]