When Gotham first premiered on Fox in 2014, it was billed as a Batman origin story that began with the tragic murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Throughout the years, we've watched as Bruce Wayne has inched his way closer and closer to the mantle of the Dark Knight, and now, with the series reaching its fifth and final season, the arrival of the Caped Crusader is imminent. However, it's now become clear that Gotham was never just going to be about the rise of Bruce Wayne. Now, we realize that it was also always going to be about the other side of the coin, the Joker.
During Gotham's first season, it was said by the series' stars and producers that fans would see many possible origin stories for the Clown Prince of Crime. And that was true -- for a little while. We saw the likes of a failed club comedian, the Red Hood Gang and some other clown-inspired crazies, but the arrival of Cameron Monaghan's Jerome Valeska changed everything. Little did we know that his first appearance in Season 1 was actually the initial building block to the first, truly satisfying Joker origin story.
A Tale of Two Brothers
In DC canon, the Joker doesn't have a definitive origin story. Certain comic stories have certainly tried throughout the years, but nothing was ever made absolute. As the character states himself, he prefers his past to be a multiple choice answer. And, at first, this is the type of tale Gotham seemed to be weaving, with many characters made to be potential Jokers. When Jerome Valeska came on the scene, however, it seemed like Gotham stopped teasing possible Jokers and instead followed that specific character on the path to becoming the man in the purple suit.
Monaghan's Jerome had the laugh, the anarchy-infused soul of a madman, the unpredictability and all the right elements borrowed from previous incarnations of the Joker to make him a shoe-in for Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime. Even death couldn't keep him down (the first time, at least). However, Gotham threw us a massive curveball when the show introduced Jerome's twin brother, Jeremiah. That's right, the series employed one of the oldest tricks in the book -- the evil twin trope. But here's the thing. Somehow, through all the bloodied shenanigans, it worked.
Jerome died, but not before bestowing upon his sane(ish) brother a departing gift: A special concoction of laughing gas that pushed him over the edge. Jeremiah didn't simply become his brother, he carried his mantle. As he unleashed his calculated mania on Gotham City, Jeremiah became a bigger threat than his brother ever was.
And therein lies perhaps the brilliance in Gotham's origin story for the Joker. It doesn't explore the Joker just as one character, but as an idea. Just like Batman.