When Gotham was first announced, it was billed as a cop drama taking place in the famous DC Comics city. A few of the players would be established comic book characters, but the majority of the drama would be focused on the GCPD, as James Gordon attempted to solve the mystery of Thomas and Martha Wayne's murder.
However, those plans quickly evolved. Before long, the series had become a showcase for Gotham City's biggest and baddest characters. Of course, viewers quickly learned that the television series wasn't too keen on following the Bat-mythos to a tee. Instead, Gotham offered us a very different spin on the Batman universe and its classic storybeats.
Many of everyone's favorite Batman villains have appeared on the show in some capacity, from the Penguin and Riddler to the Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze and Scarecrow. But though he has yet to appear on the show, the Joker has been a part of Gotham's DNA ever since its first season. Up until very recently, the predominant Gotham theory held that the Joker was Cameron Monaghan's Jerome Valeska. However, Bruce Wayne actor David Mazouz recently revealed that Jerome was in fact not the series' Joker. "He’s definitely the inspiration for the Joker," Mazouz said, "and the way that the Joker comes into the show, for me, is one of the most brilliant things Gotham has ever done."
The bombshell revelation is surprising to say the least, considering that much of the audience had come to accept Valeska as Gotham's Joker. Now that we know that he isn't, however, it's time to declare that the Joker teases have simply gone on too long.
Monaghan's Jerome was introduced back in the Season 1 episode "The Blind Fortune Teller," in what appeared to be a one-off appearance. Back then, he was just a young man with a haunting laugh and an unsettling smile. Monaghan's Jerome struck a chord with the viewership, and he was brought back in Season 2, this time in a recurring capacity. Essentially, the character was loosed upon the city, free to unleash his own brand of mania and terror. For all intents and purposes, this was the Joker. His performance borrowed from every famous Joker portrayal, from Cesar Romero and Heath Ledger's iconic takes on the character, to Mark Hamill's signature voicework on the animated series.
The actor was never made a series regular, but his sporadic appearances would only increase, much to the delight of fans. In fact, with each subsequent appearance, it seemed like Jerome was allowed to be even more Joker-like than the last. In fact, it seemed like the series was even borrowing some famous and iconic elements from the Clown Prince of Crime's mythology, from the Carnival Fun House, to the skin of his face being cut off and later re-attached, to the arrival of a permanent smile in the form of facial scars. On top of that, in true comic book fashion, Jerome proved that even death was not the end for his character. Somehow, he managed to come back from the morgue and haunt Gotham City once more.
Now, we are asked to believe that this has all been building to the eventual arrival of the Joker. The problem is that most fans had already welcomed Monaghan as the newest actor to embody the villain. The notion that he is but a stepping stone to the 'real deal' not only lessens all the time we spent investing in his character, it also undercuts the real, future Joker's importance and significance to Gotham's world.