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Gotham: Final Episode Teaser, Poster Reveal The Joker

Gotham's grand finale will be no joke. 

A teaser trailer and character poster for the series' final episode were released today, April Fools' Day, depicting criminal mastermind Jeremiah Valeska in full-on Joker Mode. (via Deadline) Although it's highly unlikely he'll be referred to as such, the promo materials leave little doubt as to the fact that Jeremiah — during the ten-year time jump which will see which Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) take on the mantle of Batman — will embrace his own destiny as the Clown Prince of Crime. We'll dig a bit more into the ins and outs of the Fox series' complicated relationship with the iconic character shortly, but first, let's break down this trailer.

We know that at least a portion of Gotham's final episode will take place after that decade-long jump, and as the spot — tellingly titled "J" — opens, we see the Wayne Enterprises tower, looming over a dark Gotham City as the tinkling strains of Julie Andrews' "I Feel Pretty" glide over the soundtrack. This gives way to a shot of musty old Arkham Asylum, and as we venture inside its gates, we come up on a seated figure from behind; one with stringy, patchy hair, remaining still as the inmates mill around in slow motion. Then, we see his face: it's Jeremiah Valeska (Cameron Monaghan), looking quite a bit the worse for wear after years presumably spent inside the facility's walls. 

"I feel something new," he says in voiceover; we then cut to Jeremiah, face bleached pasty white, getting ready to pull on a rope which is almost certainly attached to nothing good, as he continues, "something beautiful." We hear a very familiar-sounding cackle as the title card is presented, followed by a brief shot of Jeremiah regarding his own hand — which has been impaled by a Batarang — with an insane mixture of alarm and utter amusement. He bursts into hysterical laughter as the spot ends.

Okay, so let's get this out of the way: Jeremiah is clearly meant to be a version of the Joker, if not necessarily the Joker. Fans have been engaged in a back-and-forth debate about whether Jeremiah (and before him, his psychopathic twin brother Jerome) would ever become Gotham's iteration of the character, a debate which was seemingly laid to rest when Monaghan tweeted a series of photos from the makeup chair in May of last year.

That's right: according to the actor, not only is he not playing the Joker, but the show is prohibited from using the character in any way, shape, or form by Warner Brothers. Executive producer John Stephens even flatly stated as much himself in a conversation with IGN later that year, saying, "Jeremiah is not the Joker. The other characters are who they are. Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, etcetera. But no, he isn't the Joker. What we've always gone with is that Joker is somewhere out there, anonymous and unformed, in Gotham, and he's watching the actions of Jeremiah and Jerome and possibly even another one, on his way somewhere down the line, and he's adopting them as inspirations as the person he'll one day become."

Fair enough. But then, Stephens appeared to at least partially walk back his comments in a GameSpot interview in March of this year. "We all know the character that some people think he is, some people say he's not," the producer said. "When you look at the Joker, and you break down elements of his personality, and you cleave off certain character traits. Some of those character traits we gave to Jerome. Some of those character traits we gave to Jeremiah. But, there were still some leftover character traits that we said, we haven't used these elements yet. Specifically to me, horror or terror. I feel like there are elements of the Joker, some iterations of him, which he's not just a clown prince of crime, but he's actually a nightmare. And I feel like... some of those remain to be explored."

Mission accomplished, Mr. Stephens: this version of the maybe-Joker has a look nearly as terrifying as Heath Ledger's iconic interpretation in The Dark Knight, and that chilling laugh is indeed the stuff of nightmares. One can't help but feel that Fox is basically running an end around here, sticking to the letter of Warner Brothers' mandate while finding a way to pair Batman — finally making his appearance on Gotham after five seasons and 99 episodes — with his most formidable nemesis. 

At any rate, with the final episode, fans will finally get to see Mazouz (his face, anyway, digitally pasted onto the body of a much more physically imposing stand-in) in action as the Caped Crusader, opposed by a villain who... oh, come on. Stephens and company can insist six ways from Sunday that Jeremiah isn't the real Joker, just a prototype who happened to have fallen into a vat of toxic chemicals in the exact same manner as Jack Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's Batman and who looks, sounds, and acts exactly like the dude who, theoretically, he will inspire with his maniacal ways at some undetermined point in a future that Gotham will never show us. Evidently, Warner Brothers' brass are buying it, but that doesn't mean we have to.

Gotham's penultimate episode, "They Did What?" airs on April 18; the finale, "The Beginning..." follows a week later on April 25. Mark your calendar, and check out the poster below to see the Jok- um, Jeremiah Valeska's ultra-creepy final look.