Warning: this story contains spoilers from Gotham‘s winter finale, “Mad City: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.”
Despite his best attempt yet, Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan),a.k.a. the Joker did not bring total anarchy to Gotham. By knocking out the city’s power grid, he did plunge the city into a complete blackout for one night, inspiring some citizens to commit crimes, but Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) stopped him just in time to restore order and sanity everywhere. Before he put Jerome in handcuffs and hauled him off to Arkham, however, he did get in one last punch to Jerome’s face, completely dislodging the skin Jerome had stapled on. In one gruesome moment that had to be seen to be believed, Gordon literally punched Jerome’s face right off.
But according to Monaghan, that wasn’t the original ending the Gotham showrunners had planned for this episode and his character—in fact, Jerome wasn’t supposed to survive the winter finale at all.
“I don’t think the producers will mind me saying that initially Jerome wasn’t going to live,” Monaghan told Nerdist. “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.”
He continued, “The first time I read that final scene, I didn’t even really know about that or think about it or care about it because I was just so excited about everything else that was going on in the script. But now the fact that I am able to return in the fourth season or whenever they want to bring me back is really exciting.”
When Monaghan first debuted on Gotham back in season one, the showrunners didn’t officially call him the Joker, explaining instead that his character was the earliest inspiration for the Joker, who would come later. But now, it looks like the show is finally coming out and saying that Jerome is the Joker, at least for the DC Comics TV universe.
“Yeah, we’re paying tribute with the character and the story and we’re trying to cherry pick from previous comic storylines and assembling it in new, weird, interesting ways that are exciting for fans of that stuff,” Monaghan said. “To be able to touch anything related to the character at all is extremely rewarding to me, because I’m a huge fan of the Joker, and I have been all my life. He’s my favorite villain by far, and just one of my favorite characters period. It’s been such an awesome opportunity and a gift to play him.”
So now that Jerome has been brought back from the dead, both literally on the show and figuratively behind-the-scenes with the producers changing their minds about his fate, does that mean we’ll see Jerome return this season? “You’ll have to wait and see,” he teased with a laugh. “I don’t want to say for sure.”
Jerome’s final scene—for now—on Gotham was without a doubt his most memorable one, as Gordon finally got his revenge on the villain by punching his face right off. The moment was equal parts badass, disgusting, amazing and horrifying, and Monaghan loved bringing that to life.
“I worked with Mike Maddi, our special effects makeup designer, for this episode,” Monaghan said. “There was a lot of conversation around figuring out how exactly that was going to be possible. He was really great and brought so many interesting practical effects that he was able to pull off for this character. Initially, how that was written in the scripts was that Jerome gets punched by Gordon and his face goes flying off. But instead, we realized that we were able to do it with the practical effects and have it in a way where we had one piece that was like my face was missing, then we had another piece on top of it that looked like the additional skin that was stapled back on, and because it was done completely practically, that meant we could punch it halfway off before fully punching it off.”
According to Monaghan, a lot of work went into getting that effect to look just right. “That look was easily my favorite of what we’ve done on this show,” he said. “That was all thanks to Mike. I had to sit for long periods of time as it was applied to me but he was doing all the heavy lifting. Each time that we were doing anything with that, he went over it with a fine tooth attention for detail and made sure that everything was painted well and done right and looked horrifying. It was great to build the physicality of the character and that last moment especially was so gruesome. It has a punctuation for everything that existed prior to it. It was a lot of work and I think it paid off.”
What do you think of Jerome’s last-minute save by the Gotham showrunners? Did you love or loathe that final shot of Jerome without his face? Tweet me your thoughts and opinions at @SydneyBucksbaum!
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.