A just-released trailer for next Thursday’s episode of the Fox series Gotham shows the return of Jeremiah Valeska (guest star Cameron Monaghan), the malevolent grinning madman who seems locked in a dance of death with the entire city — but especially with the orphan son of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
Valeska’s character is one of the more intriguing elements of Gotham which is in its fifth and final season. The show’s creative team was reluctant early on to include the Joker in their prequel saga about Bruce Wayne’s life leading up to his adoption of the masked alias of Batman. They relented before the end of the first season when they brought in Valeska, the demented son of circus performers whose background and persona veer from the familiar Joker mythology (although that mythology changes so often and so dramatically that its a joke to consider anything as canon) and has been described by the show’s producers as part of generational lineage of madmen who embrace the evil clown persona that is somehow rooted in Gotham City’s haunted past. Essentially, like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, the bloodthirsty tradition of madness in Gotham is part of a cycle.
That makes the Joker the wild card in the stacked deck of Gotham City’s grim shuffle. That’s not only a way to connect to traditions in comics (like the landmark The Killing Joke story from DC Comics that has echoed in interesting ways in Jeremiah’s appearances) and cherry-pick from feature-film imagery (channeling Heath Ledger’s scabby interpretation, for instance) but also to free-up story room so the prequel can incorporate surprises along the way.
The cast includes Ben McKenzie as Detective James Gordon, Donal Logue as Detective Harvey Bullock, Morena Baccarin as Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth, Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle/the future Catwoman, Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma/The Riddler, Chris Chalk as Lucius Fox.
The official pilot summary: “Gordon races to uncover the criminal element threatening to end talks of Gotham’s reunification with the mainland. A very-much-alive Jeremiah returns and organizes a twisted recreation of the murder of Bruce’s parents, with the help of Jervis Tetch aka Mad Hatter (guest star Benedict Samuel) in the all-new Ace Chemicals episode of Gotham airing Thursday, Feb. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.