SPOILERS ahead for tonight’s episode of Gotham, “The Last Laugh!” Major spoilers! You’ve been warned!
“You will be a curse upon Gotham. Children will wake from sleep screaming at the thought of you. Your legacy will be death and madness.”
That’s what Jerome’s father said to him when Jerome was about to kill him. Jerome’s only response? “Ha, ha, ha.”
Indeed, Jerome did not exactly get “The Last Laugh,” the title of the episode. After he took over the charity ball and killed people on live TV, Theo Galavan killed Jerome, telling him “I’m sorry, Jerome. It’s not like we rehearsed; you have real talent.” He stabbed him clean in the neck, and as Jerome died, with blood trickling out of his mouth, he finished with a bright red, bloody smile. Barbara, meanwhile, “disappeared” thanks to a trap door in the stage.
But the premonition of Jerome’s father came true in a very immediate sense, when as the newscast of Jerome’s death aired, many watched it. Many also began to laugh, and in a very disturbing moment, we saw the next generation. A man at a bar, a kid in front of his TV, two random young men on the street. They all laughed, and the two teens went and killed a homeless man. Then one of them turned on the other, killing him as well. Jerome, meanwhile, laid smiling, eyes wide open, on the coroner’s slab.
So what’s next for The Joker on Gotham? Well, after this twist, just about anything can happen with the future of the character. It was all the way back after the comedian scene in the pilot episode that Bruno Heller said, “The Joker didn’t think of his shtick all by himself, there must have been someone before who The Joker saw and thought, ‘oh that’s a good shtick, I can work with that and make it better.’” Ultimately, we saw a literal interpretation of that. Of course, everyone inspired by Jerome’s act won’t become The Joker, but there are now plenty of options, and really the threat of the Joker coming to be, and being somehow the worst of all of these (or worse than all of these) is almost scarier than ever seeing the character.
Interestingly, Barbara Kean specifically disagreed with Theo Galavan when he said of Jerome’s style, “it was limited, never going to last.” She said, “I don’t know, the kid had a way about him.” This could certainly support the ongoing theory that Barbara will become The Joker of Gotham, something that the last three episodes have supported quite a bit. From her devil-may-care attitude, to her master manipulation in Arkham and of the Galavan siblings, her direct assistance of Jerome, and even that phone call with Jim Gordon when she said, “You always knew how to make me laugh,” if it wasn’t already a theory, it sure would be now.
And, then again, there's always resurrection. While that's not likely considered Jerome was stabbed in the neck, clearly bled out/choked on his own blood, and was then seen lying dead on a slab in the coroner's office, well, this is based on comic books, and people in comics have been much deader than that and yet still come back. If Jerome did come back, he would almost certainly have to be The Joker.
Ultimately, we may never actually see the Joker on this show, and that would be okay. It seems the goal is much more to show how The Joker could exist, rather than who exactly it is. Either way, it’s safe to say that wasn’t actually “the last laugh” on this show, or even this season as the “Rise of the Villains” continues on Gotham.