Gotham – Can Barbara Kean Be Redeemed?


Ever since the introduction of Barbara Kean, played by Erin Richards, on Fox’s Gotham, audiences had high hopes for the character.  After all, she’s the future wife / later ex-wife of the incorruptible James Gordon and the future mother/stepmother — depending on which continuity — of Barbara Gordon, Batgirl.  Sadly, the character went dramatically downhill right before the show’s fall hiatus and has become a cartoon of clichés and ridiculous logic.

Barbara’s Time on Gotham

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Barbara Kean debuted on the show as one of Gotham City’s elite.  Headstrong and with her own identity, she was always watching out and supporting James Gordon.  Even when he doubted his own abilities, she was there to tell him otherwise.  When it was revealed that Detective Renee Montoya had a past relationship with Barbara, things get a little hairy.  This revelation didn’t make things that bad.  It was, actually, a good injection of conflict.

Throughout earlier episodes, Gordon hid things from Barbara in a bid to protect her from Gotham City’s dangerous underworld.  When she has a hint that he’s keeping things from her, she implores him to tell her everything.  Even when confronted with almost insurmountable evidence, Barbara was on Gordon’s side and planning an escape for him (Spirit of the Goat).  Things took a bad turn after Oswald Cobblepot revealed himself to be alive (Penguin’s Umbrella).  Carmine Falcone had Victor Zsasz kidnap Barbara to use as leverage, eventually letting them all go.

After these traumatic events, Barbara rekindled her romance with Montoya and ran off.  Gordon was left high and dry as Mayor Aubrey James set his sights on him, which led to Gordon being transferred to Arkham Asylum.  There, the good detective, now demoted to a security guard, met a new love interest — Dr. Leslie Thompkins.

After the fall hiatus, Montoya seemed to have lost interest in Barbara and actually suggested that she go back to Gordon.  Her first attempt at calling him is picked up by a house-squatting Ivy Pepper, who pretended to be having an affair with Gordon (I know, weird).  This turned Barbara into a sobbing mess.  Her next attempt — after going home and playing dress-up with Selina Kyle and Ivy — was met with disappointment when she attempted to surprise Gordon at GCPD, but finds that he’s moved on with Leslie (The Blind Fortune Teller).

Barbara now spends her days hanging out with Selina and Ivy, two teenage girls who basically broke into her home.  Thinking like a teenager herself, Barbara plans on getting Gordon back by making herself more attractive.

Future of the Character

Can the character of Barbara be saved?  The damage is pretty big.  It’s so big that Barbara has become the most hated character on Gotham.  That’s not a statement made up by me.  It’s a general consensus and something that everyone’s talking about it.

I really don’t know how the writers can come back from such a debacle.  Barbara is a character who doesn’t have a lot of history in the comics, but that shouldn’t be a license to change her into something completely unrecognizable.  As a support character, she still has a large affect on the major players.

We all know that Gordon will eventually have to get back together with Barbara, but it can’t be this Barbara.  Why?  Gordon is in a relationship with a very likable character — Leslie.  The woman is smart, daring, and can duel with the best of them.  When he eventually chooses Barbara over her, the audience may turn on him.  That’s how large of an affect a minor character can have.

With all the retconning and character changes on this show, it might turn out that Barbara is actually a minor problem in the grand scheme of things.  What do you think?  Can Barbara Kean ever come back as a likable or even compelling character?

Fox’s Gotham will return on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 8:00PM EST with its nineteenth episode.

Next: What will happen after Gotham's spring hiatus?

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