Gotham showrunner John Stephens has revealed that the show did consider turning Barbara Kean into the iconic Batman villain, Harley Quinn. Fox's Batman prequel series is currently gearing up for its fifth and final season and is set to introduce Bane, who'll be portrayed by Shane West. The 10-episode run will reportedly adapt the Zero Year comic arc and will pick up from the climax of last season which saw Jeremiah Valeska, who still may or may not be The Joker, turn Gotham City into an isolated and lawless warzone.
Since The Joker's identity in Gotham is still largely a mystery, it perhaps makes sense that Harley Quinn's is just as unclear. Gotham has been teasing Quinn's appearance since its early seasons and viewers have feverishly speculated as to which character might transform into the villain, with Barbara Kean the name most frequently mentioned. At first a bright and respected young woman, Kean evolved into a violent and unstable criminal but never did take on the Harley Quinn mantle. Season 4 finally saw the introduction of a Harley Quinn-esque sidekick for Jeremiah but it is now being suggested that Gotham's final season will see a truer interpretation of the character.
However, Gotham's John Stephens has now confirmed that the show's creative team did at one time consider turning Kean into Quinn, as well as another recognizable figure from Batman lore. Speaking at NYCC 2018 (via BamSmackPow), the showrunner stated:
"I think we were briefly thinking of turning her, for some reason, I don't know why, now it seems like a terrible idea, into Magpie. So we're not going to do that, we're just gonna have Magpie. There was a brief period where we said 'Is there a way to turn her into Harley Quinn' but we didn't do that either."
In later seasons of Gotham, Barbara's story arc was one of the less well-received elements of the series, with fans and critics particularly unmoved by her material with Ra's al Ghul. Perhaps the fact that producers considered turning Barbara into several other characters is a sign that Gotham didn't always know what to do with Jim Gordon's (first) ex-girlfriend. As such, it could be argued that transforming Barbara into Harley Quinn at an early stage would've benefited both the character and the series itself.
Part of the reason Barbara was so often thought of as a potential Harley Quinn is that she likely would've excelled in the role. Like Quinn, Kean's personality combined danger, insanity and passion and she'd often use her non-threatening appearance to lull foes into a false sense of security. Without an established Joker in Gotham, it's also possible that Kean's obsession with Jim Gordon could have been a substitute for Quinn's devotion to her "puddin'."
Whether deciding against turning Barbara into Harley Quinn was the correct decision is something that largely depends on the villain's potential appearance in season 5. If Gotham introduces a faithful and well-received version of Quinn next season then holding off on her arrival was the right call, but if the reports prove false and Quinn fails to materialize, opting not to transform Barbara could be seen as a sizeable missed opportunity.
Gotham season 5 is expected to premiere in 2019.