After the season 4 premiere of Gotham, we ask: Where was Barbara Gordon (Erin Richards)? This major player was noticeably absent from tonight's episode.
FOX's Gotham returned to the small screen tonight for a fourth season, with the new theme of 'A Dark Knight'. This season promises to bring fans even closer to an actual Batman series, as season 3 ended with Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) looking out over Gotham from a rooftop, black coat a-flapping. While the baby-Batman is definitely playing a bigger part this year, the focus continues to be on Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and the backstories of various comic book villains.
The Gotham season 4 premiere 'A Dark Knight: Pax Penguina' brought all the usual suspects back to the screen, as expected - but one in particular was noticeably absent.
The core focus of this episode was on Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and his new position as criminal overlord of Gotham. Having been ousted as mayor in season 3, Penguin has a unique new way of controlling the underworld: criminal licenses. These licenses allow Penguin's chosen few to commit crimes and get off scot-free, and the GCPD and Mayor's Office are going along with the deal because it has led to a decreased crime rate, safer cops, and of course, a personal cut. Bruce Wayne is less than thrilled about this, as is Jim Gordon, both of whom attempt to put a stop to the licenses.
However, the episode doesn't resolve anything, so it seems that these legal criminals are going to be around for a little while yet. Instead, 'Pax Penguina' nicely sets the stage for the rest of the season, clarifying what each character has been up to. Tabitha (Jessica Lucas) has been training Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Bruce has been training up to meet Ra's Al Ghul (Alexander Siddig) again, Jim has been doing his usual police work, and Penguin and Ivy (Maggie Geha) are running his new club.
The Iceburg Lounge
The Iceburg Lounge was a fantastic reference to the comics in this episode, but it also put the spotlight (briefly) on the one character who doesn't show up in the episode: Barbara Kean (Erin Richards). Penguin's new nightspot is the refurbished Sirens, a club that was previously run by Barbara and Tabitha when the two were partners. When Penguin is giving reporters the VIP tour of his club ahead of the grand opening, one specifically asks about Barbara, saying that she hasn't been seen in months, and asking Penguin if he knows where she is.
This would be enough to make the point that Barbara is intentionally missing from the episode, if anyone thought that her absence may be simply down to limited time, or her not having a big part to play just yet. Her description as missing, and the loss of her club, shows that there is something going on with Barbara, and we just don't know what it is yet.
Where Is Barbara Kean?
Barbara Kean (or Queen, as she styles herself) has been a show-stealer since season 1. From her beginnings as Jim's fiancee, to her descent into madness and stint at Arkham, to her rise to power as a slightly unhinged criminal, Barbara has been a phenomenal part of Gotham thus far. Fans have also speculated for quite some time that she would become the Harley Quinn of Gotham - although showrunner John Stevens claims that the character will not be making an appearance.
At the end of last season, Barbara's fate was left on a cliffhanger, after she and Tabitha had it out in a final battle in an old safe house. The two partners had been growing apart as Barbara became obsessed with power, and once Barbara shot Butch, Tabitha could not forgive her. In their big fight scene, it seemed as though Barbara had the upper hand, until Tabitha used her whip to electrocute Barbara, leaving her smoking on the ground before she walked away.
The End Of Barbara Kean
The simplest explanation for Barbara's absence from the season premiere is that she is actually dead - killed by Tabitha (and presumably disposed of). It's possible that this is the case, and that this is why Harley is not going to be making an appearance on the show. However, this would seem to be a very ignomious end to such a phenomenal character, so even if Barbara isn't making a return, it's likely that there will be a little more explanation of what happened after she hit the floor in the season 3 finale.
It's more likely that Barbara is going to be making a new appearance, potentially having survived the electrocution, or perhaps after being resurrected. The show does love to bring characters back to life, and Barbara deserves much more than a sudden death. In addition, if the showrunners are not being entirely truthful about the possibility of a Harley Quinn appearance, her resurrection could bring her closer to the Joker and give her the pale coloring that Harley is famous for. If this is the case, we'll be seeing some more of Barbara soon - but she may be out for the first few episodes, to make her reappearance all the more exciting.
Gotham returns next Thursday with 'A Dark Knight: The Fear Reaper' at 8pm on FOX.