As Gotham begins to delve further into whether deranged, red-haired youngster Jerome Valeska is or isn’t the infamous Joker, the introduction of the Clown Prince of Crime’s right hand woman, Harley Quinn, becomes more and more likely. Quinn has long been rumored to make her appearance in Gotham under the guise of several different characters, but so far none have come to fruition.
With the immense resurgence in popularity the character is currently experiencing thanks to Margot Robbie’s performance in Suicide Squad, it would no doubt be a smart idea if Gotham pulled the trigger on Harley sooner rather than later in order to capitalize on this and boost the show’s modest ratings.
As far as the official word goes, the show’s producers have suggested that Harley will make her debut in season 3, and also hinted that a clue to her identity was present in the season premiere – implying that viewers may already be familiar with the woman who will eventually become Harley Quinn. With that in mind, which members of the show’s current cast and its extensive list of female alumni could fit the bill when it comes to Miss Harleen Quinzel, and is it possible the show could take a new route entirely?
Barbara was perhaps the first character Gotham’s fans identified as a potential candidate for the role of Harley Quinn. A member of the cast from day one, Kean was originally Jim Gordon’s lover. After being coerced into murdering her own parents by The Ogre, however, Barbara’s psyche took a turn for the worse and she was forced to undergo a stint in Arkham Asylum. Unsurprisingly, given Arkham’s record for curing mental illness, Barbara Kean only became more unstable and violent and it was this turn in personality – as well as her innocent appearance – that first hinted at a possible connection to Harley Quinn.
As well as a physical resemblance and displaying a Quinn-esque gleeful brand of craziness, there are several other links between the two characters. Most notably, the club Barbara runs in season 3 is named ‘The Sirens’ – a clear link to the Gotham City Sirens, a villainous trio comprised of Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. With the other two women already accounted for in Gotham and with Kean still highly unstable and volatile, the reference is perhaps not a coincidence and could be the season three premiere clue Gotham’s producers spoke of.
It’s also worth remembering that if Jerome is indeed revealed to be The Joker, he and Barbara have already worked together as part of Theo Galavan’s Maniax. Barbara certainly seemed to enjoy her crime spree with Jerome and. with his cult following now growing, a reconciliation as Joker and Quinn is certainly a possibility.
Although many would consider Barbara Kean the prime candidate for the role of Harley Quinn, she doesn’t have a medical background – something that many would argue is integral to Quinn’s character. A possible solution can be found in another of Jim Gordon’s ex-lovers: Leslie “Lee” Thompkins. Although Lee isn’t a psychologist like Harleen Quinzel is usually portrayed as being, she has performed this function on occasion as part of the GCPD’s medical staff. For the majority of her tenure on the show, Lee has been perfectly sane, despite frequently being put in harm’s way.
Recent episodes have, however, begun to show cracks in Thompkins’ stability after Jim Gordon gunned down her husband of a few hours and Lee appeared determined to have her ex assassinated. She did renege on this after discovering more about Jim’s reasons for killing Mario, but the plot demonstrated that – pushed in the right direction – Lee is capable of ruthlessness and willing to get blood on her hands.
Although Barbara may be the obvious option, she seems more and more a villain in her own right with each episode, whereas Lee Thompkins' character has nothing left to do other than a ‘happy ever after’ reconciliation with Jim Gordon. Of course, Gordon doesn’t do happy endings and Lee turning into Harley would be a more surprising and thrilling turn of events than if Barbara took on the mantle.
Certainly more of an outlandish option than Kean or Thompkins, but given the producers’ comments about a clue to Harley Quinn’s identity being hidden in the season 3 premiere, Valerie Vale is certainly a viable contender. Vale entered season 3 with much intrigue surrounding her character – a plucky and ambitious journalist who (you guessed it) becomes Jim Gordon’s girlfriend. Strangely, the character didn’t get much of a run in the show and was used primarily as a plot device to intensify the love triangle between Gordon, Lee and Mario. Recovering in hospital from a gunshot wound inflicted by Jervis Tetch, Gordon and Valerie realize their relationship is doomed and the character is swiftly brushed under the carpet. Or is she?
Vale’s seemingly minimal impact on Gotham’s overall narrative could be setting her up for a return as a completely new character: Harley Quinn. Certainly, the journalist will have an axe to grind against protagonist Jim Gordon after he got Vale shot and then broke up with her all in the space of a few hours. It would be a vastly different origin story for Harley Quinn, but Vale's transformation would make more sense than Lee’s and would be less predictable than Barbara’s, whilst also tying the character into a natural battle against Gotham’s main character, Jim Gordon.
If Gotham’s output over the past year has proven anything, it’s that the show loves to bring characters back from the dead and transform them into villains - such as Theo Galavan turning into Azrael and Victor Fries transforming into Mr. Freeze. It wouldn’t be too surprising, then, if Harley Quinn was borne out of a character the audience thought was already deceased, and if this is the case then Kristen Kringle could be a prime candidate.
Although Kringle doesn’t have Quinn’s medical background, she does fit the mold of an unassuming, innocent, professional woman ready to transform into a psychotic and violent criminal. And if Kristen was revived, she’d certainly have cause to become villainous after being murdered at the hands of ex-boyfriend Edward Nygma. Kringle had begun to show a darker side to her nature shortly before biting the dust, and so a chance to exact revenge on the man that killed her could easily spark a transformation into Harley Quinn.
The actress who plays Kristen Kringle, Chelsea Spack, has already returned to the show recently to play Isabella, and the move would fit nicely into the current storyline involving Nygma attempting to get revenge on Penguin for Isabella’s death. It’s likely Nygma won’t end up murdering his old friend, and it could feasibly be his dead ex-girlfriend's return that ceases his quest for vengeance, with the two villains being forced to team up against a newly revived Kristen Kringle. Moreover, Jerome Valeska has also been revived from the dead to reign terror upon Gotham City, so it makes sense that another resurrected character would stand by his side - if he is indeed The Joker.
Someone entirely new
Gotham’s producers may have hinted that Harley Quinn would be revealed as a character viewers are already familiar with, but sometimes plans change. It also wouldn’t be the first time that showrunners have been less than honest regarding certain plot points in order to prevent spoilers. Bringing in an entirely new character to take up the role of Harley Quinn would not only be more logical than making her an already established character as far as the narrative goes, it’d arguably be the more fan-pleasing option. Batman fans generally prefer when live-action interpretations are reasonably faithful to their source material, and although Gotham is quite far off the reservation in this regard right now, the addition of Harley Quinn complete with full psychiatrist back story would likely be well received.
Of course, there are some stumbling blocks that may prevent this. Firstly, Harley’s traditional origin story depends very much on who is revealed as the Joker, and secondly, Gotham may have misgivings over sharing too many similarities with Suicide Squad, which also utilized the recognized Harley Quinn origin story. Even if her background is shaken up, however, Harley Quinn may still benefit from being a brand new character and with Jerome’s underground cult currently thriving, there will be plenty of potential candidates for the show to draw from.
You never know.
Gotham continues on January 30th with "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies" on Fox.