On Gotham last season, Barbara seemed more far gone than ever. She allied herself with Ra’s al Ghul, became the leader of the League of Shadows and began a gender war against all men. This year, she’s noticeably calmed down. Sure, she vowed vengeance against Oswald after he murdered her best friend Tabitha, but the very next week she helped Jim save a group of orphan refugees. Then at the end of this season’s fourth episode, “Ruin,” Barbara and Jim gave into passion and embraced one another, something that would’ve been unthinkable one year ago!
What’s changed for Barbara, and where can she go from here? Will Gotham’s former Queen of Crime end the series as a hero, villain or martyr? And what does this mean for Barbara and Jim? Will they be getting back together as canon dictates?
They say that you find out who you truly are when you lose everything, and right now, that’s what Barbara is facing. In the past year, she’s gained the ancient Demon’s Head power and lost it, she’s seen one of her two best friends become paralyzed, while the other was murdered before her very eyes. Barbara has also seen the government abandon her city, leaving her home vulnerable and without resources. Perhaps Barbara feels partially responsible for this, since she helped Ra’s al Ghul set up his power base last year. Is it guilt that’s driving her to help Jim?
Possibly, but maybe it’s something deeper. Barbara has lost Tabitha, so she may be turning to the only other person who’s been an anchor for her: Jim. Remember, it was Barbara who initiated the kiss at the end of “Ruin.” Whenever Barbara has felt lost and had nowhere to go, she’s gone to Jim. Think back to season 2, when Barbara was cured of her insanity. It was Jim she went to first, seeking redemption. She tried to help him track down the employers of Patrick Malone, hoping he would forgive her. When he rejected her, she went to Tabitha and Butch feeling she had nowhere else to go. She spent the next few years embracing life in the underworld and struggling to find her own position of power. But remember, that was her second choice. How different would the last few years have been if Jim had forgiven her?
Now that she’s lost Tabitha and there is no longer a city to rule over, Barbara seems to be turning back to Jim again. Is it out of love, or just a sense of trying to recapture part of herself that she lost all those years ago? Can Barbara find redemption from him and what will that mean for the former couple?
Before we can answer that, we have to ask if Barbara is beyond redemption. Most of her more violent crimes, like the murder of her parents and allying with Galavan’s Maniax group, were before she was cured of insanity and released from Arkham. Since then, she hasn’t tried to destroy the city like Jerome or Jeremiah have. She has killed some criminals, but she hasn’t appeared interested in harming innocent civilians.
Let’s remember that in the morally ambiguous world of Gotham, forgiveness tends to come easily. Jim and Bullock have killed in the line of duty, sometimes even in cold blood. Lee Tompkins was forgiven for unleashing the Alice Tetch virus on Gotham. While Barbara has done some arms dealing, and killed some criminals, she seems to turn her back on more widespread destruction and hurting innocent people. When Jeremiah and Ra’s sought to destroy the city, she rejected their plan and helped Bruce put an end to it.
Perhaps the change in Barbara between the end of season 4 and beginning of season 5 isn’t as drastic as it initially appears. Yes, in the season 4 finale, “No Man’s Land,” Barbara vows to kill all men, and declares her Sirens nightclub a “Female Only” zone…but look at her actions since then. She’s allowed Bruce, Gordon and Bullock into her club and all of them have left alive. She’s aided the heroes without asking for anything in return.
She does want to kill the Penguin, but when given the opportunity she didn’t pull the trigger. Even her army of League of Shadows ninjas has been kept at her club. Barbara Kean may not realize it, but her conscience is pulling her to redemption despite her outward bravado.
So, was the Jim/Babs kiss at the end of “Ruin” a one-night stand or a rekindling? Even after Barbara became a villain at the end of season 1, fans have been asking how the two will get back together. After all, in the comics the two are a formerly married couple with two children…one who grows up to be Batgirl. When Barbara Kean first appeared in WORLD’S FINEST #53 (published in 1951), this is what she looked like….
A far cry from the crime boss leader of the League of Shadows! Interestingly enough, Barbara would remain unnamed until DETECTIVE COMICS #500 published thirty years later! That’s right folks, she was such a minor character in the comics that it took thirty years for her to get a name! Even after her character was revamped in BATMAN: YEAR ONE, she was sparingly used, and the writers couldn’t decide if she was alive or dead. Gotham has been known to play with canon, so Barbara Kean doesn’t necessarily have to evolve into Jim Gordon’s wife and the mother of his kids. The future for Barbara is wide open.
With this being Gotham’s final season, what we do know is that the end of Barbara’s story is rapidly approaching. Will she end the show as hero or villain? Will she be Jim Gordon’s wife or another one of his inmates? Will she even get out alive? We’ll just have to keep on watching Gotham to find out, but in the meantime let me know what you think!
Gotham airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on FOX.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, and is a new contributor to the Couch Club. You can find him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.