Gotham has always had a flexible relationship between life and death, with many characters thought dead, appearing to be dead, or even actually confirmed dead returning, with the help of either some weird science or, occasionally, supernatural forces. How is it that Barbara still alive on Gotham? (Spoilers below!) In the Season 3 finale, Barbara was electrocuted to death by Tabitha after making one last play for power, but she's back in business by the second episode of Season 4. And at the show's Tribeca TV Festival panel on Sept. 23, actor Erin Richards let some details slip (with permission from showrunner Danny Cannon) about Barbara's return.
As you may have guessed based on Alfred's Season 3 resurrection, Barbara seems to be alive because of the Lazarus Pit. And that means that Ra's al Ghul is responsible for keeping one of Gotham's best characters around. You may remember that Ra's al Ghul, the famous DC character, was introduced in the second half of Season 3, as was his mystical ability to regenerate people using liquid chemical deposits. Apparently, he got his hands on Barbara's corpse and revived her, though it's unclear whether he had her retrieved or someone else brought her to him.
The topic came up at the panel when the cast talked about the stunts on the show. Richards was excited to share that Barbara will be getting a new style this season, courtesy of her time with the mystical immortal. "I get trained while I’m going through my dead back to life period by Ra’s to be like a martial arts expert..." Richards said.
It's another surprise move for the character, who began the series as a rich, privileged, and ultimately powerless girlfriend. "I think that’s the joy of the character of Barbara..." Richard explained. "She was a thing that was supposed to be a light for Jim, or a way for Jim to maybe be safe in Gotham and we quickly realized that that wasn’t the case."
Her ex certainly won't be any safer now that Barbara has been being trained by one of the most dangerous villains in Batman mythology, that's for sure. Barbara has been known to fight before, including a knock-down brawl with ex-boyfriend Jim's then-girlfriend, Lee.
According to Richards, her post-Lazarus physicality will be much different than the fighting Barbara has done before. "It was really fun to do," Richards told the audience. "Because like, my fighting was very scrappy, when I fought Morena [Baccarin, who plays Lee]. It was hair-pulling, and it was really great, but this fighting is actually really skilled and specific precision fighting." Fans should be excited, but citizens of FOX's Gotham City should be very worried about Barbara's newfound skills.
While this development is exciting, it's also a little surprising given the direction Barbara was heading in at the end of Season 3, when her manical thirst for power ultimately led to her death. Some fans speculated that if she returned, Barbara would become unhinged DC supervillain Harley Quinn, but clearly, she's going in a different direction now. But when an audience member at the panel asked if Cannon could reveal which character they'd teased that Barbara would become, the showrunner wouldn't give up a name. And probably with good reason. "Never say never on this show, I’ll definitely say," Cannon warned.
So, does that mean Barbara will become Harley? Cannon isn't making promises, but there may be hope yet. "I just think the transformation she’s gone through and the evil alliance she has with somebody can lead many different places," Cannon teased. "We were obsessed with this idea of the Sirens and girl power... We didn’t steer away from [the transformation] completely. It’s on ice."
And while Episode 2 brings the women of Gotham's underworld back together under slightly different circumstances than the comics, it's intriguing. The Gotham City Sirens are a group made up of Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley, and using that name makes it sound as though there were intentions, at one point, to show Harley on screen. But for now, Cannon clarified, it's all about the women working together as a unit more than it is about any one character.
But for now, it sounds as though Barbara Kean is not going to become Harley Quinn on Gotham, but instead will forge her own interesting path back to power working alongside Ra's al Ghul and picking up some combat skills along the way. Even if Gotham does end with Jim and Barbara ultimately getting back together, this version of the character is already far more compelling than her comic book counterpart.
"It’s been so interesting, and I feel like she has so much potential, as in she could end anywhere," Richards said on the panel. "She could go back to good, she could go back to bad. I think the great thing about a character like Barbara is that we actually don’t know the end of her."
Additional reporting by Sage Young.