Spoiler warning if you're not caught up with Gotham's latest episode.
As Barbara Kean, actress Erin Richards plays one of the most transformative characters on Gotham, a drama that has literally resurrected dead people and given them different personalities. On the opposite end of the spectrum from where she was in Season 1, Babs has sparked a lot of comparisons to Harley Quinn, the gum-chewing cataclysm whose Suicide Squad inclusion was one of 2016's biggest pop culture bullet points. Richards spoke with CinemaBlend recently about the latest episode of Gotham, and when I asked what was happening with the Barbara/Harley angle, here's what she told me.
There have been conversations. I think something major would have to happen to Barbara for her to fully become Harley Quinn. Because Harley Quinn is kind of...she doesn't, to me, have the motivation that Babs has. Harley Quinn seems to like destruction for destruction's sake, and that's wonderful, but I feel like Barbara has more of a plan. She's a little bit more intellectual in her approach toward climbing the ladder and taking over the underworld. And I think if she was to then morph into Harley Quinn, there would have to be something that happened that sort of stripped away that kind of scheming side of her so that she would just become, I guess, unhinged in the world. That, to me, is what Harley Quinn represents. That madness and mayhem that comes along with The Joker, because obviously they're a team.
I'm sure everyone waiting to see a legit live-action Harley Quinn on TV is holding up pitchforks and baseball bats, chanting "Make something major happen to Barbara that strips away her scheming side," before realizing that's a terrible chant. While Erin Richards obviously isn't saying the door is closed on spinning a Harley-esque story out of things, the timing doesn't make it seem likely. Barbara is just too contained and sure of herself at this point to pop her hair into pigtails and go on demolition-heavy joyrides.
Currently, Barbara is on what could be her most notable narrative path yet, as she is setting up Gotham City's chess board to start a war between Penguin and Riddler, with the death of Isabella and Oswald's love of Nygma as her biggest weapons. That kind of efficient plotting doesn't take up much room in Harley Quinn's bag of tricks, and Barbara's goal of becoming the queen of Gotham's underworld doesn't sound like the kind of thing that meshes well with Harley's anarchic nature.
But it's not like Barbara hasn't already been down a similar road already on Gotham, which is basically how the Harley Quinn comparisons and rumors came up in the first place. Erin Richards brought that up in our conversation as well.
I think Barbara had her moment of madness and mayhem early on in Season 2 after the Ogre, and then she went to Arkham and she sort of lost herself a little bit and just wanted to be this dark being. And then after she fell out of the church window and went into the coma and came back out and remembered her attachment to Jim as sort of a loving attachment, and didn't really remember the murdering of her parents and that kind of stuff. So she's like another being now, and I think that being is not so close to the Harley Quinn character, even though she's still obviously a little crazy, but she now has more of a ruthless nature to her.
Makes absolute sense. Perhaps if we'd lived in a world where Suicide Squad didn't happen when it did, Gotham would have gone the Harley Quinn route with Barbara already. (Or maybe Arrow would have kept using her.) John Stephens, executive producer on the Fox drama, did say relatively recently that a precursor for Harley Quinn will show up on Gotham at some point, but perhaps we would be wise to look for her influences showing up with someone else.
Of course, it's supremely likely that neither Penguin nor the Riddler are going to suffer too badly from all of this, since they'll likely be around for the show's entire run. So Barbara's plan to ascend Gotham's seedy ranks could backfire and blow up in her face, possibly making her lose Sirens and her loved ones (again), which could then inspire a more damning sense of self, and enter Harley Quinn's psyche. It probably won't happen that way, but it looks like that could be one of the only ways it could happen for Barbara.