Weeks ago, I teased my final Toys R Us receipt. What did I buy? Another Barbara Kean! I just felt so bad these were warming pegs as TRU closed down. She would’ve sold better had they gone with a less passive costume & some accessories she could wield. It was a good motivator for me to finally customize her into a better outfit. Barbara is one of Gotham’s best surprises, but to explain why is a spoiler if you’re not already watching. (My sister said only weirdos watch Gotham. I can’t argue with that. It’s just science.) So watch for me to divulge various season secrets as I show her off below. All I’ll say now is that she’s Gotham City’s Cheryl Blossom, which would make Tabitha Galavan its Toni Topaz. (This analogy will be on the SAT!) So none of this makes sense if you haven’t seen Riverdale either. Ms. Kean puts the arch in arch-criminal. She is as the youths say “EXTRA AF.”
A problem with Diamond Select’s Kean toy is that it’s nigh-impossible to make her dowdy Arkham dress look like another outfit she wore on the show. (It can, however, be turned into Christmas chic Babs.) So I chose Option B (bodysnatch). For Babs’s new base body, I bought another Sand Saref online. I managed to get this out of production toy on the cheap because The Spirit wasn’t a good movie.
I got Barbara’s head off after much boiling & tugging. I was right about it being on a pin-hinge neck joint. Why do some Gotham figures have superior ball & socket necks but not others? I was only able to get Babs’s head onto Sand Saref’s neck after I pried off her rigid hair. DST didn’t give her a full skull underneath, so I had to build that up. Customization is all about ruining things until they’re better. It turns out Saref’s ball joint neck is somewhat smaller than Barbara’s head socket.
Would it be accurate to say Barbara Kean rocked a femme-mullet in certain episodes of season four? Do humans still say “on fleek?” Anyway, this is not supposed to be that haircut. What’s this one called? Her season five hair is cropped like Cersei Lannister, so I could’ve saved myself some sculpting had I waited.
Barb had multiple killer looks, but I went with this this one because she wears it in a few pivotal episodes. The metallic red stripes also add some flair. (The jacket was a sponsorship promo for The Sirens Club from Red Stripe Beer.) I might’ve gone with her silver suit or studded dress if they wouldn’t have been even harder to make. (I’m trapped between my desire for good looking customs & my inclination to do as little work on them as possible. Did I mention there aren’t enough options for women in this scale?) Her cleavage resembles a negative space Poison Ivy leaf motif. She gets a completely different outfit next season to spite my labor?
I appreciate that Mezco didn’t just paint Sand’s details on, until I had to make her bod Barbara’s. Her lapels were sliced off & a popped cardboard collar was affixed. I had to carve her décolletage in. Sand’s zipper is open too wide & low, so I couldn’t get it exactly right. She’s slightly more voluptuous, but there are worse fates than becoming goth Power Girl. (Both have deltoids of diamond.) To make it look like she’s wearing a bolero jacket, I glued a clear rubber band from a Star Wars Black figure beneath her bosom. It’s probably not noticeable due to its scale & color. Her arm stripes & vest were decoupaged from napkin & tissue. I also sanded off her necklace & wetsuit piping. Her sleeves shouldn’t end in points but they looked nice enough to keep.
Is it bad luck to cut pant cuffs out of fortune cookie fortunes? Being cowardly & superstitious, I used one of the disappointing ones boasting an aphorism instead of a prognostication. “Every excess becomes a vice.” I mixed a new shade of black to differentiate her slacks from her top, but it doesn’t seem that noticeable in the photos unlike the imperfections that were magnified. (As a bad photographer, I will take this opportunity to blame my equipment & lighting.) I almost left her shoes alone until I came across a full body photo of this costume. I harnessed the power of knives to convert wedge heels into block heels!
Babs will be hanging on to this pistol (both use Berettas, albeit different models), so I still don’t have a replacement for the one I took from my unaltered Sand to give to my custom Riddler. (If Carly Rae Jepsen can get a sword, Gotham can finally give Corey Michael Smith the question mark cane he & fans have been asking for. Then maybe she can get hers back once I customize his cane. Dude’s only got two hands, after all. If not, I guess Sand could become Planetary’s Jakita Wagner.) Barb’s Beretta was painted gold so she can feel like Scaramanga. Her champagne flute & bottle are borrowed from Vanessa Kensington because Barbara Queen is a classier alcoholic than Jessica Jones. Ordering 1:12 cocktail glasses from China was too rich for my blood. She still needs an old-fashioned telephone.
Although best known as Stabby Babs, she primarily used guns after the first season. Blaster Barbie was a nickname that didn’t catch on (much like Barbaric Kean, Keen Babs, & Barbara Mean). We didn’t even see her give anyone a little stabby stab with a knife until season four. Gotham’s writers know their audience. Know what are great? Magic knives! The embalming knife of King Balashi of Mesopotamia does not appear to be be historically accurate in any form. It was forged from the broken handle of a transparent green cocktail sword, spackle, cardboard, & a sliver of plastic toy packaging. (Super glue: The only adhesive that bonds exclusively to its nozzle & human flesh!) I made a tiny knife!
I usually hate it when movies & TV adapt a specific comic book character without granting them their definitive traits or deeds. Not so with Barbara Kean, mostly because she doesn’t have any. Even being Barbara Gordon’s mother is fungible since Post-Crisis continuity made Batgirl Commissioner Gordon’s adopted niece. (Batman & Robin severed both from her family tree.) She’s a glorified extra in the comics whose name isn’t even consistent. (Always remember Tony Gordon, who was obsessed with giving his dad nightly back massages & sacrificed himself saving his sister dressed in skimpy Superman cosplay.) Gotham subverts this by making her a real character.
When the role was first announced, I was confused why they bothered making such a minor character a lead instead of Sarah Essen. She seemed doomed to be the designated love interest despite the lead having more chemistry with somebody else. (They turned out to be the same person in fiction & real life.) I’d previously seen Erin Richards in an episode of Misfits, so making her the thankless fiancee seemed like a waste of talent. Her heel turn was a complete surprise because I was too busy paying attention to the rise of the canon villains to figure out the point of her scenes.
Many moments are metafictional. No matter how helpful she tries to be in season one, she keeps getting dumped on for not fitting into the main narrative. Young Catwoman & Poison Ivy, two women fans actually cared about, troll her. She decides to go full supervillain because they’re the only citizens of Gotham City with agency. Murdering her parents is a metaphor for casting off the constraints of the source material. It’s also a reverse of Bruce Wayne’s transformative trauma. “They have no clue….who I am,” summed up her character for viewers at the outset. The Leaguers of Shadows instantly trying to replace her with a resurrected Ra’s al Ghul evokes rabid fans undermining various legacy characters before they’ve had a chance.
Since her destiny is more fluid than others’, the writers & wardrobe have free reign to dress Barbie up. Although always fashionable, she’s not a sexy lamp. (As cool as a Best Supporting Special Effects nomination for the episode about dirigible crime is, why do the Emmy’s keep snubbing its wardrobe department?) This femme fatale often does her own killings. Barbara isn’t a Mary Sue either. We see her level up & grow more independent as a villain. She starts by offing her folks, then mid-tier characters like Butch (he got better) & Cherry, before finally killing Ra’s al Ghul by proxy. Unlike Reign & Bushmaster who peaked earlier to diminishing returns, she follows the correct dramatic order of escalation. Even when she got too big for her britches in season three, it was resolved in a very satisfying arc.
After her heel turn, fans speculated she’d become a canon Batman rogue. While everyone else assumed it’d be Harley Quinn (turns out it was newcomer Ecco), but I was holding out for Killer Moth or Gentleman Ghost. The decision to have her just be Barbara instead of subsumed into another villain works. I dig her leading the League of Shadows but I’m wary of calling her Ra’s al Ghul. She deserves her own supranym to mark her ascension. I stan The Stabby Queen!
Stabby Babs + Barbara Queen = Stabby Queen! Therefore The Stabby Queen is Barbara Kean’s best nickname. Y’all should get onboard with that before the Gotham train leaves the station forever. I feel awkward being the only one to use this hashtag (again).
Gotham deserves more credit for not walking back Barbara breaking bad. I’m so used to fiction giving beautiful women a Mulligan on lawbreaking. (Luckily she’s not as marketable as Catwoman or Harley Quinn.) They had an out by blaming it on The Ogre’s influence, but they committed to it! They even did a fake-out after Hugo Strange declared her sane. She might’ve been redeemed if Gordon had been more empathetic to her, although he might’ve had a point about her not having earned forgiveness since nowhere else recognizes certificates of sanity signed by a mad scientist. (Recidivism rates remain high among rehabilitated criminals that are rejected by society rather than reintegrated.) The important thing is that this spurred her to get over her Jim obsession & double down on being a crimestress.
Barbara has the most dynamic character arc throughout the show. She’s different each season, but her development is unpredictable given that her marriage to Jim was ditched. “Comissioner Gordon’s fiance turns evil & kills Ra’s al Ghul” sounds terrible in the abstract, but it works in execution. The writers & Erin Richards, who deserves an award for cackling in an impeccable disguise voice, pull it off. (Richards previously forced her cousins to act in a Batman play she wrote, directed, & starred in.) I’m not sold on her latest straw misandrist turn, but we’ll see how it goes.
Rumor has it that season five will only be ten episodes. That doesn’t even bring the series episode count to 100! I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but come on, Fox! As happy as I am that it’s getting a final season, I’m worried Gotham won’t have enough time to satisfactorily wrap up its numerous character arcs in less than a full season. Are they still going to introduce all the new characters they had planned? Man-Bat aside, I’d kind of prefer to see Renee Montoya & Harvey Dent return. (Is Bruce’s clone still alive for Selina to murder? Or did he already die off-screen from degenerative cloneitis?) Gotham’s final season would be the ideal time to debut the gallery Babs supposedly worked at in its inaugural season, maybe throw in Crazy Quilt. So after Gotham wraps, its producers are being moved to Pennyworth & Metropolis shows? I like Alfred, but even I think giving him a prequel show is too much. Won’t a Metropolis show step on Supergirl’s & Krypton’s toes?
Fish Mooney could be added to the mainline Batman comics continuity easily. Bridgit Pike could be a legacy edition of the current Firefly. (They already replaced Garfield Lynns with deep cut Ted Carson for anti-synergy.) Even Tabitha Galavan could be retconned in as Catwoman’s mentor. Gotham’s take on Barabara Kean would be very tricky to work in, however, because she’s a pre-existing character. Her son, James Gordon Jr., already has the psychotic tendencies covered for the family. If they introduce an unrelated Barbara Kean, she won’t have the connection to Gordon that made her transformation so dynamic. Short of another universe reboot, I guess they’d have to bring her in from an alternate reality as comics are wont to do.
I’m only gushing over Barbara Kean because she’s stabbed me.