During the trailer of Gotham, there’s a character who’s only briefly seen in a love scene with protagonist James Gordon: we’re speaking of Barbara Kean, portrayed by Erin Richards. In the show, she’ll be Gordon’s fiancée, an emergency doctor supporting the cop in his fight against Gotham City‘s corruption. This is the second appearance of Barbara: the first (speaking) one was in The Dark Knight, portrayed by Melinda McGraw. In the movie, she is Jim Gordon’s wife already, and she suffers some major traumas: first she believes her husband dead, killed by The Joker, then she is targeted with her children by Harvey Dent, now Two-Face, in his act of vengeance. After the “incidents” involving these two maniacs, Barbara obtains divorce and is only mentioned in The Dark Knight Rises as being in Cleveland with Gordon’s son and daughter. Let’s see who she is in the comics.
Barbara Kean (or Barbara Eileen, depending on the writer) was born in Chicago, Illinois, where she worked as a waitress. When she was still quite young, she met James Gordon, a soon-to-become policeman who she started a relation with. Barbara eventually married Jim, little before he became a lieutenant for CPD. After Jim discovered evidence of corruption within the police ranks, and also many irregularities in the elections of the city mayor, Chicago wasn’t the safest place for him nor his wife anymore. CPD commissioner suggested a quick transfer to Gotham City, Gordon’s former city (he had been transferred to Chicago by commissioner Gillian Loeb, in order to cover his illicit maneuvers), and Jim and Barbara had to move rapidly in order to avoid the other police officers’ retaliation. Just before leaving Chicago, Barbara found out she was pregnant: she would have given birth to James Jr. some months after, but she and her husband often had fights on ending the pregnancy, since Gotham City wasn’t exactly the best place for a child to grow up in. Gordon wasn’t exactly a welcome person in GCPD either, thanks to his integrity, and life wasn’t easy for him, his wife or his child. Barbara and James started having more than one tension in their marriage, with Barbara somehow blaming her husband for his principles, that put to danger both her and her son. All the clashes finally found a climax when Barbara found out James had an affair with Sarah Essen, his partner during the investigation on the masked vigilante known as Batman. The relation with Essen (who would have become James’ second wife) was the last drop, and Barbara broke up with her husband, obtained divorce, and moved back to Chicago with her son. Sometimes, she called Gordon to let him know how James Jr. was doing.
Barbara is one of the many characters retconned after the The New 52 story line, with her story pretty changed from the original one. Barbara moved from Chicago to Gotham with her husband, and she suffered more than one trauma in the new city: a children’s serial killer, the Peter Pan Killer, tried to abduct and murder James Jr., and was saved only by the fortuitous intervention of his father, who finally arrested the psychopath. Barbara had also another child, a daughter, named Barbara (the girl who would have become Batgirl, and that in the original continuity was Gordon’s niece instead of daughter). When masked freaks kept popping up all around them, and Gordon’s family started to be their favorite target, Barbara decided it was time to protect her children: the moment she realized James Jr. was becoming a psychopath in turn, she thought that it was Gotham’s influence to change the boy’s personality, and decided to leave her husband and daughter with no explanation. James never stopped loving her, but she couldn’t come back, fearing for her son’s mental state. When James Jr. finally became the psycho he was meant to be since his very childhood, Barbara decided to send him to Arkham Asylum to have him evaluated. She also tried to re-bond with her estranged husband and daughter, but the first effect of her return to Gotham City was to be targeted by The Joker: the maniac infected her with his Joker Venom, but she was saved by her ex-husband; then, she was kidnapped, and her left ring finger was cut off and offered to Batgirl in a gory parody of a marriage proposal. As far as she could run from Gotham, its madness would have haunted Barbara forever.
Barbara Kean (or Eileen)-Gordon is a normal woman tossed in an abnormal environment, and the peaceful family life she dreamt of has turned out to be a continuous sequence of violence and madness. Despite she respects her husband for his moral integrity, she also blames him because his honesty makes his family be in constant danger. Sometimes contradictory, always worried for her family, Barbara is certain of one thing only: she doesn’t want to get accustomed, or succumb, to Gotham City’s insanity.