11:56am PT by Graeme McMillan
'Gotham': Get to Know the Scarecrow — and His Even Scarier Father
This week’s episode of Gotham introduces another important player from the Batman mythos to the Fox show: Jonathan Crane, perhaps better known as the supervillain called the Scarecrow. Although, as fans should be used to by now, his Gotham debut sees him far from costumed and villain-y just yet.
In fact, when Jonathan makes his first appearance on the show, it’ll be as the child of Gerald Crane, a biology teacher played by Julian Sands whose research has led him into some surprisingly grisly areas.
“This is a man who is on a mission to save mankind from fear,” Sands tells The Hollywood Reporter about his character, a man who “sees fear as an evolutionary throwback, something that should have been eradicated in the development of the human species.”
Unlike his son, who’ll grow up to inflict fear upon his victims, Sands says that Gerald Crane sets out to eliminate the emotion altogether — a course of action which requires, he explains delicately, “a lot of experimentation on human guinea pigs who weren’t volunteers and, unfortunately, mostly left his laboratory in a body bag.”
Such experiments leave their mark on the young Jonathan, teases Sands. “Ultimately, his own son becomes a victim of his medical ambitions and his misguided decision making — even though he doesn't think it's misguided. He has suffered himself, and therefore he doesn't want others to suffer. But in this noble pursuit, he creates a great deal of suffering and ultimately visits this unto his own son.”
While Jonathan Crane has been part of comic book mythology for more than 70 years — his first appearance came in the third issue of World’s Finest Comics back in 1941, the work of Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the men who created Batman himself — Gerald is a relatively new addition, and Gotham’s emphasis on his role in the creation of the Scarecrow is also something that isn’t traditionally true in much of the villain’s comic book history.
For much of the Scarecrow’s comic book past, he was simply a psychiatrist obsessed with the concept of fear as the result of being bullied in childhood — not only by classmates in school, but, in some versions of his origin story (most notably in Batman: The Long Halloween, which has been an inspiration for Gotham more than once to date), by a fanatically religious grandmother, whom he later went on to murder. (When Gerald Crane has shown up in the comics, such as in 2005’s Year One: Batman/Scarecrow miniseries, he’s also been the subject of a murder attempt by Jonathan. Clearly, there are some family issues to work out.)
Although what launched Jonathan into his criminal career was surprisingly mundane — after losing tenure at the school where he was teaching, he sought revenge on the other teachers — his criminal schemes would later become far larger in scope, usually involving schemes to drive entire cities insane with his fear gas or some other, similarly chemical-based, plan on a grand scale. After all, if you’re going to gas one person, why not gas all of them, right … ?
While the Scarecrow might not be one of the first characters to spring to mind when you think of Batman villains, he’s become increasingly high profile in the last few years; not only does he show up in all of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies (played by Cillian Murphy), he’s also appeared in the Batman: Arkham video games, the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series and last year’s Batman: Assault on Arkham animated movie. The Scarecrow, in other words, is a big deal — and his journey toward that status on Gotham is just about to get started.
What are you looking forward to seeing? Sound off in the comments section below.
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.