Scarecrow: How Gotham Changed the Iconic Batman Villain

Batman has one of the most iconic rogues galleries in comic books and one of his most well-known villains is Jonathan Crane, better known as the Scarecrow. Using a neurotoxin to bring out his victims' greatest fears, Scarecrow has been haunting the Dark Knight for close to 80 years in virtually every single media adaptation of the DC Comics franchise including the live-action television series Gotham.

Now, here's a complete history of the Fox series incarnation of the classic villain, from his initial appearances in the first season to his fearful return in the fourth season and how his portrayal, by Charlie Tahan and David W. Thompson, differed from the comic book source material.

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Gotham Scarecrow

Introduced in the first season episode "The Fearsome Doctor Crane," Jonathan's father Gerald Crane steals the adrenal glands from his murder victims to perfect a serum designed to completely remove fear. Testing the prototype serum on himself and his young son Jonathan, the serum has the reverse-intended effect, causing Jonathan to suffer a complete mental breakdown, haunted by visions of his fear of scarecrows, while his father is killed by Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock in a standoff.

Still institutionalized in Gotham Asylum by the beginning of the fourth season, Jonathan is released into the custody of a group of criminals that bribe the warden. Now a prisoner of this new criminal outfit, Jonathan is tasked with recreating his father's fear serum to help his captors in their bid to take over Gotham City.

Eventually, Jonathan masters his fear through continued exposure to the toxin and uses it on his captors to lead to their arrest by the police while he goes into hiding. In the second half of the fourth season, Jonathan resurfaces with his own gang, adopting the alter ego Scarecrow signaling his complete mastery of his own fears.


Jonathan's campaign of terror begins with him taking revenge on the warden and inmates of Gotham Asylum by dousing them with his fear toxin causing them to succumb to their greatest fears. After Gordon overcomes the effects of the toxin and dispels it from the others by activating the asylum's sprinkler system, Scarecrow is apprehended and incarcerated in Arkham Asylum.

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Scarecrow is broken free by Mad Hatter and Jerome, joining up with their self-proclaimed Legion of Horribles. Jerome tasks Scarecrow with creating a laughing gas to unleash on all of Gotham, with the villain teaming up with Mister Freeze to rob chemical reserves from Wayne Enterprises to concoct the vast amounts of toxins required. While Scarecrow's plot is foiled, he remains on the loose and forms his own gang of followers when the city descends into No Man's Land during the fifth and final season.


Much of Scarecrow's design and depiction on Gotham is relatively faithful to the comics, especially in comparison to many of his fellow villains with considerably wider departures from their classic incarnations. The most considerable deviation actually involves Jonathan Crane's own villainous origins.

The New 52 had established Jonathan's father as subjecting his son to fear-based experiments, leaving him trapped in a small test chamber for days, leading to him becoming obsessed with the concept of fear. Jonathan had then become a professor at Gotham University while serving as a doctor at Arkham Asylum. Fired for his fear-based experiments on his students, Jonathan swears revenge on the city by transforming into Scarecrow, a persona he had been teased by his classmates growing up for his gangly appearance.

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While his depiction is surprisingly faithful to the source material, Scarecrow is one of the most fearsome villains to appear on Gotham. The self-proclaimed Master of Fear would oppose Jim Gordon and teenage Bruce Wayne after his own tragic origin to become a truly terrifying antagonist that would haunt the city right through its final season.

Gotham stars Ben McKenzie as James Gordon, Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin, Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle, Erin Richards as Barbara Kean, Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth and Shane West as Bane. Season 5 and The Complete Series will be available June 11 on Blu-ray and DVD.

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