Sarah Essen was the commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department. During her time in the GCPD, she served as one of Jim Gordon's most trusted allies, teaching him wisdom and restraint in his fight against corruption. After Commissioner Loeb's resignation, she became the new Commissioner of the GCPD. However her tenure was short lived, as she was shot to death by Jerome Valeska during the massacre at the GCPD headquarters.
Captain of the Homicide Unit
Essen watched the live reporting of Thomas and Martha Wayne's deaths, and implored Gordon and Bullock to quickly solve the case. Privately, she denied Bullock's request to switch partners. She later listened to Bullock's complaint that Jim was too restrained in his use of force against subjects, to which Essen explained tht Gotham policework necessitated tough tactics.
Following the murders of a vigilante dubbed the "Balloonman", Essen demanded an immediate resolution to the case. She described mounting pressure from the higher-ups. She later brought the case of the double homicide of Councilman Ron Jenkins and his aide, found dead in a parking structure that morning.
Essen intervened when Detectives Montoya and Allen attempted to arrest Gordon in connection with the murder of Oswald Cobblepot. After discovering that Cobblepot was alive and Jim planned to arrest crime bosses including Don Falcone, Essen begged him to leave town. Inevitably Zsasz, Don Falcone's enforcer, arrived at the GCPD demanding Jim, and she was the only one to stand by his side. Jim told her he was angry that his colleauges left him to Zsasz and she apologised on their behalf.
Essen arrived at Sionis' battle office to save Jim, who was forced to fight Richard Sionis' employees.
After Jim was demonted to prison guard at Arkham, Essen expressed that she'd bring Gordon back to the force if she could She was later present when Gordon was re-instated to Detective first class by Commissioner Loeb.
Essen cautioned Jim about lodging accustaions against other cops, after he revealed his suspicions to her and Bullock regarding the killing of Leon Winkler. Essen later handed the investigation of Winkler's murder over internal affairs. She heard Jim announced to the precinct that he was going to arrest Flass, Winkler's murder, and stepped in to do it herself. Essen was forced to suspend Nygma after multiple complaints from Dr. Guerra, and explained to Jim that arresting Flass made her and Jim targets of the higher-ups. She revealed to Jim that Flass had been released and cautioned him against targeting the Commissioner.
Essen was present when Loeb announced his sponsorship of Gordon for President of the Policemen's Union.
After Bullock and Gordon deduced The Ogre's identity, they explained his complicated backstory to Essen.
Sarah defended Gordon after he was reprimanded by Commissioner Loeb for assaulting Officer Franks, though she was forced to take his badge and gun. After Loeb retired, Essen was promoted to the position of Commissioner, telling Gordon who had been re-instated that they were going to do some real good. She later informed both Leslie Thompkins and Gordon, of the escape of six inmates from Arkham Asylum, including Barbara Kean.
After Barbara Kean and Aaron Helzinger lured Jim out of the precinct, Jerome Valeska lead a raid on the GCPD, capturing Essen and torturing her on live TV. Thompkins and Gordon arrived at the crime scene after the fact and witnessed her last moments before she died of a gunshot wound.
Sometime after Sarah's death, Nathaniel Barnes succeeded her as the captain of the Gotham City Police Department. Although she did not live to see it, the days of corruption in Gotham City were slowly coming to an end.
- "Look, Jim, it's not like I can order you to break the law, but this is Gotham. You don't bend, you'll get broke."
- —Sarah Essen to Jim Gordon[src]
Sarah took her job as a police captain, later, police commissioner very seriously and unlike most members of the GCPD, she was a non-corrupt individual.
However, Sarah was willing to cooperate with the mob, primarily out of fear for her family. She was Jim Gordon's biggest supporter in the precinct, standing up to him against powerful adversaries like Victor Zsasz and Carmine Falcone.
Behind the scenes
- Sarah Essen was created by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli and first appeared in Batman #405 (March 1987). In the comics, Sarah was a detective partnered with then-lieutenant Gordon and was 12 years younger than him. She and Gordon, who was married at the time, begin a brief affair but she leaves Gotham City for New York City. Editor Denny O'Neil later chose to revive the character as a love interest for Gordon. Sarah and James later were married in Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #2 (1992).
- In the comics, Sarah Essen is a Caucasian, blonde woman, whereas, in Gotham, she is Hispanic, dark-haired and appears to be older than Gordon.
- On Gotham, Sarah was killed by Jerome Valeska, inspired by comic villain, the Joker. This is a nod to Detective Comics #741 (February 2000), where Essen was murdered by the Joker.
- This is the first live-action incarnation of the character Sarah Essen.