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 and loyal allies in the corrupt department, aiding him in many of his efforts to clean both the city and the department up whenever she was able. After Commissioner Loeb's orchestrated resignation, Essen became the new Commissioner of the GCPD, however her time as Commissioner was short lived, as she passed away after being wounded in the massacre at the GCPD headquarters orchestrated by Jerome Valeska.
Captain of the Homicide Unit
In her office, Sarah along with Detectives Gordon and Bullock listened to the speech of Mayor James regarding the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Afterwards, she asks the both of them to quickly solve the case, with Bullock asking Gordon to step outside while he talked with Essen, with Essen vetoing his request to drop Jim as a partner, as Gordon was a war hero, and his father was a prominent D.A of Gotham in the past.
Sarah later had to hear Detective Bullock's complaints against his partner, Jim, as the latter wouldn't let him rough house suspects. Though she couldn't order him to break the law, Essen told Jim that extreme tactics were necessary, as in Gotham, if you didn't bend, you got broke. After being reassured that Jim was with the "program" by Bullock, she questioned the two Detectives as to the progress of their case, with Gordon relaying to her what they had discovered through Mackey, being that there were potentially kidnappers abducting homeless children off of the street. This was soon after confirmed by Edward Nygma who had run a blood test on Mackey, who had high levels of ATP in his blood stream. Essen then ordered the two Detectives to get to work, and keep the news of the homeless children kidnappings quiet, and that neither were to say a word to the press, as it was department policy and cause panic. She then told the two to follow up on the ATP lead. Later, she berated both Gordon and Bullock for the leak to the press about the kidnappings, questioning both to see if either of them had done it, afterward, she was updated on the Detectives' case by Gordon.
Following the murders of a vigilante dubbed by the press as the Balloonman, Essen demanded an update on Detective Gordon and Bullock's investigation of him. After being told that they suspected Carl Smikers and that there were still two air-balloons out there, Sarah demanded an immediate resolution to the case. Later, Essen was present when Detective Gordon revealed the identity of the Balloonman, Davis Lamond, with Sarah questioning as to why Lamond snapped in the first place. She later iterated the urgency of capturing Lamond, telling Gordon that several public officials were hiding in their homes in fear, screaming at the Commissioner to find him, and the Commissioner was screaming at her to do so.Sarah later brought the case of the double homicide of Councilman Ron Jenkins and his aide, found dead in a parking structure that morning.
Sarah later witnessed video footage of a man ripping an ATM, from the side of a wall, questioning as to how that was even possible. After being told that it was a drug that were the cause for the abilities, she was then told that Nygma would have a read on what exactly it was the next morning. The next day, Essen along with Gordon and Bullock were explained to by Nygma how exactly the drug, Viper worked. When it was suggested that WellZyn could potentially be responsible for the making of the drug, Sarah argued against it, as WellZyn was a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, a billion dollar company. Essen tells Bullock to go see his former partner Dix, after she is explained to by the latter how a coin in the base of the skull was Randall Milkie's M.O and that no one could have known about it, except him, and the medical examiner. She later intervenes when Detectives Montoya and Allen attempt to arrest Gordon and Bullock for the murder of Oswald Cobblepot, witnessing when Cobblepot comes in and announces himself. 
After the discovery that Cobblepot is alive, Sarah warned Gordon to get out of town, after he tells her that he's going to attempt to arrest the Mayor, and Don Falcone for perversions of justice in the Wayne murder case. Mentioning to him that no cop or lawyer in the city would dare help him, and although she wants to see things change too, she has a family. When Zsasz, an enforcer for Don Falcone, comes into the GCPD demanding for Gordon, although every cop in the building leaves after being asked to by Zsasz, Essen attempts to stay by his side, though Jim asks her to leave.Sarah was updated by Bullock as to the progress of the investigation of Coleman Lawson's mother. After asking how Gordon was doing, Essen was told by Bullock that he was angry that every cop in the building had left him when Zsasz had came and they in turn avoided him as seeing him reminding them all of what cowards they were. Though Bullock excluded Essen from the bunch after realizing he might have implied such, she agreed that he was right. She later apologized to Gordon for doing so, mentioning even though he asked her to leave, she should have stayed. Essen later arrives at the office where Gordon was being forced to fight several employees of Richard Sionis', warning Gordon when Sionis attempted to get back up to attack him, after Gordon originally subdued him.After the escape of Ian Hargrove during his transfer from Blackgate Penitentiary, Essen tells Bullock and Gordon to wrap the case up quickly. Essen was later chastised by the Mayor, due to angry phone calls he had been getting due to Hargrove not being captured, with James emphasizing that he wanted Hargrove found.Bullock and Gordon gave Essen the back story on Dorothy Duncan, an inmate who had been posing as a nurse and died during the Asylum riot. Essen later expressed that she'd bring Gordon, who had been demoted to security at Arkham, back to the force in a second if she had the power to do so.After the escape of Jack Gruber and Aaron Danzig, Sarah gave the run down of the two to several officers of the GCPD, witnessing when Gordon came in, though she told him to leave as he was out of his jurisdiction. She was later present when Gordon was re-instated to Detective first class by Commissioner Loeb.
Sarah later cautioned Gordon against making claims against other cops, after he revealed his suspicion to her and Bullock, that he thought a cop had killed Leon Winkler in the GCPD precinct. Essen later handed the investigation of Winkler's murder to internal affairs, after Gordon arrested Derek Delaware, and according to Flass almost blew up an ongoing narco investigation. Essen was present when Gordon announced to the rest of the precinct that he was going to arrest Flass, after discovering that the latter had murdered Winkler, though Sarah stepped in and did it herself.Essen was present at the crime scene of the death of Adam Jodowsky. She is later forced to suspend Nygma after multiple complaints from Dr. Guerra. She later had to explain Nygma's suspension to Gordon, who wanted Nygma to take a look at the autopsy for the case he had been investigating instead of Guerra, due to Guerra ruling Winkler's murder a suicide. However Essen iterated that there were some people you couldn't go after in the GCPD, and after arresting Flass everything they were doing going forward was being watched.Sarah later takes Leslie Thompkins with her after the latter arrived for her first day as the new medical examiner, eager to catch her up to speed.Sarah along with Harvey Dent, later revealed to Gordon that Flass had been released, and all murder charges dropped against him. Cautioning him against going against the Commissioner, Essen was later present when Loeb announced his sponsoring of Gordon for president of the policemen's union.
Essen is informed by Gordon and Bullock that The Ogre was waiting outside of the private medical clinic they had went to. She was later present when the Ogre called Gordon, warning him to back off. After furthering the investigation, Bullock and Gordon gave her the rundown of the Ogre's backstory, and real name.After a turf war between the Falcone and Maroni crime families breaks out, Essen announces to the precinct that all leaves were as of then cancelled, due to the need for all units on active duty.
Sarah attempted to defend Gordon after he was reprimanded by Commissioner Loeb for putting his hands on Officer Franks, though she was silenced, and ordered by Loeb to take Gordon's badge and gun as he was being dismissed. Gordon however, gave it to her and mentioned it was an honor serving under her for the time that he had. After Loeb willingly retired from his position, Essen was promoted to the position of Commissioner, telling Gordon who had been re-instated that they were going to do some real good in Gotham. She later informed both Leslie Thompkins and Gordon, of the escape of six inmates from Arkham Asylum, including Barbara Kean.
When Gordon was lured out by Barbara Kean and Aaron Helzinger, a massacre occurred in the GCPD Police Headquarters. Essen was confronted and mortally wounded by Jerome Valeska. Thompkins and Gordon arrive at the crime scene and witness her last moments before she dies of her wounds.
Sometime after her death, a man named Nathaniel Barnes succeeded Sarah 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, unlike most members of the Gotham City Police Department, she was non-corrupt. However she was willing to cooperate with the mob, although mainly did this as she wanted her family to remain safe. Regardless, she was still a major support of Jim Gordon, and nearly risked herself by standing by him when Victor Zsasz came to take him to Carmine Falcone; the only police officer in the precinct to do so.
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 originally appears as a detective partnered with then-lieutenant Gordon and is 12 years younger than him. She and Gordon, who was married at the time, start a brief affair but soon she leaves Gotham City for New York City. Editor Denny O'Neil later chose to revive the character as both an investigator and 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-haired woman, whereas, in Gotham, she is of Hispanic descent and appears to be older than Gordon, and is dark-haired.
- On the show, Sarah was killed by Jerome Valeska, who was inspired by the comic book 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.