I’d like to start by saying that I will not delve deep into “real-life” analysis here but there is a reason why I used a photo shoot picture of Natalie for this post instead of one from the show, because Natalie is an actress well suited to playing Silver. Her own expression simply lends itself to the role. Camren, who plays Selina, could not have pulled off such a good Silver, and Natalie couldn’t have done such a good Selina.
Silver is a Gotham character who’s received her fair share of hate. Some of that is due to people being annoyed of her getting in the way of Bruce and Selina, because most Gotham viewers love Bruce and Selina. Despite being a huge fan of Bruce and Selina I don’t share that sentiment, and this won’t focus on that.
The most of the hate is due to ageist prejudice and condescension, and the exact nature of the hate actually proves why she’s such a great character.
How should we understand Silver St. Cloud?
When Silver was brought on the show, from the very first scene, I immediately identified her as a weapon. She was raised a pawn of Theo. While Tabitha represents the physical violence and brute force, Silver represents the psychological manipulation and sexual extortion. I think that this is precisely what makes many viewers quite uneasy.
These women are both brutally exploited by Theo, but one could convincingly argue that Tabitha’s job description might be seen as the more palatable. The show has thankfully refrained from showing us exactly what it is that Silver is capable of in graphic detail, but that’s certainly not to say it’s never been hinted at. See season two, chapter eleven, “Worse than a crime”:
Silver is the "Agent Valentine", the seductress. She’s a girl naturally talented for the role. She also intensely hates what she’s doing, almost as much as she hates herself. “God, I’m such a loser. An evil, pathetic loser.”
Gotham isn’t a show that shuns away from dark subjects. I’ve often argued how that’s part of what makes it great rather than merely good.
The criticism of the Silver character is normally all about how she’s “over-sexualized” or that “a fifteen-year-old kid has no business being that hot”… which is exactly the point. She’s an underage girl under the control of a ruthless villain being employed as a tool of sexual manipulation. A girl capable of seducing a grown man to threaten him with scandal or prison.
It’s terrible! Television shows are allowed to be scary! They’re allowed to show and reference murder, rape, incest, abuse, all of these things without it being taken as condoning it.
Most of the criticism is rooted in the simple fact that the people complaining are either adult women who feel threatened or insulted by the idea that a girl that young could represent competition, or perhaps more commonly men who are secretly attracted to the character which makes them feel dirty. In this, they are regrettably failing to realize that they are having a perfectly natural reaction which they are sharing with the vast majority of post-pubertal and pre-senescent males on the planet.
The second phenomenon is similar to the “homophobes in the closet” meme, but it’s actually far, far more common. Believe it or not, most people who hate gays aren’t actually lusting for them, that’s just something we say to mock them.
Now, attentive readers might say… “Wait… We’ve never actually seen Silver in the Lolita role, have we?” And yes, no, we haven’t. But, read between the lines.
Silver mentions the terrible things that she’s done, never spelling them out. Her entire demeanor through that scene is filled with self-loathing. She’s clearly no fighter. Her talents lie elsewhere.
Silver has never failed an assignment. This is conclusively proven by the fact that the very minute Theo realizes that she’s compromised, he instantly abandons her. She’s never been compromised before, because she’s never been sent after a mark for whom she’s been capable of any affection.
This is an almost-irreparably damaged person - an intensely sexual girl who’s been taught, all through her formative years, only to view and wield sex as a weapon. When Bruce and Silver’s romantic relationship is revisited, this issue will resurface. This is the core of her character, her main inner conflict.
Silver’s weakness is her loneliness and it’s Silver’s loneliness and need for human contact with a boy her own age that Bruce uses against her. This is a theme which the show returns to again and again - the malicious exploitation of the sentiment that “love conquers all.” What the characters love is what ends up destroying them.
She’s a deeply tragic individual; in Bruce’s words, one to be pitied. But she’s also a believable, a layered, a potentially great one.
This is precisely why I referred to her as the most terrifying character on the show. She terrifies people.