Gotham 4.4: “The Demon’s Head” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Gotham” are present in this review



Gordon is officially being drawn into the ever-twisted world of Bruce Wayne’s new destiny as of this week’s episode of Gotham, which was all about the first serious battle against Ra’s Al Ghul. “The Demon’s Head” involved Bruce trying to discover the secret behind the mysterious knife that Ra’s Al Ghul is desperate to get his hands on, while Gordon tries to solve a murder related to the knife, and ends up forced to deal with Bruce’s intervention. Meanwhile, two separate subplots unfold with Penguin, which made his character especially busy this week, despite Penguin’s lack of involvement in the more pressing Ra’s Al Ghul storyline.

Overall, this episode of Gotham is fairly strong, despite a few sour notes here and there. Bruce and Alfred taking the knife to a historian to start, and costing the man his life when Ra’s Al Ghul comes searching for it, is a pretty exciting way to kick off the episode, particularly when Bruce opts to separate from Alfred in favour of working with Gordon, once the police are alerted to the scene. Alfred gets disappointingly sidelined in this episode, but this nonetheless presents a good opportunity for Gordon to start getting more heavily involved in what Bruce has been up to, while also seeing for the first time just how dangerous Ra’s Al Ghul truly is.

For the most part, the cat-and-mouse game with Ra’s Al Ghul also proved very entertaining, with Ra’s Al Ghul even casually walking into the GCPD offices as a Nanda Parbat treasury representative at one point (yes, DC Comics’ fictional Himalayan mini-nation, Nanda Parbat officially exists in the Gotham universe), in a highlight scene where he first meets Gordon. Ra’s Al Ghul’s rather silly henchmen are less effective, by contrast, with an animalistic killer called Anubis and a big thug called The Hunter pursuing Bruce and the dead historian’s grandson throughout the episode, in an effort to reclaim the knife. I get that this is a DC show, but what’s with Ra’s Al Ghul having such goofy goons? They don’t exactly keep a low profile for a villain that’s supposed to operate in the shadows!

Regardless, the climax of this storyline, whereupon Gordon trusts Bruce to get the dead historian’s surviving grandson to recover the hidden knife, was pretty great. As you can imagine, the silly thugs go down as stupidly as you’d think, but the final stand-off with Ra’s Al Ghul definitely makes up for it. Now exposing his true nature to Gordon, Ra’s holds the historian’s grandson at knifepoint, while demanding his ceremonial knife that Bruce has snatched back. Gordon is prepared to surrender the knife, but Bruce refuses to, saying, quite rightly, that Gordon has no idea who he’s dealing with.

This leads to a surprisingly grim, yet very effective conclusion, whereupon the grandson gets his throat slit and dies, while Ra’s surrenders to Gordon, leading to him getting tossed into Blackgate Penitentiary. This is something of a bittersweet victory, since Ra’s was successfully arrested and the knife was kept away from him, but Ra’s doesn’t seem to be at all bothered about being in prison, since I doubt it’s the first time he’s been incarcerated. Moreover, Bruce blaming himself for two innocent deaths, one of which was a child’s death, proved very dramatic and impactful, and should likely lean further into his strict code to never use lethal force on criminals when he eventually embraces his heroic future as Batman.

The subplots of this episode meanwhile, like I said, were pretty much entirely dominated by Penguin in one way or another. One of these involves Penguin meeting Sofia Falcone, after Sofia settles into Gotham City. Sofia tries to claim to Penguin that she has no interest in restarting her father’s mob rackets (even though we know that this is a lie), but Penguin nonetheless uses her to lead him to Carmine Falcone’s hidden enforcers, whom can now be easily executed. The teary, vulnerable Sofia tries to claim to Penguin that she used him, with Penguin seemingly in the power position, but sure enough, this is a ruse. Sofia later admits to Gordon that she allowed Penguin to murder her father’s men, as a means of getting Penguin to trust her. Sofia is proving to be a pretty interesting femme fatale, even though I’m still not totally buying how easily she’s seducing Gordon. This romance is pretty much only there to inevitably bite Gordon in the ass in some spectacular way later in the season.

Finally, the remaining subplot involved Nygma trying to get his groove back, by challenging Penguin to find him at various points in the city, utilizing riddles. As with Ra’s Al Ghul’s henchmen, Nygma forcing two beatboxing street urchins to relay messages to Penguin felt a bit head-scratching in its sheer silliness (could he not just leave notes?), even if it was fairly funny to watch. Regardless, Penguin eventually gets fed up when he can never find Nygma wherever he claims to be, but nonetheless learns the truth, that Nygma really can’t write good riddles anymore. When an impatient Nygma simply walks into the Iceberg Lounge demanding revenge soon afterward, Penguin points this inadequacy out to Nygma, and rather than have Mr. Freeze put Nygma on ice again, he simply lets Nygma walk out, living with the knowledge that he will never be The Riddler again. Obviously, this won’t be permanent, since Nygma will inevitably return to top form to menace Batman in the future at the very least, but Nygma’s surprisingly anti-climactic defeat was fairly effective, and I’m interested to see if Nygma truly decides to give up his fight with Penguin here, even if I doubt he will.

“The Demon’s Head” had plenty of good story material, even if some of it veered too far into head-scratching weirdness. Bruce having to sacrifice not one but two people to keep Ra’s Al Ghul from achieving his evil agenda was pretty effectively dramatic, while also providing a good excuse for Gordon to witness Ra’s Al Ghul’s true nature first-hand. Seeing Sofia’s mysterious plan continue to unfold is also proving pretty interesting, with even Penguin seemingly oblivious to what she’s truly capable of. The only thing letting down Gotham this week, surprisingly, was its comic book moments, namely Ra’s Al Ghul somehow thinking that the most ridiculous enforcers imaginable are a good means to go after one of the richest and most well-known people in Gotham City. Regardless, Ra’s Al Ghul is now behind bars, so Bruce is safe for now, even if it’s extremely doubtful that there’s any jail in the world that could hold Nanda Parbat’s immortal villain.

Despite a few awkward moments of comic book weirdness, Gotham delivered a pretty good episode this week, as Bruce desperately tries to keep Ra's Al Ghul away from his ceremonial knife.
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Gordon finally bearing witness to the true danger behind Ra's Al Ghul
Bruce having to sacrifice lives to keep Ra's Al Ghul at bay
Sofia successfully tricking Penguin into thinking she's innocent
Ra's Al Ghul's inexplicably weird thugs
Nygma's inexplicably weird riddle delivery method