This Gotham review contains spoilers
Gotham Season 4 Episode 19
Boy oh boy, this week’s episode of Gotham is very lucky it ends with a strong third act because it was almost one of the worst episodes in the show’s four-year history. As always, there is a great deal going on this week with the struggle for the Demon’s Head escalating, layers of betrayal between Lee Thompkins, Riddler, and Penguin, and Bruce Wayne once again trying to kill Ra’s Al Ghul.
Ooops, wait, did I spoil the fact that Ra’s Al Ghul returns from the dead? Well, Ra’s Al Ghul returns from the dead and the whole Demon’s Head plot is so threadbare that’s it barely exists.
Weeks back, Ra’s Al Ghul chose Barbara Kean as the new boss of the League of Shadows. The League splinters off with the female half backing Barbara and the male contingent seeking to resurrect Ra’s Al Ghul. This week, the misters of the League succeed and Ra’s returns in a very cool zombie form. He’s all like, “Why did you awake me from my eternal slumber?” The League is all like “Because Barbara sucks,” and Ra’s is all like “No, she doesn’t,” and the League is all like “Yeah, she really does,” and Ra’s is suddenly like, “Really? Okay I screwed up, imma kill her.”
The sad part is, I’m only exaggerating a little bit. There is never really a solid explanation to why Ra’s chose Barbara, why he gives up on her so easy, or what exactly the Demon’s Head power exactly is. It’s something about seeing a few seconds into the future and a glowing hand, and really, with decades of Ra’s Al Ghul comics to riff from, how do you come up with something so wispy thin?
It was like the writers on Arrow said “No one can top the mediocrity of our Ra’s Al Ghul season,” and Gotham was like “Hold my beer.”
So the struggle for the Demon’s Head power draws in Selena and Bruce who have to steal back the Ra’s killing MaGuffin knife to once again kill Ra’s. Of course, Bruce hesitates because the first killing of Ra’s Al Ghul led to Bruce’s transformation to a douche bag rich kid. But Bruce is game; he helps Barbara steal the knife (in a heist sequence that is the most entertaining part of this near lead balloon like episode).
Soon after, Barbara thoughtlessly steals the knife from Bruce and tires to kill Ra’s. She fails but survives and the female League members swear to help Barbara defeat Ra’s because why not? The whole thing is vague, confusing, and random. The painting of Ra’s with a woman that sort of looks like Barbara is dismissed as irrelevant, the Bruce as a killer stuff is kind of pushed away, and Ra’s gets his power back, whatever that power might be. And he isn’t a zombie anymore. I’d like to tell you more but I have no idea what actually happened, and neither do the writers, I think.
Not as bad is a plotline involving the burgeoning relationship between Riddler and Lee Thompkins. Riddler is helping Lee knock over some mob banks in order to fund the Narrows. Penguin gets wind of this Lee Thompkins windfall and wants to horn in on the action. Butch throws himself into Penguin’s play so he can raise the funds to find a cure for Solomon Grundy, so we have quite a group of bank robbers.
Penguin convinces Riddler to betray Lee and cut her out because Penguin fears Riddler’s love for the doctor turned crime boss will signal a return of the Ed Nygma persona. Riddler looks like he is going to betray Lee but turns the tables on Penguin and Grundy so now we have a war between those two duos.
Now this is a story arc that shouldn’t work, but the sheer force of the performances force it to be compelling. With Gordon playing the hapless cop between Team Lee and Team Oswald, there is a lot to get behind as the Riddler/Thompkins pairing evolves. The episode actually provides an explanation for Lee’s out of character behavior when Riddler postulates that Lee is still somehow feeling the effects of the Tetch virus. Okay, I’ll buy that. At least there is an effort.
But there is no effort in the Ra’s and Barbara war as stuff just happens without thought or explanation. This is getting to be Azrael levels of bad, so thank goodness we have the unlikely Ridder/ Lee Thompkins romance to keep things interesting. If this week proves anything, it’s that Gotham really needs the Joker storyline to keep things engaging because this series has mastered a good Joker yarn. Ra’s Al Ghul stories? Not so much.
Ra’s Al Ghul predicted the famed Batman: No Man’s Landstoryline so more on that when the predicted Cataclysm takes place.
Traditionally, the Demon’s Head is the English translation of Ra’s Al Ghul’s name, not a power, so I really don’t know what the glowy hand thing is supposed to be.