A Look at Gotham- Season 4, Episode 4: “A Dark Knight: The Demon’s Head”

Well, if Ra’s al Ghul wants something done, he’ll have to do it himself.

The episode begins with Bruce and Alfred visiting Niles Winthrop, played by Dakin Matthews, to learn more about the knife.  They also meet Niles’ grandson, Alex, played by Benjamin Stockholm, who is an avid history student and spends a lot of time studying at the library.  Alfred pulls Bruce aside to express his concern, but Bruce asks the two to keep this matter between the four of them.  He’llcheck back tomorrow.

Nygma, meanwhile, is scribbling over and over to try and get the perfect riddle.  He finally manages to settle on something, saying that tomorrow night will be when Penguin dies.

Alex and Niles are working late into the night.  Niles examines and translates a text that describes the sacred blade.  All shall tremble before the Demon’s Head. Roll credits.  Niles knows of a legend about a man who could not die.  Niles asks Alex if he knows of Ra’s al Ghul, and Alex knows that he was a warlord.  People killed for those stories.  Niles believes that Bruce Wayne has stumbled into a dangerous story.

With a knock at the door, Niles has Alex take the blade away.  In enters Niles’ visitor: Ra’s al Ghul himself, who has pressing business.  Ra’s tells Niles that he’s looking for the knife that Bruce Wayne brought, but Ra’s sees through Niles’ lie.  Just then, the alarm goes off.  Probably the police, so time for Niles to die, as Ra’s snaps his neck.  Ra’s leaves, completely missing Alex in the darkness.

Next day, Jim finds Harper at the crime scene instead of Harvey, who has taken a sabbatical. According to the log book, the last visitor was Bruce Wayne, who then arrives at the scene.  Jim asks Bruce about why he visited, and Bruce explains that he came by to check Niles’ progress.  Bruce asks if anyone has spoken to Alex, but no one’s spotted him.  Bruce realizes the knife is gone, so Jim asks about said knife.

Bruce will talk, but he wants to accompany Jim, who promptly tells Bruce that now’snot the time for him to play detective.  Bruce paid a lot for the knife in order to outbid Barbara, so he just wanted to learn more about the blade.  For now, Jim advises Bruce to go home.

Ra’s pays a visit to Barbara and explains that the knife is a thing of destiny, 2000 years in the making.  He instructs Barbara’s rabid prisoner, Anubis, to find the knife and kill the missing boy.

Zsasz reports to Penguin that Sofia Falcone has arrived.  She gets right to it: she’s here because there are charities that require her attention, even if they somehow require her to come to Gotham in person.  Penguin remembers what Carmine taught him: nurture a healthy paranoid.  When Oswald took over, some of Carmine’s followers vanished.  And now, Oswald hears Carmine’s voice whispering for him to be careful.

So Oswald wants to be sure that Sofia isn’t about to start an insurrection.  Sofia talks about when Carmine sent Sofia away on the grounds that Gotham was too dangerous.  But this city is home, which is why Sofia returned.  Penguin approves.

Barbara receives another visit, from Jim this time.  He notes how she seems different and asks about her recent bidding on a now missing knife.  He asks where she was last night, and she has an alibi.  But after that, he wants to know who is bankrolling her, and Barbara won’t admit to it.  Then in enters Bruce, who asks if Barbara’s funder is Ra’s al Ghul.  Barbara claims to know nothing.

Naturally, Jim is upset about Bruce just following him.  He says that if Bruce wants to help, he should explain who Ra’s al Ghul is, as Jim sees through Bruce’s lies. Bruce admits that Ra’s leads the Court and is responsible for releasing the Tetch virus.  As for why he wants the knife, Bruce doesn’t know.  Harper calls Jim to tell him that Alex is missing.  Jim tells her to get any and all information on Ra’s al Ghul.

Jim asks Bruce to give him any information about Alex, and Bruce explains that Alex was last studying at Gotham Central Library.  If Jim shows up, Alex may run, so Jim needs Alex to see a familiar face.

Penguin receives a visit from some men that Nygma sent.  They rap out one of Nygma’s riddles, but Oswald…doesn’t find this amusing or even insightful at all.  Oswald thinks this is just an act by Ed and that he’s really back to his old self, so he plans to wait for Ed at the pier and then surprise him with an ambush that all ends with Victor Fries freezing Ed again.

Jim and Bruce arrive at Gotham Central Library and head to the records’ room.  Alex opens the door and eventually lets Bruce and Jim in, he then asks Bruce if he knew that the knife was dangerous.  Alex doesn’t want to cooperate since this killer may come after him, but then there’s a commotion in the library.  While Bruce takes Alex to the station, Jim is ambushed by Barbara’s henchmen.

The henchmen attempt to kidnap Alex, but Bruce and Jim manages to fight one of them off and give themselves enough time to escape.  However, Alex and Bruce are now separated from Jim.

Back at GCPD, Ra’s enters under the guise of a Minister of Antiquities on behalf of Nanda Parbat.  Jim pulls Harper aside to tell her that Ra’s has come for the knife and then asks her to call Alfred to make sure he’s heard from Bruce.

But Bruce is busy patching up Alex, who is ashamed of how afraid he is, while Bruce actually fought.  But Bruce acknowledges that fear is normal.  When his parents died, Bruce just stood there.  He says there’s nothing be afraid.  When you realize what it is, you can put fear in its place and then fight back.

Alex felt bad when Bruce’s parents died- all the kids talked about how Wayne lives alone in a mansion.  But as weird as Bruce may seem, Alex finds him normal and cool.  He promises to take Bruce to the knife.

Ra’s tells Jim that he’s come to pick up the knife since Barbara failed to secure it.  He insists that the knife be returned to him, though Jim wants to know of the knife’s importance.  As such, Ra’s speaks of an ancient story about a man who could not die. This man did terrible things, raised a great kingdom, and then vanished.  Legend has it that the man walked away from his throne, but would return to fulfill his destiny.

This would require the knife.  Just a story, but to Ra’s people, very meaningful.  Jim tells Ra’s that his concern is Alex, who is being hunted.  Perhaps the killer thinks he saw something.  Alex may be safe, but Jim would need to make sure instead of just turning over the knife, which Ra’s wants to see.

Then Alfred storms into the GCPD, punches Ra’s in the face, and is pulled away from Gordon.  When the two head back into the captain’s office, though, they find that Ra’s has gone.  More than that, Ra’s now knows that GCPD doesn’t have the knife.

Sofia meets with some of Carmine’s followers, who have come out of underground upon learning that a Falcone has arrived in the city.  Sofia isn’t interested in talking business and wants the men gone, but Penguin and Zsasz have already arrived.  Zsasz assassinates the followers just as Sofia realizes that Penguin set her up, as he knew Carmine’s followers would come.  But hey, Penguin let Sofia live, so there’s that.

But Sofia says that Carmine would’ve done something like invite her to dinners, be seen in public, and show that the old order supports Sofia.  And Carmine’s followers would’ve pledged themselves to Penguin, but now they’re dead.  Carmine knew how to build on the strength of others.  Penguin, though, is fine with new times and new methods.

Alex indeed reveals the knife to Bruce and speaks of the legend, but wonders if this is more than just a legend.  The man that killed Alex’s grandfather cannot have the knife.  Bruce promises that won’t happen.  However, Anubis and Barbara’s other henchmen have arrived and begin pursuing the boys.  They enter a room and sniff around, but as the boys are hiding behind glass and out of sight, no luck.

Back at GCPD, Alfred reams Jim out on having Bruce tag along, but Jim wants to know what Alfred and Bruce are hiding from him.  They spar on how to find Bruce, but as long as Ra’s thinks Bruce has the knife, he and Alex are in danger.  Jim won’t allow Alfred to come along due to violated trust. He instructs Harper to arrest Alfred if he tries to leave.  Alex and Bruce, meanwhile, are still hiding from Anubis…

So Penguin is fed up that Nygma didn’t show up at the pier, so the singers rattle off another bad riddle that could be just about anything.  But Zsasz gets his wish granted when he asks if the singers can be tortured.  There’s that, anyway.

Back at the museum, Anubis manages to get the drop on Bruce, but escapes when Jim arrives and opens fire.  Jim takes on Barbara’s henchmen, but receives backup from Bruce and Alex.  Jim tosses a bone outside the window and Anubis follows it.  He then stabs the other henchmen.  Jim asks Bruce why the knife is so important, but that’s revealed when Ra’s arrives and holds Alex at knifepoint.

Jim demands that Bruce give him the knife, but Bruce remembers that Ra’s killed and then brought Alfred back to knife.  As such, Bruce won’t hand over the knife.  Ra’s is glad that Bruce gets it, but he wonders if Bruce is strong enough.  He slices Alex’s throat and immediately drops his weapon to surrender.

Back at the precinct, Jim tells Bruce and Alfred that Ra’s is being carted to Blackgate.  He tells Bruce that he’s not responsible for Ra’s actions.  He wants to help, but needs something that he can believe- more than what Bruce has already said.  Bruce, though, blames himself for Alex’s death.  As far as Bruce is concerned, he killed him.

Nygma arrives at the Iceberg Lounge and calls out for Penguin, saying that he’s been waiting for him to show.  Penguin presents himself, saying that he’s no coward and that Nygma’s riddles suck.  Truth is there’s something wrong with Nygma after all, and Oswald figures that Ed isn’t smart.  And given that it took six hours to come up with those two, bad riddles, Nygma isn’t the same Riddler.

But revenge will make Ed feel better.  He threatens to shoot Penguin, but Oswald isn’t afraid.  He isn’t speaking to Edward Nygma.  Nygma would’ve noticed something: how chilly it is.

In enters Victor Fries, who is ready to freeze Nygma, but Ed soon admits that he’s not the Riddler.  Penguin changes his mind.  He won’t freeze Edward Nygma.  A better revenge is letting Ed live, knowing that he’ll never be the Riddler again.  With that, Oswald and Victor leave.

Sofia recounts to Jim a time that Carmine stabbed a man in his neck, and next day, there was no trace of blood.  Despite her upbringing, Gotham is Sofia’s home.  She tells Jim that Penguin lured out and had three of Carmine’s followers killed and reminds Jim that he came to the Falcones for help.  Jim wants to know Sofia’s plan, but right now, all Sofia wants is for Jim to trust her.

Ra’s, meanwhile, is carted off to Blackgate as the episode comes to a close.

It’s interesting how so often, Gotham’s main villains have goons or henchmen doing their dirty work.  On occasion, someone like Penguin may get directly involved, but more often than not, he can have Zsasz do the heavy lifting.  I say all this because in this circumstance, given how important the knife is, sometimes minions aren’t always going to prove reliable.

And with that in mind, it is such a refreshing change of pace that, in addition to having Barbara’s goons try to find Bruce and Alex, Ra’s is getting directly involved.  This accomplishes a few things.  For one, he can continue to test Bruce this way.  He can get closer and learn more about Jim by speaking right to him, and though Ra’s is incarcerated by episode’s end, you know this is far from over.

In addition, Ra’s killing Alex- which is a pretty ballsy move on this show’s part, I have to admit- puts Bruce in a predicament he’ll carry for the rest of his life.  With Bruce refusing to hand over the knife, he unintentionally sentences Alex to death because of his inaction.  Sure, Bruce not giving Ra’s the blade shows his willingness to never give in, but at a grave cost.  It’s not the right call, but the one Bruce felt was necessary.

But now he sees firsthand that there are major consequences not just to his decisions, but also his growing drive to become a vigilante and detective.  Had Bruce not gone to Niles and Alex to learn more about the knife, they might still be alive.  It’s nice that the show is giving Bruce this huge burden on top of what he’s already experiencing in his training.

More than that, it’s nice to see the growing tension between Jim, Bruce, and Alfred. Even though Alfred has a right to be concerned about Bruce playing detective with Jim, Gordon wasn’t wrong when he pointed out that Bruce and Alfred have been keeping secrets from him.  They’re still a team, mind you, but with Bruce and Alfred not being completely honest, it’s harder for the two sides to fully trust one another.

Speaking of Gordon, this partnership he has with Sofia Falcone is no doubt going to be a tricky one to navigate because she’s not telling him about her overall plan.  Perhaps she really does want to help Jim take control of the city back from Penguin and into the hands of the authorities, but as her conversation with Oswald alludes, Sofia is still a Falcone and has the knowledge to run the criminal world.

Sticking with the criminal world, the fact that Penguin was sick of Nygma’s simple riddles was funny, as well as seeing his growing frustration.  And how merciful of Penguin to let Nygma live since, for now, he’s not the Riddler.

On that, though, I’m not a fan of Victor Fries being an occasional henchman.  Victor has much more dimension than that, as we saw during his introduction alongside Nora. After all, Penguin has Zsasz and he’s more than enough.  My hope is that both Fries and Firefly are given more to flesh out their characters.

“The Demon’s Head” was a good episode that put Ra’s in direct contact with Bruce and Gordon, all resulting in a fatal end that will have a long-lasting effect on Bruce.  While not all of the lines in Ben McKenzie’s script here hit home, it was a fun watch with some great action sequences and fun moments with Penguin and Oswald.  And with Ra’s in Blackgate, the next obvious path is for him to meet Bane.

I can dream, you know.

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