A Look at Gotham- Season 4, Episode 5: “A Dark Knight: The Blade’s Path”

Solomon Grundy, born on a Thursday.  Would be Monday, but Gotham doesn’t air on that day anymore.

The episode begins with two hospital employees taking Butch, who has been in a coma for six months, and dumping his body into Slaughter Swamp, which is filled with chemicals from Indian Hill.  Of course.

Over at the precinct, Jim asks Bullock if anyone’s contacted him about Ra’s, as his trial has been pushed off of the docket.  It gets worse- turns out Harvey, under orders from the commissioner, is releasing all of Jim’s arrests because they all have a license from Penguin.  He has orders from above his pay grade.  Then Harper tells Jim that there’s news on Ra’s that requires his attention.

Over at Wayne Manor, Alfred finds Bruce again messing with the dagger.  Bruce, still blaming himself for Alex’s death, found something in Winthrop’s notes: the knife is intended for the one bathed in the healing waters, but that doesn’t mean it has to be for Ra’s- maybe used against him.  If Ra’s believes the knife will kill him, maybe that’s why he wants it before someone fulfills the prophecy.

Alfred knows that Bruce feels bad about Alex, but Bruce has to remember his vow to never kill.  That could lead him down a dark path of no return.  Alfred puts away the knife and tells Bruce to get ready.

For what?  Alex’s funeral, which Bruce and Alfred attend.  Jim’s here as well, and he tells Alfred that Ra’s has been granted diplomatic immunity and been given extradition from Nanda Parbat.  Once the news gets out, Jim wants Alfred to keep an eye on Bruce, even though he has been putting Bruce in harm’s way.  Alfred agrees to keep this news away from Bruce, but turns out that he’s already listening.

That evening, Bruce retrieves the blade.

Barbara arrives at Blackgate and is ready to free Ra’s, but turns out he summoned her to say goodbye.  She was to be Ra’s eyes and ears, but Barbara wants what she was promised- a gift beyond her imagining.  The two pull a Wrath of Khan and place their hand on the glass.  All of a sudden, Barbara feels a surge in her body.  As for what comes next, Ra’s tells Barbara that she’ll find out.

We return to the swamp, where Butch emerges from the lake with bleached hair, skin, and his clothes in tatters.  He happens upon a group of men and is frightened by the flames.  He knocks out two of the men, one of whom asks who he is.  Just then, Butch overhears some music playing on a phonograph and settles on his name: Solomon Grundy.  Born on Monday.

Though Mayor Blake tells Oswald that 86 percent of crime is under the Pax Penguina, but Penguin is concerned about the 14 percent that isn’t.  Sofia enters to ask Penguin if he has lunch plans tomorrow.  Penguin is aghast, given that he killed the last of Carmine’s allies, but Sofia tells Oswald that there’s one thing he lacks: the Falcone name.  A name that once accounted for all of Gotham’s criminal activity.

Sofia wants to have lunch in a public place to show Gotham that Penguin has the Falcone support, thus meaning he’ll receive the backing of criminals not under the Pax Penguina.  As such, Oswald wants a question mark added to whether he’ll kill Sofia.

Nygma raids a drug store for something to improve his brain function.  The clerk brings up one drug that can boost Nygma’s cognitive abilities, but this is just an excuse for the clerk to shoot Nygma with what turns out to be a fake gun.  And this drug?  Sugar pills.  So the clerk calls the police.

Nygma escapes and pops the pills anyway, but then runs right into Butch, who is still calling himself Grundy.  Before Nygma can explain much, Grundy knocks him out.

Alfred arrives at the precinct and tells Jim to get him into Blackgate.  With Bruce gone, Alfred feels that Bruce will use the knife to try and kill Ra’s al Ghul.  He warns Jim that Bruce is on the verge of doing something he won’t come back from, so he needs all the help he can get.  With that, the two leave.

Indeed, Bruce grapples his way into Blackgate and uses a guard’s key card to gain access to Ra’s cell.  He unsheathes the knife, but doesn’t deliver the killing blow.  As he walks away, Ra’s calls Bruce weak and foolish.  He knocks him down just long enough to keep the knife out of his range.  Bruce tells the approaching guards to stop Ra’s, but turns out that they’re loyal to Ra’s, so they knock Bruce out.

Gordon and Alfred arrive at Blackgate, where the guards tell them that Bruce hasn’t been at the prison.  Once Alfred and Jim hand over their weapons, the guards allow the two to proceed.  Though one guard radios in that the two have arrived…

Nygma awakens, discards his sugar pills, and gets a scare when Grundy startles him.  Grundy is surprised that Nygma knows him, though Nygma is surprised that Grundy’s hand has grown back.  We all are, Ed.

Grundy just wants Nygma to be his friend, though Nygma can’t since he can’t even help himself.  Neither of them know who they are.  And Nygma can’t even rob a damn pharmacy.  He’s of no good to Grundy.  But then Grundy pulls over a hot dog stand and hands Nygma a hot dog.

Sofia arrives at a restaurant and speaks with Janos Szabo, played by Demosthenes Chrysan, about how the Szabo family is fairing under Penguin.  They’re fine for now, but would be wise not to say anything if they didn’t.  Luckily, Sofia invited Penguin to this very restaurant for lunch- a lunch that she hopes he’ll never forget.

Bruce awakens beneath Blackgate Penitentiary.  Ra’s tells him that Jim and Alfred are upstairs.  More than that, he reveals that he for immunity because he knew that Bruce would come for him.  Ra’s wants the knife because it’s been ages since he held it.  The blade was given to him moments after he was bathed in the Lazarus Pit.  He also saw a vision of Bruce Wayne as his heir.  Bruce doesn’t get what that means.

But that means Bruce is the only one who can end Ra’s suffering by stabbing him with the blade and setting him free.

Nygma thanks Grundy for the snack and prepares to leave, but Grundy won’t let him, even though Ed would rather be alone.  A mob enters the alley and attacks the two, but Grundy easily overpowers them.  However, one member’s Molotov cocktail bursts and burns Grundy’s arm, so Nygma gets some water and puts out the flames.  As such, Grundy calls Nygma a smart man and gives Nygma a big hug.

Penguin arrives at the restaurant to meet Sofia.  She chose this place because Penguin’s mother was Hungarian and Sofia figured that Oswald would want a taste of home.  Even still, one of Penguin’s henchmen tastes the food first and assures him that it’s fine.  Aside from some extra paprika, the food is serviceable to Oswald.  Though Oswald wants out, Sofia insists that he stay and try the goulash.

Oswald recalls how his mother also made goulash and doubts that this will hold up, but judging from Penguin’s face, it gets an emotional rise out of him. Turns out that this is Gertrude’s recipe.

When Jim questions one of the guards about his time at Blackgate, he grows increasingly suspicious and then notices the last name on one of the guards.  Alfred also asks where the real guards are, and the two spring into attack.  They leave one guard alive, and the guard explains that Ra’s has plans for Bruce.  Alfred shoots and kills the guard.  So now the question is where Ra’s would take Bruce.

Sofia arrives at the Iceberg Lounge just as a livid Oswald demands to know why Sofia is buttering him up, given that the goulash at the restaurant tasted exactly like his mother’s.  Only Gertrude did nice things for Oswald wanting something in return.  Carmine, meanwhile, never helped someone unless it benefited him.  This drove people away.  Sofia wants to help Oswald, but he wants her gone.

Then Sofia notices Oswald’s foot is in pain.  As she massages Oswald’s ankle, she tells Oswald that she broke her ankle when she was playing with her cousins as a child.  Carmine told her to toughen up and put ice on it, but Sofia’s mother rode with her to the hospital.  During that hospital ride, Mom said that cold embraces the pain, but what’s needed is warmth.

At Blackgate, Ra’s tells Bruce that he’s walked the Earth for centuries.  Only Bruce can kill him with this dagger and this is Ra’s curse.  Bruce believes this to be another manipulation, but Ra’s calls Bruce’s attention to the true reflection of Ra’s in a pool of water, and he’s much older.  This is his curse.  Bruce says that Ra’s deserves his curse, but unless Bruce kills Ra’s, he will never be free.  Bruce, though, refuses.

So Ra’s explains what will happen if Bruce doesn’t kill him: Ra’s will disappear and let Bruce live his life.  He’ll follow the path of light, grow into a fine man, and maybe even become a husband or father.  He may even forget one day that Ra’s existed, but then he will return to kill everyone that Bruce loves.  Just as Bruce watched his parents and Alex die, Ra’s will murder Bruce’s loved ones and Bruce will be helpless.

And that’s enough to get Bruce to plunge the blade deep into Ra’s chest.  It ends up mummifying Ra’s until he’s nothing but a skeleton.  And that’s when Jim and Alfred arrive.

Outside, when other officers have arrived, Jim won’t arrest Bruce for murder because hey, Ra’s men broke into Blackgate and he escaped.  Bruce is upset that he killed, but Jim tells Bruce that just because he’s capable of something doesn’t mean it has to happen again.  Jim knows that Bruce is still the same kid who believes in doing good and fighting for what’s right.  Nothing that happened today changes that.

That evening at Wayne Manor, Alfred finds Bruce about to torch his outfit, but now this journey has become so much bigger than Ra’s.  Alfred understands that Bruce can make a difference, though Bruce says he’s not the hero Gotham needs now that he chose a darker path by killing Ra’s.

Alfred tells Bruce that it will be a long, bumpy journey back, but Alfred will always believe in Bruce.  Whenever Bruce feels worthy again, the outfit will be waiting for him.

Nygma tells Grundy that they need a new plan, but Grundy wants to know if Nygma is telling the truth about their past.  So Nygma tells him that the two were the very best of friends.  Right.  With Grundy’s muscles, they can get money to make Nygma smart…and then figure out what happened to Grundy.  This begins by the two going to a fight club and telling the owner, Cherry, played by Marina Benedict, that Grundy can fight.

Before Grundy can fight anyone, he needs to be patched up by the club’s doctor. And it’s a small world after all because it turns out that the doctor is, of course, Leslie Thompkins.

Does anyone actually leave this city?

Oh, Gotham.  Well, might as well start with Leslie.  It was a given that she’d return. After all, Morena Baccarin has still been listed in the credits and she did have a brief appearance in Jim’s nightmare vision at Arkham.  I’m just curious as to how and why she’s ended up here of all places.  Could she not find work at the end of the previous season?

In the Season Three finale, Jim told Harvey that Leslie left the city.  So what drew her back?  Is Carmine Falcone the one person who will stay away from Gotham City after leaving?  It’s all minor nitpicks and again, Leslie’s return was inevitable, but my initial reaction is one of bafflement.  But this is Gotham, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Keeping with the smaller plots, it’s good that Penguin is wise to Sofia trying to butter him up all the way to having him feast on his mother’s own goulash recipe.  But Sofia at least isn’t being too obvious.  She has a point: if the two are seen in public, then those criminals not working under Penguin may change their tune once they see he has a Falcone in his corner.

And as the last episode showed, Sofia is her father’s daughter, but more than capable of standing on her own while still upholding the Falcone legacy.  If she has other motives that she’s not letting either Oswald or Jim in on, Penguin ought to be more careful, as we’ve seen what happens when he’s ruled by his emotions.

But enough about the smaller stuff.  While I find the avenue that Gotham took to turn Butch into Solmon Grundy pretty contrived, it works with this show’s warped, internal logic .  I could see this working the same way that turning Barbara from boring girlfriend to insane lunatic made her more interesting.  And there’s a lot of influence from comic lore here, down to the look and being dumped in Slaughter Swamp.

So in that regard, having Grundy on Gotham in this way sort of makes sense.  He makes for a great comic foil to the struggling Nygma and I hope we see more of this partnership play out.  The two are a broken brain and brawn, but by working together, this could help Nygma get back on his feet and help give Grundy some kind of purpose. More than Butch got leading up until Barbara shot him.

For all of Bruce’s vigilantism and doing the right thing in Gotham City, he’s walking down a dark path, but like his work in the field, I like how this is all trial and error for him.  He’s still ruled somewhat by his emotions and can be driven to making a choice that will scar him for the rest of his life.  This is one way that Ra’s will always be with Bruce, even when he’s not around, not to mention whatever power Ra’s passed to Barbara.

Whether by getting Alex killed or, this week, stabbing Ra’s with the knife, Bruce no longer feels he’s the hero that Gotham needs.  Or maybe even deserves, but you’ve heard that line before.  And while I don’t like how Jim spelled out what Bruce is capable, both that and the talks from Alfred can be the pushes that Bruce needs to set himself back on the right path.

More than that, this doesn’t feel like it’s out of nowhere.  At this point, Alex’s death is still fresh in Bruce’s mind.  So to see him plunge deeper is a good move because he’ll work even harder to atone for his mistakes.  For now, as far as his future is concerned, he’s less on the path towards becoming Adam West or Kevin Conroy and more going down the Michael Keaton or Ben Affleck path, as far as a Batman that kills on occasion.

“The Blade’s Path” was a solid episode with Solomon Grundy’s official introduction and fun partnership with Nygma.  Coupled with Bruce now brought down by even more guilt by his decision to stab Ra’s, his path to becoming the hero that Gotham needs will indeed be a bumpy one.  But with Ra’s passing some sort of power onto Barbara, his legacy will live on in her.

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