A Look at Gotham- Season 4, Episode 19: “A Dark Knight: To Our Deaths and Beyond”

It’s the Demon’s Head, not the Demon’s Paw.

The episode begins with Barbara looking over the painting in Ra’s chamber. The Ladies of the League interrupt and engage her in combat long enough for Leila to express her disappointment that Barbara didn’t sense them coming. This means that she’s yet to fully access some of the abilities of the Demon’s Head, like seeing, past, present, and future. After all, that’s how Ra’s grew his empire- by seeing the future.

So really, Barbara should’ve anticipated the attack. Attacking her was a way to trigger intense emotions. Didn’t work, though.

Bruce takes Selina for a joyride in his car, though she wonders why there’s no covert mode. The car does, though , have a quiet mode. Selina has asked for him because Tabitha has need of them, but she’s yet to explain why. When the two meet up with Tabitha, she brings them inside a building. The two are taken hostage while Tabitha explains that Barbara has the Demon’s Head inside of her.

As for why the men need Bruce, he’s soon shown Ra’s mummified corpse. Bruce is adamant that Ra’s wanted to die, but now he’s needed alive. Bruce tries to fight off the men, but they still cut him and watch his blood drop onto Ra’s skull. The blood begins making its way through the body and in no time at all, Ra’s emerges from the coffin.

Meanwhile, Jim, Harvey, and Harper go over a string of bank robberies- five in one night. But not just any bank. Five different branches of Gotham Savings and Loan. So whoever did this either had a grudge or wanted to show off how smart they were, so Ed is the logical starting point. Jim then goes off to pay Lee a visit.

Speaking of, Leslie and Nygma watch as the men count the rewards from the robberies. Riddler, though, asks what he is to Leslie. She calls him a friend and partner, but he wonders if she’s this amorous with partners. Still, Leslie cares about and depends on him. They have big plans. Other things will have to wait. Riddler wonders if Leslie is stringing him along, but he’ll have to wait and find out.

As for tomorrow night, Nygma is working out a few final details. In enter Penguin and Butch, who are eager to help.

Tabitha knows that if she’d told Selina her intentions, Selina wouldn’t have brought Bruce. Ra’s admonishes his henchmen, as they’ve ruined his plans. Barbara has started a war, but Ra’s started a war so the League could be reborn. Barbara doesn’t serve the League with her limited, selfish goals. The henchmen believe the League will die if she keeps the Demon’s Head.

Yes, Barbara must give it to Ra’s, and since she won’t do that willingly, he’ll have to rip it from her corpse.

Butch and Penguin figure that Nygma and Leslie owe them because they made them. Without Oswald, Riddler would be trapped inside Ed. And Leslie would still just be the Narrows’ doctor. Leslie doesn’t accept Penguin’s offer or threats. Penguin thought Riddler got past Ed’s adoration of Leslie when he fully became Riddler, but he hasn’t. Penguin warns Riddler to skim some off the top once Leslie tosses him aside.

Ra’s visits Barbara, who is surprised to see him alive. He asks what she’s done with his gift and if she has plans on rebuilding the League of Shadows. She’s read the history, but wants to do her own thing. With the power she has, she can rule Gotham and have people worship her like a queen or god. Ra’s is disappointed and wants to take back the power from Barbara. He realizes that he was mistaken.

He points out that Barbara is not the woman in the painting. That was just a whore who Ra’s killed out of pity. If the Demon’s Head is Barbara’s destiny, why hasn’t she unlocked its secrets? Barbara is no reincarnated queen to Ra’s- just an unstable nightclub owner whose greatest accomplishment was killing her parents. Ra’s calls her nothing and again asks for her hand or he’ll kill her and take the Demon’s Head.

The League ladies come in and fight Ra’s, but he’s able to hold them all off effortlessly until Ra’s stuns him. Even though Barbara flees, Ra’s pursues her until she’s picked up by Bruce.

At the Narrows, two men participate in a bug eating contest when Jim arrives to speak with the Doc. He’s taken to Leslie to ask about Ed’s connection with the five bank robberies, though Leslie claims that she hasn’t seen Ed.

He knows that Leslie has a loyalty to a psychopath like Nygma and says she doesn’t have to take ownership of everyone’s problems. Leslie, though, says Jim should pursue the real criminals…like Gotham Savings and Loan. None of the guards were killed, so Jim believe that this doesn’t completely feels like Ed. Or just him. Still, Jim offers to help Leslie in any way that he can.

At Wayne Manor, Barbara is livid at Tabitha’s betrayal, but she still won’t hand over the Demon’s Head. Her plan is to kill Ra’s with the special knife, but it was given back to the Nanda Parbat Embassy. Bruce, though, has to be the one holding the knife, as it’s part of the ritual, like the blood. Alfred won’t let Bruce do this, but there might not be another chance.

Barbara believes that killing Ra’s could unlock her power. The embassies are locked at night, so Alfred has another option…so long as Tabitha and Barbara don’t stab them in the back.

So Tabitha and Alfred go to the embassy to retrieve the sword, but obviously they have no intention of giving up what belongs to them. Alfred distracts the employee with a donation and then fakes a heart attack. With the focus now on Alfred, this is all the distraction that Selina needs to grab the knife and slip back up the roof. Not one guard bothered to keep an eye on the sacred knife that Alfred wanted.

These people are morons.

Riddler rethinks Penguin’s words about Leslie’s potential betrayal until he finds himself talking to Nygma in the mirror. Ed senses that Riddler is indeed growing weak. After all, Riddler is going along with Leslie’s plans. Riddler maintains that he doesn’t care about the people or the Narrows…but Leslie? That’s different. Ed warns Riddler that there’s no telling when Riddler ends and Ed begins.

Bruce and company arrive at a warehouse, with Selina having to pick between Bruce or Barbara for who gets the blade. Despite both sides opting for the blade, Selina ultimately sides with Barbara, who then heads off in Bruce’s ride.

Selina, you fool.

Riddler goes to Penguin and Butch, admitting that Leslie is indeed using him. He contends that Ed is starting to rise again and needs Penguin’s help to drown him out for good. The five banks were the first stage of a much more sophisticated plan. The coup de grace is tonight. Butch reminds Oswald of their deal, and the upcoming score is $100 million…apiece. After that, the two will help Riddler deal with Leslie.

Leila and company return to Barbara, who will use her light power to summon Ra’s and kill him. Selina finds that stupid, given that Barbara probably can’t get the drop on Ra’s. She wonders if there’s some truth to having Bruce use the blade, as she thought Barbara had a better plan. Suicide by Ra’s isn’t what Selina had in mind, so Barbara forces her out. Still, Barbara wonders if Ra’s was right about her.

Tabitha, though, has never seen Barbara doubt herself. She didn’t want Barbara to have the Demon’s Head, after all. Whatever Barbara chooses, Tabitha’s on board, but if Barbara starts second guessing herself, Tabitha will jump ship.

So with nowhere else to turn, Selina shows up at Wayne Manor to tell Bruce and Alfred that she gave Barbara the knife under the impression that Barbara didn’t have a bad idea in mind. Though she did still give Barbara the knife, Selia tries to steer the conversation towards the larger picture: Barbara and Tabitha may do something that gets them killed by Ra’s.

As a reminder that there are crimes being committed in the city, we cut to the precinct, where Jim and Harvey speak with a bank owner who has been investigated for various charges, though her bank were cleared on all charges. Harvey pulls Jim aside, saying that alienating the owner won’t help. If Leslie is involved with Nygma, they have to stop this before it goes bad.

Jim then asks the owner which branch is the most vulnerable, but none of them. After the Arkham Breakout and robberies, the assets from all 45 branches were moved to a heavily fortified location.

Said location is easily breached by Leslie and Riddler, who puts the guards down with tranquilizer darts. The last detail is breaking open the vault, and Riddler accomplished that with help from some friends. He gives her a riddle: he’s a revealer of masks, when he appears, friend becomes foe and the one that you love becomes the one that you hate. What am I?

The answer, Penguin announces as he arrives with Butch, is betrayal.

At the Sirens’ club, Ra’s arrives along with many League members. He still wants the Demon’s Head, but Barbara has done some thinking about what they had. She wants Ra’s to admit that they had a connection and what he said wasn’t just messing with her. Ra’s does call Barbara special, but he’s sorry that it had to come to this.

When Barbara plunges the blade into Ra’s, nothing happens. Since no one can step in, Barbara’s light soon activates and despite a momentary interruption from Bruce, Ra’s retrieves the knife and plunges it into Barbara’s chest.

However, this turns out to be a mere glimpse into the future. In the present, before Ra’s can stab Barbara, she manages to put up a decent enough fight until Ra’s gets his hands on Tabitha. He tells Barbara to give up the power or Tabitha dies. Barbara refuses, so Ra’s slits her throat.

She then manages to put up a fight and it turns out that she’s mastered the Demon’s Head. Ra’s soon gets Tabitha’s by the throat and tells Barbara to choose. Barbara won’t and can’t give up the power, so Tabitha gets her throat cut.

This is another glimpse into the future. Back in the present again, Barbara surrenders. Ra’s is surprised, but soon joins hands with Barbara.

As the Demon’s Head is passed back to Ra’s, he’s soon back in his own flesh and blood. Bruce demands the blade so he can kill Ra’s, but today is not the day that Ra’s dies. To prove that, he snaps the blade and vanishes.

Riddler brings Leslie to the vault. With the truck almost full, Riddler instructs Penguin to tell Grundy to leave the property deeds- as they all belong to the Narrows, they’re worthless. But when Penguin enters the vault, Riddler sets fire to the property deeds. This triggers an alarm and seals the vault shut with Penguin and Butch still inside.

Riddler tells Oswald that they’ve been through everything and he holds no grudge, but if he comes against Leslie, then he also comes against Riddler. With that, Riddler and Leslie depart.

Leslie, though, asks why Riddler brought the two if he was just going to lock them inside. Butch was there for manpower and Oswald would’ve robbed them anyway, so Riddler just kept an eye on them. That being said, Riddler knows that Leslie is using him. He’s definitely still the Riddler and explains that Ed didn’t understand Leslie or see how she changed.

The Tetch virus awoke something in Barbara and she let that loose when she shot Sofia. Riddler loves that. Even though Leslie may not feel the same about Riddler yet, he’s confident that she will. When she does, Riddler will be there. In response, Leslie calls Ed Nygma himself a riddle.

However, at the sound of sirens, the two realize that the police have arrived. Yes, the alarm just went off, but Leslie tells Riddler that Jim was onto them. One of them needs to distract the police. Leslie, confident that she can handle Jim, decides to face the GCPD while Riddler gets the money to the narrows. As in yes, she trusts him. She seals the deal with a kiss.

With that, the two part ways as Leslie walks herself into police custody. Jim soon arrests her.

Over at the nightclub, the Ladies of the League, more of them now, show up and, despite Barbara not having the Demon’s Head, admire that she at least fought for someone else. That, in their eyes, makes her worthy to be served, and they will follow Barbara to their deaths and beyond. Roll credits.

It’s your funeral, ladies.

At Wayne Manor, Bruce tries to repair the knife, but Selina reminds him that Gotham City can manage if he doesn’t solve this one thing tonight. Ra’s interrupts the moment to talk with Bruce, telling him that he respects who he’ll become. Bruce is confident that Ra’s doesn’t know who Bruce will become, but Ra’s does indeed know who Bruce could be.

He owes Bruce an explanation of why he chose to live.When he took back the Demon’s Head, he saw a vision of a cataclysmic event coming to Gotham City. A cleansing fire that will destroy, purify, and create Bruce. Ra’s will use this to mold Bruce into a dark knight of Gotham. So long as it doesn’t kill him in the process.

With the Jerome and Arkham breakout stuff now out of the way, and since the season has been sprinkling in scenes every now and then, it was inevitable that the League of Shadows would eventually become the main plot for a moment. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, we have been getting bits and pieces of Barbara and the League.

No, the problem lies in execution. The League of Shadows plot here is nowhere as engaging as it should be, never mind that it pales in comparison to the Legion of Horribles. For what should be an engaging plot about Barbara as the Demon’s Head, I find myself more interested in Ra’s ultimate plans for Bruce.

That’s not to say that Barbara isn’t an interesting character to watch. She is, and Erin Richards is still at her best when Barbara is an outright lunatic. But she doesn’t make for a good leader, Demon’s Head or not. I’m not sure how you do this, but I don’t believe that bringing this particular plot back at this point was the best idea because we haven’t seen Barbara do much since assuming the mantle.

Granted, part of that is because, ultimately, she hasn’t done much. She’s looked at the texts and argued with Tabitha, but we’ve yet to see her train or get much practice with her powers. Just last episode is when she embraced this as her destiny. Ideally, this would be the episode where we spend time her training. To immediately bring Ra’s back is too fast for my liking.

It was inevitable that Ra’s would return in the flesh, but I’m not as fully invested in Barbara specifically as the Demon’s Head as the show wants me to be. I appreciate that we see her ultimately put Tabitha before herself and that we see her powers activate, as was said early on, through her emotions being triggered. But I would’ve liked more than that.

The show jumped the gun in bringing Ra’s back immediately after the Jerome plot ended. Barbara has been told so much about her supposed destiny and the League just showed up to ally with her. We haven’t spent enough time with her as the Demon’s Head, and she’s already given up the power.

Though what I’m describing sounds like filler, I admittedly would’ve liked an episode mostly devoted to Barbara learning from the League. But Gotham tries to have its cake and eat it too by having some of that plus bring Ra’s al Ghul back into the fold. As is, there’s nothing compelling about Barbara as the Demon’s Head, nor any real reason why Ra’s picked her.

We were told via flashback that Barbara would become the Demon’s Head and the League would be hers to command, but no reason why Ra’s chose her specifically and not one among the League. Plus, since inheriting the League, Barbara hasn’t done much with it. Again, part of that is because Gotham’s focus was on the Jerome stuff, so stuffing in Barbara’s adventures with the League would be too much.

What we’re left with is a Barbara without a Demon’s Head and, presumably, without a Selina, not that she added much to the Sirens. That the ladies still pledge themselves to Barbara is baffling. Doesn’t the League bow to the Demon’s Head? And didn’t these same women promise to kill Tabitha in the last episode? If anything, Tabitha should still be seen as a threat and Barbara ineffective.

But now, she’s got her own glorified army that no doubt will go up against Ra’s. That’ll be a bloodbath for sure.

More interesting of this storyline is Ra’s seeing Bruce’s destiny in a vision that looked very much inspired by the No Man’s Land storyline in Batman lore. Bruce has already seen the man he’ll become in his own vision, but Ra’s might be looking to also give Bruce that push needed to mold him into that dark knight. Though Ra’s should be wary, given that he and future Bruce will be on opposite sides when it comes to justice.

Then there’s the Riddler and Leslie subplot, and I am more of a fan this week because of Riddler grappling with himself. Just as the Riddler forced his way out, it seems that Nygma himself is also on the verge of reappearing unless Riddler can flush him out for good. That and I always enjoy Riddler’s banter with Penguin. Though with Riddler turning against Oswald, I figure that Penguin’s only option is war. Or going to Jim.

Riddler pointed out that the virus awakened something in Leslie and I’m curious to see how far the show will take her in regards to walking a dark path. She’s not an outright villain, but she’s a lot more than just the Narrows’ doctor. I’m not fully sold on this turn, but at the same time, she has some semblance of motivation by helping the people of the Narrows. It’s flimsy, but works for now.

All in all, this was a very uneven episode of Gotham and not a strong follow-up to the Jerome plot. But then, that’s a hard act to follow. Barbara’s time as the Demon’s Head was not as compelling as it could have been, but with Ra’s back in his body, here’s hoping that we’re now building towards that cataclysm he spoke of to Bruce.

See you in two weeks!

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