Gotham: The Demon’s Head

GOTHAM

“I hate riddles!” “I know, boss. Can I kill them now?”

Gotham’s A Dark Knight sub-section of the current season now has to deal with “The Demon’s Head.” Bruce won the knife at the auction last episode, but doesn’t know why it’s so important, so he goes to an expert to find out. Bruce and Alfred go to one of the museums in Gotham, and recruit Dr. Winthrop and, by extension, his grandson Alex. Alfred expresses concern about bringing in an old man and a kid, which is really kind of ironic, all things considered.

After a scene of Nygma looking remarkably frustrated, the good Doctor and his grandson make some progress on their translations. The grandfather talks about the legend of Ra’s al-Ghul, which Alex scoffs at. Well, sometimes what you don’t believe can hurt you. Al-Ghul himself shows up and kills Dr. Winthrop. This is where I find out I gave young Bruce wwaaaayyy too much credit. I had thought that Bruce was using the knife as bait and was going to spring some kind of trap on Ra’s. Nope. He’s just that dumb. Or, more kindly, maybe inexperienced.

Weirdly, we find out that Bullock is “on sabbatical for a couple of days.” Does it work that way? I thought sabbatical implied something a bit longer, not just taking a few days to get away from a crusading ex-partner and waterfowl-themed crime boss. At any rate, Gordon is working Dr. Winthrop’s murder with the new character, Detective Harper. As if a murder in a museum isn’t enough to give Gordon a headache, Bruce turns up with a tale about a valuable knife and a bidding war with Barbara Keen. Gordon tell Bruce it’s no time to play detective, and sends him home. Ah, irony- Gordon dismissing the future World’s Greatest Detective.

Back at Barbara’s place, Ra’s berates her again for her failure in getting the knife. When she asks about it, he mentions a destiny of blood and magic 2,000 years in the making. I’ll give him points for dramatic presentation. Ra’s then gives Alex’s cap, which he found at the museum, to a strange pair- a guy in leather harness that acts like a dog called Anubis, and his handler, a towering man who grunts a lot. Anubis kind of reminds me a bit of some versions of Caliban from over in the X-Men universe.

At the Iceberg Lounge, Penguin glares at the Riddler’s hat. Zsasz walks in, ignoring Penguin’s admonishment about knocking, to tell him his guest is here- Sofia Falcone. They have some small talk and then Sofia cuts to the chase. She assures Penguin she’s there to see some of her family’s charities, and has no interest in opposing his hold on Gotham’s underworld. Penguin seems unconvinced, going into his manic charming persona, rather than the outright threatening one.

Gordon drops in at Barbara’s new business, and she’s still sorta flirting with him. It’s funny, for someone that comes across as cold so often, Barbara can’t seem to get over her past loves, Jim or Tabitha for that matter. She, of course, says she has no knowledge of, and a good alibi for, Dr. Winthrop’s death. Bruce slips in behind Gordon and asks about Ra’s, which seems to shake Barbara a bit.

Outside, Gordon is less than thrilled that Bruce followed him. They argue about Bruce helping on the case, and Bruce finally fills Gordon in about Ra’s being the power behind the Court of Owls. Gordon gets less happy, but then interrupted when Harper calls to say Alex is still missing. After Gordon hangs up on her as she asks how to spell Ra’s al-Ghul (and who could blame her?), he tells Bruce it’s his chance to help and pushes for anything useful about Alex. Bruce finally remembers something, and off they go, faster than you can say “Child Endangerment.”

Riddler finds a completely new and different way to deliver one of his messages to Penguin. Penguin looks both bored and annoyed, but Zsasz seems to enjoy it, which was great. When the message finishes, Zsasz suggests torturing the bearers, but Penguin insists that they be released. Penguin, far from stupid himself, figures out the riddle.

Gordon and Bruce arrive at Alex’s hiding spot and talk him into letting them in. About the time they start building some trust with Alex, Anubis and The Hunter (his handler according to IMDB) arrive and chaos ensues. Gordon and Bruce are both resourceful and manage to get away, surprising and impressing Alex.

Separated during the escape, Gordon returns to the GCPD and runs into Ra’s, now in a suit and claiming to be Minister of Antiquities for Nanda Parbat. Ra’s is impressed when Gordon knows where that is. Ra’s spins a line about the knife being a cultural treasure of his people as he and Gordon chat in Bullock’s vacant office.

As this goes on, Bruce and Alex have a weird bonding moment, discussing the nature of fear and how to master it. Bruce also learns how he’s seen by many of the schoolkids in Gotham. They end up actually sounding like they’re beginning a friendship.

Gordon and Ra’s keep verbally fencing, as Ra’s admits Barbara was acting as his agent to keep other people with claims on the knife from getting involved. The semi-polite chat is going decently until Alfred storms in, demanding to know where Bruce is, sees Ra’s, and punches him out. Not that I blame him, really. Gordon calms down Alfred, and Ra’s slips away in the confusion.

Sofia gets unwelcome visitors in the form of three of the capos still loyal to her father, who want her to lead them against Penguin. She urges them to go home and forget this idea, when more uninvited guests come in: Penguin and Zsasz. Things go poorly for the capos, but Sofia ends the encounter both showing Penguin what he could have done differently and convincing him he has nothing to fear from her. She’s playing a weird game here if she’s sacrificing some of the few people still loyal to her family as an opening move, but Penguin buys it.

Bruce and Alex return to the museum, where Alex was fairly clever about how he hid the knife. Unfortunately, Anubis and Hunter are tenacious, and show up. While Bruce and Alex play high-stakes hide and seek, Gordon and Alfred argue about who is keeping more secrets from who. Gordon figures out where the knife is probably hidden, and leaves, telling Harper to arrest Alfred if he tries to leave. Gordon’s had a long day and is getting a bit irritable.

Penguin gets a new riddle and things go poorly this time for the delivery guys when Zsasz gets his way. It’s a kind of vague riddle, which Penguin is annoyed about. There’s a big showdown at the museum between Bruce, Alex, Gordon, Anubis, and Hunter. Then it gets worse when Ra’s himself shows up. The End Boss fight came early. Things go badly, although they manage to keep the knife from Ra’s, and he even gets arrested. Bruce is left shaken up about how things turned out, and Gordon disbelieving about some aspects of their story about Ra’s.

Riddler confronts Penguin at the Lounge, and Penguin finally believes Riddler’s late, unlamented would-be sidekick. Ed Nygma isn’t who he used to be. There are threats and taunts and Penguin finally decides the best revenge is making Nygma suffer, knowing how far he’s fallen from what he was. It’s actually kind of cleverly cruel, although dangerous leaving Nygma on the loose. I don’t quite get why his time on ice seems to have dropped his IQ, but I’m sure there will be an equally weird cure somewhere down the road.

Sophia and Gordon have a talk about what she’s up to. She’s quite content to leave him guessing as she talks about things her father used to do. They end the meeting on a very friendly note. As they get comfortable, Ra’s get sent to Blackgate Prison, and looks quite happy to be there. That bodes ill. At least he’s not in Arkham.

What I liked: I’ve said before, I really enjoy how Anthony Carrigan portrays Zsasz. He’s a very entertaining psycho killer. The new riddle delivery was really entertaining, made better by Penguin and Zsasz’s reactions to it. Alexander Siddig is playing Ra’s well. The scene with Bruce and Alex talking about fear was nicely written and performed, and was another hint at the Bat-to-be.

What I didn’t: Anubis and Hunter were just goofy. Bruce really screwed up with the Doctor and Alex. He blames himself for that, and he should. Alfred should have suggested a better plan. I’m not sure what Sofia is up to, and I can’t think what she gained by killing of Falcone loyalists. Riddler as idiot is getting old already. I hope that doesn’t drag on all season.

Taking the Week Off: It’s a long list this time around. Ivy is still missing after drinking her nasty green glowy stuff. Tabitha and Selina are both off-screen as well. Harvey’s on sabbatical, and I guess he took Lucius Fox with him. Butch still hasn’t come back yet this season, nor has Leslie.

I’ll give this one a solid 3 out of 5. It could have been better, but it could have been much worse. It’ll be an interesting ride as Ra’s clashes with the pre-Batman Gotham.

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