Gotham has made no secret of its intention to bring everyone's favorite Lazarus Pit-abusing leader of the League of Assassins to the series, even announcing the casting of Alexander Siddig of Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders fame, in the role months ago. Ra's tends to be the go-to character for these sorts of sweeping, burn-the-city-down-because-it-is-too-corrupt-to-function storylines. It's what he does.
This sort of prefabricated destiny, however, is why I've been having some trouble getting psyched for this particular part of the Court of Owls saga on Gotham. It's not that I don't like and appreciate Ra's al Ghul and the epic scale of the stories that tend to involve him, but... wasn't this essentially the plot of the Nolan-verse Batman films? I'm sure it's come up in the comics at least twice.
Still, the introduction of Ra's al Ghul in this particular Batman universe is timely from the standpoint that this is still, ostensibly, a Batman show that doesn't have a Batman. I've criticized the series in the past for going heavy on legendary Batman Rogues and pushing Bruce Wayne into his role far too quickly for a series that, from the beginning, said it wasn't going to do that. This is a show about the city itself, or Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), or, in the early days, Gotham's vast mafia network.
Ra's al Ghul is a villain who, though he is predominantly associated with Batman, transcends Batman. He's ancient and worldly, sort of immortal(ish), and usually working towards goals that go further than the dot on the map labeled "Gotham." He is one of Batman's greatest adversaries, but within the Batman mythology, he doesn't exist solely to battle Batman as opposed to one of Bats' more traditional Rogues, like the Joker or Two-Face. His goals are bigger and broader; his relationship with Batman/Bruce Wayne is more complex. This is a man who doesn't see himself as a villain and who believes his goals are somehow righteous in their nature, fueled by a sort of honor code — like a less psychotic Azrael.
Gotham could benefit from introducing Ra's to its world because he broadens the horizons that edge the current story. He isn't a villain who we will watch evolve toward who or what he is meant to be, like Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) or the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith). Ra's al Ghul's identity isn't tangled up in Gotham City or Batman, and this frees Gotham's writers from having to mold him into any preordained shape — which we have found has had varying degrees of success during the life of this show. Compare Ed Nygma's evolution to Ivy Pepper's (Maggie Geha) and you'll see what I mean.
I'm just having trouble looking past the doomsday dirty bomb aspect of Ra's introduction and, you guys, I am so sick of the Tetch virus constantly popping back up. It was fun watching Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) embrace her inner darkness in the form of heavy eyeliner and overt sexuality. And after what was a rather passive season for her following Dr. Mario's death, kidnapping Gordon, burying him alive, and forcing him to use the Tetch virus to get all hopped up on monster strength in order to escape was a welcome change from the status quo.
But really? We're really going to dose the whole city and... yeah. Yeah, we are. Though given how generally sane Gordon seemed to be after his initial bout of cray cray under the virus' influence, something tells me that may end up being the key to saving the city or something. It wouldn't be the first time that chemically altering James Gordon saved the day.
Gothamairs on Fox on Mondays at 8/7c.