Gotham constantly proves the old Chinese proverb, “The journey is the reward.” We all know the show’s endgame: Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, Detective Jim Gordon becomes Commissioner Gordon, etc., etc. What we love is seeing how it all unfolds, with plenty of twists, turns and surprises along the way.
The surprise of “The Blade’s Path” is not the genesis of Solomon Grundy. We’ve known that was coming since the end of last season, when Butch Gilzean’s real name was revealed to be Cyrus Gold: Solomon Grundy of the comic books. The Gotham production team also made sure we knew Grundy was coming this week, with a series of tweets of the old children’s rhyme.
But all of that was just a distraction, so you wouldn’t anticipate the real climax of the episode. It’s an event that shakes Bruce as much as last week’s murder of Alex.
Let’s break down the three main storylines.
Born on a Monday
I admit, I had to do some research about Solomon Grundy to write this review. I remembered him from some cartoons, but that was pretty much all I knew. The research I did made me more appreciative of how Gotham handled his origin story.
After six months in a coma, Butch/Cyrus is ejected from a hospital and dumped into a swamp… a swamp polluted by a barrel of waste from the infamous Indian Hills facility, the origin point of many Gotham monsters. Grundy emerges from the swamp, a pale white zombie with no memory of who he is. He stumbles across a camp of men who are singing the Solomon Grundy nursery rhyme. Not knowing his own name, Butch/Cyrus adopts the name he hears.
After beating up the guys around the campfire.
The story is almost exactly the same as it was told in Grundy’s first comic book appearance, just updated for the times. It’s a touch a comics fan would truly appreciate, handled in a way that someone without the comic book knowledge can believe.
Grundy eventually encounters Ed Nygma, who has taken to robbing pharmacies. looking for something to clear his mental fog. Nygma recognizes his former foe and wants nothing more than to get away, but in a series of amusing scenes Ed finally decides Grundy might be handy to have around.
We leave Ed and Grundy in a new location: Cherry’s, a “fight club” setting where Ed expects Grundy will earn him the money he needs to find a cure to make him smart again.
And just maybe he’ll get some help from an old colleague now working at Cherry’s: Lee Tompkins, who is revealed as the fight club’s doctors in one of Gotham’s best final scenes ever – and this show has had a lot of those.
It’s Just Lunch… Or Is It?
By the numbers, the Pax Penguina is a success for Oswald Cobblepot. 86 percent of Gotham crimes are now committed by those who hold one of Penguin’s licenses, and back at the GCPD Harvey Bullock is having to release those license holders right and left.
But Penguin still isn’t happy. 14 percent of crime still isn’t under his control. And his displeasure rises when Sofia Falcone shows up and reminds him that her father once controlled 100 percent of Gotham’s crime world. She offers to be seen with him at a lunch, so everyone will know Penguin is supported by the Falcone family and so come under the Penguin’s umbrella.
It’s an offer Penguin almost can’t refuse; killing Sofia is number 4 on his to-do list, after all. But he decides to put a question mark after that line item and agrees to the lunch.
They meet at a Hungarian restaurant, where Penguin is served goulash the way his late mother made it. EXACTLY the way his late mother made it; the recipe is his mother’s own, obtained by Sofia somehow and given to the restaurant.
Penguin is pissed and suspicious, but Sofia calms him, helping him with his painful foot and telling him tales of how awful her own father was while he laments his sainted mother.
Sofia has done her homework and knows how to work this mark. She may get all of Gotham’s crime world under that umbrella, but by the time she’s done it won’t be Penguin’s any more.
The Blade’s Path And The Hero’s Journey
Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce is still researching the embalming knife and still berating himself for Alex’s death. To him it doesn’t matter that Ra’s al Ghul did the killing; he feels responsible, and Alfred can’t talk him out of it.
At Alex’s wake, Bruce moves from guilt to a resolve to act when he overhears Jim telling Alfred that Ra’s has applied for diplomatic immunity. The two men also argue over how each is doing their jobs of protecting Bruce and Gotham, but what matters most to Bruce is the probability that Ra’s will get away with murder.
That night, Bruce suits up, grabs the embalming knife and heads to the prison to confront Ra’s. He sneaks into the supposedly sleeping man’s cell, but remembers his own oath never to kill. When he backs off, Ra’s rises, calls him weak and has him captured by the henchmen/devotees who are disguised as prison guards.
Alfred and Jim reach an uneasy truce to go after Bruce, fearing that Ra’s wants to harm him. But while they’re fighting their way through Ra’s henchmen, we learn that Ra’s wants Bruce to kill him. Ra’s promises that if Bruce does not kill him, he will allow Bruce to grow up, live a normal life with a family… and then come back to kill everything Bruce loves.
It’s too much for Bruce, and he breaks his own oath, driving the knife into Ra’s. Alfred and Jim find him just as the centuries have caught up and mummified Ra’s body.
If Bruce was rattled by Alex’s murder last week, he’s completely shattered by this now. Jim is not going to charge him with murder, but no jury could ever make Bruce feel more guilty than he already does for breaking his own oath. Jim offers some words of comfort, but once home again Bruce is ready to burn the proto-Bat suit, telling Alfred he’s not the hero Gotham needs because he killed Ra’s and took the dark path.
“Yes, you did,” Alfred tells him. “And it’s gonna be a long bumpy, journey back.”
And that long, bumpy journey is exactly what keeps us tuning in to Gotham. As fun as it is to see Bruce acquire all the Batman accouterments, like the suit and the grappling hook gun he uses to break into the prison, it’s even more important to see his emotional development. Batman may have begun with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, but there’s a path that takes him from a mere vigilante to the protector of Gotham.
Bruce may not feel worthy to be that protector right now, but when he is, the suit will be waiting for him.
- So what exactly did Ra’s do to Barbara when they pressed their hands against the glass in the prison? What was that glow?
- I don’t know who this new henchman and food taster is with Penguin, but I missed Victor tonight.
- Also missed Selina. And what the heck has happened to Ivy, anyway?
- How many weapons ARE you packing, Alfred? And was there something in your “undercrackers?”
- Marina Benedict played quite a badass bad guy (girl) in “Prison Break.” Can’t wait to see what she does here as Cherry.
- I need to see more Grundy/Nygma bro hugs.
Gotham airs Thursdays at 8/7 Central on FOX.