TV REVIEW: Gotham S4E5 ‘The Blade’s Path’ (Contains Spoilers)

Gotham once again explored the blurred lines between villains and heroes this week in ‘The Blade’s Path,’ especially when it comes to young Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz) story. He faced off a potentially final time against the formidable R’as Al Ghul (Alexander Siddig), only this time the stakes were not someone else’s life but rather his own soul. In the meantime, Sofia Falcone (Crystal Reed) and Oswald Cobblepot (Robi nLord Taylor) went toe to toe once more for control of Gotham City, and audiences finally found out the fates of Butch Gilzean (Drew Powell) and Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin).

Last week’s episode took a spectacularly dark turn with the murders of young Alex and his grandfather, but ‘The Blade’s Path’ did something that’s rare in Gotham – it gave that darkness a purpose and direction. Bruce is consumed by the guilt he feels over their deaths, which he knows were caused by his inaction no matter how much Alfred (Sean Pertwee) tries to persuade him otherwise. Fans of Batman comics know that Bruce never wavers from his hard and fast rule of no killing, but he has been tempted to many times… and this was perhaps one of the biggest temptations yet. Does the fact that R’as is an immortal being change things, and make murder less of a black-and-white situation? What about the fact that death was the Demon Head’s goal all along? Or does a lifetime’s worth of threats against everyone Bruce might ever love justify sticking that knife in at the end of the hour and watching an all-powerful man waste away to nothing but a skeleton?

The most interesting thing about ‘The Blade’s Path’ to me was how easily Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) was woven back into Bruce’s life and story, trying to steer the young boy in the right direction and blaming Alfred for how far he gone down the wrong one. While it was a bit off-putting to see him cast aspersions on Alfred after watching the father-son bond develop between them for years, it made sense from Jim’s point of view. Plus, he’s already dealing with the corruption of his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) who’s turned into Penguin’s pencil pusher. It’s natural at this point for the detective to be suspicious of everyone and feel that he alone is trying to hold the city’s moral compass together. And the two men manage to work together quite well despite their differences, leading to a pretty intense fight scene at Blackgate Prison along with some cool twists about the guards there before the inevitable and tragic conclusion. Bruce may have taken the dark path this week, but Alfred and Jim have not given up on him. And while it was disappointing to see him fail his first big test, I’m sure this won’t be the last see of R’as Al Ghul or of the Dark Knight’s journey to become Batman.

Meanwhile, life hasn’t given up on Butch, either – a vat of toxic chemicals from Indian Hill resurrects him just as he’s being dumped unceremoniously out into a swamp. Solomon Grundy is a well-known but not often-seen villain in DC Comics, and matching him up with Butch was quite a treat. The best moment of ‘The Blade’s Path,’ in fact, may have been when he named himself after the famous song as it played eerily in the background. His storyline was a delight overall, reminding viewers that even as an approximation of Frankenstein’s monster, Butch is still a teddy bear. He runs into Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and immediately befriends him, defending him from villains and actually inspiring Nygma to return the favor. These two as a team, searching for brains together, is sure to be a riot. There’s just the added tension of what happens when Grundy finds out that Nygma is not his best friend, just another one of the many villains who’s hurt him in the past. But for now we can enjoy the brand-new bromance and eagerly await their run-in with Fight Club doctor Lee Thompkins. Speaking of Lee, how did she wind up in such a seedy place and how will she factor into Gotham this season?

The final big plot of the night was Sofia’s attempts to gain Cobblepot’s confidence, and his attempts to resist what he knew all along was a ploy. This battle of wills was a little confusing, mostly because her intentions were so obvious and yet she still seemed to be winning him over. Reed’s performance is impeccable, and she plays Sofia with a mixture of confidence and gentleness that it would be hard for anyone not to just go along with her wishes, but at the same time it makes Penguin look just as gullible as he’s always been. I suppose that’s his not-so-secret weakness: affection. Showing him love, whether it be by finding his mother’s goulash recipe or tending to his foot, is sure to lower his defenses and turn him into your ally. But what will Falcone’s heir do with her newfound allegiance?

‘The Blade’s Path’ was a strong entry into the Gotham repertoire, but it didn’t quite reach the heights of last week. Not to mention that it’s now two weeks in a row that Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) makes only a brief appearance with no sign of the other two Sirens. It’s always fun to watch new fragile friendships form, though, while hopefully Bruce’s old ones will carry him through the darkest time in his life.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Tatiana Hullender (@myrcellasear)

Gotham airs Thursdays on Fox at 8/7c in the US.

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