Ra's al Ghul: How Gotham Reinvented the Iconic DC Villain

Ra's al Ghul Gotham header

Fox's Gotham subverted the Batman mythos to give fans a fresh take on the character that still pulled some familiar elements from the plethora of comics, cartoons and movies. However, in shaping the story of a teenage Bruce Wayne before he became the Caped Crusader, it definitely stands out as an overall original spin on the lore.

The series featured most of Batman's foes at one point or another, and it was only a matter of time before Bruce's nemesis, Ra's al Ghul, appeared. Portrayed by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Game of Thrones alum Alexander Siddig, Season 4 gave viewers a haunting depiction of the Demon's Head as a man who pushed Bruce to the limit. Now, CBR is taking a look back at all the details of the journey Ra's took and how it differed from his DC Comics counterpart.

Continue scrolling to keep reading Click the button below to start this article in quick view.

RELATED: Gotham: Here's Why Batman Was Barely in the Finale


In Gotham, Ra's was killed in a war in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Luckily, a stranger resurrected him using the Lazarus Pit and set him on his journey to build the League of Shadows. Ra's felt he had greater purpose now in life. After seeing his share of tyrants, he proceeded to become a crusading social justice warrior of sorts, taking down dynasties across the world as centuries passed. As long as he had his Kurdish dagger and the Pit, he couldn't be stopped, and so he set about assembling his legion, fathering Nyssa al Ghul along the way.

RELATED: Gotham's Joker: How the Show Changed the Ultimate Villain

In the comics, Ra's' journey is more or less the same, with his daughter Talia being the main apple of his eye instead of Nyssa. However, he started off as a researcher and scientist in Africa who was betrayed by a sultan. Ra's used the Pit to bring the man's son back to life, but when the latter killed Ra's' wife Sora in a mad fit, the sultan failed to take action. This inspired Ra's to use the Pit to prolong his life, but also to start taking down regimes he deemed corrupt

Over the next five centuries, Ra's became an immortal warlord, using his League of Assassins to dictate the fate of the world. While both versions of Ra's were driven by personal vendettas that stretched across history, the DC Universe Ra's was driven more by the loss of his one true love, whereas Gohtam's Ra's was more motivated by bloodshed and murder.


When Bruce faced off against the Sensei and the Court of Owls in Gotham, it became abundantly clear there was a bigger puppet master at play, who was eventually revealed to be Ra's. He was merely using the Sensei as a willing pawn, and by extension the Court of Owls, to he could set up his big play down the line.

RELATED: Gotham’s Jeremiah Becomes the One, True Joker (Finally!)

When Sensei detonated a chemical bomb that sent Gotham mad, he told Bruce to go find the Demon's Head in his dying moments, as his duty was now fulfilled. There, Bruce found Ra's and the first signs of a Lazarus Pit. He also discovered the Gotham's demise was foreshadowed hundreds of years ago and that Ra's planned to be the hand behind Gotham's destruction. However, Ra's was simply testing Bruce's resolve as it was prophesied Bruce would be his successor.

In their initial war, Bruce barely escaped Ra's' grips, but he inadvertently killed Alfred under Ra's control and had to resurrect him using the Pit. Ra's also did the same to Barbara Kean, deciding to train her as his new successor so she could recover the dagger that could kill him, which was now in Bruce's possession.


Ra's vengeful path eventually led to imprisonment at Blackgate, which also saw him give the mystical power of the Demon's Head to his trusted Barbara. Eventually, he took it back but ended up being killed by Bruce with the dagger. However, Ra's returned from the dead thanks to the Pit and some League members who didn't want to follow Barbara.

RELATED: Gotham's Batman and Catwoman Show Off Their Costumes in BTS Photos

Ra's ended up forming an alliance with Jeremiah Valeska as he felt the Joker-in-the-making would be the one to burn Gotham down and truly break Bruce once and for all. It was an uneasy partnership, but Bruce and and a redeemed Barbara went on to team up and stop them. They weren't entirely successful though and couldn't prevent the bombings that lead Gotham to the "No Man's Land" arc in the final season, where Talia and Bane invaded to finish her father's work.

While Jeremiah escaped to play a role in that final arc, Bruce and Barbara killed Ra's for good. As he withered away, however, Ra's advised Bruce to become the Dark Knight because ultimately, the world needed heroes who were willing to break the rules. With his last breaths, Ra's showed Bruce major respect and reminded viewers that he was indeed a lost, warped soul trying to restore balance and order in a chaotic world.

Men in Black: International Confirms the Franchise Needs Will Smith

More in CBR Exclusives