Sensei

Gotham has reached the end of its third season, and it continues to make heavy and substantial changes to the source material…and this is actually one of the reasons I still find it so intriguing, as I love seeing characters I know reinvented in new situations like in a huge “What if…”. Speaking of, there’s one character that we already met in These Delicate and Dark Obsessions, that Hugo Strange finally names in the finale: the mysterious Temple Shaman portrayed by Raymond J. Barry, the man who teaches Bruce Wayne how to get rid of his emotions and to become the new protector of Gotham City, is the Sensei, another well-known DC villain. In the comics, he’s indeed a member of the League of Assassins, but his relation to Ra’s al Ghul is much closer. Let’s see together.

The origins of the man known as the Sensei (the “master”) are shrouded in mystery, as even his true name is lost in centuries. He was apparently an aged martial artist from Hong Kong, who entered in contact with Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins and became a member, later rising in ranks until he became the second in command. In reality, his relationship with the League and its leader was centuries-old, as he was the biological father of Ra’s al Ghul, and he shared many secrets with his son, including the use of the Lazarus Pits, that cured him from every wound and disease, and prevented him from dying of old age as well. He followed his son when he created the League of Assassins to purify the world, and he hid his true relation to him posing as one of his most trusted subordinates, even commanding an entire faction of the League. The abuse of the Lazarus Pits, however, had exacted quite a toll on the old man’s mind, and with years he became increasingly insane, starting nurturing feelings of rivalry and hatred even towards his own son. When another member of the League, Professor Ebeneezer Darrk, took control of the group, a civil war engulfed the centennial secret society, but Sensei managed to stay away from the spotlights long enough to ensure both Darrk and Ra’s weakened each other’s forces in the struggle. Eventually, Darrk was killed by his rival when he tried to kidnap his daughter Talia, and that was the time Sensei made his move: with no one suspecting anything, he led his faction of the League of Assassins against the main one, challenging Ra’s for leadership. This familiar conflict had to face a brief pause as Sensei was possessed by a spirit named Jonah, and was involved in a fight against Deadman (whose human identity, circus acrobat Boston Brand, he had just killed) and Batman, but as soon as he got rid of the ghost, he could come back to the power struggle that had him face his son to obtain control of the deadliest secret society on the planet.

Sensei never defeated Ra’s al Ghul openly, but seeing their legendary leader put in such a difficulty by an old man convinced many of the assassins to join Sensei and abandon Ra’s. As a result, Sensei became the new de facto leader of the League of Assassins, finally free to change the society’s purpose and to follow his own path. Not as idealistic as his son, and driven by pure madness, Sensei had only one goal: to make assassination a perfect art. Under his rule, the League became even more feared than before, surely more brutal and sadistic: he planned and ordered a number of pointless assassinations, he started a global manhunt for his son, he nearly destroyed the sacred Nanda Parbat entering in conflict with the entity protecting it, Rama Kushna, he challenged both Batman and Deadman again and he even brainwashed the superb martial artist Bronze Tiger, turning him into his best assassin. Again following his deranged agenda, he targeted Kathy Kane, the former Batwoman, as an entrance exam for his new recruits. While Bronze Tiger distracted Batman, the newbies murdered Batwoman. This, however, proved to be a grave mistake, as it turned out to be a declaration of war on Batman (who, by the way, was the man Ra’s al Ghul had chosen as his heir). Sensei’s following plan was his most ambitious yet: he would have caused an earthquake by having the League plant explosives along a fault line, killing a number of politicians and dignitaries nearby, and creating a true work of art in the history of assassinations. This time, however, Batman intervened, as he was already on his trails, and he wasn’t alone, as he had been forced to an uncomfortable alliance with Ra’s al Ghul. While Batman took care of the explosives, Ra’s faced his deranged father, challenging him to a duel for the leadership of the League: the two unbeatable martial artists were engaged in an epic fight when the earthquake began, swallowing them both. Ra’s, however, survived thanks to the Lazarus Pit’s effects, and it was only a matter of time before Sensei came back as well…

Sensei is an ancient warrior, with an absolute self-discipline and a cunning intellect…maimed by a raging folly that makes him utterly deranged. Since he lived for centuries, he’s had the chance to master dozens of different martial arts, and he’s one of the most accomplished hand-to-hand fighters, swordsmen and tacticians ever existed (he was even able to beat a master like Batman in a matter of minutes). Just as dangerous as he is mad, Sensei is obsessed with elevating assassination to an art…and art, as everybody knows, requires practice…