Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Game Of Thrones) played Ra's Al Ghul on season's three and four of Gotham, making him the first actor of Arabic origin to play the character. His version was the third live-action incarnation to hit screens in the last two decades, after Liam Neeson played him in The Dark Knight Trilogy and Matt Nable played him in Arrow.
As with most comic book to screen translations, there were many things kept the same as the source material, but many more that were changed to fit the nature of the show better. Here are 3 things Gotham kept the same about Ra's Al Ghul (and 6 things they changed).
9 KEPT THE SAME: COMMANDING THE LEAGUE OF SHADOWS
One of the defining elements of Ra's Al Ghul has always been his League Of Assassins. His global organization of killers has existed through the centuries; a secret society operating in the shadows that do his bidding. It has always made Ra's formidable on a much larger scale than many of Batman's other villains, whose reach tends to be more localized to Gotham City.
In Gotham, Ra's is the leader of the League Of Shadows, which is effectively the same thing as his comic book League Of Assassins. This was perhaps a nod to Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, which first changed the monicker to Shadows back in 2005.
8 CHANGED: HIS ORIGIN IS DIFFERENT
In the comics, Ra's was born to a tribe of nomads in a desert somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula around 600 years ago. He is an immortal and has spent his years traveling the world, fighting in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, amongst other exploits. In Gotham, his origin is quite different.
In 125 A.D. Ra's was a Kurdish Saracen warrior who was killed in battle but was resurrected when a mysterious stranger dipped him in a Lazarus Pit. He gave Ra's the life purpose of finding his true heir and Ra's then began to build his secret organization. This origin makes Ra's much older than in the comics; around 2000 years old rather than 600.
7 KEPT THE SAME: LAZARUS PITS
The life-extending Lazarus Pit is an essential aspect of every incarnation of Ra's Al Ghul. The pits contain a restorative chemical pool, green in color, that possesses restorative properties and can even grant immortality. The pits have an unfortunate side effect, though: anyone immersed in them experiences a temporary bout of murderous insanity when they first emerge!
In Gotham, Ra's uses the pits to extend his long life, but the show's creators do add a new wrinkle by having Ra's brought back from the dead by a pit during his origin story. The only version of the character who has no Lazarus Pit is the Dark Knight Trilogy iteration.
6 CHANGED: NO TALIA OR NYSSA
In the comics, Talia Al Ghul has become just as important a character to the Bat-mythos as her father Ra's. She has long been an on-again/off-again lover to Batman and is sometimes an adversary, sometimes an unlikely ally. Talia has appeared in the The Dark Knight Rises and Arrow.
Ra's also has another daughter in the comics: Nyssa Raatko. She appeared in Arrow too, although their version of her character is much more in-keeping with Talia's comics depiction; Nyssa is very different in the source material. Neither daughter makes an appearance in Gotham, however, which is an anomaly in any depiction of Ra's.
5 KEPT THE SAME: RA'S SEES BRUCE WAYNE AS HIS HEIR
In the comics, Ra's Al Ghul doesn't want to kill Batman; far from it, in fact. He deeply respects the 'Detective', as he calls him, and actually wants Batman to marry Talia and become his rightful heir. The fact that Ra's admires Batman has always been a very interesting aspect of their relationship.
In Gotham, the show's creators emulated this somewhat by having Ra's become obsessed with a prophecy that said a young man would rise to become the protector and dark hero of Gotham City, and that this man would be his heir. Ra's comes to believe Bruce is the young man in the prophecy: Gotham's 'Dark Knight'.
4 CHANGED: CHOOSES BARBARA KEAN WHEN BRUCE REJECTS HIM
Gotham departed significantly from the comics when they showed that Ra's, in response to Bruce Wayne rejecting him, simply moved on to someone else! In the show he resurrects Barbara Kean and trains her to be his new heir, sending her to retrieve the Kurdish Dagger that was bestowed upon him when he was first resurrected by a Lazarus Pit.
It strikes very much of Ra's simply choosing someone else out of convenience. In the comics, there have only ever been two people, aside from Batman, considered worthy enough to be true contenders: Bane (which Talia disagreed with) and Damian Wayne, Bruce's son (and Ra's grandson).
3 CHANGED: ONLY ONE WEAPON CAN KILL HIM - THE KURDISH DAGGER
In Gotham, there is only one way to kill Ra's Al Ghul: his true heir must wield the Kurdish Dagger Ra's was given when he first resurrected by a Lazarus Pit in 125 A.D. In the show, Ra's has died twice. First, when Bruce Wayne used the knife on him in the sub-basement of Blackgate Penitentiary and for a second time when Bruce and Barbara Kean used the knife together on him (after he had been resurrected by Barbara's Sisters Of The League).
In the comics, there is no one method of ending Ra's life. His most notable comic book death came when his daughters Talia and Nyssa murdered him during the 'Death And The Maidens' storyline.
2 CHANGED: 'THE DEMON'S HEAD' IS A POWER/WEAPON?
In DC Comics' history, it has always been said that Ra's Al Ghul's name in Arabic translates as 'The Demon's Head'. In Gotham, the show's creators went a step further than the comics have ever gone and made 'the demon's head' a power that Ra's could pass on from himself to another person!
It manifested as a mystical light beacon emanating from his hand and it gave him the power to see into the past and future, as well as call the League Of Shadows to him. He passed it to Barbara Kean when he died, but after he was brought back he took the power back as well, using it to regenerate his body parts in mere seconds.
1 CHANGED: RA'S IS ASSOCIATED WITH THE COURT OF OWLS
One of the best recent additions to the DC Universe, the Court Of Owls first debuted during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's The New 52 Batman run, which began in 2011. The secret society became an important part of Gotham when they first appeared near the end of season two, and became a recurring antagonist in season's three and four.
It was revealed that Ra's Al Ghul was the man behind their curtain, as he controlled their leader Sensei and was, therefore, able to use the Court as pawns in his plan to prepare Gotham City for destruction. In the comics, Ra's has no association with the Court whatsoever.