The worst thing about “Harvey Dent” is Nicholas D’Agosto as Harvey Dent. It’s a performance that is really oversold, even for a comic book television show. The show continues to cram every conceivable Batman character/villain into the show’s first season to compensate for the lack of the Dark Knight. Dent is a tragic character because he is Gotham’s white knight, a man that gives hope to Gordon, to the city, to the Batman, that the war on crime can be won. Dent has been portrayed in many different ways in comics, animation, games, and film, but the core of the character is a good man doomed by a dark side. If the fall of Harvey Dent is to have any weight or power, then the audience has to root for him. We have to believe he can be a light in the gathering darkness, a force for good that becomes corrupted physically and mentally. Instead, Gotham gives us a Harvey Dent who is barely containing a blustery rage that hides just under the surface, so why should we care? Dent’s mutilation doesn’t cause his anger and psychosis, it appears it will merely unlock it. Also, if Dent is already in Gotham, and is at least 20 years older than Bruce, how do they develop a friendship and partnership?
Well, that’s not a problem the show will ever have to address, as I fear that we will never see the Dark Knight until maybe the very last episode. In this show, it appears that Gordon will be facing all the developed villains long before Batman pulls on his cowl. One of the interesting aspects of the Batman character is the idea that his existence creates these villains. They exist because of him, and in some ways, Gotham would be better off without him. It appears that Gordon will have to take that role now.
“Harvey Dent” is very similar to the second episode of the season “Selina Kyle”, where we name an episode after a character that doesn’t receive much screen time. In fact, we get more of Ms. Kyle tonight than we did in her introductory episode, but we’ll discuss that shortly.
This episode sees bomb specialist Ian Hargrove being transferred to the Blackgate Penitentiary, where he is taken hostage by Russian mobsters who work for Mooney. They want him to build bombs that they can use to go after Falcone’s strongholds. Ian has previously bombed warehouses and factories in Gotham where weapons and ammunition were being stored, but accidentally killed two janitors in the process. He is meant to be a sympathetic character, who fights violence with violence, and slips a nameplate from the factory he is being held into the bomb, in the hopes that the Gotham PD will find it in the rubble, and save him. Side note: How many weapons and munitions factories does Gotham have anyway?
Hargrove’s story is meant to serve the bigger seasonal arc here: Mooney’s attempt to overthrow Falcome, and Penguins’ continuing effort to betray everyone and grab power for himself. Mooney wants to hurt Falcone before killing him, stealing his power, to weaken him before she makes her move. She has Hargove build a specific type of bomb that will blast through the ancient iron safes and steal a truck full of money from him. Edward Nygma discovers the hint Hargrove left them, and Bullock and Gordon show up just in time to stop the robbery. Butch then destroys the truck and killing the henchmen using a bomb of his own, that activates with the ringtone of 80’s song “The Final Countdown” by the band Europe. I almost wanted Gob Bluth to show up and ask where the plastic explosive came from.
Later, Penguin visits Fish Mooney, and one of the episodes’s better moments takes place. Both of them know what the other’s goals and wants, and neither one is quite ready to make their move yet. So, they speak in subtext, and try to be cordial, and the show finds the sweet spot of comic super villains and a more grounded and realistic mob boss battle for control.
In the other main plot point, Gordon asks Alfred to take Selina Kyle into his custody with Bruce at Wayne Manor, as a way of protecting the one eye witness to the Wayne murders. Camren Bicondova’s Selina hasn’t impressed me much in the short season, but there is a definite chemistry between her and David Mazouz’s Bruce Wayne that works here. Bruce is young, scared, stubborn, outspoken, strong-willed, honest, and inquisitive, and causes Selina to say he’s the weirdest boy she’s ever met. The scene with the food fight between the two kids was great and allowed Alfred to crack a slight smile. It felt emotionally honest, and in was nice to have a moment that felt organic and wasn’t a sledge hammer to the head from the writers and director. But once again, it’s setting something up we will never see. We won’t see Batman and Catwoman, so what’s the end game? I’d still much rather explore the Bruce/Alfred relationship more in-depth, since Alfred has to be a “parent” to Bruce, but also has to take orders from an eleven year old boy.
One of the major faults with Gotham, is that the showrunners continue to treat their audience as complete newbies to the Batman mythology. We get that Selina is the future Catwoman, we don’t need you to have her tell Bruce that people call her “Cat” for a nickname. We don’t need her to say she is hungry, step off screen, and return with a bottle of milk. We understand that Harvey Dent will be a future Two-Face. The coin flip was more than enough, but then you had to go and light him multiple times with half his face in deep shadow. Get it? One side is bright and clear, one is dark and shadowy. Look how clever we are! Pay attention audience, as we show you all that you need to know!
There were a few nice and fairly subtle moments however. Bruce and Selina are two heads of the same coin: Both orphans, both are forced to grow up faster than they should, both are struggling to connect with other people. These are things audiences can pick up on without someone explicitly telling us.
Overall, the show is keeping me intrigued enough to continue watching, and next week will see the midseason finale. Here’s hoping that over the next few months during the hiatus that the writers will tighten up their scripts and really start to dig into developing these characters instead of cramming more and more in to an already overcrowded Gotham.