‘Gotham’ Recap: “Harvey Dent’ Ditches Two-Face for Bruce/Selina Bonding

By  · Published on November 18th, 2014


Hey, isn’t this supposed to be Gotham? The Gotham that’s “not a city for nice guys?” The Gotham with a golden rule of “no heroes?” The Gotham overrun with thugs, crime lords, and crazies a few years away from donning colorful crime suits? Well, in “Harvey Dent,” evil takes a backseat. To the smiles and laughter of children, playful bagel fights and puppy love.

It’s weird.

But not entirely bad-weird (or bad-weird at all, really; it’s actually quite nice). Selina Kyle, as both a key witness in the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and a ruffian hoofin’ it on the streets, has been sequestered by Gordon in lavish Wayne Manor for her own sake. At first, stashing a petty thief in the most lavish fictional home on television goes as terribly as you’d think – while Selina doesn’t outright steal anything (oddly admirable of her), she doesn’t fit in at all. She snaps at Bruce, manhandles a Ming vase and sets Alfred into a pissed-off, barking-orders mood just by existing anywhere near him.

At least, until Bruce and Selina click. Chuck a bagel or two at each others’ heads and suddenly they’re the best of friends; even if she’s all street smarts and he’s all book smarts, or even if she keeps taunting him with a kiss he won’t receive for several episodes, probably.

Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, childhood best friends. As far as Batman goes, it’s unorthodox to say the least. In the many incarnations of Bat and Cat, none of them involve growing up together.

Originally appearing in 1940’s “Batman #1” was the Cat, a femme fatale cat burglar/jewel thief with the hots for the Dark Knight – who, despite his stoic exterior, couldn’t help but get a little woozy himself (“Batman #1” is also the only instance of Batman ever bodily grasping a criminal and barking “Quiet or papa spank!” into his/her face).

Here, Catwoman was just another criminal Bruce meets on the job. The next time their meet-cute was retconned, it was with a healthy dose of ’80s edge. “Batman: Year One” saw an adult Selina Kyle, living in a neon pink-stained section of the red light district and working as a dominatrix to stay afloat. Eventually, she turns to crime as an escape, runs into a particular man in a bat costume, and her feline senses tingle.

Those are the big two as far as Catwoman origins with Bruce go. Although there are plenty more, depending on what DC alternate universe you’re reading. Maybe Selina is an informant snitching to Det. Bruce Wayne, a pirate rival of the seafaring Captain Leatherwing, or a werecat, for that time when Batman turned himself into a vampire to beat Dracula at his own game.

Friends/lovers/rivals? Almost always. But not as kids, and that opens Gotham up to a wealth of new Young Bruce material. Last week, when Bruce actually left the house to go to school, and then to crack open a bully’s head with his father’s watch, it was the show’s strongest use of the character to date. Overwhelmingly so. Now, Bruce has a streetwise young friend who will, presumably, lead him out into the streets; to new situations and new tests of his young Bat-mettle. At best, Gotham will have an element of The Young Bruce Wayne Chronicles to it, a middle-school aged Batman going out and solving pint-size crimes.

But at the very least, it’ll lend Gotham more variety in its Bruce Wayne material, and more opportunities for young Master Bruce to learn stuff. And Bruce Wayne learnin’ stuff is an unending well of cool. This week, it was jab jab right (and think how many future criminals he’ll use that one on).

But if Bruce and Selina were forging into newer, cheerier territory, Gordon and Bullock were trapped in the doldrums. This week, our one-and-done villain is Ian Hargrove, a mad bomber used as a pawn in a much bigger mob scheme.

All of which landed with a resounding “meh.” Ian Hargrove has no distinguishing characteristics. He can make bombs; he’s crazy, but not so crazy he’d actually want to kill people; he’s close with his brother. The end. Same goes for the story. Hargrove’s bombing places, but it turns out he’s being coerced into doing so. Gordon and Bullock nearly save him, but don’t. Then they do (also, Fish was pulling the strings all along).

There’s nothing here that actually makes use of Gotham’s grab bag of neo-noir gothic superhero cop show pizazz. Whoever this Hargrove guy is, he seems to have wandered in from an NCIS re-run, and would Gotham please return him to his rightful place. We don’t need to send Gordon and Bullock after killer clowns or crocodile/human hybrids every week (although, would it kill them to give us a few more doddering old men with super-strength?), but villains with personality and/or a defining trait or two would be appreciated.

Although Hargrove does build a bomb with shrapnel in it, so… Shrapnel? Kind of a long shot.

Hargrove does gain a few points for his story interlocking into the ongoing Fish vs. Penguin/Falcone vs. Maroni mob war, though. With her bland bomberman, Fish has struck a decisive blow – burning up a truckful of Falcone’s money (although it’s hard to know how big a blow that was when we have no idea how many truckfuls make up Falcone’s fortune).

Still, for all her scheming, that truck bombing seems like small potatoes when Penguin’s already figured that Liza’s the mole in Falcone’s organization. And all due to his uncanny ability to detect the scent of lilacs.

This is the biggest question mark of the night, bar none. Why did the Penguin leave her be? Usually, Gotham ends its Penguin stories with a dawning moment of so that was his plan all along – say, the reveal he was working with Falcone in “Penguin’s Umbrella,” or that he engineered the robbery of Maroni’s place in “Arkham.” Here, we’re left in the dark. Not much for Penguin this week, but it least he’s keeping us guessing.

We would, of course, be remiss if we didn’t spend at least some time discussing Harvey Dent in “Harvey Dent,” even if the episode couldn’t spare more than a few scant minutes for its titular character. But that’s nothing new. Remember “Selina Kyle” and how it cared little for Selina Kyle? Or Arkham, and “Arkham?” Next week’s hour, titled “Lovecraft,” will probably grow bored of Dent’s arch-nemesis Dick Lovecraft after five minutes, and spend the rest of its time on cool Fish Mooney backstory. Because screw proper titling, that’s why.

From what we’ve seen of Gotham’s take on Two-Face before he was Two-Face, one thing is so very clear: the guy is nuts. First, take a look at how he and Gordon greet each other.

Just look at Gordon’s face. He loves this; another heroic ally in the fight for justice. Gordon wants that handshake to last for at least another 45 minutes.

And just a few short minutes later, Harvey will RIP. YOU. OPEN. Slobbering all over Dick Lovecraft, who, while certainly sleazy, is probably unrelated to the Wayne killings (also, kudos to actor Al Sapienza – with this, The Flash pilot and an early Arrow role, all he needs is Constantine for the DC Comics TV quadfecta).

Shouldn’t Harvey keep it a little saner for now? At least for a few episodes? Granted, Nicholas D’Agosto has a hell of a scream and an equally solid pullback into sane Harvey, but as it stands right now, he barely even needs to the extensive facial scarring to be Two-Face. He’s two-faced enough as it is – part bright-eyed warrior attorney, part frothing, you-ripping-open degenerate.

Kinda makes you wonder just where Gotham is headed with all this. Will we ever get Two-Face in full? Or is this it? A Harvey Dent who teeters close enough to the edge to act like Two-Face, but never really commits? We’re nearly halfway done with Gotham’s first season, and right now it seems entirely content to play Mafia Wars with its various proto-villains, but hesitant to step into territory covered in any official Batman book.

We’ve got everything we need for Dent’s classic rebirth as a villain. Sal Maroni has been here for weeks; hand him a vial of acid and point him towards the left side of Dent’s face (ignore whatever The Dark Knight has been telling you) and we’re ready to make a monster. We’ve even got Renee Montoya, who Two-Face later fell in love with, then outed, then framed for murder in “Gotham Central” (although Montoya is sleeping with Barbara Gordon right now, which is bound to get messy).

But will Gotham ever take that plunge? If this show spans three, five, eight seasons into the future, and David Mazouz goes from his current 13-year Bruce to a very Batman-appropriate 21, does the show just abandon its prequel leanings? These are bridges to cross years from now, but it’d be nice to know if Gotham was giving us Harvey with a coin as foreshadowing for future villainy to come, or just because he’s Harvey Dent and he loves coin-flipping.

Naturally, I expect every single one of these answers to be cleared up in next week’s episode.

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