Media · Story & Characters

“Gotham” – Episode Nine (S1) Review

GOTHAM

Harvey Dent
Well, here he is folks – meet Harvey Dent.
Two-Face-Bar-Gotham
Though Dent does vaguely remind me of Jim from the U.S. version of “The Office.”
jim-the-office
No? You don’t think so? Okay, well, just call me weird then.

In any case, Harvey Dent (played by Nicholas D’Agosto) has officially been inducted into the “Gotham” universe and he does carry his signature coin in this week’s episode. I always wondered why Dent carried a coin (though I totally get the whole two-sided/two-faced/Janus imagery). But maybe it’s also because a Magic 8 Ball is too big and bulky to carry around.

Like the rest of the casting, I think D’Agosto was a good choice. He fits the bill that Harvey Dent is supposed to be an attractive man with a passion for justice mingled with a conniving mind. I loved the way how, in some shots, his face was filmed in half-light. That was a nice touch as a nod to Dent’s future villainous identity as Two-Faced. Overall, it was cool seeing him fleshed out as his younger self and I hope he gets some recurring screen time.

Speaking of his coin, Dent’s coin has two heads (so too bad for you if you call tails). This is rather obvious symbolism to what he becomes, physically and in name, but I believe it’s also a window into Dent’s personality. On one hand, he believes in fairness, but on the other hand he uses deception. Much like with his coin where the chooser only has one choice, which isn’t fair, Dent gives the impression that flipping for it is fair. Similarly, he cares about justice but employs deception to achieve those ends. In his mind, a story is powerful even if it isn’t entirely true; but as long as it achieves a desired outcome, it’s worth it. Hence, he really is two-faced. So, overall, Dent was a fun character to watch and he has some interesting angles I hope the series explores.

To be fair, the crime-of-the-week story thread was a bit weak since what this episode is really devoted to exploring, finally, is the Bruce/Selina dynamic. I had been hoping to see a good episode on Selina and I got my wish! Carmen Bicondova is a miniature powerhouse – I love her look, wit, and overall treatment of this iconic character. Haters gonna hate but I can’t find a single flaw with this take on the future Catwoman. Other than, up until now, she hasn’t been given much screen time or stuff to do. But it looks like things might finally be changing around here.

The scenes with Bruce and Selina were some of the strongest character pair-ups of the season and they proved to be the shining highlight of this episode. (Aside from Oswald’s precious few scenes – hey, I gotta rep for Penguin here, you know.) Bruce and Selina provide a good balance to each other as Bruce’s strengths are booksmarts, an inquisitive mind, manners, and a desire to become a stronger person; whereas, Selina is a lass of the streets who isn’t afraid to challenge authority, is a tad uncouth, and takes no issue in employing ruthless tactics. Yet it’s this contrast that works and I was impressed that such young actors were able to present a realistic and mature performance. Overall, this dynamic paints an image of their future selves – Batman/Bruce Wayne is all about what is good, strong, and right, and Catwoman is a cutthroat though she’s not utterly evil. Not to mention Mazouz and Bicondova are a bundle of talent and a treat to watch.

Oh, and the best part?
Food Fight
In all seriousness though, this week’s episode – as it’s name implies by introducing a two-sided character – had duality as the running thematic thread, and Dent’s intro and his coin and Bruce and Selina’s character parallel were just the tip of the iceberg.

First, Ed Nygma was like…
play video games
I could see Bullock putting in hours with a Lara Croft installment for the, um, “visuals.” Gordon is more of a Call of Duty guy. But what does Ed play? Jeopardy for Xbox 360? This might seem like another off-the-cuff comment but Ed’s remarks about video games being a challenge bring up an interesting point. Video games are simulated realities where the gamer manipulates characters and events to achieve a desired outcome. This idea ties into the duality theme as Harvey Dent creates a false sense of choice by manipulating the outcome ahead of time.

And speaking of manipulative characters…
Oswald in Dark
Enter Oswald Cobblepot, the master of manipulation himself. And at picking locks, evidently.

In this installment of Penguin’s Takeover Part 9, Oswald decides to snoop around Liza’s apartment. (In the previous episode, he determined that Fish Mooney had someone keeping tabs on Falcone, so he was able to discern that it’s the unlucky Liza.) Most people when they want to connect the dots go buy a coloring book. But not Oswald – he just ups and breaks into girls’ apartments!

First, I have to point out the cool avian parallel here – can you spot it?
Oswald Snoops3
On the right is Penguin and on the left is an owl statute. (Maybe Liza tried to apply at Hogwarts and got rejected.) Not only did I find this super-cool, I also thought it was quite fitting. Owls are traditional symbols of wisdom, intuition, and intelligence. Interestingly, other cultures viewed owls as messengers of secrets as well as secret-keepers. Oswald might bear a different avian moniker but he definitely possesses owl-like inferences: he’s intelligent, intuitive, and knows how to both keep and share secrets. Hence why he was even in Liza’s apartment in the first place.

Later, after Oswald confirms his suspicions that Liza is, indeed, Fish Mooney’s mole, he threatens to expose Liza’s secret and holds her captive to it. This is yet another bit of duality we get in this episode. In the minds of corrupt men, a lie can be more powerful than the truth so exposed secrets can hold someone captive. Much like a video game, holding secrets and information against someone puts you in control and enables you to manipulate the situation, something Oswald is quite adept at doing. Basically, Gotham is like one big video game and Oswald has all of the cheat codes. Talk about a literal Gangland.

It’s also very appropriate that mirrors get some usage here.
Oswald Snoops
Oswald Snoops2
Oswald Snoops6
Mirrors visually open up a space. But in this case, they serve to symbolize a double nature. Just as a coin is two-sided (and Dent’s coin can purposely manipulate a choice), so mirrors represent two sides of a person. We get to see what they see (right in front of them) as well as what they can’t see (the background). In Oswald’s case, he’s acting as a double agent by playing both sides of Gotham’s mob families. Yet this is an outward illusion as he’s really acting out of his own interests. Just as Harvey can manipulate the outcome of a coin toss, so Oswald can manipulate how other people view him. Outwardly, he gives the illusion of submission while inwardly he knows he’s the one who has the upper hand.

Good thing Oswald doesn’t use a coin to make decisions.
Coin flip
I think he’d go all No Country for Old Men on everyone.

So that was my take on “Harvey Dent.” Overall, it was a little slow but I can definitely see some of the narrative architecture taking shape for the season’s back half. Now, you might be asking yourself – why do my reviews talk about symbolism? Why not just recap the episode? Well, for starters, I figure there are plenty of feeds and wiki articles that do that. Secondly, I love delving into the deeper meanings of stories and characters. Relating what happens in a book, movie, or TV show is no fun , so what I do find fun is making connections though I try not to go too far out in proverbial left field and start touting things that don’t make sense within context. So these are my interpretations and you’re free to accept or reject them as you see fit. Regardless, I try to look for what “Gotham”‘s story is really telling viewers through its setting and characters, no matter how subtle it is.

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