Well, here he is folks – meet Harvey Dent.
Okay – time for a quick superficiality break: visually he’s not bad – he kind of has that boy next door look but with a definite dark side (not to mention a nasty temper) and he at least avoids being a pretty boy.
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 (a newcomer for me) 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, and in case you’re not with me here that’s 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.
And speaking of his coin, Dent’s coin, at least in this episode, 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 cool window into Dent’s personality. On one hand, he believes in fairness, but on the other hand he uses deception at the same time. Much like with his coin where the chooser only has one choice (which isn’t fair) but 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 definitely has some interesting angles I hope the series explores.
To be fair, the crime-of-the-week story thread here was a bit weak since what this episode is really devoted to exploring, finally, is the Bruce/Selina dynamic. Cue (mental) happy dance!
I had been hoping to see a good focus episode on Selina and I got my wish! Carmen Bicondova is a miniature powerhouse – I love her look, her wit, and her 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 my 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. Mazouz and Bicondova are a bundle of talent and a treat to watch.
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…
I could see Bullock putting in hours with a Lara Croft installment just for the, um, “visuals.” Gordon is more of a Call of Duty guy. But what does Ed play? Jeopardy for 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, illusions if you will, where the gamer manipulates characters and events to achieve a desired outcome. This idea ties into the duality theme here as Harvey Dent creates a false sense of choice by manipulating the outcome ahead of time.
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 with his brilliant mind he was able to discern that it’s the unlucky Liza.) See, most people when they want to connect the dots just 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?
That’s right – on the right is Penguin and on the left is an owl statute. (Maybe Liza tried to apply at Hogwarts and got rejected, I don’t know.) Not only did I find this super-cool (and kind of cute), 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 completely 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 but, instead, holds her captive to it. This is the third bit of duality we get in this episode. Just as a story, a lie, can be more powerful than the truth in the minds of corrupt men, so exposed secrets, rather than releasing a person, 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 your literal Gangland.
It’s also very appropriate that mirrors get some usage here.
For starters, mirrors can visually open up a space, hence why they can be used for cinematic effect. But in this case, it serves 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 (in 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 to someone else while inwardly he knows he’s the one who really has the upper hand.
Man, good thing Oswald doesn’t use a coin to make decisions.
I think he’d go all No Country for Old Men on everyone. No, strike that – I know he would go all No Country for Old Men on everyone. But at least Oswald has better hair.
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 your (meaning my) reviews talk about symbolism? Why not just recap the episode? Well, for starters, I figure there are plenty of news feeds and wiki articles that do that. Secondly, I love delving into the deeper meanings of stories and characters. Just relating what happens in a book, movie, or TV show is no fun (at least not for me). But what I do find fun is making connections though I always try not to go too far out in proverbial left field and start touting things that don’t make an ounce of sense within context. Such as that whole thing about Oswald Cobblepot being the Joker. Only now one theory is that Ed Nygma (the Riddler, mind you) is the Joker.
In any case, these are my interpretations and you’re free to accept them as you see fit. Regardless, for me, I try to look for what “Gotham”‘s story is really telling viewers through its setting and characters, no matter how upfront or beneath the surface it is.
Though that last scene sure as heck wasn’t subtle. My reactions were, in correct order, as follows:
Yeah, chick on chick action just ain’t my thing. I need a dose of Oswald to erase that painful event from my memory…
For more “Gotham” goodies, you can check out:
“Gotham” – Part One (Character Snapshots): https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/media-review-gotham-part-one/
“Gotham” – Part Two” (Oswald Cobblepot): https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/media-review-gotham-part-two/
“Gotham” and the “Scarface” Connection: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/media-review-gotham-and-the-scarface-connection/
Episodes One and Two: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/media-micro-review-gotham-episodes-one-and-two/
Episode Three: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-three-2/
Episode Four: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-four/
Episode Five: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-five/
Episode Six: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-six/
Episode Seven: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-seven/
Episode Eight: https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/media-micro-review-gotham-episode-eight/