Gotham, Ep. 1.09, “Harvey Dent” shows a lighter side of Gotham

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Gotham Season 1, Episode 9: ‘Harvey Dent’
Written by Ken Woodruff
Directed by Karen Gaviola
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on FOX

The new story arc of Gotham continues to build steam by breaking up one major couple, creating curious alliances between heroes and villains, and introducing new players to the game. So far the series has focused on the darker side of Gotham City, with its citizens bringing justice through criminal means, but with “Harvey Dent”, we are shown the other side, with an episode that is a little brighter and a little more fun but that doesn’t lose the edge of the gritty reality Gotham has already established.

This episode reasonably slows down the pace of the developing overarching plot in order to show character development and create new relationships which will set up complications for future episodes. We have young Bruce and Cat and their blooming connection, Gordon’s continuing distrust of the GCPD even though he is gaining more allies in the fight for good, and lastly, a villain of the week that has more of a conscious than we have seen in previous episodes. The season of Gotham continues to improve with “Harvey Dent”, maintaining the tone of the better episodes with a grounded sense of grim reality as well as fully dimensional characters.

The series has benefited from allowing Gordon to gain support in the fight against the corruption in Gotham and introducing Harvey Dent as an ally is a good direction to go down, although there is a darker side to him that will surely develop as the season progresses. Where the show continually fails is in utilizing the MCU team of Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya. Allen is merely present in scenes without much development, which is a shame because he’s a notable character in the Gotham Central comic books and deserves better. Montaya is sadly only defined by her lust for Barbara, with all of her choices seeming to stem from their past relationship. The show would do well by giving these characters as much attention as they give the future would-be villains like Edward Nygma.

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Character Study

One of the main highlights of “Harvey Dent” is the Bruce Wayne and Selina “Cat” Kyle subplot, giving a much-needed lighter tone to these young characters. In the Batman comic books, the character of Selina Kyle aka Catwoman is a villain and a romantic foil for Batman and, in recent years, an anti-heroine who plays by her own rules. Gotham paints her as a street-smart survivor who managed to live by being “ruthless”, something that Bruce knows very little about, coming from a home of wealth and privilege. The episode does well in setting up these two different characters and having them interact with a true sense of depth. What is so wonderful about the scenes with these two is how they interact and pry into each other’s motivations with well thought out questions that both reveal character and also imply development. Bruce continues to test his endurance but is shown by Cat that his “training” may be unrealistic when faced with real Gotham City situations, which will likely prompt Bruce to step up his game. The dynamic between the two is excellent and fun to watch and appears to not only lighten Bruce from the gloom that he’s been dealing with, but the show as well. Both actors (David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova) are adorable and bring life to each other on screen. They know their characters well and their developing relationship is entertaining and enjoyable.

This episode also has some really good Penguin characterization, as it shows him investigating Fish Mooney’s spy Liza and how he uses the information he discovers to gain the upper hand. Robin Lord Taylor always plays up the creepiness of the Penguin with such honesty that one is often uncertain whether he is genuinely asking for an alliance (in this episode, with Fish) or being manipulative. It’s most likely both. Fish’s arrogance is also well presented here by Jada Pinkett Smith as she gives Penguin a glaring stare that shows her distaste for him. Underestimating the Penguin may very well be her downfall.

The man of the hour, Harvey Dent, is introduced in this episode as an ally against the corruption of Gotham City. The Gotham version of Dent is one of high risk taking and duality, which falls in line with his character in the comics. He’s the kind of guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to do what he believes is right and it appears that deception is a valuable tool that he uses to meet that end. A key scene that defines this character is when he confronts Dick Lovecraft and shows his second face, that of a rabid dog. Nicholas D’Agosto plays Dent well, appearing composed and well-intentioned in scenes with Gordon, but also showing a much darker side with a fierce intensity, as in the scene with Lovecraft. Although the episode doesn’t really focus too much on Dent, the characterization is well presented and will most likely be an arc to look forward to.                 

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The Case File: The Bomber

The case of the week features one of the more interestingly developed criminals of the show, as this is the first time Gotham has shown one who actually seems remorseful for the harm he has caused. The bomber, Ian Hargrove, is a convict that was being transferred from Blackgate prison to a mental health facility but instead was kidnapped by Russian mobsters to build bombs for them. Gotham has enjoyed creating vigilante criminals with a sense of misguided justice and no regard for the damage they cause or the people they hurt, but with Hargrove they give us a character with regret and awareness, which is a more optimistic take on the citizens of Gotham than we’ve seen. Leslie Odom Jr. gives a good performance as Hargrove, showing a humanity that is grounded and not theatrical, a good choice for this character.

The Hargrove plot is really well integrated with the main season arc, as it closes up some loose ends for Fish Mooney by killing off the remainder of the Russian gang as well as lays down more foundation on what makes Arkham Asylum the growing residential space for the criminally insane.

This episode is a thematic follow up to “Arkham” and as such is appropriately written by the same writer, Ken Woodruff. The episode is also well directed by Karen Gaviola, who has a good sense of composition and a great eye for contrast. The scenes where Dent is cast in shadow and only half his face is shown could be considered too on the nose for presenting the future Two-Face, but it is done subtly enough that it’s effective, rather than overwrought.”Harvey Dent”, much like “Arkham”, does a great job making the case of the week feel tied into the main storyline while developing the plot well and giving good, light-hearted but not overly cheesy character moments to the kids.

Detective’s Notes

  • Alfred refers to Cat as a “Cheeky lil’ minx”
  • Bruce and Cat complimenting each other at their adeptness at stealth: Cat- “You move quiet.”  Bruce- “So do you.”
  • Bullock trying to comfort Gordon about Barbara leaving as being a ploy to “set a date”
  • Dick Lovecraft is most likely named after author H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote about an asylum in a fictional place of Arkham, Massachusetts.
  • Harvey Dent is outside of City Hall with a skinny-looking boy betting that he educate himself and be good. He’s not given a name, but can this boy be Jonathan Crane, the future Scarecrow? Hmm…Maybe not.
  • Gotham Gazette headlines: “…Found floating in Gotham River” “Explosion Rocks Gotham” “Gotham Town Hall Intruder Uncovered in Brawl” “Dumps to reopen after agreement”
  • So, Barbara went back to Montoya huh? Who didn’t see that coming?

-JP




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