Gotham Review: “Harvey Dent”

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In one of its tightest episodes to date, Gotham finally allowed the gang war between Falcone and Maroni to take a backseat and developed some of its other characters both new and old. The headliner for the episode was easily the introduction of Harvey Dent, but outside of a few scenes, the majority of the focus was on young Bruce Wayne. Lil’ Batman had a considerable amount of screen time with his new housemate, Selina Kyle, as they romped around the Wayne Manor and annoyed Alfred to rouse his gravely voice into a frenzy as much as they possibly could.

Harvey Dent was just about as outlandish as you’d expect him to be. That’s kind of the general problem with Gotham’s attempt at including villain origins in its realistic take on the comic book. Despite how corrupt and obviously weird the city of Gotham is, the villains still feel so out of place. In what world would an attorney just carry around a double-sided coin to make his decisions and everyone would just be OK with that?

I will say though, the episode did a great job of setting him up as the future Two-Face, including a lot of clever camera work. Every time he was in a position to be either good or evil, half is face was heavily shaded. At one point when he was talking to Gordon and a couple other cops half of his face was completely enveloped in shadow, and before a violent outburst towards the end of the episode half of his face was shadowed as well. If Nicholas D’Agosto, who plays Harvey Dent, is basing his performance off of Aaron Eckhart’s rendition in The Dark Knight he is doing a great job. He has the same grin, same emotion in his violent outbursts, and same quick-talking arguments.

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I’m curious to see if they keep up the shading through the whole series.

But like I said, Bruce Wayne and his merry troupe by far get the most screen time during this episode. Selina ‘Cat’ Kyle was dropped off at the Wayne Manor when Gordon wanted a place to hide her from corrupt police officers seeing as she was the sole witness to the murder of Bruce’s parents. During her unwelcome stay, Alfred and Bruce spent a lot of time training and get interrupted by her. Maybe a bit forced how quickly it occurred, but there was an immediate attraction between Bruce and the “cheeky little minx” as the Alfred lovingly calls her.

Which, by the way was not the only cheap shot the butler took during the episode. Punches are supposed to hurt after all, right Mr. Wayne?

Sure, having the only sexual tension in your episode be between two pre-teens might be a little weird, but it was all done really well and remained believable. The show has done a good job up until this point setting up the fact that Bruce’s life, while full of money and safety, is a lonely and sad existence. Cat has so far begun to fill a void caused by the loss his parents and a severe lack of friends. Especially towards the end of the episode the two started to really get along, and it worked in a sickeningly adorable way: especially knowing what the future holds for both characters. They both have a lot of similarities in their character and backstory which caused them to clash apart and grow together.

The gang war was not a total omission, though. Penguin in particular, who is being played superbly by Robin Taylor Lord, had his own small plot and steps towards becoming a Batman super-villain further explained.

I’ve taken ages to catch up on Gotham so I haven’t had the chance to gush on Lord’s performance yet: I suppose now is a good a time as any. Quite frankly, he’s the perfect young Penguin. I do not follow the Batman lore that closely or even read the comics, but from the few times I’ve seen him in television and, what I imagine Penguin to be, Robin Taylor Lord is absolutely killing it. Despite being just as ridiculous as the other villains, he manages to be menacing and believable as a really messed up human being and not just a cartoon bad guy.

Also, nothing to really do with Lord at all, but I also love the music that accompanies Penguin whenever he is on screen. Basically, if that beautiful greasy-haired man is on screen, I’m a happy camper.

Penguin

Disgusting perfection.

Like previous episodes, there was a “monster of the week” enemy, but he was almost negligible and only there to get Gordon some real screen time and shuffle Fish Mooney’s plot along. Honestly, the more I see of Fish and her sidekick, gangster Andy Richter, the less I care. Every lingering story line involving the gang war has invariably ended with a sizzle instead of a bang and it’s left me uninterested in whatever happens with them.

With more and more iconic characters being introduced that obviously can’t be killed off because they are establish Batman characters, the show is already beginning to get a bit crowded. Gotham has never known subtlety and its getting worse in how it handles this stable of characters, especially the villains with a their own cliches like The Riddler (Edward Nygma).

We get it, he likes riddles. Does every single scene with him need to involve him either giving or answer riddles? Couldn’t they just blare the words “HE IS THE RIDDLER” in bright red font instead? Again, it’s an annoyance that makes me care less about the characters, and makes me wish the show was more focused on Bruce and Gordon and less on introducing every Batman villain they can.

The only glaring flaw in the episode, outside of some story issues, came when Gordon and Bullock were rescuing the bomb-making prisoner from the Russians (the first time). During the gunfight, the muzzle sounds were extremely inconsistent. At least half of the shots confusingly lacked any bass to them and sounded like a popgun getting fired into a wet napkin. Normally it might not be a big deal, but it was egregious to the point that it took me out of the scene. Really, it was that bad.

Overall, the episode was solid but slipped in a few places. The Gordon/Fish/Bomb-maker-guy plotline was completely forgettable and did not do much to advance things along. I’m just biding my time with their stories until Fish inevitably dies. It’s another side effect of Gotham existing in an established world in that you know she’s going to die eventually since she’s a villain made just for the show. Only a matter time, Jada Pinkett Smith.

A few issues aside, this was a solid episode and the show is finally starting to exhibit some focus with the story despite the amount of characters showing signs of growing out of control. Hopefully more of them fade into the background and the show keeps focusing on Bruce and Gordon, because they did it in this episode and it was a real winner.

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